THE WAR OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
Updated: Oct 5, 2020
The thirteen British colonies in America were founded.
These colonies were found to lead a life free from persecution and interference of any kind.
Each of these colonies had an independent legislature and a Governor appointed by the King of England.
The colonist established themselves in the New World by their hard work.
There developed a kind of uncompromised spirit of independence in them.
By the middle of 18th century, the American colonists were not intend to tolerate any interference in their trade with the outside world.
But, British attitude remained unchanged.
Britain maintained the view that the colonies existed only for the benefit of the mother-country.
THE NAVIGATION ACT:
All goods to and from the colonies had to be carried in English ships.
This Navigation Act irritated the colonists.
Foreign good could not be imported into colonies without first being landed in England, and goods could not be shipped to foreign countries from the colonies without first being landed in England.
Also colonists were prohibited from making things like hats and woolen or iron goods which might compete with English industry.
But for years together these laws were not enforced.
This gave scope for plenty of smuggling.
During the time of George III, special courts were set up for the people who violated the trade laws.
Customs officers were given power to enter and search American homes for smuggled goods.
This infuriated the people.
THE STAMP ACT:
The Seven Years War (1756 – 1763) between England and France was fought partly to protect the interests of the colonists.
The British Government thought that the colonists should share the financial burden.
In 1765 George Greenville, the Prime Minister, got passed in Parliament the Stamp Act.
According to this Act, all documents, licenses and wills to be valid should have stamps affixed on them.
There was a general outcry of the colonists against the tax.
When the Act came into force, stamps were burned in the street of New England, shops closed, Church bells tolled and flags flew at half-mast.
An American lawyer argued that Parliament had no right to tax the colonists as they were not represented in the House.
The popular slogan was “No taxation without representation”.
William Pitt in England induced Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act.
The Act was withdrawn in 1766.
THE BOSTON MASSACRE:
In 1767, Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced a new series of customs duties on paper, paints, glass and tea.
Once again there were riots, public meetings, pamphlets and newspapers contained inflammatory leading articles.
The resentment was so strong.
In 1769 a mob in Rhode Island burnt the British revenue ship.
In 1770 Lord North repealed all duties except that on tea.
The people took advantage of the weakness of the Government.
The soldiers in the Boston were the victims of all kinds of insults.
On a wintry day, in 1770, the soldiers fired on the demonstrating crowd.
Five people were killed.
The American newspapers called it the “Boston Massacre”.
THE BOSTON TEA PARTY:
Most of the drunk in the colonies was smuggled Dutch Tea.
The East India Company was the chief importer of tea to Great Britain.
In 1773 the East India Company had an immense quantity of tea.
Lord North allowed the Company to sell its tea in America.
This tea was cheaper than the smuggled tea.
But Americans considered it as an interference in their trade.
So when the ships carrying the Company’s tea arrived in Boston, local men disguised as Red Indians, got into the Ships and threw the tea into the sea.
This event was known as the Boston Tea Party.
THE FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS:
The British Government adopted repressive measures.
The Boston harbor was closed to trade and the Charter of Massachusetts cancelled.
At the same time the colonists felt that it was high time for them to fight for their independence.
The representative of all colonies (except Georgia) met at Philadelphia in 1774 (for the first time in American history).
This gathering was called the First Continental Congress.
It included many distinguished men like George Washington of Virginia.
They issued a Declaration of Rights and agreed to meet again in 1775.
THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE:
Meanwhile, the patriots of the States were preparing for war.
The newly appointed Governor in Boston, General Gage, came to know that the colonists were gathering at Concord.
He sent troops to confiscate the arms (but by the time they reached Concord the arms had disappeared).
On their return journey the troops became the target of attacks by colonists.
Colonists had risen in rebellion and suffered heavy losses.
With this the American War of Independence had begun.
THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE:
In the beginning the odds were against the colonists.
America did not had a regular army (important drawback).
The second Continental Congress met at Philadelphia in 1775.
They organized an army with George Washington as Commander-in-Chief.
Though the colonial army suffered some initial defeats but in the end were able to defeat more powerful British army.
The autocratic George III had hired 20,000 German soldiers to fight the rebels.
Enraged by this, the Congress met again at Philadelphia.
They issued the unanimous Declaration of Independence on 4th July 1776.
It was drawn up by Thomas Jafferson.
Justifying the revolution, the Declaration says,
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with some inalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, that no secure these rights Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it and institute a new government”
COURSE OF THE WAR:
In the same year 1776 the American army under Washington defeated the English army at Trenton and a few days afterwards at Princeton.
In October 1777, the English army under Burgoyne was forced to surrender at Saratoga.
In 1778 France joined the American side (no decisive fighting took place in that year).
In 1780 the British began to win a series of victories in the south (even beyond South Carolina).
Cornwallis, who had won a number of victories against the colonists was forced to surrender to the American army at Yorktown.
The last blow came when other European countries, Spain and Holland, joined hands with the Americans and Russia.
Other power formed an Armed Neutrality against Britain.
REASONS FOR THE ENGLISH DEFEAT:
The most important reason for the defeat of the British was that the British Government had to conduct its campaigns from 3,000 miles away.
It took at least three months for a message, and its answer to cross the Atlantic.
The area of fighting was large and the British soldiers had little experience of warfare in colonial conditions.
The Lord North, the Prime Minister of England was not competent to manage the situation.
The European forces, particularly France turning against Britain.
Above all the colonists were able to find in George Washington, the outstanding leader of modern times.
By the peace treaty signed in 1783 at the palace of Versailles in France, George III recognized the independence of the American colonies.
American Revolution brought into existence a great new nation.
A Government claimed to represent the will of the people rather than the wishes of a king.
French soldiers took the idea of a representative government to the continent (where kings ruled as representatives of God on earth).
The American Revolution had its impact on British politics too.
The autocratic and the selfish politicians of the aristocracy were not allowed to have the monopoly of power.
People were convinced that any improvement in their life depended solely on their active participation in the administration of the country.
So they started agitating for parliamentary reform.
Social History of England by Louise Creighton
An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier
A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge