Effect Of British On Amer. Rev Essay, Research Paper
The British Impact on the American Revolution
The French and Indian War was the last of the four American wars waged from 1689 to 1763 between the British and the French. In all of these wars, each country fought for the control of the continent with the assistance of Native Americans and Colonist Allies. (Axtell 97) This final war determined that English rather than French ideas and institutions would dominate North America. In winning the war, the British government doubled its territory and national debt. (Axtell 101) The war also gave the colonists their first taste of economic, and social freedom from England. The combination of these factors precipitated the American revolution.
The French and Indian war signaled a great change in English colonial policy. Before, colonies were valued primarily as sources of raw materials. Now, because of the Industrial Revolution they were considered more valuable as potential markets for English manufactured goods. (Axtell 187) “This shift of economic emphasis was accompanied by a program of administrative reform designed to reinforce and intensify English military and economic control of its colonies” (Axtell 190).
To Americans, the main result of the war was that with Canada and Florida now under English control, the mainland colonies were not longer in danger from attack by either France or Spain. (Leach 109) The American colonists no longer, therefore, felt they needed the English military for protection. “Thoughts of independence did not enter into the minds of most Americans, but Americans did begin to
feel that England was mistreating them and independence was an option now open for them” (Leach 110).
The French and Indian War also had another result that was largely psychological in nature. This was the first time the English and the colonists had worked closely together for a common cause.
“A mutual dislike and distrust developed; which hurt relations during and long after the French and Indian War” (Jennings 47). The English were furious that the colonial assemblies refused to vote for the supplies needed and even when passed only gave a small amount of financial aid. One British General described the colonial troops as “unenthusiastic about fighting and in general the dirtiest, most contemptible cowardly boys that your could possibly conceive” (Curwen, March 1745). The British pointed to another sign of the American treachery stating “Americans continued to trade with the enemy throughout the war and even bragged of their profiting from these ventures” (Jennings 52).
The Americans had similar views of the English. “They were bothered by the arrogance of English naval and military officers, who treated colonial political and military leaders as if they were morons, and forcibly enlisted Americans into the English Army and Navy” (Jennings 54). One reason Americans did not wish to fight with the English officers was their lack of knowledge regarding fighting “Indian style,” military techniques necessary for success in North America. (Jennings 70) “Americans did not appreciate being led into ambushes, which happened on several occasions during this war” (de Cr vecoeur 1782).
The French and Indian War had more than just psychological results, however. The colonies had “matured and politically developed a spirit of self-confidence” (Morris 246). This new spirit can be seen especially near the end of the war. For example, in 1761, several Boston merchants challenged
the legality of “writs of assistance.” This was used during the war to prevent smuggling. (Morris 248) A “writ of assistance” was a court order which authorized sheriffs, constables, and other peace officers to aid custom officials in the search for smuggled goods. (Morris 249) No time limit was placed on these “writs” nor were any sworn statements that said goods were concealed in a certain place
necessary to ensue a “writ.” Therefore merchants were at the mercy of corrupt officials. (Morris 256) On several occasions, consequently, valuable cargo in warehouses was discovered and confiscated, some legal, others not. The merchants had no rights in these matters, and when new “writs” were issued in 1760 by King George II, a Boston merchant recognizing how dangerous this could be again, decided to bring his case the Massachusetts Superior Court challenging these “writs.” (Morris 257) The case was heard in 1763 and again in 1776. The case was lost both times, but public opinion had grown against the “writs” and this gradually forced the British authorities to stop issuing them. (Morris 259)
In another important case, Patrick Henry showed how “politically sophisticated Americans had become” (Wood 372). He challenged the authority of the British government and whether or not colonists had to continue to follow unfair laws placed upon them. (Wood 373) The case involved the salaries of Anglican clergymen in Virginia. They had always been paid their salaries with tobacco instead of cash. But in 1858, because of a serious drought, “the price of tobacco went sky high, courting six pence a pound” (Wood 374). This caused the British government to intervene and pass the “Two Penny Act,” making it possible for salaries and debts paid in tobacco, to be paid in cash at the rate of two pence a pound of tobacco. (Wood 374) This caused the salaries of Anglican Ministers who had become quite rich at this point, to be cut by two-thirds. “They complained to the King and the law was then disallowed” (Wood 375).
