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A New Look at the British Colonies in America

It was after the Seven Years War that Britain began to look at the colonies differently. The British government began to look into how they could get the colonies into a “more efficient trading system with British colonies in the Caribbean and India.” Though economically this sounds a like a smart step for the monarch to take, it was one that was too late in coming and would actually set in motion the steps that would ultimately lead to the American Revolutionary War.

The Seven Years War had been a very expensive enterprise for the British Empire. Though the country had come out looking good and taking up the position of the European and New World powerhouse, it drained the treasury and increased the demands on resources. With peace from the war, Britain found itself in administrative chaos. New lands had been acquired from the French. Things could not remain the same. Britain was faced with having to reorganizing the new territories. The British colonies had grown overnight.

Additionally, the soldiers that were being sent back to England were telling everyone of the vast prosperity that all American had in comparison to those that lived in England. New lands, rumors of riches, and the realization of the cost of the war made the monarchy and the Parliament take a second look at the colonies and the relationship that existed. It all came down to the fact that the “British government was faced with the need to overhaul its empire and gain revenue from its colonies at the very same time.”

The colonists were used to Britain passing acts that affected their trade. The Navigation Acts were accepted by the colonies and mostly followed. It was when Britain began making decisions and passing acts that would be detrimental to the colonial economy that the colonists began to rise up in protest. The colonies were a different culture with different needs. Britain was not going to stop and learn more about their colonies. They were in charge and were going to let the colonies know this.

In 1733, Parliament passed the Molasses Act which put a tax on every foreign gallon of molasses of six pence. The colonists could not see the economic good that could come from this and so ignored it until the monarchy tried to enforce it after war. The post war economy had taken a downturn, and the colonies were feeling it hard. Putting this tax on them would only make the entire economic situation worse.

This did not sit well with the colonists as over the past hundred years, “the king and Parliament had ruled the colonies with a light touch, usually allowing them to run their own affairs.” Taxes were not absent in the colonies. They were not high and they made sense to the local governments and the colonists that paid them.

Britain looked at this as a chance to tighten the economic control of the colonies and have them share that prosperity that was rumored to be so abundant and help pay for the war and for maintaining the troops to defend the new lands from the other European nations and even from the natives. So much had happened during the Seven Years War that “the British were not about to resume their former policy of benign neglect.” Britain saw this as a chance to pull in an unruly child that had multiple personalities and create one large homogenous empire.


Sources:

Benjamin Franklin. ‘”Benevolus’” On the Propriety of Taxing America’. Franklin Papers, http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/framedVolumes.jsp. (accessed April, 20, 2011).
Butler, Jon. Becoming America: the Revolution Before 1776. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.
Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776. New York: Oxford University Press, 1968.
King, David C. Colonies and Revolution. Hoboken: John Wiley, 2003.
Marston, Daniel. American Revolution 1774-1783. New York: Routledge, 2003.
Taylor, Alan. American Colonies: The Settling of North America. New York: Penguin, 2001.
Wood, Gordon S. The American Revolution: A History. New York: Random House, 2003.

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