The American War Of Independence (1776-1783)
After the discovery of the American continent, there was a continuous migration of people from Europe to the New World. South America was colonized by Spain. The English and the French established their colonies in the North America. By the mid eighteenth century, the English had established their thirteen colonies along the Atlantic coast. Landless peasants, people seeking religious freedom and traders had settled there. Initially the relationship between the colonies and British Government was cordial. Although these colonies were controlled through the governors, they enjoyed political freedom. Each colony had its own assembly elected by the people. It enacted laws concerning local matters. However, the policies followed by the home government (Britain) had resulted in the confrontation. This ultimately led to the American War of Independence at the end of which the colonies became independent. There were several causes for this war.
The British Government followed the policy of mercantilism. According to this policy the colonies existed for the benefit of the mother country. The colonies were expected to furnish raw materials. They had to serve as markets for produced goods. Moreover, the colonies had to ship their goods only in British ships. In these ways the colonies were expected to add more wealth to the home country. The British Government enacted laws to implement this policy of mercantilism.
A series of Navigation Acts were passed by the British Parliament to control the trade of the American colonies. These Acts insisted that all the goods of both exports and imports should be carried in ships owned by England. Custom collectors were appointed in the colonies to implement the Navigation Acts. But, the American colonies considered these Acts as infringement of their rights.
The Molasses Act levied heavy duties on sugar and molasses imported into the American colonies. In addition to this, a series of Trade Acts were also passed to control the trade in the colonies. For example, the Hat Act of 1732 prohibited the import of hats from one colony to the other. The Iron Act 1750 stopped the large-scale production of iron in the colonies. These Acts were opposed by the colonies.
Due to these restrictions, bitterness developed between the home government and the American colonies. They were looking for an opportunity to free themselves from the control of Britain.
The end of the Seven Years War in 1763 and the transfer of Canada from France to England removed the French fear from the minds of the Americans. There was no need to depend on their mother country against any possible attack by the French. Therefore, the American colonies decided to face the colonial attitude of the British.
When Granville was the Prime Minister of England a series of Acts were passed affecting the interests of the American colonies. The Proclamation of 1763 prohibited the colonists from purchasing lands beyond Appalachian Mountains. The Sugar Act of 1764 increased the duties on the sugar which affected the interests of the colonies. The Stamp Act of 1765 insisted on the use of British stamps in commercial and legal documents of the colonies. The Quartering Act made it compulsory that colonists should provide food and shelter to English troops. These measures were severely opposed by the colonists. They raised the slogan 'No Taxation without Representation' thus insisting American representation in the English Parliament. As violence broke out in the streets, the Stamp Act was repealed.
Charles Townshend, the Finance Minister of England imposed fresh taxes on glass, paper, tea, paints, etc in 1767. It was known as Townshend laws. The Americans protested it and boycotted the British goods. On 5th March 1770, five Americans were killed by the British soldiers at Boston during the protest. It was known as the Boston Massacre. After this event, the Townshend laws were repealed.
In 1773, a new Tea Act was passed imposing a tax on import of tea. It was a symbol to show that the British Parliament had the right to tax the colonies. But Americans showed their protest. A group of Americans dressed as Red Indians, climbed on the ships and threw away the tea bundles into the sea at the Boston harbour. This event took place on 16th December 1773 and it was known as the Boston Tea Party. The offenders were punished. In 1774, the British Parliament passed the Intolerable Acts against the Americans in order to prevent such protests.
The American colonists decided to unite in their fight against the British. In September 1774, the first Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia. It was attended by the representatives of the twelve colonies except Georgia. This congress appealed to the British King to remove restrictions on industries and trade and not to impose any taxes without their consent. The second JEFFERSON Continental Congress met in May 1775 at Philadelphia. Delegates from all the thirteen colonies attended this Congress. Prominent leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin participated in it. George Washington was made the Commander-in-Chief of the American army. As a last attempt, an Olive Branch Petition was sent to the British king George III, who rejected it. The king proclaimed that the American colonies were in a state of rebellion.
In January 1776, Thomas Paine came to America from England and issued a pamphlet 'Common Sense'. It attacked the idea of hereditary monarchy and advocated democratic government. More than one lakh copies of this 50 page booklet were distributed throughout the thirteen colonies. It inculcated the fighting spirit among the Americans. On 4th July 1776, the American Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. It was prepared by a committee of five led by Thomas Jefferson who included the ideals of human freedom in it. The Declaration of independence laid emphasis on the unalienable rights of men namely, 'Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness'.
The war started in 1775, when the first battle was fought between the British soldiers and the colonial militia at Lexington in Massachusetts. Soon, George Washington assume the command of the army of the American colonies. The British General, Gage won a victory at Bunker Hill. In 1776 the British forces led by Sir William Howe defeated Washington in the battle of Long Island. However, the army of American colonies commanded by General Gates defeated British troops at Saratoga in October, 1777. The victory at Saratoga marked a turning point in the war. The French troops under Lafayette came to the help of the American colonies. Finally, the British troops under the command of General Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown in 1781. The war came to an end by the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
The American colonies became free and the Republic of the United States of America was established. The first democratic government with a written constitution in the world became a reality. The Bill of Rights ensured fundamental rights to the citizens of the U.S.A.
The American War of Independence was also called the American Revolution because it inspired the French Revolution. It was not only a war against England but against aristocracy and reactionary elements. It was also a fight against colonial domination.
It introduced new political, social and economic set up in the United States of America. Democracy with separation of powers on the model suggested by French thinker Montesquieu was founded. Capitalism also took strong roots.
However, the rights of the sons of the soil, the Red Indians and the Negroes were not considered at that time.
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