Eleven years before America had declared it’s independence there was 1,450,000 white and 400,000 Negro subjects of the crown. The colonies extended from the Atlantic to the Appalachian barrier. The life in these thirteen colonies was primarily rural, the economy based on agriculture, most were descended from the English, and politics were only the concern of land owners.
Throughout these prosperous colonies, only a small portion of the population were content with their lives as subjects of George III. Most found it hard to be continually enthusiastic for their King sitting on his thrown, thousands of miles away. Despite this there were few signs of the upcoming revolution. The occasional call for democracy and liberty were written off by loyalists. Among the upper class feelings of loyalty to the crown were strong and eloquently expressed. The attitudes of the common people mirrored their counterparts in England. They had a combination of indifference and obeisance. To the present day American this is quite difficult to believe. However, all of this can be explained by Benjamin Franklin, “I never had heard in any Conversation from any Person drunk or sober, the least Expression of a wish for a Separation, or Hint that such a Thing would be advantageous to America.”
However all of this did not last for long. In the summer and fall of the same year, the colonists gave up their habits of submission and a new people emerged. The Stamp Act ignited the furies of the colonists. The people refused to pay, especially the colonial upper class. The match that had been lit was put out was put out by the repealing of this act. The match, however, did not go out.
Many historians have pondered upon the events and forces that drove the American people to rebellion against their mother country. This was important but it still eluded the historians to find out what made this people ripe for rebellion, or, more exactly, what was there about the continental colonies in 1765 that made them so willing to engage in open defiance of a major imperial policy?
One of the proposed answers, arguably the best known, was volunteered by one of the causes of the revolution, John Adams in 1818. “The Revolution was effected before the was commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. . . . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.” Adams, in a sense, argued that even before the first shot of war, there had existed a collective outlook called the American mind, whose chief characteristics were self-reliance, patriotism, practicality, and the love of liberty, with liberty defined as freedom from alien dictation. It was the dictation of shortsighted ministers of an equally shortsighted king that pushed the American mind to assert itself boldly for the first time.
Adams had not found it necessary to describe in detail the forces that had produced this mind. A reason for this had been the extraordinary student of political relations, Edmund Burke had already given a perceptive description. In his speech on conciliation with the colonies, Burke singles out “six capital sources” to account for the American “love of freedom,” and strong sense of liberty. These capital sources were: their English descent; their popular forms of government; “religion in the northern provinces”; “manners in the southern”; education; and “the remoteness of the situation from the first mover of government.” In his and Adam’s praise was a recognition that this liberty rested on firm and fertile ground.
All of this was rounded off by Alexis de Tocqueville. He revealed the unique nature of the American Republic: “The great advantage of the Americans is that they have arrived at a state of democracy without having to endure a democratic revolution” or to stare the thesis in terms of 1776, the Americans already enjoyed the liberty they were fighting for.
The first ingredient of American Liberty was the peoples heritage from
England. Burke had acknowledged this “capitol source”. He explained that the colonists were the descendants of Englishmen, a people who respects their freedom.
The first colonists had brought over both good and evil of their mother country in the seventeenth century. The good had been toughened and in several instances improved; much of the bad had faded away under the tough conditions of life. The American was a special brand of Englishman: he was more English than the English.
The colonists brought from their home countries their traditions of representative government, supremacy of law, constitutionalism, liberty of the subject. All of these belonged to them as Englishmen. Their institutions, including the provincial assembly, were often looked upon as sound to the extent that they were able to conform to English models. Throughout the colonial period the English descent and attitudes of the great majority of Americans gave the impetus to their struggle for liberty.
The English government conducted colonial affairs upon these assumptions: The colonies were dependents of England. Since their interests were subordinate to those of England, the welfare of the latter was to be the concern of an agency charged with governing them. The colonists were to serve their mother country as a source of wealth. The English government had acted upon these assumptions throughout the colonial period. This period consisted of confusion in the beginning, domestic troubles in the middle, and salutary neglect in the end.
The colonists were not uniform in their views on their place in the imperial structure, ranging from the arrogant independence asserted by Massachusetts to the abject dependence argued by the Troy apologists. The attitude of the colonials was that of near-equality in the present and full partnership in the future.
If Parliament had not decided to intrude its authority into colonial affairs, the imperial views of the English and the self-governing claims of the American colonists might have coexisted for decades without breaking violently. The policies of stern control lit another match for the rebellion.
Three thousand miles of ocean lay in between England and the American colonies. This fact of geography, the remoteness of the colonies, squared the difference between imperial purpose and colonial aspiration. The colonists fell, naturally into an attitude of provincialism that was well suited for the conditions of their life in America but was corrosive to the empire of England. The lack of contact between the colonies led to the development of each on their own.
