After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
- Analyze the evolution of British colonial policy towards the North American colonies from the end of the French and Indian War, 1763, to the firing at Lexington and Concord.
- Define salutary neglect and explain why the British abandoned this policy following the French and Indian War.
- Evaluate the impact of the French and Indian War on the British colonies and the Indians.
- Identify the important people and groups involved in the colonial protests leading up to the Revolution.
- Identify the significant Parliamentary acts passed in the years following the French and Indian War.
- Explain the various instances of inter-colonial cooperation in the years between 1763 and 1776, including the Committees of Correspondence, the Stamp Act Congress, the Continental Congresses, and the boycotts of British goods.
- Recognize that people living in Great Britain and in Colonial America saw the conflicts of the times very differently.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Americans became embroiled in a series of wars that were also fought on the European continent. King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, and King George’s War originated in Europe; the French and Indian War, on the other hand, began in the colonies two years before it “spread” to Europe and became known as the Seven Years’ War. During most of the eighteenth century before 1763, the British had followed a policy that William Pitt nicknamed “salutary neglect.” This theory was based on the notion that if the colonies were left alone to pursue their own economic interests, they would prosper and thereby ultimately benefit the mother country. This approach to colonial management ended in 1763 with the conclusion of the French and Indian War. Determined to make the colonies defray part of the expenses of the war and of their own domestic needs following the war, the Parliament enacted a series of measures designed, in the words of the colonists, to “raise a revenue.” Colonial opposition to these policies became strident between 1763 and 1775, and the rallying cry “no taxation without representation” underscored the differences in the way the colonies and the mother country looked at taxation, regulation, and control.
The climax of the protests came in 1773 as tea from the East India Tea Company was dumped into the harbors of ports along the eastern seaboard. The British reacted with the “Intolerable” Acts, to which the colonies responded in spring, 1774, by sending a list of grievances to the king and Parliament. Matters were made worse when George III came to the conclusion late in the year that “blows must be exchanged to determine whether [the American colonies] are to be subject to this country or independent.”
In May, 1775, a month after the firings at Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress convened to consider the response of George III to the petition submitted in spring, 1774, and ultimately to oversee the war. It would be in session until replaced by the Confederation Congress, which assembled in 1781.
Thumbnail: The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor. (Public Domain; Nathaniel Currier).