Causes of the American Revolution

There were many causes to the American Revolution, but the three main causes were land, debt, and trade. After defeating the French and Indians in the war, Britain’s finances were in great debt. In effort to get out of debt, the government of London began exploring various options for raising revenues.


The Treaty of Paris officially ended the French and Indian War. The British gained control over the area west of the 13 British Colonies to the Mississippi River. The French agreed to no longer support any colonies in North America, including all of Canada. Since Spain had joined the war on the side of the French, the Spanish were also forced to give up their claim to Florida. The area of North America to the north and east of the Mississippi River was now under British rule. But the Spanish still held their territory west of the Mississippi River and in Central and South America.

On October 7, 1763, King George III issued a royal proclamation that forbids the Americans from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. King George made this proclamation because he wanted to make a relationship with the Native American population, most of which had sided with France in the French and Indian War. In America, the proclamation made the American colonists mad because many colonists had either purchased land west of the mountains or had received land grants for services rendered during the war. Almost immediately, settlers began ignoring the "Proclamation Line".


The sugar act of 1764 put a three-cent tax on imported foreign sugar and increased taxes on coffee, indigo, and certain kinds of wine. It banned importation of rum and French wines. These taxes affected only a certain part of the population, but the affected merchants were very angry. Besides, the taxes were raised without the consent of the colonists. This was one of the first instances in which colonists wanted a say in how much they were taxed.

The Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament on March 22, 1765. The new tax was imposed on all American colonists and required them to pay a tax on every piece of printed paper they used. Ship's papers, legal documents, licenses, newspapers, other publications, and even playing cards were taxed. The money collected by the Stamp Act was to be used to help pay the costs of defending and protecting the American frontier near the Appalachian Mountains.

Still seeking a way to generate revenue, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts on June 29, 1767. An indirect tax, the acts placed tax on things such as lead, paper, paint, glass, and tea. As with past taxation attempts, the colonists protested with claims of taxation without representation. While colonial leaders organized boycotts of the taxed goods, smuggling increased and efforts commenced to develop domestically-produced alternatives. Over the next three years, boycotts and protests continued in the colonies. These came to a head on the night of March 5, 1770, when angry colonists began throwing snowballs and rocks at British troops guarding the Customs House in Boston. With tensions in the colonies reaching a breaking point, Parliament repealed most aspects of the Townshend Acts in April 1770, but left a tax on tea.

The Boston Massacre was on of the many causes of the American Revolution. On Monday night March 5, 1770, an American began harassing a Redcoat standing guard. Another Redcoat nearby joined the Redcoat standing guard to defend him. They both became agitated by the harassment and one of the Redcoats struck the patriot in the face with his musket. The patriot cried out in pain, and more colonists joined to form a mob of people. More Redcoats gathered and the angry mob started not only harassing them, but throwing stuff them too. Suddenly, someone in the crowd hurled a club which hit a British soldier and knocked him to the ground. Another soldier rose and fired into the crowd. Hearing the shot, the mob lunged at the Redcoats, wielding their clubs at them. For the next few minutes, the scene became a chaotic. The soldiers were able to fend off the mob which soon dispersed. When it did disperse, the bodies of several patriots lay dead or wounded on the ground. Later that evening, the Redcoats were arrested and accused of murder. James Adams successfully defended them in trial where the Redcoats and their Captain were accused not guilty

The Tea Act of 1773 was one of several things that were imposed on the American colonists by the heavily indebted British government in the decade leading up to the American Revolutionary War (1775-83). The colonists did not like the tax on tea, and the Tea Act rekindled their opposition to it. One of the colonists’ resistances was the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773.

The Boston Tea Party was a protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, on December 16, 1773. Some disguised as American Indians, destroyed an entire shipment of tea in defiance of the Tea Act. They boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into Boston Harbor, ruining the tea. The British government responded harshly and the episode escalated into the American Revolution.

The coercive acts are a series of laws sponsored by British Prime Minister in 1774 in response to the Boston Tea Party. The laws included:

  • Impartial Administration of Justice Act, which allowed the royal governor of a colony to move trials to other colonies or even to England if he feared that juries in those colonies wouldn't judge a case fairly
  • Massachusetts Bay Regulating Act made all law officers subject to appointment by the royal governor and banned all town meetings that didn't have approval of the royal governor
  • Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the price of the dumped tea was recovered
  • Quartering Act, which allowed royal troops to stay in houses or empty buildings if barracks were not available
  • Quebec Act, which granted civil government and religious freedom to Catholics living in Quebec.

