Motives of the American Revolution, Free Essay in American History

Published: 2022-02-23 19:37:50
Motives of the American Revolution, Free Essay in American History
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Categories: Independence American revolution American history
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American Revolution also known as United States war of independence or American Revolutionary War took place in the late 18th century between (1775- 1783). Thirteen North American colonies which had been under the Great Britain Empire battled out for liberty and won independence and went ahead to form the United States of America. Despite enabling independence of the U.S. the evolution benefited a minority male whites whereas to the majority of the country's population i.e. women, slaves and native American Indians were left suffering and poor. Jefferson's words "All men are created equal" during the Declaration of Independence and many felt that they meant only white land owning men are created equal (Bailyn 28). Although it seemed like he supported the abolition of the slave trade through active legislation that pushed for abolition, his personal life is quite the opposite since he owned several slaves and there were claims he had fathered children with one of the slaves (Newmann 193). The underlying reason for the war included a feeling of over taxation, the need for representation, and also, to protect slavery as the white Americans feared that minority groups were likely to gain higher status in the society in the event that they fought for Britain.

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Economic Motivation for the War of Independence

Actively engaged in war with other European counties, Britain paid little to the American colonies for the first decades of the 18th century (Newmann 194). It followed a general policy of Salutary Neglect whereby British mercantilist laws were poorly enforced and, therefore, the colonies had the privilege of running their political and economic systems autonomously. The freedom enjoyed by the colonies was over when Britain emerged victorious from the seven years of war, with heavy war debt, and the parliament turned its attention fully to the colonies (Money and Jason 8). In 1763, it adopted a new more controlling attitude towards the colonies, bringing an end to the Salutary neglect era. Americans were forced to respect the mercantilist laws and taxes were imposed on them involuntarily to help pay for the imperial defence that had protected them.

Parliament imposed the Navigation Acts that restricted trade and required colonists to ship goods only from Britain and use colonial ships to export goods. Further, it levied all goods imported anywhere else apart from Britain and her colonies (Bailyn 32). The Writs of Assistance barely existed before 1763. They were court orders that gave British officials the right to search colonist's houses, buildings and goods for goods smuggled against the usual search warrants carried out by officials. Tax Acts would follow later in the following years with Sugar Act of 1764 reducing duties on colonial imports of sugar from non-British sources and called for strict enforcement (Money and Jason 14). The Stamp Act of 1764 aroused widespread anger and reaction than any of the previous Acts since it directly affected the majority of the colonists. It required a stamp to be placed on all printed materials like legal documents, almanacks, newspapers and pamphlets. This led to protests that saw Patrick Henry make an iconic speech in the Virginia House of Burgesses and formation of The Sons of Liberty in Boston. Responding to the public outcry, parliament issued a repeal on the law and in 1767, it passed the Townshend Acts, which imposed taxes on colonial imports of tea, paper, glass and paint (Bailyn 38). All the above factors led to increased tensions between Americans and Britain, which eventually led to war.

Political Motivations for the War of Independence

Americans were concerned about taxation without representation and hence started the campaign "no taxations without representation" after the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. In this campaign, they rejected the British Parliament authority to impose taxes on them yet they were not represented in the governing bodies. Boycotts on goods begun and political protests became common as the realities set in (Newmann 198). Andrew Oliver a wealthy merchant was hanged on an effigy for implementing provisions of the Stamp Act. A group of people in Boston threw snowballs and another form of debris in Boston where five were shot dead and others injured in what become known as the Boston massacre (Bailyn 29). In another event, a ship carrying tea that was to be taxed was invaded by colonists who threw the chests of tea into the harbour, in what is referred to as the Boston Tea Party. In response, King George imposed the "Intolerable Acts" where the port of Boston was closed until the Dutch East India Company was paid the destroyed tea. Others were The Massachusetts Act that put the entire region under direct British control, Quarterly Act that ordered colonists to provide food and shelter for British soldiers, and Quebec Act where the British territory was extended to Canada.

