Difference between revisions of "American History Lecture Two"
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If you don't know the answers in all three cases, then please go back and read the first lecture.
If you don't know the answers in all three cases, then please go back and read the first lecture.
Upheaval occurred in England in 1688. The people there overthrew [[King James II]], who was Catholic. His daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange took the throne and reinstated Protestantism, and adopted the [[English Bill of Rights]]. A century later this would inspire the American Bill of Rights.
Upheaval occurred in England in 1688. The people there overthrew [[King James II]], who was Catholic. His daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange took the throne and reinstated Protestantism, and adopted the [[English Bill of Rights]]. A century later this would inspire the American Bill of Rights.
In 1692, the [[Salem Witch Trials]] began in Puritan Massachusetts, north of Boston.
In 1692, the [[Salem Witch Trials]] began in Puritan Massachusetts, north of Boston. was a that
City authorities prosecuted the suspects (mostly ), and nearly two dozen were convicted and executed for this. thought that expose the ways of the devil for the benefit of everyone. observed that killing all these people may itself the work of the devil. Finally one of the accused the wife of the governor a witch. That caused the to the and .
This entire episode
This entire episode to the [[Puritan]]s and religious authority in . But this did not directly weaken [[Puritan]] authority. Instead, it was success and prosperity that caused people to turn away from the strict Puritan life. In 1850 a classic in American literature, The Scarlet Letter, described life in Puritan Boston in the 1600s and criticized its adherence to morality the . Yet when that public morality was abandoned, Boston and Massachusetts became the most liberal areas in the nation, and one of only two states to allow same-sex marriage. Morally, Massachusetts is now directly opposite to what it was in the 1600s.
'''Debate: What precisely wrong about ?'''
== Salutary Neglect ==
== Salutary Neglect ==
Revision as of 14:05, 7 September 2008
Before we start our second lecture for American history, let's review some test-taking tips for multiple-choice history exams. Treat a multiple-choice exam like a contest or a game. Your performance on the exam is a function of two elements: how well you prepared prior to the exam, and how well you tried on the exam itself. Many students do not perform as well on a multiple-choice exam as they could have. These tips will help you improve on multiple-choice exams, whether in history, grammar, or even your driving test.
On history exams, many of the correct answers can be figured out during the test, if you do not give up too easily on a question. The person in the class who knows the most history probably won't be the person who obtains the highest score on the exam. Instead, the highest score usually goes to the person who tried the hardest during the test itself (and also prepared well). Multiple choice exams can be difficult, but some simple rules can increase your score.
Tip Number One: Understand the question before you try to answer it. Read the question twice if you have doubts. Never, ever try to answer a question you do not understand. You can improve your score by 10% on exams by making sure you understand each and every question before attempting to answer it. You will see other students miss questions because they misread them.
- Example: Pay particular attention to qualifiers in questions, such as "EXCEPT". Every time I give an exam, there are many students who miss questions because they overlook "EXCEPT". Question: "George Washington was popular for all of the reasons EXCEPT" .... You will answer incorrectly if you overlook the "EXCEPT".
Tip Number Two: Eliminate the wrong answers before picking the right one. Examples of wrong answers that can be immediately eliminated:
- Wrong time period
- The answer doesn't match the question – e.g., the answer is generally true, but not necessarily true with respect to question.
- The answer violates common sense.
- The answer is deceptively familiar for reasons unrelated to the question, such as an answer choice of "Magna Carta," which is not part of American history.
- The answer is too general, too broad, too sweeping, or too strong, such as an answer that everyone liked George Washington.
- The answer is too awkward.
- The answer is something you never heard of. Don't pick it simply based on a hope that it might be right.
- Two answers are too similar to each other. Both cannot be correct.
- When you eliminate wrong answers, cross out their corresponding letter on the exam. Try to cross out all the wrong answers except for two. If you guess at that point, you have a 50% chance of being correct. Every time you eliminate an answer choice, your chance of answering correctly increases greatly.
Tip Number Three: Go with your first impression unless you have a good reason to change it. More often than not, your first impression is right. Don't outsmart yourself. There are no trick questions on these exams. There are traps to avoid falling into, but not tricks. Don't second-guess yourself into changing a correct answer into an incorrect one.
Tip Number Four: Stay on track. Expect to miss a few, and do not waste too much time on a difficult question. This is like a round of golf or a game of tennis or baseball: expect to miss some shots or swings. Skip a question that confuses you. Move on and then return to the question later. But when you have a separate answer page with a grid of dots, always make sure that you leave space on your answer sheet for any question you skip.
Tip Number Five: Try different approaches to a difficult question until you figure out the right answer. There are many ways to find the correct answer for a question. For example, think of the event in the question in the context of other events. Use all the information that is given you. There will always be a few questions that you can answer without knowing anything about U.S. History, if you are clever and use common sense.
