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IB History of the Americas/Chapter 2

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Independence Movements: The American Revolution

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Origins of the American Revolution

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Colonial Background

Jamestown, Virginia (1607) was the first British colony in North America (by the time Americans declared independence, the colony was 100 years old)
Primary motivations for colonization/immigration
1. The British government gave the right to colonists to colonize (acquire land) in the name of the king/queen (exception: Georgia was a colony where the debtors were sent)
2. Freedom of religion: many left to practice their religion without threat of persecution; however, many early colonists were intolerant of others with religious views different from their own
3. Economic gain (primary reason for colonization):
-opportunity to own land
-large profits for companies
4. Overcrowding:
- homelessness
- high levels of unemployment
5. Political issues:
- wanted greater political freedom

Colonial governments

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Companies were given charters: agreements on how the colonies would be governed. The people that were to govern these colonies were sometimes elected, sometimes royally appointed, or appointed by the head of the companies.
+Colonial Legislatures
Initially, colonial legislatures were free from oversight. This was in large part due to the long distance (colonies were about 3,000 miles away) that separated the colonies from the mother country. Early on, colonies enjoyed a great deal of freedom. They had a relative degree of self-government—most of the laws colonists had to abide by were established by themselves.

Causes of the American Revolution

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A. Economic Theory of Mercantilism -Mercantilism: economic theory stating that the prosperity of a nation depends upon its capital. According to this theory all nations should seek a favorable balance of trade. Mercantilism also states that there finite amount of resources and all nations are in competition with each other to obtain access to these resources. Therefore, when one country gains access to any resource, it represents a loss for other countries
- Economic theory that served as the basis for the economic policies that European nations imposed on their colonies.
-The objective was to make colonies dependent upon the mother country for manufactured goods.
-Colonies represented markets for British goods. EX: Textiles, weapons, house ware
- Colonies were also supposed to serve as producers of raw materials that would either feed the European population or serve as inputs for factories

  • Overtime, it is important to recognize that the mother country becomes just as dependent on the colonies as the colonies on the mother country. According to Thomas Paine, “as long as the people of Europe like to eat every day, they will come to us.”

B. The Enlightenment -The enlightenment was an intellectual movement that challenged world views. It emphasized rationality, reason, and logic.
-Movement that questions everything.
-John Locke, an influential enlightenment thinker, proclaimed that all humans are born with natural (god-given) rights: life, liberty, and property (later became the pursuit of happiness). According to Locke, governments are established by men for the purpose of protecting the natural rights of its citizens. If the government infringes or fails to protect these rights, it is the responsibility and duty of the citizens to overthrow the government by any means necessary. A legitimate government requires the consent of the governed.
C. The Navigation Acts -late 1600s to early 1700s
-Were designed to make mercantilism into policy. Key Provisions
1. Certain “enumerated goods” produced in the colonies, could only be sold to the mother country. EXS: tobacco, wool, rice, indigo. (Counterintuitive, since as producers, the colonies would want to sell goods to the highest bidder).
2. Any and all foreign goods that were headed to the colonies had to be shipped through England for inspection and taxation. This made it almost impossible to sell in the colonies, as the prices were very high.
3. All trade had to be carried out on British ships and by British merchants.
4. Colonists were prohibited from producing any goods that would compete with British goods—these were mainly manufactured goods.
D. The French and Indian War (1754-1763) The French and Indian war was the North American chapter of the Seven Year’s war, fought between the British and the French (and the native American forces that allied with the French).
Causes:a. Desire for territorial expansion
Both New France and New England wanted to expand their territories with respect to fur trading and other pursuits that matched their economic interests. Using trading posts and forts, both the British and the French claimed the vast territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, known as the Ohio Country. English claims resulted from royal grants which had no definite western boundaries. The French claims resulted from La Salle's claiming the Mississippi River for France—its drainage area includes the Ohio River Valley. In order to secure these claims, both European powers took advantage of Native American factions to protect their territories and to keep each other from growing too strong.
b. Religious Ideology
The English colonists also feared papal influence in North America, as New France was administered by French governors and Roman Catholic hierarchy. For the predominantly Protestant British settlers, French control over North America could have represented a threat to their religious and other freedoms provided by English law. Likewise, the French feared the anti-Catholicism prevalent among English holdings
+ How did the French and Indian War contribute to the American Revolution?
1. Increase debt due to British military expenditures during the war. To compensate for the capital lost, the British levied high taxes on the American colonies (the British felt that because the Americans had benefited from the military protection provided by the British during the war, the colonists should pay).
2. In the aftermath of the war the French were expelled from North America (gave up claim to the disputed territory of Ohio). Before the war the British colonies perceived that they needed British military protection from the French. But after the war, the French threat was removed, making colonists question why they needed British military protection.
3. During the war, colonists gained military experience, which increased their confidence in their ability to successfully prosecute a war against Great Britain (George Washington gained his military experience from this war).
4. Negative experiences and perceptions that American colonists had toward British soldiers, as a result of a shared wartime service. Colonists disliked the pretentiousness of British officers, British failure to observe/recognize the Sabbath, harsh punishments, extended military contracts (British failure to uphold their side of the bargain). Also, there is an increased awareness that Americans have different values than the British. As a result, there is an emergence of an American mentality.
5. The myth of British invincibility is shattered as a result of their dismal showing in their first two years of the war. After the war ended, the British issued a series of acts and proclamations.

