Causes of the Revolutionary War
The haphazard and disorganized British rule of the American colonies in the decade prior to the outbreak led to the Revolutionary War. The mismanagement of the colonies, the taxation policies that violated the colonist right’s, the distractions of foreign wars and politics in England and mercantilist policies that benefited the English to a much greater degree then the colonists all show the British incompetence in their rule over the colonies. The policies and distractions were some of the causes of the Revolutionary War.
The interests of England within the colonies were self-centered. The English were trying to govern the colonies by using the mercantilist system. Mercantilism is when the state directs all the economic activities within it’s borders (Blum). England was not attempting to make any changes that would help the colonists. They limited the colonies commerce to internal trade only (Miller 9). The English were exploiting the colonies by demanding that the colonies import more from England then they exported to the colonies. They were importing raw materials from the colonies and making them into exportable goods in England. They would then ship these goods to foreign market all around the world including the colonists (America Online). Throughout the seventeenth century the English saw America as a place to get materials they didn’t have at home and a market to sell finished products after the goods had been manufactured. This was detrimental to the colonies because it prevented them from manufacturing any of the raw materials they produced, and made them more dependent upon England.
In addition to the unrest caused by their mercantilist policies, domestic political issues distracted them from the activities of the colonies. Throughout the sixteen hundreds, Great Britain was more involved in solving the Constitutional issue of who was to have more power in English government, the king or parliament. When this complex issue was finally resolved in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, England turned its attention back to the colonies and found that colonists had developed their own identity as Americans.
There was no central office in England to control what was happening in the colonies. The executive authority in England was divided among several ministers and commissioners that did not act quickly or in unison. Also, the Board of Trade, the body in England, did not have the power to make decisions or to enforce decrees. Due to the distractions from the complex constitutional issues and ineffective governmental organization, the colonists felt further separated from England (Blum 51).
The political scene in England was laced with corruption. Officers of the government sent to the colonies were often bribe-taking politicians that were not smart enough to hold government positions in England. After Grenville and Townshend, the most incompetent was Lord North, who became Prime Minister in 1770 after the death of Charles Townshend. “North was the kind of politician George had been looking for, a plodding, dogged, industrious man, neither a fool nor a genius, much like the king himself. For the next twelve years, despite the opposition of abler men, he remained at the head of the government (Blum 104).” Corruption and incompetence among governing politicians often made their rule over the colonies ineffective.
In the years leading up to the final decade before the American Revolution, the relationship between Great Britain and her colonies in North America continued to deteriorate. Relations began to worsen with the great victory over the French and Indians in the Seven Years War. Unwelcome British troops had remained in the colonies. Debts from this war caused the Prime Minister at the time, Lord Grenville, to debt that had doubled since 1754 (Blum 95).
England passed many Acts that were ill conceived and had long-term effects on the relationship between England and the colonies. The most controversial of these were direct taxes. The last time Parliament had tried a direct tax was as recent as 1765, when Lord Grenville enacted the Stamp Act which forced the colonists to pay or stamps on printed documents (Higginbotham 34). The Americans felt the taxes of Lord Grenville were “a deliberate aim to disinherit the colonists by denying them the rights of the English (Blum 96).” The first of these acts were