This led to Reverend James Maury to sue for his back wages in a Virginia Court. He wanted his salary to include the high rate of the new tobacco price. Patrick Henry, however, fought the case brilliantly. He used the theory made famous by John Locke, stating “as long as a King provides for the
welfare of all his subjects, he is entitled to their support. But, when he disallowed a law that was obviously in the public’s best interest he degenerated into a tyrant and forfeits all rights to his subjects obedience” (Wood 376). Because of Patrick Henry’s argument and colonial resentment toward the royal disallowance the jury ruled in favor of Reverend Maury, but awarded only one penny in damages. (Wood 376-378) These charges were the first of their kind. Before this, the people in the colonies would not have dared to challenge a ruling by the King in a public court.
After the French and Indian War the people in the colonies had grown bolder. They were now more self assured and began questioning the need for outside governing forces. (Wood 392) Some political leaders in the colonies began to realize that if the colonies were ever going to grow economically they might have to sever ties with England forever. (Wood 397) “Not everyone at this point in time voiced their opinion publicly, but many began questioning laws governing the colonies in town hall meetings, and at public gathering, the seeds of independence were beginning to bloom” (Wood 400).
The French and Indian War caused major economic development in the colonies. During the war the laws against colonial manufacturing of goods was not enforced, because the English army needed supplies and allowed the colonists to use all the resources at hand to meet the demand. (Wright 134) “The quality of the iron and steel now produced in the colonies compared and even challenged
that made in England” (Wright 133). The shipbuilding industry began to boom. American fishermen
now took control of the Grand Bank waters. Colonists thrived in fur trading as well as farming, and trading in wheat, corn, beef, pork, cattle, horses, tobacco, and rice. (Wright 136) All of these advancements probably would not have come about at such a tremendous speed had it not been for the
war. The economic and social freedom the British were forced to allow the colonists, gave them the freedom to try new areas which before would not have been allowed. Americans were before forbidden to make certain products because the British held the market on that item. (Wright 137)
After the French and Indian War the British government still wanted strict economic and political control over the colonies. (Axtell 247) “They were still determined to strengthen their control and reap the rewards gained their victory over France” (Axtell 248). The colonists, however, had now had their first taste of freedom. They no longer were willing to be told what and how to do things. Working side by side during the war had shown them the British were not as “superior” as thought before the war. “Americans began to realize they could make it on their own. They could economically and politically control their own country. They no longer needed England’s help. Quite to the contrary, England seem to need the colonists” (Axtell 254). British politicians tried to raise revenue the only way they knew how by taxing the colonies. (Axtell 261) This above all else lead to the American Revolution.
The French & Indian War did lead to the American Revolution because it planted the first seeds of independent thought in the minds of the colonists. It was after this war that they began to realize they no longer needed England for economic help or that the English were superior to them in any way. The products produced in the colonies were now just as good, even better in some cases,
than made in England, and they had markets for these products. The colonists also began to see that
the British wanted to stifle this economic growth. They wanted the colonists to go back to how they were treated before the war. Being told what products to produce, when and where they could be produced and to whom they could be sold to. (MacLeod 184) The colonists however had another
plan in mind. Because of all they had accomplished during the war, they were now unwilling to be told what to grow, what to manufacture, and to whom it could be sold to. (MacLeod 187) “This war showed the Colonists how boundless American prosperity could be if left unhampered by the English mercantile restrictions” (MacLeod 188).
The French and Indian War gave the colonists their first taste of economic freedom, and they liked it. They liked it so much many were now unwilling to return to the days of old. They no longer felt the emotional bonds that they once had with England. They wanted their own laws, taxes, and the freedom to trade with whomever they pleased. They also saw firsthand how the British really felt about the colonists. They realized the British only wanted the wealth of resources this country held, but never on any basis would they be considered as equals. This war allowed the Colonists to realize they could make it on their own and that they liked it that way. They no longer needed a government hundreds of miles away telling them how to do things. Therefore, this war did plant the early ideas that led to the American Revolution in the minds of the colonists.