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December 8, 2015
The American War of Independence (1775 -1783)
In the early 16th century, many English Protestants were unhappy with the Church of England. In September 1620, about 100 religious dissenters, who later came to be known as the Pilgrim Fathers, set sail for America aboard a vessel the Mayflower. They hoped to settle in North America and live and worship in peace. Intending to land in Virginia, instead they arrived at the coast of New England after a stormy voyage.
Before they landed, the Pilgrims drew up an agreement, the Mayflower Compact, establishing a government for their colony, which they named Plymouth Plantation. Half the settlers did not survive their first winter in America, but help from the Native Americans helped the colony to eventually flourish. The hospitable Natives helped the settlers to farm crops suited to the land and climate, and also traded goods with them.
In the late 16th and 17th centuries, many English, French and Dutch emigrants went to North America. They supported themselves by cultivating crops that they could sell to England, like tobacco, indigo, and rice. Most of the workers on the plantations were slaves and servants bound by contracts.
By 1733 thirteen English colonies had been founded along the eastern coast of North America, the last being Georgia. The French occupied Canada.
1. The northern colonies of New England were occupied by Puritans, who had got leave from James I to found an English colony in America. They loved learning and education and were politically more conscious.
2. The southern colonies like Georgia and Virginia had large estates having tobacco and cotton plantations worked by slaves.
3. There were other English colonies like Pennsylvania and Maryland occupied by Quakers and Catholics.
Before the 1750s there were sporadic wars between the English and the French colonists over trade and as an extension of quarrels in Europe. In 1753, the French moved south from Canada to occupy part of the Ohio valley.
The British troops and colonists from the east coast were sent against them. Both sides won battles, but there was no conclusive victory. Between 1756 and 1763 a series of wars was fought between the British and the French.
In1759, the British took the Canadian city of Quebec. British control of all Canada was agreed in the1763 Treaty of Paris, which ended the Seven Year War.
The British government then tried to strengthen its authority over the colonists, imposing new taxes. The colonists rose in revolt, and won independence, creating the United States of America. In1783, Great Britain recognized the independence of the states.
The two great revolutions, namely the American Revolution and the French Revolution that broke out in the second half of the eighteenth century have been great landmarks in world history and have inspired freedom loving people of other countries to overthrow their colonial masters and eventually move towards democracy.
OnJuly 1, 1776, a grim-faced group of men gathered inside the sweltering statehouse at Philadelphia. They were the representatives of the 13 British-owned colonies in North America. The reason for their presence here was a session of the colonies' fledgling parliament, the Continental Congress. The resolution that awaited their consideration was the most momentous and dangerous they had ever debated........... that all of the American colonies should declare themselves independent of their mother country, Britain, and thereby bring to an end one and a half centuries of rule by a king and parliament 5,000 kilometres across the Atlantic Ocean.
1. Underlying Causes of the Revolt
1. The Old Colonial System: The colonies had been acquired in an age when all statesmen had accepted the theories of mercantilism. In these theories colonies, shipping-trade, and national security were all closely related. The colonies aided the Mother Country by promoting trade, which increased the amount of shipping and the number of sailors. In return, the colonies received protection from the home government.
The English government wished to be economically self-sufficing, and therefore encouraged the colonists:
1. To produce goods which could not be produced in England.
2. To receive manufactured goods in exchange (consequently they were prohibited from producing goods which England already manufactured).
3. To trade as little as possible with other nations, and then only in English ships.
To achieve these purposes, the English government had enacted the Navigation Acts of 1650,1651, and 1660. These regulations were very unpopular in America, as it limited the freedom of the colonists to the sale and purchase of goods and affected their commerce.
2. Lack of Sympathy between the Colonists and the English: The
colonists were mostly descendants of 17th century emigrants. They had developed on lines very different from the English at home.
Distance and the slowness of communication increased the difficulty of maintaining close relations. Each of the thirteen states had its own governor and assembly, and there was as much friction among the states as there was with England. The New Englanders especially had always resented any interference from the home Government. .
3. The Results of the Seven Years War : Fear of the French had been the main bond uniting the colonists with the English Government. The defeat of the French in North America ended the dependence of the colonists on British troops.
4. The Cost of Defence: The quarrels that began in 1765 arose directly out of the refusal of the colonists to shoulder the burden of paying for their own defence, past and future.
Mercantilism was based on the belief that as wealth is the basis of the power of a state, the government ought to encourage and regulate its production by controlling agriculture, industry and trade.
Queen Elizabeth I of England (reign 1558-1587) was greatly influenced by this and she aimed to :
1. Encourage shipping for defence and for the promotion of wealth (for example, an Act to enforce the eating offish).
2. Keep favourable balance of trade (i.e., prevent an excess of imports over exports) so that the state would not be weakened by the export of gold and silver.
3. Encourage by monopolies, bounties, and tariffs those industries which she considered beneficial to England, especially those necessary in wartime (e.g., ship-building, iron).