  • Proclamation of 1763

Colonists were prohibited from moving west of the crest of the Appalachian Mountains. The colonists were upset because they thought that the “Indians” (Native Americans) were being unfairly rewarded. In the colonists view point, they had fought a war and won the war against the “Indians” who were now being protected by the British.
However, the British main motive to restrict colonist expansion was to keep the American colonists bunched up in the eastern sea board to better enforce the navigation acts. This proclamation was also issued to keep Native Americans and the colonists from waging a war, which would ultimately represent an economic drain for the British.

  • Stamp Act (1765)

A tax that was to be levied on all printed documents (i.e. newspapers, playing cards, etc). This was the first revenue tax that the British parliament had ever placed on the American colonists (the navigation acts were not revenue oriented). The colonies felt that the British were unfairly levying taxes without the colonists’ consent (taxation without representation). Colonists began to question whether Britain had the right to tax the colonies.
The colonists thought that the British were violating the intrinsic rights that all humans were born with: life, liberty, and the right to property (later pursuit of happiness).
I. Liberty
There were several liberties/freedoms/rights that the colonists believed the British government was infringing upon:
1. The colonists thought that they were not being adequately represented in parliament: Real/actual/individual vs. virtual representation
*virtual representation (British view)
When parliament makes a collective decision it is not only based on the people living on the isle, but also based on the whole British Empire. According to the British, it did not matter where one was because parliament took into account every colony of the British Empire. Parliament (King, House of Lords, and House of Commons) took into consideration the interests of ALL British subjects when making decisions regardless of where one might live. However, there was a flaw with the British argument—all members of parliament were from the British isle, they held all their meetings in London, and it was extremely probable that most members of Parliament had never been to British colonies.

* real representation (American/colonial view)

The colonists thought that the Parliament could not represent the interests of a given people unless some of the members of Parliament lived among the people they were representing. In the colonists’ view, voters from each colony should be able to elect a member from the colonies to represent them in the House of Commons (representatives must live and be responsible to the voters in a particular geographic district). Americans strongly believed that the British could not represent the interests of the colonies if they do not live amongst or depend on colonies.
The following Acts of Parliament were used a basis for the colonists' argument that Parliament was incapable of governing the colonies in a way that was mutually beneficial:

a. Stamp Act: tax on all printed material
b. Townshend Act: tax levied on tea, paper, glass
c. Tea Act
d. Sugar Act

All these were revenues oriented taxes, levied on the colonies in order to provide an influx of capital to the British government. According to the colonists, the British were breaking with the long tradition of autonomy that the colonial legislatures had. Also, this was the first time that the British government levied a revenue taxes on the colonies. Previously, goods that came directly from Britain had never been taxed by the British government. All acts were repealed and the colonists encouraged fellow colonists not to import British goods. As a result merchants pressured parliament, reinforcing colonist view of real representation. As a response to the colonists’ actions Britain issued the Declaratory Act, which stated that Britain had the right to tax and legislate the colonies. 2. Right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures Examples:

