before 1865



Brooke Massa Massa 1
American Civilization to 1865
October 18, 1999


Nationalism first emerged as the Colonists became more and more Democratic. Some argue
that Democracy had always existed in the colonies, but didn’t begin to emerge until around the
beginning of “The Enlightenment”. I believe that Nationalism was present during the
Revolutionary Era, but then faded again, adding fuel to the fire during the Civil War. Colonists
exhibited all the aspects of Nationalism. They had a shared sense of cultural identity, a goal of
political self determination, and the overwhelming majority shared a loyalty to a single national
state.

Colonists were thousands of miles from the king, the parliament, and Great Britain, this led to
a new way of life. While many aspects of colonial society were taken directly from that of
England society, they also formed new beliefs and customs as they saw fit. The
Enlightenment “Helped produce a growing interest in education and a heightened concern with
politics and government.” (Brinkley pg. 85) With this rise of intellectual curiosity also came
the rise of literacy and technology within the colonies. The literacy rates rose and more and
more people had readily avaliable texts. The invention of the printing press led to an influx of
printed material, much of which delt with politics. Books, pamphlets, and almanacs all were
used in expressing the political ideas of many of our great early politicians. “One reason the
Stamp Act created such a furor in the colonies was because printing technology-and thus print
itself-had by then become central to colonial life.

Massa 2
The colonies, like any nation, wanted to be self-sufficient, but due to the fixed amount of
wealth, this was impossible unless they obtained an outside source of income. Mercantilism
was a essential part of colonial society, the demand for imported goods was great. England
passed the Navigation Acts to limit the Colonies trade with outside sources. The Sugar Act,
which again prohibited trade, especially that of sugar, between the colonies, and the French
and Spanish Claims in the West Indies. With all the restrictions placed upon them, it was only
natural that the colonists would break these restrictions. Britain passed a series of Acts which
included: the Hat Act, the Currency Act, the Iron Act, and the Stamp Acts. When colonists
heard of these acts, they began to stir. At first the colonies thought that there was little or
nothing to be done. Then in 1765, the Virginia House of Burgesses added fuel to the fire.
Patrick Henry stated that it was ridiculous for the colonists to pay taxed to a government that
they had no representation in. This and other resoulutions were printed and deemed the
“Virginia Resolves”. At the same time in Massachusetts, James Otis was calling for an
intercolonial congress.
After the end of the French and Indian War, there were 4 problems which in turn directly led to
the rise of Nationalism and the Revolution: 1. In 1765 the British acquire a great deal of land in
the U.S. through the Treaty of Paris. 2. The end of the war led Great Britain to reinforce the
Navigation Acts. 3. The war removed the 1 basic bond that was still remaining between the
U.K. and the U.S., that which was defending the colonies agains the French. 4. The French
and Indian War led to a 130 million pound British Debt. This staggering war debt was another
reason that England passed the Stamp Acts.
These events helped to strengthen the colonists sense of cultural identity and help the rise
towards Nationalism.


Massa 3
With all the restrictions placed upon them, it was only natural that the concept of political
self-determination arose. Colonists felt that they must ban together to rise against the British.
The trade situation was a determing factor in the rise of colonial political systems. Britian
realized that the colonies were beginning to “think on their own” and a series of British
government institutions began in the U.S. There were Vice Admiralty Courts, the Board of
Trade and Plantations, and many economic and trade regulations. All colonies had Royal
Governors and colonial officials. In October of 1765, the Stamp Act Congress met and drafted
a petition to England stating that colonists could only be taxed from their own provincial
governments, and not from Britian. The protests worked, because Britain soon overturned the
Stamp Act. The colonies were apparently “calm” until the 1770’s when England again passed
restrictive acts, this time the Intolerable Acts. It was the Intolerable Acts that led to the start
of colonial boycotts against