This page contains a brief, yet accurate account of the history leading up to the Declaration of Independence. It’s purpose here is to clarify the reasoning behind the Constitution of the United States of America. Also, the similarity between the events that led to the Revolutionary War and current events should be noted. It would be pure arrogance to assume that there is none and that history will not repeat itself.
In the beginning, the colonies were looked upon by the Brits as a source of profit for the mother country. They furnished raw materials, such as furs, timber and metals. As they got bigger product started coming from the mother country. Charters of some of the English colonies contained rules governing the trade. Among them, were several Navigation Acts which regulated the shipping to and from the colonies.
The Navigation Acts prohibited the import and export of certain trade articles to any country other than England. Such imports and exports had to be aboard English or colonial ships. Because of this, English merchants were getting extra profits for buying and selling between other countries and the colonies. They also charged whatever they wished. This made it very expensive for the colonists to buy foreign products.
The colonies were also required to send all raw material back to England for manufacture. They were forbidden to develop manufactures of their own. Because no European country needed food from the colonies, additional taxes (protective tariff) on food shipments were imposed.
Despite the amount of laws regulating the colonies, enforcement was near to nothing. The colonies still traded openly with the foreign countries. England hadn’t bothered with enforcement because it would have cost more than it was worth to do so. Also, there were troubles at home including civil war. It wasn’t until the those problems and the French and Indian War ended that both England and the colonies could pause and look around.
After the French and Indian War, the British Government decided to keep an army in the colonies for protection from hostile Indians on the outlining sections. They also decided to appoint judges for the colonies since the judges elected by the people often ruled against the British. Several new tax laws were made. The colonies were beginning to get quite annoyed with the new British control.
The Stamp Act was the most far-reaching and hated of the new tax laws. The cry “No taxation without representation,” was coined. In several colonies, secret societies called Sons of Liberty sprung up to fight the tax.
Land also became an issue. The Royal Government wanted to keep the freshly won French land for the Indians. Settling was prohibited and those who had already settled were warned to leave. The colonist had just fought for and won the land and were not about to just give it up.
Anger in the colonies led to mobs and riots against the British. The men in charge of the Stamps were beaten and ordered to resign and sometimes tared and feathered. Boxes of stamps were burned. More moderate people simply refused to pay the tax and sent delegates among the leading citizens to a meeting in New York called The Stamp Act Congress. It was held in October of 1765.
The colonies declared that a man could not properly represent a country in which he did not live and of which he did not have a real knowledge concerning the problems. Parliament did finally repeal the Stamp Act, but still held firm to it’s belief that the right to make any laws governing the Americans remained theirs.
A new act placed taxes on tea, glass, lead, paints and more. The taxes went to pay salaries of the governors, judges and such of the Crown in the colonies. The act would also put all colonial officials servants of the king instead of the people.
boycotts started against the taxed items, and colonial legislatures began discussing resistance by force. New rioting began, and soldiers were sent in. In Boston, the soldiers opened fire killing (all totaled) 5 people. This was called the Boston Massacre.
English merchants, losing money from the boycotts, wanted parliament to stop taxing the Americans. Eventually, the taxes on everything but tea was lifted. Americans continued to refuse to pay the tax despite futile attempts from the British to cut the English middleman out thereby lowering the overall price just to get the tax. Tea shipments were sent back to England from New York and Philadelphia. In Boston, one night, men dressed as Indians, boarded the ships and thew the tea over board. Other cities let the tea sit in cellars where it soon spoiled.
The Royal Government decided to punish the Americans. They had grown tired and angry of the way the Americans were treating them. Several strict laws were passed and Bostons ports were closed to ships. the intention was to starve Massachusetts, and scare the others, into giving up.
The attempts were futile, and, on September 5, 1774, elected delegates met as the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The Congress agreed to advise the people not to buy British goods until the colonies were treated better. The Colonies began to collect weapons, powder, and bullets.
On the night of April 18, 1775 British troops were sent to collect the weapons of the colonists in Concord and capture the two leading patriots John Hancock and Samuel Adams. The plans were discovered and several men, including Paul Revere, rode ahead of the Brits and warned the people. The beginning of the Revolution started at the battle of Lexington and Concord were the British lost two hundred lives and were nearly captured. The Americans lost one hundred.
In the county of Mechlenburg, North Carolina, the people of that county gathered and declared themselves independent of Great Britain.
The news of the victory spread like wildfire and men from all over the colonies went to Boston. On May 10 the Second Continental Congress made up of elected delegates voted to raise an army. George Washington was chosen to lead it.
At this point, while there were many battles being fought against British troops, the colonies, as a whole, did not wish to be separated from England. They fought not against England, but against the bad advisers of the King. Several petitions were sent to the King. It was the King who refused to read them or to have anything to do with such disobedient subjects.
By spring of 76, however, it had grown apparent that the colonies must become completely separate and independent of England. North Carolina voted for independence and the rest followed. Royal governors were given the boot and elected ones were put in. On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of the Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, was agreed upon by Congress.