Background, History, And The Beginning Of The Revolution

The thirteen colonies that became the USA were originally colonies of Great Britain. By the time the American Revolution took place, the citizens of these colonies were beginning to get tired of the British rule. Rebellion and discontent were rampant. For those people who see the change in the American government and society a real Revolution, the Revolution is essentially an economic one. The main reason the colonies started rebelling against 'mother England' was the taxation issue. The colonies debated England's legal power to tax them and, furthermore, did not wish to be taxed without representation. This was one of the main causes of the Revolutionary War. The Revenue Act of 1764 made the constitutional issue of whether or not the King had the right to tax the thirteen colonies an issue, and this eventually "became an entering wedge in the great dispute that was finally to wrest the American colonies from England" (Olsen, 6). It was the phrase 'taxation without representation' "that was to draw many to the cause of the American patriots against the mother country" (6).

The reaction against taxation was often violent and the most powerful and articulate groups in the population rose against the taxation (6). "Resolutions denouncing taxation without representation as a threat to colonial liberties" were passed (6). In October of 1765, colonial representatives met on their own initiative for the first time and decided to "mobilize colonial opinion against parliamentary interference in American affairs" (6). From this point on, events began to reach the point of no return for the colonies. In December 1773, the Boston Tea Party occurred as a reaction to the hated Tea Act of earlier that year. In 1774, the First Continental Congress met and formed an 'Association,' which ended up assuming leadership and spurred new local organizations to end royal authority (Olsen, 9). Because of the influence of these Associations, many people joined the movement, and collection of supplies and mobilization of troops began to take place. The leadership of the Association was able to fan "public opinion into revolutionary ardor" (9).

However, not everyone favored the revolutionary movement; this was especially true in areas of mixed ethnic cultures and in those that were untouched by the war. The citizens of the middle colonies were especially unenthusiastic about the revolution (Ward, 78). Among those who did support a change in the government structure, not everyone who joined the movement favored violence. Quakers and members of other religions, as well as many merchants from the middle colonies, and some discontented farmers and frontiersmen from southern colonies opposed the use of violence, and instead favored "discussion and compromise as the proper solution" (Olsen, 9). The patriots were able to gain a great deal of support for a violent Revolution from the less well-to-do, from many of the professional class, especially lawyers, some of the great planters and a number of merchants (9). Support for the Revolution increased when it became clear that King "George III had no intention of making concessions" (9). By the Fall of 1774, the American people "had in place the mechanisms of revolutionary organization on the local and colony level. A Congress of the colonies would coordinate and control the revolutionary movement" (Ward, 53). The Revolutionary War erupted on April 19, 1775 (60). The reason the British and the Americans resorted to using arms after a decade of fighting verbally and ideologically over the rights of the British subjects in the colonies, was because both sides had finally "become convinced that force alone could decide the issues that divided the empire" (Miller, 167). In April 1775, the battle of Lexington occurred, closely followed by the battle of Concord. The shot at Lexington marked the first blood spilled in the war of the American independence (Ward, 3). "The American Revolution now had its martyrs" (409). These two very important instances of bloodshed served to evoke the spirit of American patriotism all over the colonies (Olsen, 10). The Second Continental Congress met on May 10, 1775 and George Washington was elected commander of the patriotic forces. He and his army fought for the defense of American liberty and consequently led America to independence (Ward, 61-62). The British rejection of the Olive Branch Petition, which expressed a "general desire for the restoration of harmony between Britain and her colonies" (Thomas, 248), issued in the summer of 1775, "stiffened the patriots' resolve towards independence" (BMPL, 41). Another strong arguments for independence revolved around the issue of not becoming like the rotten Mother England. Americans believed that "the longer they remained within the British Empire, the greater was the danger of contamination" (Miller, 427). By early 1776, Americans were ready to denounce any allegiance to the British crown (Ward, 63). In January of that same year, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a brochure that strongly served to rally Americans to independence. Paine's writing convinced many of his countrymen to disown the monarchy and replace it with a republic (76-77). "As long as Americans deluded themselves with the hope that they could be free and yet remain British subjects, Paine believed that the cause of liberty was doomed" (Miller, 463). By this time, the movement toward revolution was rapidly gaining speed. By spring of that same year, all royal governors had been ousted and patriots replaced British authority in the colonies by makeshift governments. The Congress itself exercised sovereign powers (Ward, 79). In July 1776, Congress met and adop- ted the Declaration of Independence from Britain. The Articles of Confederation was the first document uniting the citizens of all thirteen colonies into one country. Under the Articles, the central government was very weak and the states held most power, but it was a beginning. As a result of Shay's Rebellion, the Articles were disowned and the Federal Constitution was written in 1787. It is still the basic law of the United States of America.


Many revolutions begin with the outbreak of violence, which is often a response to heightened repression or other extraordinary demands from government against their people. The American Revolution is an obvious example of this (Rule, 160). The violence took the form of the Revolutionary War and Congress became the leadership. American Revolution was the first anti-colonial, democratic revolution in history. Americans insisted on representation and when the British denied it, they fought their colonizers. Americans won and set up their own government, a republic. Thus, what was initially undertaken to secure for British Americans guarantees of local autonomy and individual rights equivalent to those enjoyed by Englishmen in the home islands, ...quickly became in 1775-76 a struggle for political independence (Greene, 1).

Much of the revolutionary cause came from the "colonial challenge to Parliament's power of legislation... " (Thomas, 333). This was the beginning of the Revolution. Since the patriots' demands could not be met, the country proclaimed itself independent from 'mother England' and the United States of America were born.