The Beginning of Our United States Essay

This essay has a total of 2154 words and 10 pages.

The Beginning of Our United States



Justin T
Professor Omar J. Cuan
U.S. History Up Till 1865
18 November 1999
The Beginning of Our United States
The British government had enormous problems after the enduring victory over France in the
Seven Years War. The Seven Years War had virtually doubled the national public debt, and
the attainment of half the territory in North America had vastly compounded the problems
of controlling the empire. These circumstances required new revenues for the empire, and
the ruling circles in Great Britain believed that the colonists were best able to provide
the necessary funds to re-pay the national public debt (American History [Vol. 1] p.123).
Accordingly, measures to secure enforcement of the Navigation Acts, which excluded all
non-British ships from the colonial carrying trade, were adopted by the British Parliament
in 1764. In order to obtain additional revenue, Parliament in 1765 replaced the Molasses
Act with a Stamp Act, requiring Americans to validate various documents, transactions, and
purchases by buying and applying stamps issued by the royal government (Encarta: Sugar &
Molasses Act, 1999).

There was a widespread anger among the American colonists with the passage of the Stamp
Act, especially in states such as Virginia, New York, and Massachusetts. Protest
meetings, riotous demonstrations, and other manifestations of popular hostility occurred
in practically every urban center from Massachusetts to Georgia (Encarta: Stamp Act,
1999). Nearly all officials responsible for execution of the Stamp Act were forced to
resign, and many of the stamps were seized and destroyed. Secret societies of patriots
calling themselves the Sons of Liberty were formed in numerous communities (Electric
Library, 1994). The inter-colonial upsurge against taxation without representation
exploded in October of 1765 in the Stamp Act Congress, which was the first important
demonstration of American political unity (American History [Vol. 1] pg. 132-33).
Although Parliament refused to recognize the adoption by the Congress of a petition of
rights, privileges, and grievances, the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766 (Encarta: Stamp
Act, 1999).

After a change in leadership in the British government, the policy of imposing direct
taxes on the American colonies was revised in 1767. Parliament approved a series of
measures, that were known as the Townshend Acts, which among other things, levied modest
customs duties on tea, paper, lead, paint, and glass (Encarta: Boston Massacre, 1999).
Colonial resistance to the Townshend Acts included, boycotts of British goods,
intercolonial expressions of disapproval, and in Massachusetts, open defiance of the
British government by the town of Boston and the General Court (Encyclopedia.com: Boston
Massacre, 1994). In 1768 Great Britain transferred two regiments of troops to Boston in
response to the seditious sentiments prevalent in Massachusetts. However, this action
merely served to intensify the anti-British feelings there (Encarta: Boston Massacre,
1999). Finally, on March 5, 1770, a group of British soldiers who were protecting the
King’s tax collectors from being tarred and feathered, fired on a hostile crowd, producing
the first bloodshed of the struggle (Encyclopedia.com: Boston Massacre, 1994).

Primarily due to changed political circumstances in Great Britain, Parliament in 1770
repealed all the Townshend Act duties except the tax on tea, which was retained to uphold
Great Britain’s right to levy taxes on its subjects. The Americans then dropped all
non-import measures except for a tea boycott, kept up to maintain their objections to
taxation without representation (Knowledge Adventure: Boston Tea Party, 1998). Relations
returned to normal until 1773, when Parliament tried to save the English East India
Company from bankruptcy by granting it a monopoly on the tea sold to America. Known as
the Tea Act, this measure precipitated a new crisis for the colonies. The colonists,
regarding the Tea Act as a measure to induce them to submit to parliamentary taxation, not
only intensified the boycott but, in Boston, they destroyed cargoes of tea (Grolier:
Boston Tea Party, 1993).

Parliamentary reactions to the events in Boston were swift and harsh. By enactment’s
adopted in March of 1774, Parliament closed the port of Boston, prohibited town meetings
everywhere in Massachusetts, and imposed many other penalties. Inter-colonial resentment
greatly increased over this legislation, popularly known as the Intolerable Acts, which
paved the way for the First Continental Congress in September 1774 (American Revolution:
First Phase, 1998). The Congress sent a petition to the British sovereign, George III,
which called for intensification of the boycott on trade with Great Britain, and completed
plans for a new Congress to assemble in May 1775, in the event of British refusal to grant
its demands (Encarta: American Revolution, 1999).

The King of England, George III, rejected the Congress’s petition and characterized the
colonial protest movement as a rebellion against Great Britain (American Revolution: First
Phase, 1998). Less than four months after the news was received in America, armed
conflict broke out in Massachusetts. Then the royal governor, General Thomas Gage,
dispatched troops against Concord, where the leaders of the resistance had concentrated
arms and ammunition (Encarta: American Revolution, 1999). On April 19, 1775, British
soldiers fired on a group of militia members at Lexington, precipitating the first battle
of the American Revolution (American Revolution: First Phase, 1998).

The Second Continental Congress convened at Philadelphia on May 10, 1775. Although it was
a purely extralegal institution, the Congress proclaimed American determination to resist
Great Britain’s aggression with armed force, and provided for establishment of a
Continental Army. The Congress appointed former British Soldier and American hero, George
Washington commander-in-chief, authorized the creation of paper money, and assumed other
privileges of executive authority over the colonies (Encarta: American Revolution, 1999).
Congress also appealed to the British government for a peaceful solution of the crisis,
but in August, George III responded with a proclamation exhorting his “loyal subjects to
suppress rebellion and sedition,” in North America (American Revolution: First Phase,
1998). Meanwhile, American troops had inflicted severe casualties on a large force of
British soldiers in Massachusetts (American History [Vol. 1] pg. 161). Sentiment for a
complete break with Great Britain and for national independence did not begin to emerge in
the colonies until after the events at Bunker Hill. More than a year later, on July 2,
1776, the Second Continental Congress declared independence, and two days afterward
adopted a formal statement of principle written by Thomas Jefferson justifying that action
(Encarta: American Revolution, 1999).

By winning the War of Independence, the United States emerged successfully from its first
severe test as a nation. With the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, ending the war
with Great Britain, the nation was confronted with new problems; most of which was
devising a form of government that would bind the thirteen states into a strong and
efficient union (Grolier: Articles of Confederation, 1993).

From 1776 to 1781 the states had been governed by the Continental Congress, which assumed
certain executive powers, such as raising an army, borrowing money from foreign countries,
and concluding treaties with Great Britain (Grolier: Articles of Confederation, 1993).
These powers in effect made the Congress a replacement for the king. They were relieved
shortly after independence, in an agreement known as the Articles of Confederation which
was the first constitution of America (Encarta: Articles of Confederation, 1999). The
articles were approved by the Congress in 1777 and were ratified successfully by the
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