The French and Indian War gave the colonists valuable training as soldiers, freed them from the danger of attack by their French neighbors, and so made them less dependent on Great Britain for protection. But the mother country took no account of this, and at once began to do things which in ten years' time drove the colonies into rebellion.

CAUSES OF THE QUARREL. - We are often told that taxation without representation was the cause of the Revolution. It was indeed one cause, and a very important one, but not the only one by any means. The causes of the Revolution, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, were many, and arose chiefly from an attempt of the mother country to (1) enforce the laws concerning trade, (2) quarter royal troops in the colonies, [1] and (3) support the troops by taxes imposed without consent of the colonies.

THE TRADE LAWS were enacted by Parliament between 1650 and 1764 for the purpose of giving Great Britain a monopoly of colonial trade. By their provisions -

1. No goods were to be carried from any port in Europe to America unless first landed in England.

2. Many articles of colonial production, as tobacco, cotton, silk, indigo, furs, rice, sugar, could not be sent to any country save England; but lumber, salt fish, and provisions could be sent also to France, Spain, or other foreign countries.

3. To help English wool manufacture, the colonists were forbidden to send their woolen goods or hats to any country whatever, or even from colony to colony.

4. To help English iron manufacture, the colonists were forbidden to make steel.

5. To help the British West Indies, a heavy duty was laid (in 1733) on sugar or molasses imported from any other than a British possession.

SMUGGLING. - Had these laws been rigidly enforced they would have been severe indeed, but they could not be rigidly enforced. They were openly violated, and smuggling became so common in every colony [2] that the cost of collecting the revenue was much more than the amount gathered.

This smuggling the British government now determined to end. Accordingly, in 1764, the colonies were ordered to stop all unlawful trade, naval vessels were stationed off the coast to seize smugglers, and new courts, called vice-admiralty courts, were set up in which smugglers when caught were to be tried without a jury. [3]

A STANDING ARMY. - It was further proposed to send over ten thousand regular soldiers to defend the colonies against the Indians and against any attack that might be made by France or Spain. The colonists objected to the troops on the ground that they had not asked for soldiers and did not need any.

THE STAMP ACT. - As the cost of keeping the troops would be very great, it was decided to raise part of the money needed by a stamp tax which Parliament enacted in 1765. The Stamp Act applied not only to the thirteen colonies, but also to Canada, Florida, and the West Indies, and was to take effect on and after November 1, 1765. [4]

1. Every piece of vellum or paper on which was written any legal document for use in any court was to be charged with a stamp duty of from three pence to ten pounds.

2. Many kinds of documents not used in court, and newspapers, almanacs, etc., were to be written or printed only on stamped paper made in England and sold at prices fixed by law.

The money raised by the stamp tax was not to be taken to Great Britain, but was to be spent in the colonies in the purchase of food and supplies for the troops.

THE COLONIES DENY THE RIGHT OF PARLIAMENT TO TAX THEM. - But the colonists cared not for what use the money was intended. "No taxation without representation," was their cry. They cast no votes for a member of Parliament; therefore, they said, they were not represented in Parliament. Not being represented, they could not be taxed by Parliament, because taxes could lawfully be laid on them only by their chosen representatives. [5]

In the opinion of the British people the colonists were represented in Parliament. British subjects in America, it was held, were just as much represented in the House of Commons as were the people of Manchester or Birmingham, neither of which sent a member to the House. Each member of the House represented not merely the few men who elected him, but all the subjects of the British crown everywhere. [6]

THE COLONIES RESIST. - Resistance to the Stamp Act began in Virginia, where the House of Burgesses passed a set of resolutions written by Patrick Henry. [7] In substance they declared that the colonists were British subjects and were not bound to obey any law taxing them without the consent of their own legislatures.

Massachusetts came next with a call for a congress of delegates from the colonies, to meet at New York in October.

THE STAMP ACT CONGRESS, 1765. - Nine of the colonies sent delegates, and after a session of twenty days the representatives of six signed a declaration of rights and grievances.

The declaration of rights set forth that a British subject could not be taxed unless he was represented in the legislature that imposed the tax; that Americans were not represented in Parliament; and that therefore the stamp tax was an attack on the rights of Englishmen and the liberty of self-government. The grievances complained of were trial without jury, restrictions on trade, taxation without representation, and especially the stamp tax.

