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7.5: Conclusion

  • Page ID
    7909
  • The twenty years beginning with the onset of war in 1754 were ones of turmoil between Great Britain and her American colonies. British-American success in the French and Indian War had given the American colonists the expectation that they would be rewarded for their participation in the war and, among other things, allowed to enter into the area west of the Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains. But the Crown had other ideas, and, rather than giving the colonists access to the land they had so recently fought for, the British government decided to tighten its reins on its American subjects. Salutary neglect, long the policy toward the colonies, was discarded as Parliament passed a series of acts designed to raise monies to defray the costs of protecting and maintaining the colonies. American leaders quickly created and publicized arguments in which they defined their rights under the British constitution. They argued vehemently against virtual representation, maintaining that they could only be taxed by a legislature that they themselves elected. Nor would they accept taxes that were designed to raise revenues rather than regulating trade, and internal taxes were equally unacceptable.

    In many ways, even in 1763, the year the French and Indian War ended, it was almost too late to achieve any type of consensus between the colonies and the mother country; the American experience of the former had led the colonists to take for granted ideas that were foreign to the British. Measures like the Sugar and Stamp Acts, which raised revenues and taxed the colonies internally, the Declaratory Act, which proclaimed the right of Parliament to legislate for the colonies in “all cases whatsoever,” and the Intolerable Acts, which punished Massachusetts for the Tea Party, only heightened the tension that was building. And while conditions worsened between mother country and colonies, there was developing in America a spirit of intercolony cooperation reflected in the Committees of Correspondence and the First and Second Continental Congresses. The First Continental Congress, representing all of the colonies except Georgia, drafted a statement of American rights, and the Second Continental Congress would conduct a war against Britain and draft a Declaration of Independence. In the words of Thomas Paine, whose influential work Common Sense was published in 1776, the “cause of America” was becoming “in great measure the cause of all mankind.”

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