The War For Independence - the Background Causes

Since the founding of the first two colonies, the English holdings in America had grown in number, size and wealth, until in 1763 they stretched along the coast of the Atlantic. The majority of people who settled there were English. Many of the settlers had come to America to escape political or religious persecution, and class restrictions in Europe. They were freedom-loving people.

Several things made the American colonists different from their forefathers, however. First, because of the 3,000 mile distance between them and their king, it was very difficult for England to control them.

For ten years the American colonists resisted the efforts of their king to tax them or otherwise limit their freedom.

It was at this time that the English government decided to tighten the reigns. In 1763, King George III forbade further emigration to the West; in 1761, a tax was put on sugar from the West Indies and steps were taken to reduce smuggling of goods into the colonies with out paying import taxes; in 1765 came the stamp tax on newspapers and documents.

King George III in his coronation robes

Opposition to the Stamp Act in 1765 was intense in the American colonies. The British needed to recoup the costs of the earlier French and Indian Wars, but the colonists argued Parliament failed to obtain their consent.

Undoubtedly, many colonists were coming to regard themselves as free Americans and not subjects of a far-away King. Moreover, the Germans, Dutch, Scots and Irish felt no loyalty to England.

Colonists galvanized around the position that the Stamp Act of 1765, imposed by Parliament of Great Britain, was unconstitutional. The British Parliament insisted it had the right to tax colonists.

The colonists claimed that, as they were British subjects, taxation without representation was illegal. Why should they pay taxes passed by a Parliament, in which they had no politicians voted in to represent them?

Many in those colonies believed the lack of direct representation in the distant British Parliament was an illegal denial of their rights as Englishmen...and unconstitutional.

 3. A popular slogan in the colonies at the time was: "No Taxation Without Representation!"
Explain what this slogan means, and why the tax laws being passed in Britain greatly angered many of the colonists.

In 1770, in the town of Boston, in Massachusetts, tensions caused by the Stamp Tax and the economic effects of the taxes in general caused a riot. This ended with British soldiers killing several of the colonists. News of this event, dubbed the 'Boston Massacre', spread through out the colonies strengthening anti British sentiments.

In 1773 another tax known as the Tea Act sparked a further large protest against the British. Colonist organised a boycott against buying directly taxed British tea.

This led to the Boston Tea Party, where colonists dressed up as native Americans, raided English ships in Boston harbour and threw the British owned tea into the ocean.

News of the event and the punitive reaction by the British Parliament, further aggravated discontent in the colonies with British rule and stimulated the growing desire for American independence.

 Independence Hall, Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The British government continued to pass laws that restricted the American Colonists, and imposed many taxes that the Colonists thought were unfair. The British adopted stern measures to enforce obedience to its authority, especially in Massachusetts.

The American colonists formed a unifying Continental Congress and a shadow government in each colony, though ostensibly claiming loyalty to the monarch and a place in the British Empire.

In 1774, representatives of all the original colonies except Georgia attended a meeting in Philadelphia to consider united action against the British actions.

This gathering, known as the first Continental Congress, adopted a declaration of rights and grievances and called for halting trade with England unless the grievances were redressed. The declaration did not mention independence.