THE STAMP DISTRIBUTERS. - In August, 1765, the names of the men in America chosen to be the distributers or sellers of the stamps and stamped paper were made public, and then the people began to act. Demands were made that the distributers should resign. When they refused, the people rose and by force compelled them to resign, and riots occurred in the chief seaboard towns from New Hampshire to Maryland. At Boston the people broke into the house of the lieutenant governor and destroyed his fine library and papers.

On November 1, 1765, the Stamp Act went into force, but not a stamp or a piece of stamped paper could be had in any of the thirteen colonies. Some of the newspapers ceased to be printed, the last issues appearing with black borders, death's heads, and obituary notices. But soon all were regularly issued without stamps, and even the courts disregarded the law. [8]

THE STAMP ACT REPEALED, 1766. - Meantime the merchants had been signing agreements not to import, and the people not to buy, any British goods for some months to come. American trade with the mother country was thus cut off, thousands of workmen in Great Britain were thrown out of employment, and Parliament was beset with petitions from British merchants praying for a repeal of the stamp tax. To enforce the act without bloodshed was impossible. In March, 1766, therefore, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act. [9] But at the same time it enacted another, known as the Declaratory Act, in which it declared that it had power to "legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever."

THE TOWNSHEND ACTS, 1767. - In their joy over the repeal of the Stamp Act, the colonists gave no heed to the Declaratory Act. But the very next year Charles Townshend, then minister of finance, persuaded Parliament to pass several laws since known as the Townshend Acts. One of these forbade the legislature of New York to pass any more laws until it had made provision for the royal troops quartered in New York city. Another laid taxes on all paints, paper, tea, and certain other articles imported into the colonies. [10]

THE COLONIES AGAIN RESIST. - None of the new taxes were heavy, but again the case was one of taxation without representation, so the legislature of Massachusetts sent a letter to the other colonial legislatures asking them to unite and consult for the protection of their rights. This letter gave so great offense to the mother country that Massachusetts was ordered to rescind her act, and the governors of the other colonies to see that no notice was taken of it. [11] And now the royal troops for the defense of the colonies began to arrive. But Massachusetts, North Carolina, and South Carolina refused to find them quarters, and for such refusal the legislature of North Carolina was dissolved.

THE BOSTON MASSACRE. - At Boston the troops were received with every mark of hatred and disgust, and for three years were subjected to every sort of insult and indignity, which they repaid in kind. The troops led riotous lives, raced horses on Sunday on the Common, played "Yankee Doodle" before the church doors, and more than once exchanged blows with the citizens. In one encounter the troops fired on the crowd, killing five and wounding six. This was the famous "Boston Massacre," and produced over all the land a deep impression. [12]

TOWNSHEND ACTS REPEALED, 1770. - Once more the resistance of the colonies - chiefly through refusing to buy British goods - was successful, and Parliament took off all the Townshend taxes except that on tea. This import tax of three pence a pound on tea was retained in order that the right of Parliament to tax the colonies might be asserted. But the colonists stood firm; they refused to buy tea shipped from Great Britain, but smuggled it from Holland. [13]

TEA TAX JUGGLE. - By 1773 the refusal to buy tea from the mother country was severely felt by the East India Company, which had brought far more tea to Great Britain than it could dispose of. Parliament then removed the export duty of twelve pence a pound which had formerly been paid in Great Britain on all tea shipped to the colonies. Thus after paying the three- pence tax at the American customhouses, the tea could be sold nine pence a pound cheaper than before.

THE TEA NOT ALLOWED TO BE SOLD. - The East India Company now quickly selected agents in the chief seaports of the colonies, and sent shiploads of tea consigned to them for sale. [14] But the colonists were tempted by cheap tea; they were determined that Parliament would not tax them. They therefore forced the agents to resign their commissions, and when the tea ships arrived, took possession of them. At Philadelphia the ships were sent back to London. At Charleston the tea was landed and stored for three years and then seized and sold by the state of South Carolina. At Annapolis the people forced the owner of a tea ship to go on board and set fire to his ship; vessel and cargo were thus consumed. At Boston the people wished the tea sent back to London, and when the authorities refused to allow this, a party of men disguised as Indians boarded the ships and threw the tea into the water. [15]

THE INTOLERABLE ACTS. - Parliament now determined to punish the colonies, and for this purpose enacted five laws called by the colonists the Intolerable Acts: -

1. The port of Boston was shut to trade and commerce till the colony should pay for the tea destroyed.

2. The charter of Massachusetts was altered.

3. Persons who were accused of murder done in executing the laws might be taken for trial to another colony or to Great Britain.

4. The quartering of troops on the people was authorized.

5. The boundaries of the province of Quebec were extended to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. As Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia claimed parts of this territory, they regarded the Quebec Act as another act of tyranny. [16]

THE FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS. - Because of the passage of these laws, a Congress suggested by Virginia and called by Massachusetts met in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia in September, 1774, and issued a declaration of rights and grievances, a petition to the king, and addresses to the people of Great Britain, to the people of Canada, and to the people of the colonies. It also called a second Congress to meet on May 10, 1775, and take action on the result of the petition to the king.


1. After the French and Indian War Great Britain determined to enforce the laws of trade.

2. It also decided that the colonies should bear a part of the cost of their defense, and for this purpose a stamp tax was levied.

3. The right of Parliament to levy such a tax was denied by the colonists on the ground that they were not represented in Parliament.

4. The attempt to enforce the tax led to resistance, and a congress of the colonies (1765) issued a declaration of rights and grievances.

5. The tax was repealed in 1766, but Parliament at the same time asserted its right to tax.

6. The Townshend Acts (1767) tried to raise a revenue by import duties on goods brought into the colonies. At the same time the arrival of the troops for defense of the colonies caused new trouble; in Boston the people and the troops came to blows (1770).

7. The refusal of the colonists to buy the taxed articles led to the repeal of all the taxes except that on tea (1770).

8. The colonists still refused to buy taxed tea, whereupon Parliament enabled the East India Company to send over tea for sale at a lower price than before.

9. The tea was not allowed to be sold. In Boston it was destroyed.

10. As a punishment Parliament enacted the five Intolerable Acts.

11. The First Continental Congress (1774) thereupon petitioned for redress, and called a second Congress to meet the next year.


[1] That is, compel the colonists to furnish quarters - rooms or houses - for the troops to live in. Read Parkman's Montcalm and Wolfe, Vol. I, pp. 439-440.

[2] In order to detect and seize smugglers the crown had resorted to "writs of assistance." The law required that every ship bringing goods to America should come to some established port and that her cargo should be reported at the customhouse. Instead, the smugglers would secretly land goods elsewhere. If a customs officer suspected this, he could go to court and ask for a search warrant, stating the goods for which he was to seek and the place to be searched. But this would give the smugglers warning and they could remove the goods. What the officers wanted was a general warrant good for any goods in any place. This writ of assistance, as it was called, was common in England, and was issued in the colonies about 1754. In 1760 King George II died, and all writs issued in his name expired. In 1761, therefore, application was made to the Superior Court of Massachusetts for a new writ of assistance to run in the name of King George III. Sixty merchants opposed the issue, and James Otis and Oxenbridge Thacher appeared for the merchants. The speech of Otis was a famous plea, sometimes called the beginning of colonial resistance; but the court granted the writ.

[3] These acts are complained of in the Declaration of Independence. The king is blamed "For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world," that is, enforcing the trade laws; again, "He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people," that is to say, the vice-admiralty judges and naval officers sworn to act as customhouse officers and seize smugglers. In doing this duty these officers did "harass our people."

[4] While the Stamp Act was under debate in Parliament, Colonel Barré, who fought under Wolfe at Louisburg, opposed it. A member had spoken of the colonists as "children planted by our care, nourished by our indulgence, and protected by our arms." "They planted by your care!" said Barré. "No, your oppression planted them in America. Nourished by your indulgence! They grew up by your neglect of them. They protected by your arms! These Sons of Liberty have nobly taken up arms in your defense." The words "Sons of Liberty" were at once seized on, and used in our country to designate the opponents of the stamp tax. Read "The Stamp Act" in Hawthorne's Grandfather's Chair.

