Updated August 8, 2022
The United States war of Independence was possibly the first biggest challenge to British colonial Rule. British crown had many different colonies all over the world- in Asia, Africa, and America. Most glaringly, they persecuted the residents of the colonies. Owing to this, resentment from the Colonial government was spread over the world.
The United States of America was the first country who challenged the British government. And, outcome was that, the US War of Independence overturned the Monarchy (Rule by King). It abolished the feudalism, changing their form of government from a monarchy to republic. And, American succeeded forming a constitution that rested on the principle of equality & freedom.
Insurrection altered the course of modern history. Obviously, it was the very first instance that one country has fought against the oppression of other country and created a democratic government. But, had an important and great impact on the rest of the world in terms of Social, Political and economic ideas. Most Importantly, United States War of Independence led the foundation of Modern World.
A Primer on the United States War of Independence
American Revolution, also called the United States War of Independence or American Revolutionary War (1775-83). At that time, the colonial government was represented by the British crown (King George III). Tensions grew over time between the residents of Great Britain’s 13 North American colonies and the colonial government due to the ill-treatment, which finally resulted in a full-fledged war by 1775.
This battle made the Britain Army escape from the 13 Great Britain’s North America colonies. These 13 North America colonies after getting Independence from Britain went on to form the United States of America. It became an international war as France and Spain joined the insurrection against the British Colonies. It spreads far beyond the borders of the newly created nations.
This revolution has changed the political, social and economic ideas of the globe. It encouraged the other nations to consider war themselves, as a small fledging army got victory over the large British Army. The British structure was threatened by the American Revolution.
Not only that, the adversaries of Britain empowered by the American war of Independence rising up primarily France, Spain and Portugal. It was the starting of a chain reaction of war against the oppression of Monarchist and colonist over the world.
A Little History of the American Continent
American Continent – Colonization
The Americas comprises the continents of North and South America. They make up most of the land in Earth’s Western Hemisphere and comprise the New World. They cover 8% of Earth’s total surface area and 28.4% of its land along with their associated islands. Humans first settled the Americas from Asia between 42,000 and 17,000 years ago. Before 1492, the whole world was known by only three regions Africa, Asia and Europe (Afro-Eurasia or the World Island). It contained the whole of the world’s landmass without the Americas. At this time, there was no land route to connect the New World.
It remained isolated from the political and economic system of the old world. It was outside of the major cultures and civilization of the Old World. This has been changed when a Spanish-based transatlantic maritime explorer Christopher Columbus discovered the sea route in 1492. After that, various European powers established colonies in North America, prominent among them being Spain, Holland, France and England.
European migrants were spread all over the areas of colonies including landless peasants, people facing religious persecution, traders, explorers, and others seeking adventure and profit in these new found lands. It was seen that hegemonic powers furiously encountered with other European powers to establish control over the land as much as possible and increase the trade supply lines. Since these powers were locked in conflicts across the globe, a new theatre of war was inaugurated in the Americas.
The rivalry was especially strong between England and France, which culminated in the seven years war (1756-63). It was a decisive battle in India during the seven years’ war. This was the third Carnatic War fought between British and French. It was a furious war where the French Army consisted of 300 European Cavalry, 2,250 European infantries, 1,300 soldiers, 3,000 Mahrattas and 16 pieces of artillery and the English deployed about 80 European Horses, 250 Native horses, 1,900 European Infantry, 2,100 sepoys and 26 pieces of artillery. It is believed that this battle was the “first true world war” and was fought in Europe, West Africa, the Americas, India and the Philippines. The Battle of Wandiwash (1760) concluded with the decisive British victory.
To bring the end of the war, both parties signed the Treaty of Paris (1763). (You may note that this treaty had a profound impact on India in the sense that French controls were subdued completely and this led to the consolidation of British power in India). In North America, Britain consolidated all colonies lining the Atlantic coast and drove the French out of Canada. She was also successful in taking many Dutch territories, most important being New Netherlands, renaming it to New York.
American Colonies conditions – Before the American Revolution
There was a diverse population in North America, but the majority of them was independent farmers. There were 13 colonies under the control of Britain. With the course of time, new industries were continually being set up producing wool, flax and leather, mostly for European markets.
However, the nature of economies was varied within America. Shipbuilding, Fishing, and allied Industries grew into the north while plantation agriculture flourished in the south. On further, Industrializing thrived into North America and the southern states, however, had maintained a large farming economy and this economy was based on slave labour, it means south America lapsing into a feudal economy powered by slaves brought from Africa. Later, it became a major cause of the American civil war (1861-65).
Politically, the colonies were governed by a locally elected assembly. They enacted laws and imposed taxes. Though they enjoyed some independence, they were ultimately answerable to the mother country (Britain). Britain members meted out the people of America. This led to widespread discontentment and provided a fertile ground for rebel ideas to grow and prosper.
Causes of the United States War of Independence
There were various Political, Economical and Ideological reasons that led to the growth of discontentment which finally resulted in the American War of Independence.
Political causes of the American Revolution
No Taxation Without Representation – Feeling of resentment due to overtaxed, unable to engage in free trade and underrepresented, the colonists rallied to the slogan, “No Taxation Without Representation. Since there was no representative of the colonies in the British Parliament. So, many colonists were not in support to pay the taxes to the British government. They made a slogan ‘No Taxation Without Representation’.