Tip Number Six: On College Board exams, expect bias. The bias is greatest in the selection and presentation of the questions. For example, there will likely be more questions about liberal artists and writers than about George Washington or Christopher Columbus. College Boards will ask more about the decline of the Puritans than about their Christian success. Rarely does bias affect the answer choice itself, but having a sensitivity for the political views of the test-writer can be helpful in considering answer choices. For example, a College Board question will never have as a correct answer that men have some skills that are better than women's, but will often have as a correct answer that men have been prejudiced against women.
Remember and apply the above tips and it will raise your score by 10-30% on test day. Here they are again: Understand, Eliminate, First Impression, Stay on Track and Try Different Approaches. On College Board exams: Expect Bias.
One of my former students took my test-taking advice to heart, and while in college he was once required to take a multiple-choice exam without being able to study or prepare for it. (He had been told he would not have to take the exam, but then the teacher surprised him on exam day.) Using the above techniques, he scored the highest in the class on the exam, beating other students who had spent hours in preparation.
During the colonial period, each colony had its own separate government, and they were like different countries. There were no restrictions on travel, but if someone said the wrong thing in another colony they might end up in jail, as many non-Puritans did in Massachusetts.
The only union before the American Revolution was the United Colonies of New England, which existed from 1643 to 1684 in the northeast. It consisted of a union of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New Haven in order to fight war and address interstate disputes. Other than that, "disunity" existed among the colonies.
Now let's review the colonies and keep them in order:
|Colony||Year Established||Who Founded It||Why It Was Founded||Year it Became a Royal Colony|
|Virginia||1607||London Company||To Make Money||In 1624, King James took back ownership|
|Massachusetts||1620||Puritans||To Establish a Religious Society||1691|
|New Hampshire||1623||John Wheelwright||Banished by the Puritans from Massachusetts||1679|
|Maryland (Land of Mary)||1634||Lord Baltimore||To Establish freedom for Catholics; many early settlers died from malaria prevalent in the high-moisture Chesapeake Bay climate||Never|
|Connecticut||1635||Thomas Hooker||Hooker wanted voting rights for all men who owned property, not just church members as in Massachusetts||Never. Obtained Charter from King in 1662|
|Rhode Island||1636||Roger Williams||Expelled by the Puritans||Never. Obtained Charter from King in 1663|
|Delaware||1631||founded by the Dutch||In 1704, Quakers bought it to protect the water route to Pennsylvania||Never.|
|North Carolina||1653||8 English noblemen (granted by Charles II)||colonized all of Carolina to grow silk, but this failed. Colony split in 1729 into North Carolina (farms) and South Carolina (rice and indigo)||1729|
|South Carolina||1663||same origin as North Carolina, see above||same origin as North Carolina, see above||1729|
|New Jersey||1664||Lord Berkeley & Sir George Carteret||It had two parts: the west was acquired by William Penn and the Quakers, and the east was dominated by the Duke of York||1702|
|New York (after defeat of the Dutch)||1664||Duke of York||the great port of Manhattan was supposedly purchased from the Indians in 1626 for $24 worth of trinkets||1685|
|Pennsylvania||1682||William Penn||Religious Freedom for Quakers; King Charles II gave land to Penn to satisfy the King's debt to his father||Never|
|Georgia||1732||James Edward Oglethorpe||established as a refuge for debtors jailed in England and as a "buffer" against Spanish Florida; initially banned slavery||1752|
Learn and remember the above chart. Notice how many colonies were "taken back" by the King of England. Such is the power of kings, and a good reason to dislike that form of government.
Now let's continue with the Colonies around the turn of the century (i.e., the late 1600s and early 1700s). Don't memorize dates, but do keep time periods separate in your mind. In the 1600s most of colonies were just getting started (except for Georgia, which was the only colony founded in the 1700s rather than the 1600s). In the 1700s, the colonies (except for Georgia) had long been established and were just growing stronger.
I should be able to mention an event and you should be able to tell me if it happened in the 1600s or 1700s. Learn to quiz yourself:
- Jamestown settlement, 1600s or 1700s?
- Bacon's Rebellion, 1600s or 1700s?
- Founding of Pennsylvania, 1600s or 1700s?
If you don't know the answers in all three cases, then please go back and read the first lecture. Upheaval occurred in England in 1688. The people there overthrew King James II, who was Catholic. His daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange took the throne and reinstated Protestantism, and adopted the English Bill of Rights. A century later this would inspire the American Bill of Rights.
In 1692, the Salem Witch Trials began in Puritan Massachusetts, in towns located north of Boston. Several girls displayed symptoms suggesting they were possessed by the devil, and it remains a mystery to this day what caused their afflictions, or even if they were play acting. The community became suspicious of an Indian slave from Barbados in the Caribbean, named Tituba, who had been telling stories of voodoo and even fed a cake to a dog (at her master's instructions) to ward off the devil. The girls told the same details about how the devil visited them, including seeing "witches flying through the winter mist." Tituba first denied being a witch, but then "confessed" that she was a witch and named other townswomen (including tavern owners) who she said were witches working with her. Tituba even said that a tall man from Boston, perhaps Satan, visited her and sometimes appeared as a dog or a hog, asking her to do his work. She said she had flown through the air on poles with the other witches she named, and could not obtain counseling from the minister because the devil had blocked her path.