4. Organize industry and trade so that she could easily control them.
4. Immediate Causes of the Revolt
The main quarrels that led up to the war :
1. The Sugar Act (1763): In 1763, George Grenville became Prime Minister of Britain. In an endeavour to increase Britains income, he passed an Act which required duty to be paid on imported sugar.
2. Grenville's Quartering and Stamp Act (1765-1766): When the colonists refused to agree on methods of contributing to defence, the Stamp Act and the Quartering Act were passed in 1765.
The Stamp Act required all legal documents to bear a small revenue stamp. The Quartering Act required that the colonists supply the soldiers with living quarters, fuel, cider or beer.
This provoked an outbreak among the colonists, and so it was repealed in 1766; but at the same time the Declaratory Act was enacted to assert the rights of the British to tax the colonies.
3. Townshend's Duties (1767-1770): The second attempt of the British Parliament to raise revenue was by duties on English manufactured goods imported by the colonists. Again the colonists resisted, and the duties were withdrawn in 1770, except that on tea.
4. The Tea Act and Boston (1773): The last quarrel arose when the East India Company obtained permission to export tea directly to the colonies. Opposition to this Act was shown by the'Boston tea- party'.
British Parliament, hearing of this 'Boston Tea Party' took firm action by closing the Boston Port and suspending the Massachusettes charter, stationing a large number of troops in and around the town, and thus brought the citizens of Massachusettes directly under the control of England.
Declaration of Rights: Hearing of this, all the other colonies except Georgia sided with Massachusettes and sent delegates to the Congress of Philadelphia and issued aDeclaration of Rights demanding that the colonies could not be taxed without their consent. Even at this time the Congress has no intention of breaking away from the British Empire. It was only after the outbreak of war that the demand for independence arose.
No Taxation without Representation
When George Grenville became Britain's Prime Minister, he invited the colonists to make a voluntary contribution to the British treasury. When none was forthcoming, he took two drastic steps :
1. He gave orders that the British navy must end smuggling in America.
2. He introduced the Stamp Act.
Now the colonists had a real grievance. They were being asked to pay taxes and yet they had no representatives in Britain's parliament. The colonists stood up against all tax levies by the British Parliament and shouted out a national slogan "Taxation without representation is a tyranny."
The cry of "No taxation without representation" which they immediately raised was the prelude to revolt.
The Course Of The War
1. First Phase (1775-1777)
On19th April 1775, the war began as a result of a skirmish at Lexington between British troops and volunteers of Massachusetts.
After Lexington, the Massachusetts army attempted to seize Boston and occupiedBunker's Hill, overlooking the town. With difficulty and at heavy loss, the British soldiers expelled them. Later in the year the colonists attacked Montreal and Quebec without success, for General Burgoyne arrived from England with reinforcements.
George Washington was appointed commander of a united colonial army by Congress. In 1776 he compelled the British troops to evacuate Boston. They retired under General Howe by sea to Halifax.
Encouraged by their success the colonists issued the Declaration of Independence on the fourth of July. Meanwhile Howe, having been reinforced sailed to Long Island and captured New York. At New York he had command of the sea. He transported his men by sea up the Chesapeake to strike at Philadelphia. Landing he defeated Washington at Brandywine Creek and second Philadelphia.
The French Government, eager to avenge the loss of Canada, realized that the revolt was likely to succeed and made an alliance with the colonists in 1778.
2. Second Phase (1778-1783)
Soon after the victory at Saratoga France entered the Revolutionary War in 1778 on the side of America. Spain entered into an alliance with France and Holland too was fighting Britain. Thus the 13 states had allies. Heroes likeLafayette from France,Von Steuben from Prussia andPulaski from Poland generously aidedGeneral George Washington.
The British navy had been neglected and was not able to blockade the French fleets or to prevent French forces from sailing to America. The British forces left Philadelphia and returned to New York. In 1779General Clinton, who had succeeded Howe as commander, took an expedition to Georgia. Marching north, he captured Charleston. He returned to New York, leaving General Cornwallis to complete the conquest of the South.
In 1781 Cornwallis reached Yorktown peninsula and sent in vain to New York for help. Washington marched south to attack him and, with the aid of the French Navy, forced him to surrender.
The surrender atYorktown onOctober 191781 marked the end of the war in America, though fighting dragged on in some areas for the next two years. Cornwallis' defeat at Yorktown brought a new group of British ministers to power, early in 1782. They began peace talks with the Americans.
Continental Congress: A body of delegates representing the colonies called the Continental Congress met from time to time at Philadelphia and at last issued here, not a Declaration of Rights, but aDeclaration of Independence onJuly 4th 1976.
Among the men who helped to frame this declaration wereBenjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams,Robert Livingstone,andRoger Sherman.
The ideas set forth is this Declaration of Independence were democratic ideas, similar to those of the ancient Athenians. The British government did not want to share their power with the colonists. However the colonists fought against the British and after eight long years of war they gained their independence.
The committee that drew up the Declaration of Independence^ stands before the President of the Congress, John Hancock
The siege of Yorktown was the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. Britain began peace talks with the Americans several months after her defeat at Yorktown.
