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American Revolution, summary

In North America, England was the absolute master after the Seven Years War because it owned Canada and some territories of the Atlantic coast divided into thirteen colonies. These territories had been conquered by some adventurers under the order of the English sovereign and were then entrusted to nobles with the task of creating plantations of local products. The southern colonies were characterized by large landowners’ plantations. In the northern colonies, called New England, there was a colonization due to the flight of religious minorities from persecution. The society of the northern colonies was organized differently from that of the southern states, because solidarity, sharing and self-government were in force. The central colonies, on the other hand, presented intermediate characters between the southern and northern states. England had always disinterested in settlers because the southern colonies were managed by noble landowners, while the northern colonies were formed by the “waste” of Anglo-Saxon society. At the end of the eighteenth century the population of the American colonies had grown considerably and had profitable economic activities. Thus England began to take an interest in the colonists because, by paying taxes, they would have guaranteed British finances a considerable income. At that time the settlers decided to go further west to occupy new territories and it was thus that they invaded the lands of the Indians. The British government then had to send troops to America to defend the settlers and forbade them to cross the Alleghenian mountains first, then the Appalachians, so as not to have problems with the Indians. The Seven Years ‘War had created considerable debt in the British coffers and therefore the British government decided to extend taxes to the populations of the colonies, as the Seven Years’ War had ultimately benefited them. The settlers were furious at this for two main reasons. First of all, England went against its own customs, conquered with years of civil war, because they imposed taxes without asking the opinion of the population. Secondly, for many years England had not been in the least interested in the fate of the colonists and now that they had grown rich, it pretended to impose taxes on them. In 1764 the British government introduced the Revenue Act, which consisted of a ban on the American colonies from trafficking with countries other than England. With this law the colonies were very disadvantaged because the products of the much closer Spanish colonies were cheaper and more easily available. The Sugar Act was also enacted, requiring settlers to buy only English sugar, on which a new tax was imposed. In 1765 the Stamp Act was introduced, which consisted of the stamp duty to be paid for the various public acts. The Stamp Act was particularly hateful to the settlers and discontent began to spread. Many spontaneous associations were formed which contested these measures of the English government, the most famous of which was the so-called Sons of Liberty.

England sent numerous officials to the colonies to check that the laws were respected and taxes paid. The numerous protests by the settlers were completely ignored by England. In 1766 the Stamp Act was lifted, but general discontent did not abate and cases of violence began to arise. The British government strengthened the power of judges sent from the motherland and diminished that of local judges. The first violent act of rebellion occurred in 1773 following the Tea Act, which stipulated that settlers could only buy English tea. This act ruined many American tea merchants. In this context, the first violent demonstration by American settlers took place, known as the Boston Tea Party. A group of Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Indians, entered the English ships anchored at Boston Harbor at night, threw tons of tea into the sea and set the boats on fire. Violence against British officials multiplied. England responded with repression: it refused all requests for greater freedoms by the settler associations, strengthened the power of the judges sent from the motherland, sent additional officials, imposed higher taxes and reduced the freedoms of the settlers. Some of the protagonists of the American independence movement were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. A number of elements contributed to influencing the settlers:

  • the mentality of the frontier, that is, the fact that the settlers created themselves and have always governed themselves;
  • the Whig (liberal) ideals of many people who fled England because they were persecuted for their ideas;
  • the Enlightenment ideals of equality and freedom.

In 1774 a Congress was established in Philadelphia between the English representatives and those of the thirteen colonies to find a common agreement. The initial intentions of the American colonists were to remain loyal to England. Congress was asked to send another petition to London. But in 1775, faced with the new English refusal, a second Congress was convened. An open confrontation took place between the settler militias and the English soldiers. The British militias were put to flight after a shooting. The British reacted harshly and so the desire to break with the motherland emerged strongly in the Congress. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was drafted. In this document, the colonists expressed that they reluctantly had to declare independence since England did not protect the inviolable rights of every man. The Declaration of Independence was the first official document that exposed the inalienable rights of all the people that the state had a duty to protect. The declaration sparked war and the colonies gathered a common army headed by a wealthy Virginia landowner, George Washington, who had already fought against the French in the Seven Years’ War. At the beginning of the war, the British mercenaries always had the better of the colonial troops. The problem of the British was represented by the extreme extension of the territories that were difficult to control. The colonists understood that time had to be given to the new federal army to organize itself and that it was necessary to avoid open-field battles in which the British were unbeatable. The settlers resorted to ambushes and a whole series of guerilla actions that were more congenial to the abilities of the settlers. Meanwhile, Washington trained and expanded the army. In 1777, the first victory of the colonial troops took place in Saratoga. In 1778 the French, Spanish and Dutch sided with the colonists to weaken the English enemy. The French were persuaded to join the war by the words of the colonists’ ambassador, who was Benjamin Franklin. With the entry of other European superpowers into the war, England’s main concern became the defense of other colonies such as India. In 1781 the decisive battle took place at Yorktown, in which the English army was defeated. The war dragged on for another two years and in 1783 the peace of Paris was reached, which sanctioned the independence of the thirteen American colonies. Canada remained under Anglo-Saxon control and remained there even after a series of attempts to conquer by the colonial army that did not have the desired result.

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