Before long the jails were overflowing with witches identified by other witches who had "confessed", and trials had to be held to make room for the jails. But trials then were primitive, allowing "spectral evidence" as a basis for convicting someone. "Spectral evidence" is testimony by a victim that she had been visited by an image ("specter") of the accused, thereby suggesting the guilt of the accused. Another flaw in the legal system included a lack of a defense attorneys for the accused.
City authorities prosecuted the suspects (mostly women but also some men), and nearly two dozen were convicted and executed for this. Some thought that the trials offered an opportunity to expose the nature and ways of the devil for the benefit of everyone. But others observed that killing all these people may itself the work of the devil. Finally one of the accused witches identified the wife of the governor as being a witch. That finally caused the mood to change against the trials and no more defendants were convicted. Tituba herself, who caused the panic, recanted her "confession" but remained in jail another year until a kind person paid the jailer money to release her and her husband. Note that while a few Puritans did own slaves in early times, they did not split slave families.
This entire episode is taught today to embarrass the Puritans and religious authority in general. But this episode did not directly weaken Puritan authority. Instead, it was success and prosperity that caused people to turn away from the strict Puritan life. In 1850 a classic in American literature, The Scarlet Letter, described life in Puritan Boston in the 1600s and criticized its strict adherence to morality and the occasional hardship that caused. Yet when that public morality was abandoned, Boston and Massachusetts became the most liberal areas in the nation, and one of only two states to allow same-sex marriage. Morally, Massachusetts is now directly opposite to what it was in the 1600s.
Debate: What was precisely wrong about the Salem Witch Trials?
The period of "salutary neglect" was a period of prosperity in the colonies during which England did not enforce many rules or laws against the colonies. Instead, England let the colonies do what they want in the hope that freedom and little taxation would stimulate lots of business growth.
This approach of "salutary neglect" was very successful. It lasted from the late 1600s (just after all the colonies were established) until about 1760, when conflicts began and Britain changed its "hands off" policy.
During this period of time, colonies differed in many ways from each other, but businesses flourished and the wealth of the colonies grew.
The Zenger Trial
Freedom began to cause problems in the colony of New York when the governor disliked criticism that appeared in the newspaper. John Peter Zenger said something unkind about the governor, and the governor decided to silence him. He demanded that Zenger be prosecuted and thrown in jail for criticizing him.
Zenger was then put on trial in 1735. On the first day of the trial, a good defense attorney from Philadelphia surprisingly showed up to defend Zenger for free. The defense attorney argued to the jury that it should not be a crime to say something that is true, even though it may embarrass the governor. In other words, Zenger's attorney thought that someone should have a right to tell the truth, no matter how embarrassing it may be. That was a radical concept then.
The judge instructed the jury that, under the law, even saying the truth about someone can be a crime (the crime of "libel"). But the jury ignored this law and held in favor of Zenger: "not guilty." This case established a unique new American right: the right of freedom of the press. To this day we have that right in America, while those in England still do not.
This important case also helped convince Americans of the importance of the right to a jury trial, which was later written into our Constitution.
The trial established one additional right: the power of the jury to ignore the law and hold in favor of a defendant even though the law says he is guilty. This is known as "jury nullification," and it also exists to this day. Juries may "nullify" the law to find a defendant "not guilty," but defense attorneys are not allowed to inform a jury of that right during a specific trial. Jurors have to know it already, or decide to do it on their own, as the jury did in the Zenger case.
Debate: Do you think a jury should be able to ignore the law in order to find a defendant "not guilty?"
1730-1740: The Great Awakening
In the 1700s, the English colonies grew in size, reaching 2 million in population compared to only 100,000 in the French settlements.
But note that the English colonies were majority English, but not exclusively English. Germans came here, African slaves came here involuntarily, and Scotch-Irish immigrated to the back country of the Middle Colonies and settled in Appalachia (where they remain a key voting bloc for the upcoming 2008 presidential election). The Middle Colonies were New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, and consisted of many diverse ethnic groups and religions; prejudice existed between the groups but they were peaceful towards each other. William Penn even advertised for immigrants to come to Pennsylvania.
In the 1730s and 1740s, a marvelous spiritual revival known as the "Great Awakening" swept the colonies. A glorious Christian fervor spread throughout, helping to bring the colonies closer together in terms of beliefs, customs and practices. Led Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, this was called "New Light" revivalism to distinguish it from the spiritualism of the 1600s.
Jonathan Edwards was brilliant man who graduated valedictorian at age 17 from Yale University. (Harvard was founded in 1636; the College of William & Mary in 1693; and Yale in 1701). As Edwards grew older, he developed a sermon entitled "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." It was so powerful that it moved listeners to tearfully repent simply upon hearing it, and it remains the most prominently cited example of "fire-and-brimstone" preaching.
