Friday, March 13, 2009

What Led to the American Revolution?

What led to the American Revolution? Why did the American Revolution happen? Pretty much every American knows there was an American Revolution that resulted in our independence, but few Americans understand the actual causes of the American Revolution.

What Led to the American Revolution?

The causes of the American Revolution can be traced most easily to the French and Indian War (otherwise known as the Seven Years War). That war, triggered in part by an eager and inexperienced George Washington, confirmed Britain's hold on North America and effectively ended French hopes to dominate the continent. It also put the British treasury in serious straits.

Faced with a fiscal crisis and the perceived need to maintain a troop presence in North America, Britain tightened its control over its North American colonies, and began to tax them directly for the first time. The most egregious of these direct taxes was the 1775 Stamp Act.

While it's fairly common for people to focus on the issue of taxation in studying the causes of the American Revolution, the real issue was control. The British Parliament believed that it had preeminent authority over the entire British Empire, including the colonies in North America. The American colonists, by contrast, believed they had the right to govern themselves, albeit under the protection and limited oversight of the British Crown.

Why Did the American Revolution Happen?

Tensions aside, what led to the actual shooting? After all, people have deep disagreements today regarding politics and government, taxation and control. What led the American colonists to actually take up arms and start shooting at British redcoats?

The touchstone event that made war inevitable was the Boston Tea Party of 1773. By that year, the British had rescinded all of the taxes on their North American colonies, save one....the tax on tea. The Tea Act of 1773, which helped fund the East India Company, was symbolic for both sides. From the British perspective, it showed that they had the authority (if they chose to exercise it) to levy any tax on the American colonists. Not surprisingly, this symbol wasn't lost on the American side. The colonists were deeply resentful of this power grab, and they took steps to show that resentment.

The Sons of Liberty, poorly disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded British trade vessels in Boston Harbor in December 1773, and dumped over 340 crates of tea into Boston Harbor.

**Read about the Boston Tea Party, courtesy of The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

Rather than offer a limited, political response to the Boston Tea Party, the British went ballistic! With passage of the Restraining Acts in 1774, (known popularly as the Coercive Acts or the "Intolerable Acts"), the British cleared colonial judges and elected officials out of their positions, ended town hall meetings, imposed martial law, and shut down Boston Harbor!

The colonies rallied together in response. In 1774, the First Continental Congress met to present a united front against Great Britain. And, in April 1775, blood was shed in Lexington and Concord. War was inevitable.

And in the summer of 1776, the American Revolution became a war for independence, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

**For more on the American Revolution, visit the American Revolution Blog, the American History section at, and (of course) surf through all the postings and links here at this blog.


David R. Stokes said...


Anonymous said...

You've missed the whole impact that early 18th century monarchial succession politics played. if Parliament hadn't gotten used to running England and the colonial governments running things here during the reigns of George I and II, the Stamp Act wouldn't have seemed so oppressive and contrary to American's sense of democratic fair play.

Anonymous said...

It is truly amazing how similar our present situation is to those of the Revolution. It's all about control these days, just as in 1774. I think we desperately need a new revolution now to "refresh the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots." 1776 - Never Forget!

Brian Tubbs said...

Hello, Pastor! Yeah, sorry, not Churchill this time. :-)

Brian Tubbs said...

Hey Anonymous #1, yeah, my article was intended simply as an introductory summary, not an in-depth look at the causes of the war. But, you're right. A great book on that is "The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies."

Brian Tubbs said...

Anonymous #2, in a democratic society, the people ultimately get what they deserve. We've let our liberties and freedoms be eroded over the years. As the saying goes: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

Jim said...

Its time to have another tea party. Taxes are about to go up for all of us with all these new spending plans.

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Jay said...

I wonder how our fathers of the constitution would view our government today?

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