Independence War of USA

Independence War of USA or American Revolution:

After the fragmentation of the USSR, the image of the USA as a foremost superpower of the world is irrefutable. However, the USA was subjugated by Great Britain during the early 18th century. The subjugation of America could not last long because of the two significant ideals- freedom and equality- which emerged strongly in the 18th century in Europe and America. The occurrence of some events and the emergence of certain thoughts between 1775 and 1783 gave birth to a new nation.

The immediate cause of the Independence War of USA indeed lay in the imposition of undue taxes upon the colonists, but there were several other causes of the revolution. The development of a new outlook in the American Colonies and Great Britain burst out in the form of the American Revolution in the late 18th century. On the one side, the Americans were not prepared to bear with their subjection under British sovereignty, and on the other, after 1763 the British government formulated and followed such policies, as could reinforce their control over the American colonies better than it was earlier. Consequently, a hard struggle between imperialistic Britain and the American colonial states became inevitable.

The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus was a sudden epoch-making event. America was named after an Italian Amerigo Vespucci, who traveled across Brazil in 1501. Spain primarily remained engaged in destroying and looting the two civilized races: Aztec and Luca which originated from the upper region of South America and dwelt in Mexico and Peru; but England, Holland, Sweden, and Portugal were equally interested in those regions. In the terrible sea war of the 16th century fought between Spain and England to seize American gold and silver, Spain was defeated and weakened and could not withstand British supremacy over the North American coast. On the strength of open support accorded by Queen Elizabeth, England started opening colonies in America. The British King James I allowed two companies- London and Plymouth to build colonies and start businesses in certain specific regions. Under the leadership of Captain Christopher Newport, 120 English people founded the James Town colony in 1607 on the bank of River James in Virginia. It was the first English colony in the United States of America established by the London Company. People of this first colony had to face great troubles and three-fourths of its population perished within a few days, even then the business prospects of tobacco inspired the rest of the people to survive at any cost. It is noteworthy that the first cargo ship loaded with tobacco sailed from James Town and reached England gradually in 1614. After the establishment of James Town, the English gradually built other colonies. By the end of 1775, the following 13 British colonies had been established:

  • New Hampshire.
  • Massachusetts.
  • Rhodes Island.
  • Connecticut.
  • New York.
  • New Jersey.
  • Pennsylvania.
  • Delaware.
  • Maryland.
  • Virginia.
  • North Carolina.
  • South Carolina.
  • Georgia.

The population in these colonies comprised 90% British people and 10% Dutch, Germans, French and Portuguese. These thirteen North American colonies made a remarkable contribution to agriculture, forestry, commerce, fisheries, and shipbuilding during the seventh decade of the 18th century.

Causes of the Independence War of USA:

It could never be expected that the American colonists would live forever under the subjugation of England. But during 1776 and before it, certain events took place and culminated in a revolution. Undoubtedly, the Independence War of USA resulted from the fundamental differences seething between colonies and native states. The American struggle for freedom was a conflict of economic interests primarily between Great Britain and her colonies. But from many angles, it was a revolt against the social and political system of that time which had lost its significance for America. In other words, economic, political, social, and religious forces worked together in the Independence War of USA. Some scholars have put the causes of the Independence War of USA into four major categories-

  • Struggle of ideas and doctrines.
  • Contribution of circumstances.
  • Clash between the orthodox English society and the liberal American society.
  • Faulty English administration, policies, and tyranny.

Prior to the Seven Years’ War, neither American colonies were worried about England nor England showed any concern about them. But the severe mercantilistic setup and colonial policy adopted and implemented by England after 1763, gave birth to a revolt. The struggle was neither a result of dissatisfaction against poverty nor the people were victimized by a feudal system; but the American colonies rose in rebellion to retain their liberty, freedom, and autonomy. Actually, the War of American Independence broke out on July 4, 1776, but according to John Adams the second President of America, “The Revolution had started before the war. The Revolution had imprinted itself on the mind and heart of people.” In essence, the blueprint of the Revolution had already been chalked out. It is noteworthy that the colonists lived in diversity and most people did not have causes of complaint against England; even then certain circumstances bound them in unity. How did the people unite against powerful England and how did they get freedom from its absolute rule? The answers to these questions are to be sought.

Basic Contradiction:

The most significant cause of the Independence War of USA was the basic contradiction between the interests of the metropolis and the colony. The colonial powers have all along been responsible for this, as these continued to exploit their colonies much to the annoyance and displeasure of their people. Apart from this, the political awakening has been gradually coming in every part of the world. This is what happened in America as well.

Britain adopted mercantilist policies in colonial America which were designed to promote British economic interests mainly in the form of a favorable balance of trade. Various Navigation Acts of 1651, 1660, and 1663 ensured that trade was carried out only in British or colonial ships; that most European goods had to pass through Britain before entering the American Colonies; that certain goods like tobacco and rice were declared enumerated goods could be shipped only in Britain; that bounties would be paid for the production of certain enumerated goods to promote British economic self-sufficiency. Moreover, colonies were not allowed to export manufactured goods under various Acts affecting wool and woolen textiles in 1699, the hat industry in 1732, and iron products in 1750.