The English were lax in the enforcing of the Navigation Acts and the colonials disobeyed them. This was one instance of the extent to which three thousand miles of ocean could water down a policy of strict control.
Burke had listed many of the “capital sources”, however he might have found another one if he had lived in the colonies. This “capital source” was brought forth by Frederick Jackson Turner. “American democracy is fundamentally the outcome of the experiences of the American people in the dealing with the west.” The significance of the frontier in early American history. The frontier was not only a area but a state of mind.
The frontier impeded the transfer to America of outworn attitude and institutions. The wilderness frustrated any attempts of feudalism in the colonies. The attitude of freedom from government was emphasized by the frontier conditions.
The frontier also produced some of the raw materials of American democracy – self reliance, social fluidity, simplicity, equality, dislike of privilege, optimism, and devotion to liberty.
The economic conditions were also a cause in the advance of liberty, the wages in the colonies were generally higher and the working conditions were better than in England. The reason for this altogether joyous condition was a shortage of labor caused by the mass amount of land being settled. The people of the seaboard lost many of their people in the migration of the west.
The frontier was always an area of protest and thus an area were republican notions could be nurtured. They were overtaxed without adequate representation, they were not happy with the current style of government and thus were willing to fight for a new one.
Nearly all of the immigrants to the colonies came from the middle and lower classes. Even the aristocratic families of New York and Virginia had humble origins. This was not to imply that America was a land of rogues. Europe had sent over thousands of substantial, intelligent, propertied men and women. Yet most could not even pay for their own voyage, and gentlemen immigrants only numbered a few.
The British policy of sending tens of thousands of convicts inspired Dr. Johnson’s famous growl: “Sir, they are a race of convicts , and ought to be content with anything we allow them short of hanging.” Benjamin Franklin offered to return the favor by shipping over all of the rattlesnakes in America
Many years before 1765 the colonies had begun to take on a pattern of unity that was “characteristically American”. The people followed the laws and customs of the English, but were made up of many different peoples.
This melting pot had only begun to heat in the latter part of the 1700’s. Crevecoeur’s example of a family which consisted of four sons with four wives of four different nations was a occurrence more natural if the Republic and not of the colonies.
The influx of non-English caused many important causes of the American Revolution. The arrival of non-English peoples caused the hold of the mother country to weaken. The influx of aliens did a lot to make Protestant individualistic character stronger.
The immigrants helped to democratize the political institutions that had been brought over from England. The Scotch-Irish often quarreled that the colonies were not representative enough. The Germans brought the middle-class creed of industry, frugality and self reliance.
The immigrants brought with them ways of life that supported the colonies. The Scotch-Irish were typical frontiersmen, the Germans were the typical farmer. Though they were men of different attitudes, they all wanted the same: “And what but Liberty, charming Liberty, is the resistless Magnet that attracts so many different Nations into that flourishing colony?
History however did not only create great men, they also played a great part in the creating of history. History is not only the chronicles of the passages of time but also it biographizes the lives of the great men who have lived it.
One of the most important causes of the revolution had been passed on March 22, 1765. The Stamp Act had passed both houses of Parliament as “a common turnpike bill.”
The people were angered and now began to feel the forces of revolt that had silently growled for many years. A new resolution of independence was as much the climax of a revolution as the beginning of one. This was the “real American Revolution.”
The colonies progressed greatly over the years. The population nearly doubled between 1765 and 1776. The Americans would, someday, outnumber the British. It soon became apparent that there was “something absurd in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.”
More significant than this material progress was the progress of the “forces-behind-the-forces”. The English heritage, the ocean, the frontier, and imperial tension worked hard in this decade of ferment. The forces that had worked long for freedom began to have a sharp increase in importance. The struggle between the government and the people took on a new vigor and meaning. The colonial press began more political reporting, thus alerting the population of Imperial wrongs. In early 1765 there were only twenty-three newspapers in the colonies with only two or three politically conscious. By 1775 there were thirty-eight, of which about two were not politically conscious. The word “unconstitutional” became one of America’s favorite words.
In every colony the middle-class formed the nucleus of the patriots. The aristocracy split into two different groups.
The rapid rise of higher education also contributed to the cause of the revolution. The colonial mind began to become more American and less English.
The American colonies moved very fast in between 1765 and 1776. The people began to riot, not wanting the English government as leadership anymore. The people pushed steadily ahead in population, wealth, self-reliance, and devotion to liberty. The peaceful revolution was ending and the revolution of guns was just beginning.