American Colonists vs. British Policymakers 1763-1776
Great Britain's victory in the "French and Indian War" (1689 -- 1763) gained new territory west of the Appalachian Mountains for the Empire but also saddled It with enormous war debt (The Independence Hall Association, 2011) in addition to Its existing debts. Great Britain's national debt had grown "from £72,289,673 in 1755 to £129,586,789 in 1764" (The Independence Hall Association, 2011), and British citizens were already so heavily taxed that the government faced the possibility of revolt. Consequently, Great Britain looked for revenue from American colonists, as loyal British citizens. Great Britain's attempts to control American colonists' settlement of the new territory, to exert power over the colonists as British subjects, and to gain revenue from American colonists to ease British debts all heightened tensions between the colonies and Great Britain. Great Britain's attempts, in a series of Acts from 1763 to 1776 and created/spearheaded by the First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord George Grenville, were met with considerable resentment and resistance by the American colonists, eventually exploding into the American Revolution.
2. Proclamation Act of 1763
The American colonists believed the newly-won territory west of the Appalachian Mountains was theirs for the taking/settling because they had fought in the French and Indian War as loyal British subjects. However, the western expansion of colonists brought them in direct conflict with Native American tribes already residing in that territory. In order to avoid clashes between western-moving American colonists and Native Americans, Great Britain passed the Proclamation Act of 1763, fixing a western boundary beyond which colonists could not settle. The colonists' sense of entitlement about setting the territory vs. The British attempt to curtail it increased the tension between them (WCUSD15.org; The Independence Hall Association, 2011).
3. Sugar Act of 1764
In 1764, the Molasses Act of 1733 was about to expire, so Great Britain passed the Sugar Act of 1764. The Molasses Act had been difficult to enforce, so the Sugar Act reduced but more strictly enforced the tax on molasses importation, extended the tax to cover "sugar, certain wines, coffee, pimiento, cambric and printed calico" and increased regulations on lumber and iron exportation. The Act almost immediately caused the colonies' rum industry to decline and otherwise significantly harmed the colonies' economy by reducing their markets and the amount of currency. The colonists were so angered by this Act and Great Britain was so determined to enforce the Act that tension was further heightened and eventually contributed to the colonists' revolt (WCUSD15.org; The Independence Hall Association, 2011).
4. Stamp Act of 1765
Another attempt to control the colonies and raise revenue, this time solely to support British troops in the colonies, the Stamp Act was the first direct tax imposed by Great Britain on the American colonies and it affected all American colonists. According to the Act, stamped paper had to be used for "legal documents, diplomas, almanacs, broadsides, newspapers and playing cards" (U-S-History.com) because the stamp proved that the tax on those items was paid. Due to the Acts widespread effect and the already-tense relations with Great Britain, colonists boycotted the taxed items and Great Britain was forced to repeal it in 1766 (The Independence Hall Association, 2011).
5. Quartering Act of 1765
After the French and Indian War, Great Britain built up troop strength in the colonies, reportedly to protect American colonists, and passed the Quartering Act to make colonists pay for protection. The Act required each colony to provide such basic necessities as "bedding, cooking utensils, firewood, beer or cider and candles" (U-S-History.com) to the soldiers protecting that colony. In 1766, the law extended the colonies' duties to housing solders "in taverns and unoccupied houses" (U-S-History.com). Parliament saw this as a logical assumption of the burden by colonists and a way to ease the burden on already heavily-taxed British citizens. American colonists strongly opposed this Act due to their distrust of standing armies, the financial burden, and their belief that the British troops were actually there to force the colonists' compliance with other British Acts (U-S-History.com).
6. Declaratory Act of 1766
Though Britain repealed the Stamp Act in 1766 due to the colonists' boycott, it then issued a statement that the colonies were subordinate to Great Britain, which had "full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever" (Independence Hall Association, 2011). Though sounding like a harmless protestation of sovereignty, the Declaratory Act paved the way for Great Britain's passage of other Acts, such as the Quartering Act and the Townshend Act, which the colonists could not stop because the Acts were declared to be for the good of the Empire (Independence Hall Association, 2011).
7. Townshend Revenue Act of 1767
After repeal of the Stamp Act, Great Britain tried to raise £40,000 per year from American colonists and for the colonies' administration by taxing "glass, paint, oil, lead, paper, and tea" (The Independence Hall Association, 2011). The American colonists were exceedingly hostile to the Act, even to the point of mobbing a customs office in Boston in 1768 after officials impounded John Hancock's ship, forcing the customs officials to retreat to a British ship. The Bostonians did not resist the resulting British troop occupation; however, colonists then used "non-importation agreements" that significantly harmed British business and forced British merchants to back the colonists (The Independence Hall Association, 2011).
8. Tea Act of 1773
In 1773, the East India Company was in deep financial difficulty and had 18 million pounds of unsold tea; consequently, Great Britain sent the tea to the American colonies to be sold at a bargain. Leading colonial radicals whipped up opposition because the Townshend Act was still in place and because local merchants would suffer from the unfair competition of bargain-priced tea. With tensions already running high, colonists refused to buy the tea, sending it back to Great Britain from Philadelphia and New York, leaving it to rot in Charleston and dumping it in the harbor at the Boston Tea Party (The Independence Hall Association, 2011).
9. Coercive (Intolerable) Acts of 1774
Largely regarded as retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, the Coercive (or Intolerable) Acts were designed to punish the colonies and force them into submission to Great Britain. The Acts closed the port of Boston, banned town meetings in the rebellious State of Massachusetts, allowed British troopers to live anywhere -- including private homes -- in Massachusetts, significantly reduced the colonists' rights of self-government, and declared that British officials in the colonies had to be tried by British courts (The Independence Hall Association, 2011). As these acts punished American colonists, the Quebec Act of 1774 - either deemed one of the Coercive Acts or a separate supporting Act -- simultaneously rewarded loyal Canadians by setting Quebec's boundaries at the Ohio River and allowing a Catholic-dominated legal system to Canadian Catholics. American colonists strongly opposed the Quebec Act because it negated American colonists' claims in the west and surrounded the colonists with Catholics who controlled a Catholic-dictated legal system (U-S-History.com). In addition, as the Acts became more oppressive, American radicals became more powerful and persuasive to their fellow colonists, and the eventual result was a literal revolution in 1776.
1763 -- 1776 is a story of competing interests, rising tensions and eventual war. Great Britain, a world power saddled with considerable debt and seeking subservience and money from American colonists, attempted to control the colonists through a series of Acts and Taxes. Meanwhile, American colonists sought freedom, prosperity and all the opportunities offered by new land and an ocean's distance from Great Britain; consequently, the colonists reacted to the…