The Background to the War of Independence

The Britain's victory over France led directly to a conflict with American colonies.The end of the Seven Years' War left England in control of Canada and all of North America, east of the Mississippi. But the war was long and when it ended, England was in debt. Running an empire and administration of the new territories, as well as of the old, was an expensive business and would require huge amount of money. The king's ministers looked around for additional income and they decided to get the money from American colonies, which were a virtually rich and untaxed section of the empire. Philadelphia was the biggest British city, after London and poverty common in Britain was practically unknown amongst people in the American colonies. Moreover, King George was afraid that New England was becoming too powerful and therefore, the British government started a new policy and passed a number of laws designed to paralyze the rising industry in the colonies.

The colonies produced some raw materials such as iron, steel, tobacco and timber, but they were forbidden to build their own manufacturing industries. Direct trade of the English colonies with the Spanish and French settlements was also prohibited. To prevent fighting with the Native Americans, the Proclamation of 1763 denied the colonists the right to settle west of the Appalachians. The colonists hated this because they were already farming there. The first attempt to extract money out of the colonists was the Sugar Act in 1764. This act forbade the importation of foreign rum and taxed all sugar products from Britain. In fact, it reduced the taxation on molasses imported to the colonies, but severely punished anyone who tried to smuggle the syrup. Then, in 1765, the Quartering and Stamp Acts were enacted. The Quartering Act forced the colonies to house and feed British soldiers, whose task was no longer to protect the settlements, but to oppress them: to enforce prohibitions, to prevent smuggling, and to suppress the liberation movement of American people. With the passage of the Stamp Act, special tax stamps had to be attached to all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents and licenses.

The colonists thought this was unfair and a storm of protests arose against the acts. People regarded the situation as a violation of their rights. In the summer of 1765, prominent men organized themselves into the Sons of Liberty - a secret organization formed to protest the Stamp Act, often throught violent means. No taxation without representation was their motto. It meant that no British subject should be taxed unless its representative sat as a member in the Parliament. Riots were organized, merchants refused to sell British goods, mobs threatened stamp distributors and most colonists simply refused to use the stamps. The British government did not want trouble so the Act was repealed in 1766.

Repeal of the Stamp Act left Britain's problems unresolved. In 1767, Charles Townshend, British chancellor of exchequer, declared he had a plan for getting money out of the Americans without upsetting them. In fact, it was simply a tax on every day goods, such as tea, paint, glass, and paper, imported from Britain. The response of the Americans was to boycott any of the taxed goods. The colonists protested in Boston, and Massachusetts became the centre of anti-British feeling. Opposition became so strong that the English Parliament repealed the Act. However, new taxes were soon introduced, and English troops were sent to America. This made the colonists even angrier than ever. In March 1770, a riot occurred between British troops and Boston citizens, who taunted and jeered the soldiers. The troops killed five people. The colonist went wild. They called this The Boston Massacre.