George Whitefield was an even better preacher, perhaps the finest preacher of all time in the English-speaking world. Known as the "Great Itinerant," he drew enormous crowds for his sermons as he did seven tours through the colonies from 1740 to 1770. He would simply arrive at a public place, like the Boston Commons, and many thousands would show to hear his sermon. They did not leave disappointed.
Not all was well for everyone in the colonies during the Great Awakening. During this time South Carolina had grown heavily dependent on slavery to pick its crops and sustain its economy. By the late 1730s South Carolina had twice as many slaves as white people. In 1739 tensions between the slaves and their masters reached a boiling point in the Stono Rebellion in Charleston. This insurgency by the slaves was brutally suppressed, and then South Carolina passed harsh laws (codes) to exercise even more control over the slaves. More so than any other colony (and later, more than any other state), South Carolina was the colony (and later, the state) most determined to keep and use slavery.
Migration and Conflict
West of the Appalachian Mountains is the Ohio Valley. This area was rich in animals necessary for the lucrative fur trade, and covered vast amounts of unsettled land. The Ohio valley was occupied by roaming Native American tribes, primarily those of the Iroquois League of Nations. Both the British and the French traded with the Indians in this region. As the population and confidence of the English settlers in the colonies grew in the mid-1700s, they began to migrate to Ohio. There they conflicted with French fur trade with Indians. Because of this, conflict between the English colonists and the French traders increased around 1740.
In 1754, 7 colonies met to address these problems at the Albany Congress. They adopted Ben Franklin's Albany Plan of Union based on the Iroquois League of Nations. The Albany Plan of Union attempted to unite the (English) colonies sufficiently to defend themselves against the French.
The Albany Congress sent a 21-year-old named George Washington to stop the French from building a fort in modern day Pennsylvania, and to protest French attacks. But in Western Pennsylvania, at Fort Necessity, French defeated and captured him and his troops. They made him sign a statement in French (which George Washington did not understand) that his men had assassinated some Frenchmen. Then they released George Washington. He remembered that lesson and in the Revolutionary War made sure that in the future he always had an aide who could understand French. That future aide would be the very influential Founding Father named Alexander Hamilton.
While George Washington was humiliated by this experience, that did not matter to the young colonies trying to assert themselves. When he returned to Virginia was treated as their hero.
George Washington is the most honored person in all of American history. Why was he so great? Was he so great? He was not a brilliant man. He was not a great military general. In terms of military strategy, he was not particularly good. He was inept during the French and Indian War, for example. He did not write anything of value. Think about that as we learn more about him.
Debate: George Washington. Was he great, and if so, why?
French and Indian War
The English and the French did not like each other in Europe, and their conflicts there spilled over into America. They had constant friction in fighting over territory and trading rights. There were four wars between 1689 and 1763, which are known collectively as the French and Indian Wars.
The French traded more with the Indians, and so the Indians tended to side with the French. Also, some Indians saw how George Washington was defeated, so they probably thought the English colonies were weaker than the French. Finally, it's likely the French treated the Indians better than the English did.
The French and Indian War was the seven-year struggle that was the culmination of the conflicts between France and England in America. It was the American portion of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) between England and France in Europe. The name "French and Indian" to describe the war is confusing, because the French and Indians were on the same side. Both were opponents of the British and the English colonies.
In 1755, the British sent General Edward Braddock to confront French, but they ambushed and beat him badly nearly Fort Duquesne (pronounced DOO CANE). In 1756, war broke out between the French and English in Europe and things got very ugly in America also.
The British struggled badly at first in this war. But eventually a smart fellow named William Pitt was elected as Prime Minister in England. The city of Pittsburgh is named after him. Pitt believed in appointing generals based on merit, not seniority or friendship. Pitt recognized the importance of the colonies and began investing significant money and resources. He started beating the French. Under Pitt's leadership, he captured Fort Duquesne in 1758, then Quebec in 1759, and then Montreal in 1760. He started winning other places in world also, including India.
In 1763 the Treaty of Paris was signed, eliminating France and her Indian allies as a threat to colonists. France agreed to give England as much of North America as it claimed East of the Mississippi, keeping only two islands off the coast of Newfoundland. Spain traded Florida to England in return for England giving Cuba and the Philippines to Spain. These countries traded properties in North America as though they were baseball cards!
Around the same time, the Spanish gained the Louisiana territory through a treaty with the French. The French forts remained in the territory, running along the Mississippi as far north as Michigan. Later, in 1800, Spain sold this land back to France, which then sold it to America a few years later.
In America, the end of the French and Indian Wars left British with a great deal of territory west of the Appalachians, but the Indians did not give up their land easily. From 1763 to 1766, The Ottawa Indians destroyed every British post west of Niagara.
King George III, and Debts
Meanwhile there had been a big change in England. King George III assumed the throne in 1760 (he ruled until 1820). He had wanted to end the war quickly. William Pitt wanted England to escalate the war, and resigned in 1761, due partly to pressure by George III. George III, after all, was the king and he demanded obedience from Pitt.
