Causes of the Revolutionary War

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Causes of the War: Taxation Programs Some of the major causes of the Revolutionary War were the taxation programs set up by the British government in order to increase profit from their colonization investment. The five biggest programs were the Townshend Act, the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, the Tea Act, and the Currency Act. These acts led to loss of money among the colonists and businesses at such a large rate that they could no longer afford to continue doing nothing to resist the British government. The passing of these slowly increased the colonists' antipathy of the British taxation programs and English authority enough that they started the Revolutionary war. The Townshend Act of 1767 was a sequence of laws passed in order to balance the British budget after cuts in land tax were made back in Britain. Charles Townshend, the acting Prime Minister of England, passed the Townshend Acts to make up for the money lost in land taxes by placing import duties on tea, lead, paper, and painters colors exported to America from Britain. The reason for placing these import duties was political and not economic. The money collected was used to pay off British governors and other colonial officials to win their support to the British government and to oppose rebel actions in the Americas. The opposition to these laws in particular were the most devastating effects on the British government, "Colonial nonimportation agreements sharply cut British exports to America, and British merchants complained"(Colliers Encyclopedia Vol.2 p.80). These acts also caused arguments between colonists and British soldiers and officials that lead to violent acts such as the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770. By late 1770, the British government realized that the Townshend Acts were causing more hatred from the colonists than was comfortable and relaxed the laws leaving only an import law on Tea. This meant "…the next three years relations between Britain and the colonies were relatively peaceful"(Colliers Encyclopedia Vol.2 p.80). Another act passed was the Sugar Act of 1733. This act "…imposed heavy duties on colonial imports of foreign colonial molasses, sugar and rum, primarily not for revenue but to give British West Indian sugar interests a monopoly of the market for these products in the British mainland colonies"(Origin of the American Revolution, p. 139). The British continued to levy taxes on imports to the colonies to both maintain relations with exporting companies and because it was one of the few things they could enforce well enough without having to involve large amounts of troops. These acts were abused, however, by the colonists and the large taxes on molasses and other goods were paid at one-fourth the amount or less. Also, the molasses trade was a valuable asset to the northern British colonies because it gave them a good way to export products such as lumber and surplus goods. These could be traded in exchange for molasses. Molasses was a sweetener used in many recipes, but when distilled, it made a easy to make, cheap rum used in the colonies. Since the duty rates were so high, the colonists started to smuggle molasses from foreign sources at such a rate that the British government lowered the tax on molasses so the colonists would stop smuggling on their own accord. The colonists continued to smuggle the Molasses until the British parliament set up the first 'Coast Guard', called the Customs Board. Their job was "'to seize and proceed to condemnation of all such Ships and Vessels as you shall find offending against the said Laws' and 'to seize any Goods, wares, and Merchandize prohibited to be exported out of, or imported into and of his Majesty's Dominions…'"(Origin of the American Revolution, p. 143) The Stamp Act of 1765 was caused by the British leaving permanent British soldiers in the colonies after the French and Indian war. The cost of the troops, numbering at about 10,000, was so great that the British government needed more revenues. The British government therefore decided that the Americans should pay for the troops protecting them and they placed a Stamp Tax on the colonists. "It provided that all colonial newspapers, legal documents, and business papers must be stamped, the stamps to be paid for in specie"(Colliers Encyclopedia Vol.2 p.479). The colonists were strongly opposed to the idea of paying for all their papers, especially the newspaper companies who were devastated by this tax. This lead to an event on May of 1765, a rebel group lead by Patrick Henry "…secured the adoption of resolutions declaring that only the Virginia legislature had the right to tax Virginians"(Colliers Encyclopedia Vol.8 p.479). Many riots and attacks on stamp distributor's houses caused all of the stamp distributors to resign making it impossible to buy stamps by the time the law came into effect, November 1, 1765. The Currency Act of 1764 was a minor law passed to forbid use of paper currency in colonies that it was previously allowed in. The effect was devastating to colonial businesses causing depressions in most of the effected colonies. It "Reduced the colony's total outstanding Currency to only 15,000pounds for conducting the colony's business which in exports alone was over 250,000pounds sterling a year" (Origin of the American Revolution, p. 108). This was a very devastating law to the colonies because it was almost impossible to evade because of British bank officials and inadequate forging techniques. The Tea Act of 1773 was "The incident setting off the chain of events leading directly to the war for American independence…"(Colliers Encyclopedia Vol.2 p.82). The British used this act to indirectly make money rather than directly make it as was the case for all of the other taxation attempts. The East India company, which was a good revenue for the British government, was having financial problems so it could not pay the British government as much as was wanted. So the British government passed the Tea Act, which "…allowed the company to send its tea directly to its own agents in the colonies instead of selling it at public auctions in London as it had been required to do"(Colliers Encyclopedia Vol.2 p.82). This saved the company a great deal of money, which appointed its own merchants in the colonies, leaving the earlier tea merchants without tea to sell. The new tea was cheaper than the formerly smuggled tea from Holland which the colonists could no longer afford to smuggle, and threatened a monopoly of British taxed tea. The leaders of the colonies, faced with their first real political issue in three years, decided that the tea should be sent back to England. This lead to the Boston Tea Party and other colonial actions to stop the importation of tea. These five acts were the basis of most of the revolts that lead up to the Revolutionary war, including the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, and riots against stamp distributors. The British taxation programs that were applied and later revoked because of colonial rebelling were some of the greatest causes of the Revolutionary War. Bibliography Colliers Encyclopedia, Random House Publishing, London, England. ©1985, Volume 2. Origin of the American Revolution, Frank Thornton. ©1964.

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