Protests in Boston – In 1773, the British government impose new taxes on tea over the American residents. In response to this unpopular taxes, the patriots in Boston protested the act by dumping the tea into the water and this protest became known as Boston Tea Party. Through protests like the Boston Tea Party, Britain’s right to levy taxes was eroded over time. Many patriot colonists began to protest the British new taxes and laws.
Resource Draining of the Colonies – The French and Indian War, or the seven years’ war (1756-63) brought the new colonies under the British Crown, but the expenses on the war made the British government impose unpopular taxes. Although the war ended with the British victory but had drained her resources to diminish the effect on the English government. Since the major colonies were in North America, they suffered the most. The immature or unexperienced industries of the colonies were especially exhausted.
Economic causes of the American Revolution
Some of the major economic causes of the American Revolution were due to Britain’s unfair actions regarding trade, levying of new taxes, and social order.
Before the Seven Years’ War, the British mercantilist laws were poorly enforced over the American colonies, and the colonists had a large degree of autonomy to easily run their political and economic system. But after the victory of war with heavy war debts, parliament stepped towards the American colonies to reduce the effect of debts on the British imperial.
The British government brought new laws and policies to exert more control over the American colonies. Old laws designed to benefit British mercantilists were enforced with more severity than ever before, and a series of new laws, designed to shape American economic activities to benefit Britain, was passed.
The Navigation Acts and the Writs of Assistance were the new laws that were enforced over the colonies. The Navigation Acts is a collection of laws which restricted the trade and only can export certain goods to Britain and her colonies through colonial ships. Even, the colonies paid heavy import duties for products from other colonies and outside England.
Export limitations – products like tobacco, sugar and cotton could only be exported to England. These laws were intended to benefit manufacturers, shipbuilders, and British merchants, as well as colonial shipbuilders. Restrictions on Industrialization – development of industries like iron, steel and textiles were prohibited in the colonies.
Many Policies were adopted to hamper the growth of industries and commerce in the colonies. Mostly new laws were tax acts.
Sugar Act (1764)- It is also called the Plantation Act or Revenue Act, (1764). It was imposed to end the smuggling trade in sugar and molasses from the French and Dutch West Indies and also could help in increasing revenues to fund enlarged British Empire responsibilities following the French and Indian War.
Currency Act (1764)- The Currency Act prevented the printing of money in the colonies, making businesses rely more on the crippled British economy.
Stamp duty (1765)- The Stamp Act aroused the widespread anger among the colonists than any of the previous laws. It was because this was the first tax to directly affect a large portion of colonists. Most affected among the colonists were lawyers, clergymen, and printers. According to this law, a stamp to be placed on all printed materials, including legal documents, pamphlets, almanacs, and newspapers.
Rent – The aristocrats from England bought most of the land in North America and prohibited land ownership rights of the colonisers in the west. They wanted to keep the colonisers as rentiers for perpetuity.
The British attempts to levy taxes came to be limited. Upon on objection, Britain was forced to withdraw most taxes except that for the tea. This led to protests like the Boston Tea Party
Ideological causes of the US War of Independence
The 18th century is known as the Age of Enlightenment. It was a period when thinkers, philosophers, statesman, and artists began to question the ruling government, the role of the church, and other fundamental and ethical questions of society as a whole. It was known as the Age of Reason, and many colonists followed this idea.
A number of the revolutionary leaders had studied major writings of the Enlightenment, including those of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Baron de Montesquieu. They believed that all people had certain inalienable rights that no government should be allowed to infringe.
This was in direct contrast with the oppressive British rule. Many philosophers like Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson execrated the inequalities of British Society. They asserted the right to rebellion
The American Revolutionary War & Declaration of Independence
After the Boston of Tea Party protest, the British parliament passed a series of acts (known as Intolerable, or Coercive acts) to reassert imperial authority in Massachusetts. In response, a group of representatives (including George Washington of Virginia, John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, Patrick Henry of Virginia and John Jay of New York) met at Philadelphia in September 1774 to give voice to their grievances against the British crown.
It was the First Continental Congress meeting that did not go so far as to demand independence from Britain, but it criticised the taxation without representation, as well as the maintenance of the British army in the colonies without their consent. It issued a declaration of the rights every citizen, including life, liberty, property, assembly and trial by jury.
The war broke out in 1775 with colonial militiamen against the British troops in the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, marking the “shot heard round the world” that signified the start of the Revolutionary War.
The representatives of colonies met again in Second continental congress in 1776. After that, the rigorous clashes occurred between the colonists and British troops. Many colonists got sacrificed in the clashes. In response, they voted to favour independence from Britain. On later, Continental Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.
The Americans were aided by the French, who were looking for an opportunity to strike at Britain. The trouble brewing at home (Irish rebellion) also made things difficult for the British. Other enemies of the British like Spain and Holland also started fighting them at different locations of the continent. The revolutionary War ended with English commander Lord Cornwallis and his men surrendering to George Washington in 1781.
US War of Independence in Conclusion
The United States War of Independence had a profound impact on the history of the modern world. It paved a way for the colonies through which oppressive regimes could be defeated. It was the foundation of the modern world. India also has learned a lot from the American Revolutionary war experience. And adopted many of these democratic principles, adding to our own democratic socialist principles.
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