History American Revolution Part 2 The British View

About the alternate or British view of the American Revolution.


The American Revolution As Seen by the British

The Other Side: "The colonies were acquired with no other view than to be a convenience to us," the London Chronicle pointed out in 1764, "and therefore it can never be imagined that we are to consult their interest preferably to our own." In fact, the British considered that their American colonies, having enjoyed an extended period of "salutary neglect" during the 18th century, were practically self-governing. They had only to fulfill their vital function within the mercantile system by providing raw materials and consuming the manufactures of the British Empire. (The laws prohibiting trade between the colonies and foreign countries had never been strictly enforced anyway; therefore, smuggling was a popular avocation.)

There remained the thorny subject of taxation. At considerable expense, Britain had won France's North American territory in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763). Britain now faced a large postwar debt and the responsibility of additional land to protect and govern. Highly burdened by taxes themselves, the British were merely asking the colonies to bear the expense of their own administration and defense. As each proposed revenue bill met with opposition, it was repealed, Parliament being anxious to appease the colonies. But such "lenity" only encouraged additional disobedience, which was skillfully orchestrated by colonial propagandists. The Boston Massacre of 1770, during which redcoats fired on a mob owing to extreme provocation, was played up as if hundreds of colonists had been killed instead of five.

Scarcely noted in the British press at first, the Boston Tea Party was magnified from a simple matter of destruction of property into an intolerable insult to British authority. Chiefly responsible for the incident were Sam Adams, a tough and cunning professional politician, who was said to control two Boston mobs which he exploited for his own personal gain and glory, and the rich and vain businessman John Hancock, later described as "an elegant revolutionary" of the "native governing class of merchants and landowners whose interests were threatened by imperial policies and by the barrier to obtaining western land." These "incendiaries" used all manner of intimidation, even tarring and feathering loyal subjects of the king, to undermine their own current democratic self-rule, although British lawyers determined after careful consideration that the rebels were not guilty of high treason--yet.

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