Most infantrymen in the Revolutionary War wore long-tailed coats, though in different colours. Generally colonists wore blue and the British red. So British soldiers came to be known as "Redcoats".
The Treaty of Paris (1783): Peace discussions between the Americans and the British opened in Paris in April 1782. Richard Oswald, a rich merchant, represented the British government whileBenjamin Franklin, John AdamsandJohn Jaynegotiated for the United States.
On September 3 1783the peace treaty was signed. By the terms of theTreaty of Paris in 1783,Britain recognized the independence of the United States and accepted the Mississippi River as its western boundary. A new independent federal republic came into being.
Causes for the Success of the Colonists
1. The British Government failed to send sufficient forces at the beginning of the war. The War Minister, Lord George Germaine, and the commanders were not efficient.
2. After 1777 Britain was at war against France, Spain, and Holland, and overwhelmed with difficulties in many parts of the world.
3. The loss of sea-power in 1781 was decisive and caused the fall of Yorktown.
4. The colonists had the advantage of the leadership of George Washington. Though not a great soldier, he had a great force of character and will; he inspired his countrymen with his conviction in the justice of their cause and with his confidence in then- ultimate victory.
5. The British were handicapped by the distance of America, by its vastness and difficulty of communications.
1. Great Britain had a hard time fighting many enemies who were allies of the American Revolution.
2. A rebellion was threatening in Ireland.
3. All Englishmen did not favour the war. Even Parliament was divided in its opinion over waging war with the colonies due to the liberal views of Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox and William Pitt who were friendly to America. England had also lost her supremacy of the high seas with the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.
Results of the War
1. The colonists, having won their liberty, had to overcome their mutual jealousies and learn to co-operate. It was not until 1789 that a constitution was agreed upon. They chose a democratic Republic: to preserve the rights of the separate states, a federal constitution was adopted.
2. The loyalists were badly treated, and many of them migrated to Canada. They did not join the French, but set up a new colony known as Upper Canada.
3. England's need was Ireland's opportunity. English troops were withdrawn from Ireland to fight in America. The Irish organized a Voluntary Army which later assisted the Irish campaign for independence.
4. For a century the British Parliament regarded colonies as an encumbrance rather than a valuable privilege. A new empire arose, however, without the conscious effort of Parliament. In 1788 Captain Phillips founded a penal settlement in New South Wales: the great Dominion of Australia developed from this inauspicious beginning. A new colonial system arose, under which Britain allowed liberty.
5. At Westminster, a political crisis occurred that led to the establishment of the long supremacy of William Pitt.
6. French participation in the war was a major factor in bringing about the Revolution of 1789 in France.
Importance of the American Revolution
1. The United States achieved political independence. The very fact that the colonists could overturn an oppressive government within no time, sounded a clear warning to all the other oppressive governments of the world.
2. France regained two small colonies, Tobago in the West Indies and Senegal in West Africa. Spain recovered Minorca and Florida. Holland gained nothing.
3. The Revolution marked the birth of the U.S.A. which in course of time became the richest country in the world and reached the status of a super-power.
4. The Americans taught the world lessons in statesmanship and constitution making. They established a republican constitution, which was conservative in the beginning but fully democratic after some time.
The American Constitution
The New Constitution,that is the Federal Constitution of 1787, devised at Philadelphia, is still the Constitution of the United States. It has been changed but little - in form in the direction of nationalism and democracy.
The new American State was a republic instead of a monarchy; it was a federation instead of a unitary state; and it was a democracy instead of a dictatorship.
It is the world's first Democratic Republic.
Salient Features Of The Constitution
1. The elected president instead on hereditaryking (election are held after every four years)
2. A written constitution
3.Separation of Church and State
4.A system of "separation of powers" and "checks and balance"
5. A Federal Republic
Great Patriots of American History
1. George Washington
First President, Commander-in-Chief of the American armies during the War of Independence, became his country's first president in 1789.
He was a Virginian plantation owner. He had taken part in the Seven Years' War against France. He had been elected to the Virginian Assembly and he had presided over the meeting which voted that Virginia should support the colonists against the mother country.
The second Congress of Philadelphia in 1775, chose him as the Commander- in Chief of the colonial forces.
2. Thomas Jefferson
The Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson,has inspired other nations to seek their independence, too.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." In his first draft he used the phrase "Life, Liberty and Property."
Jefferson based his ideas partly on his reading of the philosophers Locke and Rousseau.
3. Benjamin Franklin
Among the men who helped Jefferson draw up the Declaration of Independence was Benjamin Franklin. Bom in Boston, he rose from poverty to wealth by his own efforts. At the age of 42 he retired and devoted the remaining 42 years of his life to public service. He created the American Philosophical Society. He loved company and conversation and the comforts and graces of life. He was rightly thought of as a citizen of the world. As American Ambassador to Paris during the War of Independence, Franklin was largely responsible for the alliance with France signed in 1778, which helped to win the war.
4. Thomas Paine
He was a disconnected Norfolk farmer who had emigrate to the colonies in 1774. In the Amjerican decision to resort to force, his writings played a vital part . In 1776, hios puphlet Common sense was decisive in turning American openion against George III.