George III openly controlled Parliament, bribing men to do anything he wanted by placing them in positions of power. This significantly altered the face of Parliament, and the majority became much less sympathetic to the colonies. The ruling sentiment was that the colonies should be obliged to pay for their own expenses, rather than depending on the mother county (England).
This war with France left Britain deeply in debt, and tired of war itself. A new prime minister, George Grenville, came into power in 1763. The citizens of England were already being heavily taxed, so guess where Grenville looked to raise money to pay the bills? The colonies.
England felt that the colonists hadn't paid their fair share of the war expenses. To keep from spending any more money, England was eager to make peace with the Indians and stop fighting. England passed the Proclamation Act of 1763, forbidding colonists from settling west of Appalachians and forcing them to stop buying land from Indians. The Proclamation Act ordered, "that no governor or Commander in chief of our other colonies of plantations in America, do presume for the present, and until our further pleasure be know, tho grant warrant of survey, or pass patents for any lands beyond the heads of sources of any of the rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean from the west or north west..."
The logic behind the Proclamation Act was that as long as the colonists stayed in the colonies and had nothing to do with Indians, there would be peace. Little did the British know that peace would not last for long in the colonies, and that when war did break out again, it would be against the British themselves.
In 1770, the British Empire was the greatest in the world, and it continued to grow in power through the 1800s. The idea that 13 different colonies with tiny armies and a divided populations - a large percentage of which were pacifist Quakers - could defeat the mighty British would have been absurd in 1770. But this unlikely victory came true. The story of this epic struggle for freedom is the story of the American Revolution.
Years before war broke out, tension was growing between England and her colonies. King George III controlled parliament much more than preceding monarchs had, and his changes facilitated attempts to gain additional revenue from the colonies. This was accomplished through higher taxes and restrictive trade laws which oppressed the colonies. We've already discussed the institution of the Proclamation Act, and now we need to discuss its consequences.
The Proclamation Act imposed an enormous burden on the colonies. When it passed in 1763, 90% of the colonial economy depended on farming. Farmers needed land to grow valuable crops of tobacco, corn, rice, indigo, and wheat, but the Proclamation Act confined them to the land they already had in the colonies. The other 10% of the colonial economy involved fishing and whaling in New England and timber, but the overwhelming majority of colonists were farmers, and the Proclamation Act was detrimental to their growth.
In addition, many colonists felt that the Proclamation Act was simply unfair. They had worked hard fighting the French and Indian Wars, but now England was denying them the territory they had won.
The situation was similar to today's problem with new Israeli settlements in areas claimed by Palestinians. Like the Israeli settlers, colonists were angry at this restriction, and ignored it. Frontiers continued to expand westward.
The first true crisis began around 1763 when Parliament allocated money to maintain a standing army in the colonies. At first, this change did not arouse much anger, since there was already a British army in America. But conflicts began when Grenville gave naval officers authority to enforce customs regulations. More than 1500 ships began to patrol American waters. This new vigilance on Britain's part was early evidence of her changing relationship to her colonies, foreshadowing the greater tension to come.
Grenville wanted the colonies to pay their share of the war costs, next he started burdening colonists by strictly enforcing taxes. The era of salutary neglect was over, and colonists did not like having to sending their hard-earned money to Britain.
The first of these tax burdens was the Sugar Act. As its name suggests, this act imposed taxes on sugar, and it also imposed additional burdens. The Sugar Act placed stricter regulations on all shipping, stopped the colonies from importing rum, and lowered molasses tariffs that had been benefiting the colonies. The British made no secret of the fact that the purpose of the Sugar Act was to make money: "Whereas it is expedient that new provisions and regulations should be established for improving the revenue of this kingdom...: and whereas it is just and necessary that a revenue be raised in you majesty's said dominions in America, for defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same; we...have resolved to give and grant unto your majesty the several rates and duties herein after mentioned."
Grenville viewed the colonies as subservient to him. Grenville humiliated the colonists with legal intrusions. He violated ancient rights by authorizing writs of assistance to search businesses without a court order or warrant.
Colonists disliked these events, but only with the passage of the Stamp Act did they become truly angry. The Stamp Act was an undisguised attempt to bring the British more money, the first time Parliament directly taxed the colonies. It required that legal papers, cards, dice, newspapers, degrees, land documents, and appointments to office bear stamps (not postage stamps) showing that coin tax had been paid. Subtly, the British were suppressing vocal writers and lawyers, by making their professions more costly. The public, and especially the media, was outraged.
A few months later, Britain passed the Quartering Act. The Quartering Act required colonial governments to house British troops at their own expense. The troops were to be housed in inns, abandoned homes, and government building. The Act mandated that "all such officers and soldiers ... be furnished and supplied ... with fire, candles, vinegar, and salt, bedding, utensils ... without paying anything for the same."
