Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Tuesday Sept. 14 : War and Revolution II

Fall 2004
Tuesday Sept. 14 : War and Revolution II

The Revolutionary Period, 1764 to 1775

DURING THE REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD, American colonists began to rethink their position within the British Empire. Colonists also began to rethink their own identities—were they loyal British subjects, or were they "Americans"? Colonists were frustrated by England’s replacement of “salutary neglect” with a new and intrusive, possiblytyrannous interest in the colonies, and were blocked from access to new land (Indians' lands) by the frontier restriction of 1763. Americans’ initial resistance to specific measures gradually turned into overt hostility & into a movement for separation from the mother country.

American public life was transformed in these years by numerous discussions of equality & “inalienable rights.” The political revolution gave the American colonists (elites, artisans, working people, immigrant minorities, and even women and slaves) hope for a better life, and seemed to promise the spread of certain privileges & rights previously reserved for elites. In the process, colonists developed a sense of a shared American identity, and, for a while, a community of interests.

I. The Rise of American Resistance

A. The Offensive Acts of the British

1. British policy: to raise revenue, pay war debt
  • American views: taxes to raise revenue rather than regulate trade becomes constitutional issue

2. From 1760 on:

  • “Writs of Assistance”: General search warrants issued without “cause for suspicion” allowing British revenue officers to enter & ransack buildings & homes in which smuggled goods were suspected to be.
  • 1764: Sugar Act, a tax on imported sugar & molasses a threat to distillers & businessmen.

3. 1765: The Stamp Act (Act I of the American Revolution)
Stamp Act protest: http://teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/thumbnail20.html

  • First direct internal tax levied upon American colonies! A tax on Newspapers, almanacs, diplomas, marriage certificates, all legal documents
  • Instant response: fear, suspicionis this the first of a series of assaults on liberty?

4. Response in 1765: Stamp Act Congress convened

  • First inter-colonial meeting, summoned to discuss opposition to Act, publishes a "Declaration of Rights & Grievances:”
  • No Taxation Without Representation in English Parliament
  • Colonies enter into Non-Importation Agreements (boycotts)

B. Colonists become Sons and Daughters of Liberty

1. Secret orgs. led by Paul Revere, Samuel Adams et al.

  • Sons of Liberty begin program of intimidation & sabotage
  • Colonial women form "Daughters of Liberty" groups in the 1760s boycotted goods and signed petitions

2. 1765: Patrick Henry’s “If This Be Treason” speech stirs up Virginia assembly

3. 1766: Stamp Act compromise

  • Act repealed, but a Declaratory Act is issued, asserting Parliament’s absolute right to lay taxes on colonies "in all cases whatsoever."
  • New British policy: to raise revenue & repress colonial disobedience.

C. More Offensive Acts!

1. 1767: Townshend Act: Taxes lead, glass, paint, & tea, reorganizes vice-admiralty court system, makes colonial governors independent of legislatures, suspends NY legislature, creates army of customs collectors

  • New Non-Importation Agreements ensure that these taxes produce little revenue
  • Townshend taxes repealed, except for Tax on Tea

2. 1768: 4,000 British troops dispatched to Boston!

  • This is seen as occupation by foreign troops: Nobody likes it.