The French and Indian War was one of four North American wars waged from 1689 to 1763 between the British and the French, with their respective Native American and colonial allies, for domination in the New World. Britain’s eventual victory stripped France of its North American empire, thus concluding the series of conflicts (King George’s War, King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War). Although the war began in America, it expanded into Europe as the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) and into Asia as the Third Carnatic War. Winning the war, however, virtually doubled the British government’s national debt and acquired more territory than it could control.
Attempts by British politicians to reform the administration of the empire and to raise revenue by taxing the colonies soon antagonized the colonists and eventually precipitated the American Revolution. The French and Indian War, of which England was victorious, allowed the British to become the prominent power in the North American continent, contributing to the restlessness of the colonials. The peace settlement at Paris in 1763 expelled all French power from the North American continent, allowing Great Britain to emerge as the predominant authority in North America. The war determined that English ideas and institutions would dominate North America.
To quell any post-war uprisings by the Indians, Parliament administered its Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited colonial settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The Americans were upset that they were not allowed to advance westward and revolted by organizing a fleet of roughly 1,000 wagons to migrate on trails to the west. The restlessness and impatience of the colonials represented their strong desire to take over the entire continent. This early and mild example of rebelliousness characterizes a strong, ambitious people ready to free themselves from the chains of the crown. The Stamp Act, a taxation system adopted by Parliament in 1765 to financially tap the colonies for aid in war debt, united the colonies against the crown in a major step towards revolution. The Stamp Act required that all legal documents, licenses, commercial contracts, deeds, mortgages, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards carry a tax stamp issued and sold by the British government.
Passed without debate, it aroused widespread opposition among the colonists who argued that because they were not represented in Parliament, they could not legally be taxed without their consent. Additionally, according to Benjamin Franklin in his testimony against the Stamp Act before the House of Commons in London, there is not gold and silver enough in the colonies to pay the stamp duty for one year.” To the colonists, the Stamp Act violated the right of English subjects not to be taxed without representation; it undermined the independence of their colonial assemblies; and it appeared to be one step in a plot to deprive them of their liberty. The unity of the American colonists in their opposition to the Stamp Act contributed substantially to the rise of American nationalist sentiment, and the conflict between the colonists and the British government over the Stamp Act should be considered one of the fundamental immediate causes of the American Revolution. The Townshend Acts of 1767 indirectly led to a series of events preceding American revolutionary activity.
The Townshend Acts, named after the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend, were measures passed by the British Parliament that politically and financially affected the American colonies. The first measure called for the suspension of the New York Assembly, penalizing it for not complying with the Quartering Act enacted two years earlier, which required the colonies to provide adequate quartering of British troops in the New World. The second measure, called the Revenue Act, imposed customs duties on colonial imports of glass, red and white lead, paints, paper, and tea. The Townshend Acts were tremendously unpopular with the colonials, who conjured up non-importation agreements against them and smuggled tea at inexpensive prices.
These rebellious reactions increased particularly in Massachusetts. In response to this active criticism of the measures, the British crown dissolved the Massachusetts legislature in 1768. Subsequently, the Boston Massacre occurred in March 1770 when British troops fired upon American demonstrators. The Townshend Acts faltered in revenue production and almost caused a severe colonial uprising. These events brought the colonies closer to revolution. England’s debt from the Seven Years War induced Parliament to suffocate the ambitious colonists with a myriad of measures.