Anger by the colonists against the King, which existed before the Stamp Act and Quartering Act, rose to a fever pitch. The colonists held to a strong argument against England's oppression: taxation without representation. The colonists pointed out that they were not represented in British Parliament when these taxes were passed. The colonies could not elect anyone who was making these decisions. The colonists had no "say" in the matter. The British leaders responded by saying the colonists had "virtual" representation by Englishmen who were looking out for them. Nonsense, the colonists said, adequate representation was impossible because England was so far away. Patrick Henry put this argument into words in one of his resolutions which were published in newspapers throughout the colonies: "Resolved. That the taxation of the people by themselves or by persons chosen by themselves to represent them, who can only know what taxes the people are able to bear, are the easiest method of raising them, and must themselves be affected by every tax laid on the people, is the only security against a burthensome taxation and the distinguishing characteristick of British freedom, without which the ancient constitution cannot exist."
To confront the problems, nine colonies met with each other in the Stamp Act Congress in New York City in October 1765. This was the first time the colonists had come together to consider protesting. They sent a petition to the King. Later, a boycott of British goods was organized.
Colonists strongly opposed the Stamp Act's direct (internal) taxation. If the Act were not odious enough in its own right, the fact that it came during a time of weak economy threatened to injure the colonies more deeply. The outrage united colonists, for the Stamp Act affected every colony and every citizen. They shared the injury of a common grievance, and had a common cause to work towards.
In Massachusetts, Sam Adams created the Sons of Liberty during July 1765. This group strongly protested the Stamp Act and forced British-appointed stamp agent Andrew Oliver to resign.
When stamp agents in the other colonies realized how unpopular they were, most of them resigned also. The few that remained were pressured to resign, and sometimes forced, as in the case of Jared Ingersoll. "They caught Ingersoll at Wethersfield and silently and pointedly led him under a large tree. They parlayed for hours ..., with Ingersoll squirming, arguing and refusing to resign. The crowds ... grew so large and threatening that finally Ingersoll read his resignation to the mob and yielded to the demand that he throw his hat in the air and cheer for 'Liberty and Property.'"
When the Stamp Act took effect, there was no one to sell stamps in the colonies. Business went on as usual and the Act was not effectively enforced.
Realizing that it had underestimated the colonies, Britain repealed the Stamp Act in 1766 but passed the Declaratory Act asserting a right by Britain to legislate for colonies in future. Public outrage decreased dramatically because the Stamp Act was repealed, even though the Sugar Act, Quartering Act, and Proclamation Line were still in effect.
In 1767, Charles Townshend replaced William Pitt as leader in the House of Commons. Pitt had been generous to the colonies, and quite popular there. But Townshend viewed America as an opportunity to increase revenue. His attempts to do this were a series of taxes called the Townshend Acts. They taxed paper, lead, paint, and tea in colonies to pay salaries of royal judges and governors. The overall effect of the Acts was to gradually take power away from the colonists. The taxes singled out New York and Massachusetts to suspend their assemblies for failing to levy taxes to house and feed British troops in their colonies. By targeting those states, the Act tried to avoid inciting the wrath of all colonies. But the rising conflict, particularly that of the Stamp Act, had begun to unify the colonies. They understood that what happened to one colony would happen to another just as easily.
The colonies did not react as swiftly as they did to the Stamp Act. A primary catalyst that lead to their eventual resistance was John Dickinson's pamphlet, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. Johen Dickinson has been nickname the "Penman of the Revolution". He was a great writer who drafter the "Declaration Rights" for the Stamp Act Congress, the "Olive Branch Petition", and the Articles of Confederation. His superb insight and skill made his pamphlet enormously successful. The piece was first published in 1767, and spread throughout the colonies as well as to Ireland, England, and France. Dickinson was careful, however to maintain an impression of loyalty to the king. Cleverly, he argued not from the standpoint of the colonies, but in terms of England's well being, and benefit to her. He also admonished American's not to allow chaos break out (as occurred in the French Revolution a decade later): "The cause of liberty is a cause of too much dignity to be sullied by turbulence and tumult."
By 1768, the colonists were ready to act. Massachusetts wrote a letter to the British and it was endorsed by New Hampshire, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Georgia, and South Carolina.
The response came, ordering Massachusetts to revoke their letter, and admonishing other states to have no part in stirring up resentment toward Britain. In June, more troops arrived from England.
Next, the colonists boycotted British goods. The boycott was very effective. British Imports fell from 2,157,218 pounds to 1,336,122 pound between 1768 and 1769.
Feeling the strength of the colonies once again, Britain repealed the Townshend Acts, but the tea tax remained.
Debate: should England have been able to impose direct taxes on the colonies?
In 1770, in what became known as the "Boston Massacre," British troops fired upon and a colonial mob for throwing snowballs (with rocks in them) at the soldiers. The massacre resulted in the death of 5 citizens. (The future President John Adams then served as the defense attorney for the British soldiers, and obtained "not guilty" (acquittal) verdicts for them because they were provoked into shooting.)
