It started with a few bits of stamped paper and ended with a war. The independence of American colonists from Britain on July 4, 1776, began with the squeezing of colonists by Parliament in far off Britain. The colonists began to break under the pressure of too many requests for more funds to send home and turned their angst into action after a few taxation requests became too much.
What Led to Taxation
The clusters of American colonists sprinkled throughout New England in the 1700s had made some sacrifices and endured the difficult journey from their homeland to start new lives in this growing annex of England. While they did consider themselves to be citizens of Great Britain and the subjects of King George III, cracks began to appear in their ties to the motherland. They had ties to the United Kingdom by trade and how the laws were enforced and the people governed. The colonies relied on Britain for its imported goods and supplies, but trade was restricted. Banks were unheard of and money scarce, so the barter system paid for most of the colonists basic needs.
In 1763, King George III issued a proclamation that prohibited settlements beyond the Appalachian Mountains. Colonists were ordered to return to the restricted area if they had settled beyond the King’s new borders. Parliament passed the Quartering Act two years later, further tightening the faraway country’s hold on the colonists by demanding they pay or find lodging for all British soldiers stationed in the new land. Now that the French and Indian War was long over, the colonists felt the soldiers should go home. But the war had cost the British some funds, so they taxed the colonists to alleviate that with a few acts that the colonists felt were too much.
The Acts That Brought a War
The Sugar Act reduced the previous Molasses Act tax by half, but that tax had never really been enforced. While it was a smaller tax, it was highly enforced, causing resentment among the colonists. The Stamp Act came down in 1765, requiring the use of special paper with an embossed stamp for any legal papers. The Townsend Act followed in 1767, which insisted colonists pay taxes on tea and other imported goods. This made them feel that the powers in Parliament were overstepping it and that the colonial governments needed to have a larger say in how the colonists were governed. The colonists cried “No taxation without representation!” This meant that no British subject should be taxed unless their representative sat as a member in the Parliament. Boycotts on British goods began, and tensions mounted between the two factions.
A demonstration and protest of the Townsend Act resulted in colonists dressing as Indians and dumping imported tea into the sea from ships docked in the harbor. The Boston Tea Party led to the First Continental Congress meeting in 1774. A list of complaints was made and in April of 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord between determined colonists and British soldiers brought the tensions to a head. The Second Continental Congress was formed that same year, tying the citizens of 13 colonies together to battle the British in earnest. George Washington became the Commander-in-Chief of the Army to fight for the colonists rights to be independent of Britain.