Ideas and Principles

Ideas and Principles:

One of the main causes of the American Revolution was the clash in ideas and principles held dear by the natives of England and the American colonists. American colonies had made tremendous progress before the Revolution broke out but they aspired for more progress. People were swayed by the feeling that they were competent enough to build their future. Colonists did not intend to snap political connections from their motherland but they were not prepared to see the colonies exploited for profit only. Colonists wanted equality and autonomous rule for themselves. These factors emerged in the 18th century and England disliked them. Such factors appeared because of certain reasons such as

(1) One section was stirred by the spirit and principles of progress.

(2) The other section was motivated by selfishness rather than principles. The businessmen of the North were angry with the control over business exercised by England. The planters of the Southern States or major farmers were burdened with the debts of British money lenders. They were convinced that by breaking relations from England they would escape the payment of debt.

(3) The middle class hated the privileges and luxuries enjoyed by the colonial rulers. The middle class consisted of city traders, minor village farmers, mechanics, and educated people. This class desired the establishment of economic, social, and political democracy in the colonies. Being an awakened class, the middle class was full of excessive discontent and frustration. It is noteworthy that in the beginning, the middle class did not want to detach from their native state but when this class learned that England was the source of strength for colonial rulers and selfish sections they aimed at establishing complete colonial autonomy.

England had been following mercantilism, an ideology that had emerged in the economic field since the latter half of the 16th century. Mercantilism emphasizes that every country should strive to become rich and powerful for its survival. The mercantilistic ideology became almost a religion. This ideology thrived because, on its strength, the imperialistic countries could not only establish colonies but also exploit them. In order to safeguard her commercial interests, England organized powerful military and naval forces. Under the mercantilistic policies, England imposed many restrictions on production in American colonies. With that end in view, certain laws such as the Marine Act (1651), the Jaggery Act (1733), and the Sugar Act (1764) were passed and put into force from time to time.

In addition to mercantilism, there was an internal conflict between the two countries on the question of attitude and principles. In England, nobody opposed the general principle that there can hardly be any restriction on the powers of the British Parliament. The American colonists were not ready to accept this rigid idea. They held that the power of the British Parliament should be limited according to some fundamental law, but most British officers believed that the British Parliament was such a sovereign power that it could equally exercise its rights on colonies as it did on England. It was maintained that the rights to limit, increase, or dissolve a government at any time was vested with the Parliament. The ruling bodies in the colonies were marginal, their status was not higher than that of the corporations and they were subordinate to the Parliament. However, the American leaders were not prepared to accept this system. They insisted upon their direct constitutional connection with the Emperor. They held that it was the Emperor of England who approved the establishment of overseas colonies and administered the government in colonies, so the Emperor owed equal liability to England and to colonies. As the legislative body in a colony was not empowered to enact laws for England, in the same way, the British Parliament was not invested with the power of making laws for colonies. If the Emperor was in need of money, he could acquire it from any colony as a grant; but the Parliament was not empowered to extract money by way of enforcing a Stamp Act or any other Enforcement Act.

England believed that it provided security to colonies, therefore, they should meet its expenses. This idea and doctrine also aggravated the struggle in the colonies. Though England gained victory over France in the Seven Years’ War, yet it was crushed under the debt raised to meet the war contingencies. Another factor was that the expenses incurred on colonies grew tremendously. The regular expenses incurred on the administration of colonies prior to the revolution had increased five times more during the last fifteen years. It was being frequently demanded in the British Parliament that the government debt should be paid off, the burden of public taxes should be minimized and the colonies should be pressed to share the expenses incurred to run imperial administration and maintain security. It was asserted that the colonists committed a breach of trade rules and entertained business with enemies. On the contrary, the colonists maintained that England was safeguarding its own imperial interests on the strength of its policies. The colonists too favored the safeguard of their interests like those of the mother country. In order to cope with the business depression which was a sequel of the Seven Years’ War, Britain sternly imposed new taxes on the colonies. The colonists opposed large-scale irrational taxes and raised the slogan “No taxation without representation”. In 1761, the royal officers sought ‘legal aid’ from courts, that is, search warrants were demanded against the tax evaders. However, the colonists did not relish such orders. But orders were orders. The officers could search a building or a shop on the strength of a search warrant. At the same time, the British government enforced restrictive laws on the production of some articles in colonies. The ruling body justified these steps in the sense that the empire could acquire prosperity only if colonies took care of raw materials and the empire focused its attention on the finished products. However many colonies opposed the royal interference. Thus one section (the ruling body) thought that the imposition of tax was their birthright but the colonists did not accept it.

Different tendencies and principles that prevailed in England and American colonies generated misleading conceptions. The misconceptions nurtured by the British rulers and the American colonies against each other were unprecedented during the last ten years prior to the revolution. It is true that England did not initiate any step with a desire to inflict cruelty on America. The task of deploying military for the security of colonists and the realization of taxes seemed to be natural and right to the British Parliament but most Americans thought them to be the claws of cruelty.

Important Links:

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