The American War of Independence

The War of Independence is the most important event in American history. It is the story of the breakaway of the colonists from the English empire.

The colonists had, ever since they had settled in the New World, governed themselves. They only allowed their own elected representatives to form laws for the people. The English Parliament couldn’t make laws for them. But then, just when everything was running smoothly, England started interfering.

England had hitherto confined itself to external affairs such as trading rights and policies, and foreign matters. The colonists recognized England’s right to do this and they did not complain. But when England started interfering in the laws and taxing affairs in the colonies, the settlers considered this a violation of their form of government.

The argument of the colonists was that they were born Englishmen and they had rights. These rights, they declared, permitted them to make their own laws and impose their own taxes. The English counter-argument was that it was only by their generosity that the colonists had been ruling alone for so long. If the English decided that the colonists could not rule alone anymore, then (according to George III) the English would rule them and it would be fine. Not so from the colonial point of view.

So, the basic difference between the English and the colonists was this: The colonists believed that they had been ruling themselves for so long that it would go against their traditional government to change now. But the English view was that whatever Parliament says goes, even if it had never been done before. This is the basis of the war.

James Otis, the founder of one of the secret liberty groups, and a man of doubtful sanity, fought against something called the writs of assistance. These writs of assistance allowed the English to intrude into the colonists’ private homes to look for evidence of smuggling—proof of their resistance to the Quartering Act.

Then the Sugar Act was issued. This consisted of two tariffs—the revenue tariff and the protective tariff. The protective tariff was not the problem, but the revenue tariff. The protective tariff put a 100% tax on items which were sold by other countries so that the colonists would buy only internally, thus giving more money to the tax of revenue.

The tax of revenue on the other hand put a tax on goods such as tea and sugar. The colonists recognized the English’s right to impose the protective taxes. But the revenue tax was unacceptable. No taxation without representation.

Bad as the Sugar Act was, the Stamp Act, which followed soon after, was much worse. The Sugar Act was a subtle thing, but the Stamp Act was a flat-out tax on documents and newspapers, etc. Everything had to have a revenue stamp on it so that the English officials would know that they had paid the tax. Business people were mad at the English for doing this because it ruined some part of their businesses.

The Townsend Acts were even worse. They suspended the assembly of New York until it abided by certain laws. And it did other things that were even worse.

Most of the business people did not want to wage a war against England, even if it meant that they would have to pay the tax. Only small groups here and there wanted the war. These groups forced the other people to consent to the war, even if it meant violating the law.

The Boston Tea Party was a major event. It was a violation of the law by the Sons of Liberty, one of the previously mentioned groups. Tea, on which there had been placed a special tax, was in the Boston Harbor in an English ship. The English-favoring business men who had bought the tea did not want to dump it into the harbor because it would ruin them and their businesses. But the Sons of Liberty went ahead and dumped the thousands of pounds of tea into the harbor anyway. This was a violation of both colonial and English law.

At Lexington and Concord the first shots were fired, which officially started the military aspect of the war.

Then the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. This officially declared the colonists’ independence from the English Empire.

Some people preferred to live under English rule no matter how many taxes, but others were completely fired by Patrick Henry’s famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

The War of Independence was a war of great bloodshed, a war of sorrow and hardship and a war of ultimate victory. It is an event to be remembered.

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