There was relative calm from 1770 to 1773. But the calm was not complete, broken most notably by the Gaspee incident in 1772. The Gaspee was a British ship which ran aground while chasing smugglers. Citizens of Rhode Island boarded the ship and burned her, to the King’s great outrage.
During this period of calm, Samuel Adams established another organization: the Committee of Correspondence. This group, and others like it throughout the colonies shared information on the British’s activities in the colonies.
Thus, although conflicts diminished somewhat from 1770 to 1773, colonists retained their opposition to British oppression. The tea tax remained in effect, so many colonists refused to drink British tea, and once again, their boycott was felt in England.
Bent on destroying the colonists’ boycott of English tea, England next passed the Tea Act of 1773. A large British tea company, the East India Company, lobbied for and obtained monopoly (exclusive) rights from the England. The East India Company had a huge inventory of tea and received an exception from the tea tax. On the whole, this would have significantly lowered the price of tea in the colonies. But colonists realized the danger that lay in the establishment of a monopoly on an item taxed as heavily as tea. Resistance began to rise.
The East India Company proceeded to import tea from their huge inventory to Boston Harbor, where they planned to undersell colonial merchants. The Puritans of Massachusetts were outraged. They tried to have the tea turned back to England, but the royally-appointed governor refused. On December 16, 1773, a group of colonists led by Samuel Adams disguised themselves as Indians and boarded the tea ships. They dumped all of its tea into Boston Harbor. The task took an entire night, as the ships contained 350 chests of tea. That tea was worth about 1.87 million dollars of today’s currency.
As punishment, Britain passed the Coercive Acts, or the Intolerable Acts. They revoked Massachusetts’ charter, closed Boston Harbor, installed a British general as governor, and repealed liberties like the right to hold town meetings. The closing of the harbor, in particular, was a sore blow to Massachusetts, whose economy was largely dependent on fishing and whaling.
In defiance, public sentiment turned violently against tea. Coffee gradually replaced it, and continues to be more popular than tea in America to this day.
The British also passed the Quebec Act, which gave Canadians part of the Ohio Valley. This infuriated the colonists. In addition, the Act gave the French more freedoms, such as freedom of religion for the Catholic Church. Colonists were angered because (1) they felt people in Quebec were getting more freedoms than they had and (2) they feared establishment of an Anglican Church in America.
Although many colonists had hoped to keep peace, conflict began to break out.
Let's stop for a moment to review the causes of the revolution. British oppression was not the only catalyst of the Revolutionary War, and many factors played a role:
(1) Colonists were accustomed to much independence and self-determination, and Tory efforts to regulate and tax were bitterly opposed by the Colonies (and by Whigs in England).
(2) British burdens hurt nearly all Colonists in all walks of life.
(3) Taxes hit at a bad time: postwar depression.
(4) Legally, colonies disagreed with “virtual representation”.
(5) Religious reasons: many colonists disliked Anglicans (and Catholics), and feared England would install an Anglican bishop.
(6) Colonists disliked English class distinctions.
(7) 1/3 of colonists were not even English, and thus felt no attachment to the British.
(8) Colonists accepted John Locke’s philosophy of natural rights and a social contract.
(9) Colonists saw a bright prospect for their future.
All of these played an important part in making colonists ready to fight and win. The single greatest factor was the changes Britain made in her policy toward the colonies.
Independence was inevitable for America, as with other British colonies, but came quicker than for most.
The American Revolution
The conflict between Britain and her colonies continued for over a decade before America moved for independence. After all, the British eventually backed down from their early taxes when the colonies resisted. But Britain did not back down from the Coercive Acts, in spite of strong resistance. This time, they were determined to bring America into line.
The Coercive Acts were aimed squarely at Massachusetts, specifically, Boston. Britain hoped that Massachusetts would give in if it was isolated from the other colonies. But the network of organizations that ran throughout the colonies united them, and they stood together.
The First Continental Congress was held in 1774. Every Colony except Georgia agreed to disobey Coercive Acts, withhold taxes, cut trade, and arm their people. Their agreement is recorded in the Declaration of Rights and Grievances by John Adams. The Congress also gave Massachusetts instructions on resisting the Coercive Acts, called the Suffolk Resolves. Massachusetts was prepared to defy the British. The Congress composed a set of Declarations and Resolves which established the colonies' position toward Britain. The colonies agreed to end all trade with Britain in a final effort to have her alter her policies. All of these plans were carried out.
Yet the British did not back down. Colonists were prohibited from presenting petitions and declarations and resolutions to Parliament. William Pitt's resolution to withdraw British troops from the colonies was defeated 68 to 18. Parliament officially declared that Massachusetts was in rebellion.
Many Americans were ready to forsake all hope of peace. Patrick Henry was one of these, when he said these words in a famous address, "Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace-- but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
On April 19, 1775, the British commander in charge of America, General Thomas Gage, responded to orders to forcibly stop the rebellion. He sent troops to march by surprise from Boston to Concord to seize a storehouse of rebel guns and ammunition, and maybe arrest some leaders.
