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The Civil War 2 Essay, Research Paper
Like any other great event in history, there was much more to the Revolutionary War than is seen on the surface. It is true that the war was fought for intellectual freedoms, as well as political and economical freedoms. However, the mere ideas of free intellect and politics and economics could not have grown into a nation-wide motive for war without gossips, rumor mills, pamphlets, or boycotts. The social aspect of the Revolutionary War enabled the growth of the intellectual, political, and economical aspects.
Firstly, the social aspect seems be what began the undercurrent of anger. It has been said that the birthplace of the Revolution was in colonial cities; more specifically, it was in taverns and coffeehouses. People could go there to debate the top issues of the day to share ideas and grievances. It was during these therapy sessions that people realized that there was a general feeling of discontentment with British rule, and thus it went.
Another earlier social change occurred during and after the French and Indian War. This war had a profound effect on the American colonists. Over 1756-1757, the British issued orders to the colonists and forcibly enlisted them in the fighting (also known as impressment). They also seized supplies and equipment from local farmers and tradesmen. The Americans, who had become accustomed to running their own affairs and fighting without much interference from the British, resisted and resented them sometimes violently. All of this and more led the Americans to the confirmation of the fact that English interference was illegitimate and unnecessary. The war also forced them to unite for the first time. The colonial soldiers viewed themselves as a part of a people s army ; it was not a hierarchical organization. In later years, this would help to form the American response to British policies.
There were many intellectual ideas behind the Revolutionary War. These ideas were more than likely shared in one tavern or coffeehouse between individuals. Then these individual ideas were transferred to another tavern or coffeehouse and shared there, and then in another, and so on. By the time this pattern reached back to the very first tavern, the individual idea had become a universal idea. Such was the case of the ideas of John Locke. In the 1760s, the British imposed certain policies that were opposed by the colonists. The colonists justified their opposition by citing biblical and Lockean justifications for opposing tyranny. The Bible suggested that people could resist as well as overthrow unjust rulers. John Locke believed that the power to govern was obtained from the permission of the people. He thought that the purpose of government was to protect the natural rights of its citizens. Natural rights, according to him, were life, liberty, and property. All people automatically earned these rights simply by being born. When a government did not protect these rights, the citizen had the right and the obligation of overthrowing the government. In other words, if resistance proved ineffective if a government was so tyrannical and unjust that it couldn t be reformed then the citizens had the right to revolt against it (a right of revolution ).
Obviously, this theory of Locke s was heeded and backed by the patriots. King George and the Parliament were not protecting the natural rights of the colonists, as is obvious in the Mutiny Act of 1765 (to name one in particular). This act forced colonists to assist in maintaining and provisioning the army, as well as allow them to live in their homes without payments. Also because of the Mutiny Act, British navy ships patrolled American waters in search of smugglers. Colonial manufacturing was restricted so that it did not compete with the expanding industry in Great Britain. This act imposed upon every one of the natural rights. The nation could not possibly thrive under such strict governmental rule, and so it was obvious that the British government was not performing in the colonies best interests. According to Locke s theory, serious actions had to be taken.
There were many other ideas lying behind the reasons for Revolution. One central argument was a concept of what government should be. Humans, it was believed, are naturally corrupt and selfish, and so government was necessary to protect individuals from the evil in one another. But corrupt people also ran the government, and so it too needed protection against abuses of power. The English constitution ensured that no individual or group in the political system (monarch, aristocracy, and the common people) could have authority unchecked by the other. But by the middle of the 1600s, people in England and America alike were realizing that this constitution was in danger. The king and his ministers were exercising such corrupt authority that they were subverting the powers of the other elements of the government. It was emerging as a single center of power, and the system was thus threatened by tyranny.
Similarly, certain ideas were formed by a particular act of the British regiment in 1770: the Boston Massacre. This was when fighting broke out between a group of workers at a ship-rigging factory and British soldiers. A few days later, a mob of dockworkers began throwing snowballs and rocks at the local customs house. In the midst of the scuffle that followed, several British soldiers fired into the crowd. Five colonists were killed. This tragic incident was quickly transformed by resistance leaders into a graphic symbol of British brutal authority and oppression. The victims became martyrs, and several people used their artistic talents or writing skills to portray the event. Samuel Adams, the most effective radical in the colonies, was the leader of invoking outrage at the Boston Massacre. According to him, England had become a land of sin and corruption, and only in America did virtue survive. He spoke frequently at town meetings on such unpopular British acts as the Townshend Duties, the placement of customs officers in Boston, and the stationing of British troops in the city. His messages attracted much support, and this supporting spirit was one that led the colonists to eventual war with Britain.
There were numerous political causes of the Revolutionary War. To begin, there was the fact that Britain had virtually neglected colonial affairs for many years. Until the reign of George III, colonial legislatures generally held the authority in the new nation, not the royal officials. In fact, the American assemblies had claimed the right to levy taxes, make appropriations, approve appointments, and pass laws for their colonies. These assemblies had enough control over the royal officials through their controls of the colonial budgets. They could repass disallowed laws (by the Privy Council in England) in altered form. In other words, they had beaten the system and were using their successes to their advantages. However, the successes were short-lived; the British found out the colonial goings-on and pulled tight on the proverbial leash. The national feeling of resentment of the British in turn grew, as did the national feeling of concert and unity against a foe.
