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Munro College Cape History Unit 2

Topic:The American Revolution/American War of Independence

Source: Pinkmonkey World History studyguide .com

Causes of the American Revolution
There were several causes that created discontent in the colonies thus leading to the
American War of Independence.
1. A spirit of self-reliance and enterprise was shown by the English colonies, which
had established their own political institutions. However George III and the British
Parliament did not give any political rights to the colonies which in turn felt like
slaves in the political field. Each colony had a legislative assembly and a governor
appointed by England. They gained great political experience by running their
political institutions. Thus they resented the political control of England and had a
strong desire for self-government. They did not consider it necessary to be under the
control of England, their mother country.
2. The colonists held neither affection nor loyalty towards England. The religious
intolerance of the English rulers had forced them to leave England. Further, England
did not attempt to maintain good relations with the colonies.
3. The colonies felt that they were being badly treated in the economic field.
England attempted to improve her industry, trade and commerce at the cost of her
In order to regulate the trade of the colonies, England had been passing Navigation
laws for over a century. Thereby all goods from the colonies had to be shipped in
British vessels, while goods of certain kinds could only be sold to British merchants.
The colonists felt that such laws were unjust to the colonies and were only enforced
for the advantage of England.
In 1764, the Sugar Act was passed requiring the payment of a duty or tax on imported
sugar and certain other imports. A tax was also imposed or certain exports. These
impediments on their trade were resented by the colonists. Yet British officers were
appointed at the ports to board ships and collect the taxes.
Officers were also given Writs of Assistance by the courts, that is written orders
permitting them to search houses and also ships for taxable goods, since some
importers tried to evade paying taxes on imports. Much opposition was aroused by
these writs.
In 1765, the Stamp Act was passed requiring newspapers, pamphlets, legal
documents and such others to bear revenue stamps. The government could collect
money through the sale of these stamps. However the colonies protested strongly by
passing resolutions of protest in their assemblies and sending delegates to appeal to
George III. Eventually the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766, though it was asserted
that the Parliament still had the right to tax the colonies. In order to enforce these
laws, the Parliament sent additional soldiers. The Quartering Act authorized the
stationing of soldiers in the American towns. Under this Act 1000 soldiers were sent
to Boston where quarrels and fights soon occurred.

The Townshend Acts of 1767, imposed duties on tea, glass and paper imported by the
American colonies. This created such great agitation that the Parliament had to
withdraw all duties in 1769, except the nominal one on tea.
4. Another cause was military in nature. England expected the colonies to bear part of
the expenses of defense. Though England had saved the colonies from the French
menace in the seven years war, the colonies declared that the British Parliament did
not have the right to tax them. Yet the colonists slogan, No taxation without
representation was not heeded by George III. He felt that they could be easily
5. The colonies were populated by hard-working, freedom-loving, intelligent farmers,
adventurous sailors and enterprising producers. Since they could think and act for
themselves in every field they did not feel there was any need for them to be guided
by the mother country. Their desire to be free from England grew stronger.

Immediate Cause
As the various grievances piled up, only a spark was needed to start the revolution
Boston Tea Party (December 16, 1773)
The British government had retained the tax on tea, as it wanted to retain its right to
tax the colonies despite constant opposition from the colonists. Further Lord North
attempted to help the East India Company to dispose of its large stock of tea by selling
it to the colonies. Popular opposition to this move followed and the colonial leaders
prevented the unloading of tea in the colonial ports. In Boston, Samuel Adams and his
followers stealthily entered the ships of the East India Company, disguised as
Mohawk Indians. They then threw all the chests of tea into the water. The news of this
Boston Tea Party spread to many other ports. Firm action was taken by the British
Parliament by bringing the colony of Massachusetts under the direct control of
England, by annulling its Charter, 1774.

Consequences of the American Revolution
The American War of Independence is regarded as one of the greatest landmarks in
the history of the world since it had far-reaching results:
1. It gave birth to a new nation, that is, the United States of America. Under the
Treaty of Paris (1783) England acknowledged the independence of her American
2. France regained two small colonies, Tobago in the West Indies and Senegal in
West Africa. Spain recovered Minorca and Florida.