Paul Revere then went on his famous midnight ride to alert the colonists. They were ready. After years of conflict, war finally began. At Lexington, just 75 colonists faced several hundred British soldiers. When the British ordered the colonists to disperse, gunfire broke out. Eight colonists were killed and ten were wounded in the ensuing chaos. But seventy three British died.
The British troops continued to Concord. Here a larger number of colonists attacked them and routed them back to Lexington. Only 93 colonists died in comparison to 275 British soldiers. The British were narrowly saved by the arrival of reinforcements.
That and other conflicts brought the colonies together in 1775 for The Second Continental Congress. They realized that hope for peace was foolish now. It was time to prepare for war. The Congress instituted paper money and named George Washington head of Continental Army, which he governed during the Revolution. As a last attempt for peace, they sent the "Olive Branch Petition" (written by Charles Townshend) to the King. He refused to even receive the petition. War was inevitable.
As the Congress met in Philadelphia, the "Green Mountain Boys" captured Fort Ticonderoga in 1775 because Ethan Allen wanted to protect his land holdings in a disputed area near Lake Champlain. Today, Lake Champlain is located in the far north of Vermont.
In January of 1776 Thomas Paine’s pamphlet called Common Sense argued against divine rule and economic reasons to stay with Britain, in plain language. Often written books or pamphlets were a bigger force than military battles, and this was overwhelming true in this case. Every literate adult read Common Sense, and Paine’s argument gave countless colonists the courage to realize that separation from Britain was necessary and attainable. After only three month, 120,000 copies had been sold!
Here are some of Paine's words against divine rule: "The heathens paid divine honors to their deceased kings, and the Christian world had improved on the plan by doing the same to their living ones. How impious is the title of sacred majesty applied to a worm, who in the midst of his splendor is crumbling into dust!"
On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence of Independence was formally announced. It declares that all men are created equal, having natural inalienable rights. The colonies’ many grievances against the crown were listed. It argued that government is a social compact and rebellion is justified when the government break its end of the bargain. This logic was borrowed from the philosophy of John Locke. But perhaps the most important part of the Declaration was its frequent invocation of God. Our nation was founded on God’s providence and truth.
Still, the colonies had very small troops, especially since one third of the population was loyal to Britain. Washington's army was composed of just 18,000 men, less than a third the size of attendance at Giants Stadium. The British won early battles at Bunker Hill in Boston, in Canada, and in New York. The colonies started winning on Christmas Eve in Trenton in 1776, then later at Princeton.
During the winter of 1777 Washington quartered his troops in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The winter was filled with suffering. The troops lacked supplies and many died of starvation and cold. But the training the troops received during this time was invaluable. Prussian Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben drilled the troops throughout the winter, and his expertise may well have aided in turning the tide against the British.
In 1777, the Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, although they were not ratified until 1781. The government they instituted was weak, however with no president or courts, and unanimous approval required to amend them. Eventually, they were replaced by the Constitution.
At Saratoga in upstate NY in October 1777, 6,000 British soldiers surrendered, making a huge victory for the colonies. Benedict Arnold led our army brilliantly then, before he became a traitor and went over to the British side. That was the turning point because the French then entered on our side.
The Franco-American Alliance ended French Neutrality in 1778. Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in achieving this alliance, which became one of the biggest reasons why the Americans won the war. Due to Franklin's efforts as an ambassador to France, and the inspiration of the colonies' victory at Saratoga, France recognized the colonies' independence, entered into a military alliance with the colonies, and renounced its territory east of the Mississippi as well as Bermuda. Franklin had other significant achievements. He wrote Poor Richard's Almanac, invented the Franklin stove for heating, and started the first library.
Still, the British were beating the patriots badly in the South. The British captured Charleston in 1780, taking 5,500 soldiers and huge amounts of weapons. Finally, the patriots installed General Nathanael Greene, one of the revolution's best generals. He started inflicting heavy casualties on the British, and they retreated from the Carolinas to Yorktown, VA.
In May 1781, French arrived with two fleets, and trapped the British at Yorktown, Virginia. They were forced to surrender their entire army of 8000. But the British still held New York, and didn’t finally sign a peace treaty until February 1783.
That treaty was called the Treaty of Paris, and it ended the American Revolution. The British gave up their claim to land east of the Mississippi, from Canada to Florida. The Americans promised to treat the Loyalists and English creditors (people owed money by colonists) fairly. They didn’t always do that. But there is blame to be shared on both sides of the issue: in Gladstone, New Jersey, the "Union Jack" (British flag) can be seen prominently flown to this day on one residential lot along with the American flag. Nevertheless, the war was finally over, and the citizens of the thirteen colonies were no longer called colonists, but Americans.
- "Known as the 'libel capital of the world' because of its plaintiff-friendly rules on defamation, Britain has nothing remotely comparable to the First Amendment's protections for freedom of the press."