The Factors That Shaped the American Revolution

From the Lecture Series: Turning Points in Modern History

By Vejas Liulevicius P.h.D., University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The British Empire continued to provoke the people living in the American colonies by imposing acts. The Sons of Liberty finally took the matters in their hands that resulted in an unexpected event. How was tea’s role undeniably fundamental in this scheme of things?

The Bennington Flag was linked with the American Revolution.
Despite the peaceful concepts triggering American independence, acts, and wars before the revolution ended in violence for eight years. (Image: Atomazul/Shutterstock)

The British were not administrating the 13 American colonies, religion was being viewed as a personal experience, and people were getting educated. All of these led to a revolt, sparking the Seven Years’ War or the French and Indian War of 1756-63. As Britain was fighting along with all its colonies against France and its allies, the war spread from West Africa to Newfoundland.

The Great War for Empire

The French and Indian War is also known as the Great War for Empire. It started in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where British forces and the Virginia Regiment, led by a young colonial officer called George Washington, fought the French over the key strategic location at the Ohio River. In 1763, Britain won the war, expanding its empire to new regions in India, Canada, and Florida. The consequences of this victory and the disappointment and suppressed anger of the French later combined in favor of the revolution.

American soldiers at Valley Forge, Pennsylviania, 1777.
The French and Indian War brought along a significant victory and also debts and costs that London wanted to get rid of. (Image: Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

A seemingly small consequence was how George Washington was denied becoming a British officer – his dream. Despite all the characteristics that made him a perfect match, the British army ignored him since he lacked the connections in court. Another big consequence was the costs of war.

Learn more about 1787-The American experiment.

High Taxes to Compensate Costs of War

The British were happy to defeat the French and push away their threat to their colonies. However, the war had costs, and Great Britain called upon the colonists to share the costs of victory and the empire. Britain’s debt had doubled between 1756 and 1764, while the costs of maintaining security in the colonies had increased five times. Britain wanted profit from its colonies, not costs.

Hence, in 1765, Parliament imposed the Stamp Act, which was a new tax on the American colonies. The target of this tax was the printers and writers of the colonies, who turned strongly against it. Alongside the printers and writers stood many colonials who objected to the principle of ‘taxation without representation’.

‘Sons of Liberty’ was a secret group of protestors against high taxes on print, sugar, and other imports. They boycotted British goods as a sign of protest. Later, Britain sent armies to the colonies to suppress the protests, resulting in clashes like the 1770 Boston Massacre. Three years later, tea made an impressive entrance to the scene.

This is a transcript from the video series Turning Points in Modern History. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

London’s Tea Act in 1773

The Tea Act in 1773 granted a monopoly to the British East India Company for selling tea in the colonies. It was supposed to sell off the abundant tea in the Company’s stock but instead, enraged the colonists. They were angry because they were not consulted on such a decision, and thus, did not allow any East Indian ship in the harbors. Boston insisted on the unloading of the ships, however.

The Boston Tea Party was the immediate cause of the American Revolution.
Boston went against all the other colonies and accepted the tea from East Indian Company, leading to the Boston Tea Party by the Sons of Liberty. (Image: Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

Thus, on the night of December 16, 1773, round 130 Sons of Liberty created the ‘Boston Tea Party’ by throwing all the tea on the three ships into the sea. This was the spark of a wider revolt and, consequently, the American revolutionary war in 1775.

Learn more about 1600-The British East India Company.

The American Revolutionary War

Even though few colonists wanted independence, Britain’s reaction to their protests initiated the revolutionary war in 1775, lasting for eight years up to 1783. After 15 months, the Americans issued their declaration of independence, while still many colonists wanted recognition of their rights as Englishmen, not separation.

Thus, the early American revolutionary flag was born: the red and white stripes from earlier banners of the Sons of Liberty to symbolize the individual colonies, plus the Union Jack emblem of Britain’s flag, to show that the American colonists wanted independence along with reconciliation. Nonetheless, the British did not get the message as it was intended, and the war broke out.

Common Questions about Wars and Acts before the American Revolution

Q: What war happened before the American Revolution?

From 1754 to 1763, Britain and France were engaged in a big war, which we know as the Seven Years’ War or the French and Indian War. The French were defeated and lost much control over their colonies, later leading them to help the American revolutionaries win.

Q: What was the British Empire like before the American Revolution?

The British Empire had 13 colonies in North America, before the wars and acts that led to the American Revolution and independence from Britain. They had also established colonies in the Caribbean and India.

Q: What led up to the American Revolution?

The American Revolution was initially inspired by religious revivals, and the British administration neglecting the 13 colonized states. Later, the British passed such laws that antagonized the people living in the American colonies.

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