Economic Reasons for American Independence Eleven years before America had declared it’s independence there was 1,450,000 white and 400,000 Negro subjects of the crown. The colonies extended from the Atlantic to the Appalachian barrier. The life in these thirteen colonies was primarily rural, the economy based on agriculture, most were descended from the English, and politics were only the concern of land owners. Throughout these prosperous colonies, only a small portion of the population were content with their lives as subjects of George III. Most found it hard to be continually enthusiastic for their King sitting on his thrown, thousands of miles away.
Despite this there were few signs of the upcoming revolution. The occasional call for democracy and liberty were written off by loyalists. Among the upper class feelings of loyalty to the crown were strong and eloquently expressed. The attitudes of the common people mirrored their counterparts in England. They had a combination of indifference and obeisance. To the present day American this is quite difficult to believe. However, all of this can be explained by Benjamin Franklin, “I never had heard in any Conversation from any Person drunk or sober, the least Expression of a wish for a Separation, or Hint that such a Thing would be advantageous to America.” However all of this did not last for long.
In the summer and fall of the same year, the colonists gave up their habits of submission and a new people emerged. The Stamp Act ignited the furies of the colonists. The people refused to pay, especially the colonial upper class. The match that had been lit was put out was put out by the repealing of this act. The match, however, did not go out.
Many historians have pondered upon the events and forces that drove the American people to rebellion against their mother country. This was important but it still eluded the historians to find out what made this people ripe for rebellion, or, more exactly, what was there about the continental colonies in 1765 that made them so willing to engage in open defiance of a major imperial policy? One of the proposed answers, arguably the best known, was volunteered by one of the causes of the revolution, John Adams in 1818. “The Revolution was effected before the was commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. .
. . This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.” Adams, in a sense, argued that even before the first shot of war, there had existed a collective outlook called the American mind, whose chief characteristics were self-reliance, patriotism, practicality, and the love of liberty, with liberty defined as freedom from alien dictation. It was the dictation of shortsighted ministers of an equally shortsighted king that pushed the American mind to assert itself boldly for the first time. Adams had not found it necessary to describe in detail the forces that had produced this mind.
A reason for this had been the extraordinary student of political relations, Edmund Burke had already given a perceptive description. In his speech on conciliation with the colonies, Burke singles out “six capital sources” to account for the American “love of freedom,” and strong sense of liberty. These capital sources were: their English descent; their popular forms of government; “religion in the northern provinces”; “manners in the southern”; education; and “the remoteness of the situation from the first mover of government.” In his and Adam’s praise was a recognition that this liberty rested on firm and fertile ground. All of this was rounded off by Alexis de Tocqueville. He revealed the unique nature of the American Republic: “The great advantage of the Americans is that they have arrived at a state of democracy without having to endure a democratic revolution” or to stare the thesis in terms of 1776, the Americans already enjoyed the liberty they were fighting for.
The first ingredient of American Liberty was the peoples heritage from England. Burke had acknowledged this “capitol source”. He explained that the colonists were the descendants of Englishmen, a people who respects their freedom. The first colonists had brought over both good and evil of their mother country in the seventeenth century. The good had been toughened and in several instances improved; much of the bad had faded away under the tough conditions of life. The American was a special brand of Englishman: he was more English than the English.
The colonists brought from their home countries their traditions of representative government, supremacy of law, constitutionalism, liberty of the subject. All of these belonged to them as Englishmen. Their institutions, including the provincial assembly, were often looked upon as sound to the extent that they were able to conform to English models. Throughout the colonial period the English descent and attitudes of the great majority of Americans gave the impetus to their struggle for liberty. The English government conducted colonial affairs upon these assumptions: The colonies were dependents of England. Since their interests were subordinate to those of England, the welfare of the latter was to be the concern of an agency charged with governing them. The colonists were to serve their mother country as a source of wealth. The English government had acted upon these assumptions throughout the colonial period.
This period consisted of confusion in the beginning, domestic troubles in the middle, and salutary neglect in the end. The colonists were not uniform in their views on their place in the imperial structure, ranging from the arrogant independence asserted by Massachusetts to the abject dependence argued by the Troy apologists. The attitude of the colonials was that of near-equality in the present and full partnership in the future. If Parliament had not decided to intrude its authority into colonial affairs, the imperial views of the English and the self-governing claims of the American colonists might have coexisted for decades without breaking violently. The policies of stern control lit another match for the rebellion.
Three thousand miles of ocean lay in between England and the American colonies. This fact of geography, the remoteness of the colonies, …