Geographical Constraints:

The distance of the colonies from Great Britain created an independence that was hard to overcome. Those willing to colonize the new world generally had a strong independent streak desiring new opportunities and more freedom.

Political Factors:

British government usually deployed Governors in American colonies. These governors ruled these colonies with an iron hand and took many tyrannical measures without caring for the sentiments of the people. This was bound to repel and because of their repressive policies, the people became both repulsive and revengeful. Grenville, the then Prime Minister passed the Navigation and the Molasses Acts imposing several limitations on the colonies. He wanted that the colonies should also contribute some money for their protection but this policy very much offended the colonies. This British government perhaps did not realize the gravity of the situation and continued with the taxes. This resulted in great resentment in America.

On the other hand, the 13 colonies of Britain in America were much advanced in terms of political ideologies and institutions vis-a-vis their Asian and African counterparts. The existence of colonial legislatures enjoyed many powers and were in many ways independent of the crown. The legislatures were elected institutions and had the legitimate power to levy taxes, muster troops, and pass laws. Over time, these powers became rights in the eyes of many colonies. When they were curtailed by the British, conflict ensued.

European settlers in America were inspired by the ideas related to the Enlightenment. Many of the revolutionary leaders of these colonies were inspired by the writings and ideas of thinkers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and the Baron de Montesquieu. From these writings, the founders gleaned the concepts of the social contract, limited government, the consent of the governed, and separation of powers.

During the Seven Years’ War, England had conquered the eastern parts of the rivers, Ohio, and Mississippi. But after the war was over (1763) and peace was restored, the people of these colonies wanted the status quo ante. But England wanted to retain these places as was prize. To implement this decision she began to plan to have effective control over the territories lying east of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, This area became a bone of contention between the colonists and England and proved another cause responsible for the Independence War of USA.

Prior to the defeat of France in the Seven Year War, the settlers in America were engulfed by the French possessions in America also called New France, These 13 colonies were under the invariable threat of French invasion from the northern and western parts. Thus they were dependent on the British support against the imperial France. Nonetheless, after the Seven Year War, the fear of French invasion passed into oblivion and so was the dependency on Britain.

Economic Factors:

Britain won the Seven Year War, but her engagement in the war proved extremely detrimental in the financial context. By 1763 the British government had an extreme shortage of money. The British government wanted that the people of the colonies should raise huge amounts to write off the debts and expenses of the Seven Years’ War. For this the argument advanced was that the war was fought on behalf of the colonies. The colonies were not prepared to bear this financial burden, whereas the British government was bent up collecting these funds.

Religious Factors:

The majority of the English people believed in the Anglican Church of England whereas the people in American colonies followed Puritanism. There were thus clear religious differences between the two.

Ideological Factors:

The ideological movement known as the American Enlightenment was a critical precursor to the Independence War of USA. Chief among the ideas of the American Enlightenment were the concepts of liberalism, republicanism, and fear of corruption. Collectively, the acceptance of these concepts by a growing number of American colonists began to foster an intellectual environment that would lead to a new sense of political and social identity.

The 18th-century Enlightenment produced ideas that undermined traditional beliefs and social relationships in a variety of ways. By adopting enlightenment ideas the ruling elites and those in authority undermined their own authority whether as rulers magistrates, masters, or fathers. A revolution against patriarchy took place simultaneously with a general growth of republican ideas. With the growth of commercialization in the 18th century contracts which had been based on patriarchal relationships between husbands and wives or masters and apprentices in an earlier period were replaced by contracts which were positive bargains between two equal parties representing specific transactions rather than social relationships. The widespread adoption of the language of modern legal contractualism made it easier for the American colonists to break with the mother country and the patriarchal authority of the British king.

Boston Tea Party:

In 1773, Lord North bargained with the East India Company to carry a large quantity of tea to Boston. On its arrival in the harbor of the town several American youths, disguised as Indians boarded the tea ships broke open the tea chests, and poured tea into the sea. This is known as the Boston Tea Party. The people of England were greatly annoyed with this action of the Americans. The port of Boston was closed after this violent act of the Americans and the British government was compelled to take a stern view of the incident. They took this event to be their insult and the culprits were severely punished. The conference of Philadelphia took place in 1774 but George III did not agree to talk to the rebels and hence the Americans decided to wage a war against the British. The conference of Philadelphia declared war against England.

Significance of the Independence War of USA:

The importance of the War of American Independence does not lie in the territorial gains of Spain and France, nor in the commercial loss of Holland and the decline of the British empire, but its real importance lies in the successful completion of the Independence War of USA. The Independence War of USA occupies an important place among the remarkable events of world history. Its importance can be assessed from various angles. It is a turning point in human advancement. As a result of this revolution, there emerged not only a new nation in the new world but also a new era began for the human race. According to Carl L. Baker, the American Revolution was a harmonious blend of two revolutions. At first, it was an “External Revolution” in the sense that a revolt broke out in colonies against England as a result of economic conflict brewing among the colonies and England. Secondly, it was an “Internal Revolution” which aimed at chalking out an outline of America’s future development after independence.

(1) The revolution gave a new turn to the political life of the United States of America as well as rejuvenated her social, religious, and cultural organizations. The revolution gave the American public a social organization in which equality of human beings got priority over conventions, money, and special rights. Democracy was promoted by curtailing successfully the three main directions of prerogatives, that is, the abolition of conventional property rights, confiscation of immense properties possessed by the Tories, and dissolution of the centers of the Anglican Church wherever they existed. The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was adopted in 1786. Under the provisions of this statute, no one could be forced to attend church. Everyone was given complete freedom of worship and prayer. No religious qualifications were prescribed for the federal employees under the federal constitution though certain religious restrictions still existed in the constitution of many states.

(2) The Independence War of USA proved to be a major event in world history. It inspired struggling people all over the world. It established beyond doubt that imperialist policy toward colonies needed far-reaching changes. It also showcased the power of the people, after the Revolution it became clear that it was not difficult to defeat any big power if the people of the colonies had the determination to win their freedom.

(3) The principle of “No Taxation without Representation” was fully well established and accepted all over the world. Soon after the revolution American Constitution was enacted which enacted important doctrines like independence of judiciary, theory of checks and balances, theory of separation of powers, and republican form of government. These doctrines became a source of inspiration for the whole world.

(4) The British forces lost heavily in America. The Independence War of USA was detrimental to Britain both in terms of colonies and her prestige. After the Independence War of USA the prestige of Britain came to its lowest ebb in Europe.

(5) The Independence War of USA created many problems for England. Her trade suffered a serious setback and the national debt went up considerably. She also had to find employment and settlement for about 20,000 people, who remained loyal to Britain during the war but had to migrate after the war, was over.

(6) After the Independence War of USA, Americans succeeded in establishing themselves as an independent country. In due course of time, they grew stronger and deeply influenced the social, political, and intellectual life of people across the globe. Civilizations across the world were formidable affected by the Independence War of USA in one form or the other. The gradual rise of America resulted in a shift in balance of power which strongly affected world politics.

(7) Britain not only lost its 13 colonies in American territory but she also was deprived of a very good market for her finished goods. However, after the Revolution, her finished goods could no longer be dumped in these colonies. Thus the need for new markets was felt. Britain suffered a loss in world trade and commerce. However, this was amply compensated by the markets of India. British trade on the whole, however, suffered whereas France got a new market for her goods in the form of a new independent America.

(8) The Independence War of USA influenced the colonial policy of Britain as well. After the success of the Independence War of USA, she realized that the colonial people could not be ruled in an autocratic manner. She was apprehensive about the fact that she might lose other colonies in the same way too. As a result, Britain altered her policy with respect to colonies. After the Independence War of USA Britain started to follow some liberal policies in the context of her colonies. After the loss of American colonies the British possessions in West India and Canada considerably increased. Thus the new policy of England amply compensated the loss of American colonies. England now gave economic and political independence to the colonies to a large extent and ensured that the grievances of the people in the colonies were redressed and removed without loss of time and to their maximum satisfaction.

(9) Some of the colonies were now given their own legislative assemblies, though the members were nominated by England. But slowly members of the legislature began to be elected by the local people. The colonies were given a responsible government and the Governor became a link between the colony and the British Government. Appeals from the colonial courts were taken to the Privy Council in England. In this way, the Independence War of USA compelled England to follow a liberal and rational policy towards their colonies. This proved to be of great interest both for England and her colonies. It was an important step forward in British Imperialist policy.

(10) Some of the colonies were now given their own legislative assemblies, though the members were nominated by England. But slowly members of the legislature began to be elected by the local people. The colonies were given a responsible government and the Governor became a link between the colony and the British Government. Appeals from the colonial courts were taken to the Privy Council in England. In this way, the Independence War of USA, compelled England to follow a liberal and rational policy towards their colonies. This proved to be of great interest both for England and her colonies. It was an important step forward in British Imperialist policy.

(11) Britain realized the importance of the Free Trade Policy after the Independence War of USA. Therefore in the context of the new liberal economic policy adopted by Britain. The policy of economic interference was not as tight as it used to be in the past. Active interference in economic matters was somewhat relaxed.

(12) The participants of the French Revolution were the same soldiers who had participated in the Independence War of USA against Britain. These soldiers had been influenced by the ideals of democracy and justice. They thought if they could fight for American why not for their own rights? During the Independence War of USA, France had to raise considerable loans which made the economic position of France very delicate. There was a situation of financial bankruptcy. This expedited the process of the French Revolution.

Important Links:

Ideas and Principles
Negligible Interference by British Government
No Affection for England in the American Colonies
Development of Intellectual Awareness
The Colonists Love for Freedom
Impact of Seven Years War
Economic Exploitation of the Colonies
Greenville Policy
Rockingham Declaratory Act
Townshend Tax Project
Lord North Tea Policy
Intercontinental Conference of the Congress
Declaration of Independence
Independence War of USA Significant Events
Paris Pact September 3, 1783
The Constitution of America
Causes of the Failure of the English
Nature of the Independence War of USA
American Revolution or American War of Independence
Significance of the American Revolution