[5] The colonists did not deny the right of Parliament to regulate the trade of the whole British Empire, and to lay "external taxes" - customs duties - for the purpose of regulating trade. But this stamp tax was an "internal tax" for the purpose of raising revenue.

[6] Parliament was divided then, as now, into two houses - the Lords, consisting of nobles and clergy, and the Commons, consisting then of two members elected by each county and two elected by each of certain towns. Some change was made in the list of towns thus represented in Parliament before the sixteenth century, but no change had been made since, though many of them had lost all or most of their population. Thus Old Sarum had become a green mound; its population had all drifted away to Salisbury. A member of the Commons, so the story runs, once said: "I am the member from Ludgesshall. I am also the population of Ludgesshall. When the sheriff's writ comes, I announce the election, attend the poll, deposit my vote for myself, sign the return, and here I am." When a town disappeared, the landowner of the soil on which it once stood appointed the two members. Such towns were called "rotten boroughs," "pocket boroughs," "nomination boroughs."

[7] Patrick Henry was born in Virginia in 1736. As a youth he was dull and indolent and gave no sign of coming greatness. After two failures as a storekeeper and one as a farmer he turned in desperation to law, read a few books, and with difficulty passed the examination necessary for admittance to the bar. Henry had now found his true vocation. Business came to him, and one day in 1763 he argued the weak (but popular) side of a case with such eloquence that he carried court and jury with him, and it is said was carried out of the courthouse on the shoulders of the people. He was now famous, and in 1765 was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses to represent the county in which he had lived, just in time to take part in the proceedings on the Stamp Act. His part was to move the resolutions and support them in a fiery and eloquent speech, of which one passage has been preserved. Recalling the fate of tyrants of other times, he exclaimed, "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third - ." "Treason! treason!" shouted the Speaker. "Treason! treason!" shouted the members. To which Henry answered, "and George the Third may profit by their example. If this be treason, make the most of it."

[8] In Canada and the West Indies the stamp tax was not resisted, and there stamps were used.

[9] When Parliament was considering the repeal, Benjamin Franklin, then in London as agent for Pennsylvania and other colonies, was called before a committee and examined as to the state of colonial affairs; read his answers in Hart's American History told by Contemporaries, Vol. II, pp. 407-411. Pitt in a great speech declared, "The kingdom has no right to lay a tax on the colonies, because they are unrepresented in Parliament. I rejoice that America has resisted." Edmund Burke, one of the greatest of Irish orators, took the same view.

[10] In the Declaration of Independence the king is charged with giving his assent to acts of Parliament "For suspending our own legislatures," and "For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us," and "For imposing taxes on us without our consent."

[11] For refusing to obey, the legislature of Massachusetts was dissolved, as were the assemblies of Maryland and Georgia for having approved it, and that of New York for refusing supplies to the royal troops, and that of Virginia for complaining of the treatment of New York. Read Fiske's American Revolution, Vol. I, pp. 28-36, 39-52.

[12] The two regiments of British troops in Boston were now removed, on demand of the people, to a fort in the harbor. The soldiers who fired the shots were tried for murder and acquitted, save two who received light sentences.

[13] One of the vessels sent to stop smuggling was the schooner Gaspee. Having run aground in Narragansett Bay (June, 1772), she was boarded by a party of men in eight boats and burned. The Virginia legislature appointed a "committee of correspondence," to find out the facts regarding the destruction of the Gaspee and "to maintain a correspondence with our sister colonies." This plan of a committee to inform the other colonies what was happening in Virginia, and obtain from them accurate information as to what they were doing, was at once taken up by Massachusetts and other colonies, each of which appointed a similar committee. Such committees afterward proved to be the means of revolutionary organization. Read Fiske's American Revolution, Vol. I, pp. 76-80.

[14] Parliament had given the company permission to do this. The company had long possessed the monopoly of trade with the East Indies, and the sole right to bring tea from China to Great Britain. Before 1773, however, it was obliged to sell the tea in Great Britain, and the business of exporting tea to the colonies had been carried on by merchants who bought from the company.

[15] Read "The Tea Party" in Hawthorne's Grandfather's Chair.

[16] All the Intolerable Acts are referred to in the Declaration of Independence. See if you can find the references.