3. England lost her colonies in America and her national debt increased to a great
extent. However England could defeat and destroy the Spanish and French fleets,
and thus retain her naval supremacy.
4. France lost heavily during the American Revolution. Owing to her heavy naval
and military expenditures the royal treasury in France grew bankrupt. Further
bankruptcy soon led to the fall of the French monarchy, since the Frenchmen had
helped the Americans in their revolt against a King. They were now prepared to
revolt against their own king.
5. A few years after the Revolution, the old Federal Constitution, that is the
Articles of Confederations that the Continental Congress had drawn up during the
war, was changed. It was replaced by a new constitution that a special body of
delegates framed at Philadelphia. It is referred to as the Constitutional Convention
of 1787.
6. The new American State had many features. It was a republic and not a
monarchy. Instead of being a unitary state it was a federation. It was a democracy
rather than a dictatorship. It could be regarded as the worlds first democratic
federal republic.
7. Owing to their experience under the old constitution, the framers of the new one
in 1787, gave the federal government greater powers such as taxation and
regulation of commerce. The government was divided into three branches instead
of one. The new government had a Congress, the legislative body; there was also
an executive branch, with the President at its head, as well as a judicial branch, at
the head of which was the Supreme Court. The three branches of the national
government under the constitution of 1787, which came into effect in 1789, were
expected to check and balance one another.

Significance of the American Revolution
The American Revolution helped to strengthen the idea of the right of revolution,
the right of a people to overthrow an oppressive government. Thus it expressed more
fully, the principles of the English revolutions of the 17th century. The whole world
was deeply influenced by the establishment of a republic in America as well as by the
gradual growth of democracy.
The American revolutionaries served as a source of great inspiration to the French and
others who were being oppressed by autocrats or imperialists. The countries of the
east, which were under the control of the imperialists, regarded the Revolution as a
good lesson for them. The down trodden masses of France were inspired to revolt
against autocracy and aristocracy, barely six years after the Treaty of Paris was
signed. Thus the spirit of nationalism began to spread with the birth of the United
States of America.

The principles of freedom and democracy were upheld through slogans such as No
taxation without representation and Give me liberty or give me death, which highly
influenced the minds of people all over the world. The rulers of all the countries also
learnt that they would not be permitted to rule, unless they changed their attitude and
served the needs of the people. Thus kings attempted to improve their administration.
The framers of the American constitution gave a practical lesson to the people of the
world. The people in other countries could also emulate the system of checks and
balances introduced in the American constitution. The Americans abolished kingship.
Instead, they elected a President, to be in office for a four-year term. The world also
received the example of a written constitution. Further, another praiseworthy
achievement was the separation of the church and the state.
America gave rise to great leaders such as Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Thomas
Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. The hero of the War of
Independence, namely George Washington, was honored by being made the first
President born in a farmers family.

Dates & Events
1764 - The Sugar Act was passed.
1765 - The Stamp Act was passed.
1776 - The Stamp Act was repealed.
1767 - The Townshend Acts were passed.
1769 - The government had to withdraw all duties except the one on tea.
1773 - The Boston Tea Party.
1774 - The parliament brings the colony of Massachusetts under the direct control of
1777 - The British armies surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga.
France promises aid to the American armies.

1778 - France makes an alliance with the US.
1779 - Spain united with France to help America.
1781 - British commander in chief surrendered to George Washington in Yorktown.
1783 - Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain recognized American Independence.
1787 - The Constitutional Convention replaces the old Federal Constitution.
1789 - The Congress, The Legislative body and The Executive branch came into
George Washington becomes the first President of the United States.
Points To Remember
Causes of the American Revolution
The Colonies enjoyed some form of political control which gave them the
experience and the urge to fight for self-rule.
England did not bother to maintain good relationships with her colonies.
Further, the economic exploitation and various unjust laws (Sugar Act Stamp
Act, Writs of Assistance) aggravated the revolt. "No Taxation without
Representation" was an important slogan.
The enterprising and independent population did not feel the need to depend on
a mother country.
Immediate Cause
The Boston Tea Party incident demonstrated the intense hatred of the colonists.
Course of the American Revolution
King George underestimated the strength of the colonists under the leadership
of George Washington so that England faced defeat 1777.
Trade rivals of England, Spain and France helped the colonists in the
A peace treaty was finally signed in 1783; England acknowledged the
independence of the colonies.
Reasons for American Success
An important factor was the weakness of England; she had to many territories
to defend at one time.
American patriots did a good job.
George Washington was an important force in steering victory towards the

Consequences of the American Revolution
It announced the birth of a new nation - the United States of America (USA),
the worlds first democratic federal republic.
Britain lost an important territory. Even France faced a great deal of loss.
A constitutional convention of state representatives was created to enable the
new "United States of America" to define a guideline for the laws that would
govern the new sovereign country..
A relatively new system of government with three branches dividing the power,
instead of the conventional one was established from the future outcome of the
constitutional conventions.

Significance of the American Revolution
It gave emphasis to the idea of the right to revolution and self-govern.
Subsequent revolutions like that of France were inspired by this one.
Poor classes were encouraged to fight against autocratic rulers. Even rulers
were shied into becoming less despotic.
It started a whole new system of government and introduced a written
constitution which became the framework and basis for the entire structure of
the evolution of the country's government.