Some political aspects of the war went through society in the forms of pamphlets and rumors. One such pamphlet was that of Thomas Paine. Paine landed in America just two years before formulating his ideas on American independence in his pamphlet Common Sense. In this pamphlet, Paine states that independence from England must come sooner or later, for America had lost touch with the mother country. All arguments for separation are based on nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense. He said that government was a necessary evil that could only become safe when it was representative and altered by frequent elections. Its function in society, according to Paine, ought to be only regulating and therefore as simple as possible. The British government took great advantages of its duties. It was under-represented; it seemed to cater nicely to the needs of the English elite but not to the needs of colonists or dissidents. As for frequent elections, with a monarch and strong Parliament in power, elections were generally seldom (note, the opposite of frequent). Due to the number of copies sold (500,000), Paine s influence on the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776 is quite evident. Another sign of his great social influence is the number of loyalist reactions to Common Sense.
Another political indifference the colonists created was the issue on the English constitution itself. It was not a written document and therefore was subject to change at Parliament s judgement. Americans, however, thought of a constitution in terms of their colonial charters. They had a hard time accepting the idea of a changing set of basic principles. Many protested that the English constitution should be written out to prevent dishonest politicians from tampering with their freedoms.
In particular, one freedom that they had in mind was their right to be taxed only with their own consent. When the Townshend Duties were levied, a Philadelphia man by the name of John Dickinson published a widely circulated pamphlet. It was called Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer. It argued that all kinds of taxes were only legal to regulate trade, not to raise revenue. Even that distinction became unacceptable to the colonists, and so the phrase No taxation without representation was formulated. Whatever the nature of the tax, Parliament could not levy it without the consent of the colonists themselves. This social idea became the initiative behind a good portion of war motives, as will be seen in the economic causes.
Economics played a large role in the Revolutionary War, but in a sense they could not have been as strong without social pressures. In the 1760s, Britain passed a number of acts; these acts put taxes on goods that the colonists could not get from other countries (for there was also an act against trade with nations other than Britain). One act was the Sugar Act of 1764. It raised the duty on sugar and established vice-admiralty courts in America to try accused smugglers which deprived them of sympathetic jurors. It was designed to eliminate the illegal sugar trade between the colonies and France and Spain. Another act was the Currency Act of 1764. The Currency Act required the colonies to stop producing and issuing paper money and to retire all the paper money already in circulation. The Stamp Act of 1765 was one more that was issued at this time. It imposed a tax on most printed documents in the colonies: newspapers, licenses, deeds, pamphlets, almanacs, and wills. The British government achieved their goals: officials were collecting more than ten times as much revenue in America as before. However, the colonists suffered periodic economic slumps. Economic anxieties were rising, even though the American economy was not suffering. The slumps occurred with great frequency, though, and there was a depression in 1760. The unemployed/semi-employed class was growing very large. All of these issues combined to produce a social view that something was awry.
This social view of the problems leads us back to the acts passed by the British. All of the acts angered the colonists, for reasons they named as taxation without representation. They learned to tolerate most of the acts; but then Britain enforced the Townshend Duties. These duties were taxes on various goods imported to the colonies from England: lead, paint, paper, and tea. In the eyes of the colonists, their purpose was the same as the purposes of the other acts: to raise revenue from the colonists without their consent. Something more had to be done than simply boycotting. In the lead for opposition was the Massachusetts Assembly. The assembly circulated a letter to all the colonial governments and urged them to stand up against every tax imposed by Parliament. But then the secretary of state for the colonies, Lord Hillsborough, issued his own letter, stating that assemblies endorsing the Massachusetts letter would be dissolved. Massachusetts stood firmly, and the other colonies rallied to their support. This social strength would get them through to the repeal of the Townshend Duties.
The next British enforcement that affected colonial economy growth was the Tea Act of 1773. The Tea Act gave East India the right to export its merchandise directly to the colonies without paying any of the taxes that the colonists had to pay. This meant that the company could monopolize the colonial tea trade. The act angered many colonists for many reasons. First, it brought about a threat to colonial merchants; they feared they would be replaced and bankrupted by a monopoly. It also invoked the old passions on no taxation without representation. Many colonists responded to the act by boycotting tea.
This is where the social aspect of this situation comes in. Tea was being boycotted by all of the patriots; it was the in thing to do. There was an informal organization of women, the Daughters of Liberty, which took part in this social aspect. These women wrote poems and stood firmly together, which invoked yet more social unity. Even before the Tea Act, many colonists had stopped buying English goods to protest the Stamp and Sugar Acts. Now the colonial boycott spread, and groups like the Sons and Daughters of Liberty intimidated those who were reluctant to participate in it.
The resistance to all of these acts built up over time into frustration with the British government, and the frustration was eventually released during the Boston Tea Party, where 150 men went aboard three East India Company tea ships and heaved the chests of tea into Boston Harbor. The Boston Tea Party was one of the main events leading up to the Revolutionary War.
It has been clearly justified that the Revolutionary War, although a war fought on the surface for intellectual, political, and economical freedoms, was in fact a result of social pressures and settings. This is evident in much of the literature of the time in the poetry, the pamphlets, and the legal documents themselves. Judging by human nature and history, it can be assumed that nearly all conflicts are the result of social pressures or ideas. Take, for instance, Hitler and the Holocaust; he told people that the Jews were evil. Those people, in turn, believed him and told others, and a cycle began; thus we have a motive for homicidal acts. However, not all gossip and rumors end up with such drastic outcomes; perhaps we have learned a few do s and don ts from our ancestors by studying their actions, conflicts, reasons, and results.
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