The American Revolution began in 1775 as open conflict between the united thirteen colonies and Great Britain. By the Treaty of Paris that ended the war in 1783, the colonies had won their independence. While no one event can be pointed to as the actual cause of the revolution, the war began as a disagreement over the way in which Great Britain treated the colonies versus the way the colonies felt they should be treated.
Americans felt they deserved all the rights of Englishmen. The British, on the other hand, felt that the colonies were created to be used in the way that best suited the crown and parliament. This conflict is embodied in one of the rallying cries of the American Revolution: No Taxation Without Representation.
America's Independent Way of ThinkingFirst, let's take a look at the mindset of the founding fathers:
- Geographic Considerations - The distance of the colonies from Great Britain created an independence that was hard to overcome. Those willing to colonize the new world generally had a strong independent streak desiring new opportunities and more freedom.
- Colonial Legislatures – The existence of colonial legislatures meant that the colonies were in many ways independent of the crown. The legislatures were allowed to levy taxes, muster troops, and pass laws. Over time, these powers became rights in the eyes of many colonists. When they were curtailed by the British, conflict ensued. The future leaders of the United States were born in these legislatures.
- Salutary Neglect - Even though the British believed in mercantilism, Prime Minister Robert Walpole espoused a view of "salutary neglect." This was a system whereby the actual enforcement of external trade relations was lax. He believed this enhanced freedom would stimulate commerce.
- The Enlightenment – Many of the revolutionary leaders had studied major writings of the Enlightenment including those of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Baron de Montesquieu. From these writings, the founders gleaned the concepts of the social contract, limited government, the consent of the governed, and separation of powers.