The Intolerable Acts birthed the first continental congress where 55 delegates from 12 colonies went in session for two months to debate whether to separate from Britain for killing their people and imposing restrictions through unpopular legislation. They sent "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" to King George hoping that he would listen to their demands. They separated to wait for Britain response and begun gathering weapons in preparation to battle with the British Army if not positive response came (Bailyn 35). The second continental congress approved "Articles of Confederation" and began operating under the articles forms on November 5, 1777, which facilitated international relations and alliances with France and Spain.

Intellectual and Religious Motivations for the War of Independence

Americans were influenced greatly by Montesquieu analysis of the "ideally" balanced British Constitution with the motivating force being to embrace a political ideology of "Republicanism" which was dominant in colonies by 1775 (Newmann 201). It drew major influence from "country party" in Britain, which criticized the British government and showed the importance of staying free from political corruption. Believes in the rights that the American colonies were being denied by England like unequal taxation and court injustices justified the revolution. John Locke's liberal ideas were very influential and his theory of the "social contract" implied that people had a natural right to overthrow their leaders should they betray the historic rights of Englishmen (Money and Jason 27). The Declaration for independence referred to "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" to justify America's separation from the British Empire hence American's believed that the whole universe was created by God.

Furthermore, religious faith and superstitions would give way to reason and belief in the role of human's free will and offered a theology that resonated with beliefs of the majority of the citizens. It valued honesty and truthful toil and instilled purpose and meaning to work that gave rise to the attitude of voluntarism in the 19th Century. Both moderate and radical American thinkers like Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were deists (Money and Jason 89). Even though they did not believe in God's presence, they did not dispute His existence and majority remained religious. The natural law of God's existence made popular by Sir Isaac Newton pointed out that some things thought to be acts of nature are actually human conventions, the fore there are some laws outside the divine realm and God does not serve any purpose in such arguments since He is not the ultimate lawgiver.

The great awakening was a religious revival across the American colonies in 18th Century started by Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. The era of enlightenment is widely criticized for its overconfidence on reason and its violent aspect that caused the growth of secular humanism (Bailyn 26). Revivalist ministers organized public meetings in large numbers, openly criticized elites in the society, and prayed for the second coming of Jesus Christ soonest. They shattered the hierarchal organization of church social order, rejected the existing power structures. Common Sense, a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine urging people to unite and fight for independence, caused a nationwide sensation (Money and Jason 45). It was structured like a sermon and made it public the call for America to gain independence connecting it to dissent of protestant beliefs hence giving politics a different nature.

Social Protests towards British Conflict Motivates Colonists to Fight the War

Reacting from the Acts being imposed on them, the colonists expressed their displeasure in the British Regime in a number of ways. The British Massacre occurred when an angry mob attacked armed soldiers with snowballs at Boston and this made the soldiers to open fire killing five colonists. Responding to the Tea Act, which imposed a tax on tea, colonists staged peaceful protests against the law and invaded a ship that had harboured in Boston harbor, destroying all the tea chests, which had been imported, famously known as Boston Tea Party (Money and Jason 89). After Massachusetts was termed rebellious and brought under the full governance of the British Empire, patriots issued the Suffolk Resolves and declared to protest the "Intolerable Acts' and formed a shadow government that began training Militia away from Boston. Resistance in the towns of Lexington and Concord were met by British full force (Newmann 211). Lexington was the first, British met 77 minutemen who they would let go but a shot from an anonymous place caused them to open fire to then Americans, killing eight and wounding 10, escaping with no fatalities. At Concord, the colonists were more prepared, using the guerrilla tactic to attack the British resulting in approximately 300 casualties.

The American Revolution War's genesis can be linked to Britain's actions that disregarded the demands of the colonists and imposed a strict control through laws and acts that were unfair to the colonists. Under such a hostile regime, colonists had no other way out since Britain, under pressure from its debtors, was not willing to accept the demands, and hence the justification for an uprising. While the independence was worth as it enabled the country to have its self-rule, it was not to the advantage of a native and another minority group who were not considered as "equal men" who would enjoy the protections of the constitution. Overall, the independence benefits the white men only.


Works Cited

Bailyn, Bernard. The ideological origins of the American Revolution. Harvard University Press, 2017.Money, Duncan, and Jason Xidas. The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution. Macat Library, 2017.

Newmann, Fred M. "THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION." Constructivism and the New Social Studies: A Collection of Classic Inquiry Lessons (2018): 193-218.

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