These Acts were the harshest so far of all the Acts passed by Parliament. The closing of Boston's port alone would cost the colony (and the American colonies as a whole) a ton of money. The Quartering Act angered colonists who didn't want soldiers (especially Redcoats) in their houses. And the Quebec Act was a direct insult to Americans, who had been denied the same sorts of rights that the Quebec residents now got. Rather than keeping the colonists down, the Intolerable acts stirred up a rebellion even more.


Navigation Acts, the name given to laws regulating trade between Great Britain, its colonies, and other parts of the world. The first act, passed in 1651, stated that no merchandise was to be carried to England or its colonies except by English ships built  by English subjects. In 1660 another act forbid certain raw materials, such as sugar and tobacco, from being shipped from English colonies to anywhere but England or other colonies. Later acts forbid direct trade between continental Europe and the colonies, and forbid most manufactured goods from being sent to England from the colonies. After the union of 1707 these laws also applied to Scotland. The Navigation Acts were intended to make the colonies a supplier of raw materials and a consumer of manufactured goods of the mother country.  The acts probably aided the growth of the British Empire for a time, but they were increasingly resented by American colonists in the 18th century, and are usually considered one of the causes of the American Revolution. During the early 19th century many of the acts were modified, and they were repealed in the 1840's.

During the War

Britain's General Gage had a secret plan. During the wee hours of April 19, 1775, he would send out British soldiers quartered in Boston. Their destinations were Lexington, where they would capture Colonial leaders Sam Adams and John Hancock, then Concorde, where they would seize gunpowder. But spies and friends of the Americans leaked word of Gage's plan. Two lanterns hanging from Boston's North Church informed the countryside that the British were going to attack by sea. A series of horseback riders — men such as Paul Revere, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott — galloped off to warn the countryside that the Regulars (British troops) were coming. These Colonial Militias had originally been organized to defend settlers from civil unrest and attacks by French or Native Americans. Selected members of the militia were called Minutemen because they could be ready to fight in a minute's time. Sure enough, when the advance guard of nearly 240 British soldiers arrived in Lexington, they found about 70 minutemen formed on the Lexington Green awaiting them. Both sides eyed each other warily, not knowing what to expect. Suddenly, a bullet buzzed through the morning air. It was "the shot heard round the world."


The Second Continental Congress was made by John Hancock and included some of the same delegates as the first, but with additions of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. All of the colonies sent delegates, although the Georgia delegation did not arrive until fall. As time passed, the radical element that included John Adams, Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee. Congress lacked the legal authority to govern, but boldly assumed that responsibility. Major contributions included the following:

Military Matters: On June 15, Congress assumed control of the army outside of Boston. John Adams labored hard among his fellow Northerners to gain support for George Washington as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Washington, present in Philadelphia in full military dress, accepted the responsibility and departed for Boston on June 23. Congress appointed four majors-general to serve under Washington: Artemis Ward, Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler and Israel Putnam.

Statements of Position:The Congress went to great lengths to offer its participation in the war. In early July, approval was given to Dickinson's Olive Branch Petition, a statement of abiding loyalty to the king, but disapproval of the actions of his ministers and Parliament.. The colonists still identified their opponent as parliament, rather than the king

Financing the War:The Congress attempted to pay for the conflict by issuing paper certificates and by borrowing from domestic and foreign sources. The continental currency, and its state-issued equivalents, depreciated sharply in value and sparked a debilitating inflationary period. The effort to raise money for paying soldiers and purchasing arms and supplies remained a problem for much of the war.

Independence:Richard Henry Lee's resolution (June 1776) promoting independence reflected changing public opinion on the matter of retaining ties with Britain. This measure was adopted by Congress and then fleshed out in Jefferson's Declaration.

The Declaration of Independence is the usual name of a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies, then at war with Great Britain, regarded themselves as thirteen newly independent sovereign states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. Instead they formed a new nation—the United States of America. John Adams was a leader in pushing for independence, which was unanimously approved on July 2. A committee of five had already drafted the formal declaration, to be ready when Congress voted on independence.

Korie Doster and Alex McRae

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