Growing tension between Britain and the American colonies, to 1774

Growing tension between Britain and the American colonies, to 1774

British Policies Post-Seven Years’ War

  • After the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), Britain sought to centralise imperial control over its American colonies.
  • The Proclamation of 1763 restricted colonial expansion westwards, protecting indigenous tribes but upsetting wealthy colonists with western land interests.
  • Sugar Act of 1764 was imposed to offset war debts, introducing new customs duties on non-British goods and reducing the sugar import tax, which detrimentally affected colonial trade.

Stamp Act Crisis

  • Enacted in 1765, the Stamp Act imposed a direct tax on colonists for the first time, affecting all printed materials. Strong opposition led to its repeal in 1766.
  • The Declaratory Act (1766) asserted British sovereignty over the colonies, including the right to make laws and impose taxation.

Responding to British Policies

  • The notion of “no taxation without representation” was central to the colonial critique of British policies. Many believed they were unfairly taxed without having parliamentary representation.
  • Opposition to British policies led to the formation of various colonial groups like the Sons of Liberty who frequently used violent methods to show dissent.
  • Colonial assemblies such as the Virginia House of Burgesses protested against British policies while advocating for colonial rights and self-government.

Townshend Acts & Growing Tensions

  • Townshend Acts (1767) instituted new taxes on goods imported into the colonies, leading to further outrage and the boycott of British goods.
  • The Boston Massacre (1770) was a significant incident, where British soldiers killed five colonists during a confrontation, stirring up anti-British sentiment.
  • In 1773, the Tea Act, granting the financially struggling East India Company a monopoly over tea sales in America, led to the symbolic Boston Tea Party protest.

The Precursor to Revolution

  • In response to the Boston Tea Party, Britain imposed the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts (1774) shutting down Boston’s port and revoking the Massachusetts Charter.
  • The First Continental Congress assembled in 1774, representing 12 of the 13 colonies, marking the first attempt at a united colonial response to British actions.
  • By 1774, tensions between Britain and the American colonies were at boiling point, sowing the seeds for the forthcoming American Revolution.