  • Quartering Acts: allowed soldiers to come into house and requisite certain things—food, water, etc
  • Writs of Assistance: general search warrants that most British officers had

From the British perspective, they were just trying to make sure that the navigation acts were being followed. 3. Right to trial by jury of ones peers EXS: Colonists and/or British convicted of certain crimes would be tried in British vice-admiralty courts. 4. Right to self-government EXS: Intolerable/coercive Acts: Britain dissolved Massachusetts’ colonial legislature and replaced it with an appointed one. The British were trying to send a message to other colonies: if disobedient they would be punished. The British were trying to scare/intimidate the other 12 colonies. This, however, did not work. 5. Right of Assembly The people of Massachusetts were denied the right of assembly (right to hold town hall meetings) as a result of the coercive act. The British viewed assemblies as places were the colonists coordinated acts against Britain. II) British infringement on the colonists’ right to life The colonists cited the battles at Lexington and concord and the Boston massacre as clear examples of how the British were infringing upon the colonists’ right to live.

  • Lexington and Concord (April 1775) and the subsequent battle at Bunker Hill (May 1775)

At the battles of Lexington and Concord about 93 militia members were killed (compared to 200 British). In Bunker Hill there were over 1000 American casualties. In the colonists’ view the war had started. They questioned how can “we” reconcile with those who have killed “our” civilians? III) Right to property/ pursuit of happiness The colonists felt that the Quebec act (1774, nullified many of the Western claims of the coast colonies by extending the boundaries of the province of Quebec to the Ohio River on the south and to the Mississippi River on the west) and the proclamation of 1763 did not allow colonists to gain new territories (property) as they limited westward expansion. The restrictions on trade brought about by the navigation acts and the theory of mercantilism was an impediment for in some of the colonists’ quest to build wealth (which could be considered as pursuing happiness by acquiring material wealth). As colonial unrest grew, there several more immediate causes that led the colonists to finally declare war on Britain. In January 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a pamphlet in which he expressed why the 13 colonies should seek independence from England. He argued that the mother country (Britain) needed the colonies more than they needed her. He claimed that remaining part of Great Britain would “suck” the colonies into future European wars. He argued that the British government was staffed and operated by “robbers” and “murderers.” Furthermore, Paine claimed that the British government represented an impediment for self-improvement. A massive number of copies were distributed (roughly 500,000). Common Sense drastically shaped public opinion—in January 1776 most colonists favored/remained loyal to Britain, but by April 1776, public opinion was in favor of the revolutionary cause. The most immediate factor that led to the declaration of independence was the king’s failure to respond favorably to the olive branch petition. The Olive Branch Petition, drafted on July 5, 1775, was a letter to King George III from members of the Second Continental Congress who—for the final time—appealed to their king to redress colonial grievances in order to avoid more bloodshed. The king ignored the petition and responded by issuing the prohibitory act, which declared that all 13 colonies were in an official state of rebellion and therefore had no legal rights. The Second Continental Congress responded by raising colonial militias. Factors that help explain the colonists’ victory over the British in the American Revolution (Role of Outside Powers). 1. Foreign help/assistance AS a result of Burgoyne’s (British commander) defeat at Saratoga in 1778, the French signed a treaty of alliance with the U.S. This alliance undoubtedly provided several benefits to the army. The French gave supplies (gunpowder, rifles, heavy artillery (cannons)) to the American army. The French also used their navy to support the patriots. 2. Geography 1,500 mile coastline made it difficult/impossible for the British to achieve their objective of economically isolating the colonies by capturing major ports/cities (colonists were able to successfully smuggle goods). Also, the British lack of familiarity with the terrain slowed them down. 3. British mistakes a. Failure/lack of key leaders to cooperate (work together) b. Inability of the British to live off the land (British soldiers engaged in rape and pillaging). 4. Colonial persistence The colonists were able to last 6-8 years of conflict with the British; this is surprising as most of the major battles were victories for the British. The continental army was able to win in large part due to the strong leadership of George Washington.