The separation of the American colonies from the English rule started approximately 1.5 centuries after the founding of the first permanent settlements in Virginia in 1607. By this time the colonies had grown immensely both economically and culturally. The conflicts between America and Britain seemed to deepen gradually in time. Although the settlers were inclined to stay loyal to the English king that had sent them, there were several objective reasons that inevitably led the American people to the recognition of the need for separation and independence from the Crown. These reasons were both political and geographical.
An island cannot rule a continent!
First of all, it is important to realize that Britain had difficulties in governing America not only because of its distance from the mother land but also because of its immense size. At the time the first settlements were established on the American continent, England probably could not anticipate the problems it was going to face governing the land a century and a half later. Because of the remoteness the ties between England and America were loose. As more and more people traveled to America and were given a chance to build up “a new world” for themselves, the American communities grew mainly on their own and they managed to take care of themselves quite well. Since Britain was busy at home having wars with its neighbors, the Parliament did not have time for the colony so far away from home. In time the colonies became economically strong and developed their own culture. After dozens of decades of self-government behind them they had accustomed to a large measure of independence. When Britain finally “woke up” and realized that America had grown strong, it seemed to be late already. The image of America as a standalone territory had already been crystallized in people’s minds.
Secondly, the politics the British government applied in an attempt to regain control over America did not seem to serve the purpose. The Crown came into conflict with the interests of the colonies in many different ways. The colonies increasing in the population and needing more land for settlement claimed the right to extend their boundaries. The British government, fearing that settlers migrating into the new lands would provoke a series of Indian wars, believed that the lands should be opened on a more gradual basis. By restricting movement England also wanted to ensure control over existing settlements. The colonists considered such policy as a disregard of their most elementary right to settle western lands.
Another political issue, which became a source of conflicts between the two sides, was the new financial policy of the British government. In short, it was called “taxation without representation”. Several taxes were placed on the colonists which would extract revenues to supply money for England’s administration. These taxes were enacted by the Parliament and were ruinous to the colonists’ businesses. The Molasses Act of 1733 placed a tax on the import of rum and molasses from non-English areas. The Sugar Act of 1764 went even further and forbade the importation of foreign rum and put a duty on molasses from all sources as well as levied duties on wines, silks, coffee etc. The Currency Act of 1764 prevented paper bills of credit from being made legal. The Quartering Act passed in 1765 required colonies to provide royal troops with provision and barracks. All these caused alarm among the American merchants.
The last of the measures in establishing the new colonial system was the Stamp Act which triggered the movement of organized resistance since it had a great influence on the most powerful groups of the American population. As a result non-importation associations were formed to boycott the economy of England and the trade with the mother country decreased sharply. Enacting the hated revenue stamps caused some of the first violent rebels against the English order. The taxation without representation in the Parliament was considered a threat to colonial liberties and in October, 1765 the Stamp Act Congress was held in New York which adopted a set of resolutions declaring that the Stamp Act subverted the rights and the liberties of the colonists. The aim of the colonists was for the Crown not to violate their basic rights but treat them fairly in terms of economic and political status. From the colonists’ point of view, it was impossible to consider themselves represented in Parliament unless they actually elected members to the House of Commons. But this idea conflicted with the English principle of “virtual representation” according to which each member of Parliament represented the whole country. In 1766 Parliament repealed the Stamp Act but not because of the colonial contentions, but rather because of the British merchants who suffered the effects of the American boycott. So the Parliament never really took into account any of the colonists’ appeals which arouse disrespect towards the “foreign rule” in the people’s minds.
As more and more restricting regulations were passed on the people of America, they were at times provoked to violence. There was an incident in Boston in 1770 which resulted with three Bostonians killed by the British troops. The incident was seen as a proof of British cruelty. Shortly after, in 1773, another incident took place which showed the world that the Parliament had no control over colonies. The tea cargo of three British ships was dumped in the port of Boston by a band of men led by Samuel Adams. Adams was the leader of radicals whose primary goal was to free people from their social and political superiors. His final objective was the independence of America. Under his command “Committees of Correspondence” were set up virtually in all colonies which later became effective revolutionary organizations. The Boston “Tea Party”, as it came to be known, was followed by the punitive measures from the Parliament – the Coercive Acts which set further restrictions on the development of the economy including the closure of the Boston harbor until the tea was paid for.
It is clear that the British policy towards America was rather harsh. England seemed to have been well satisfied with the revenues coming from the colonists but it did not possess the ability nor the proper attitude to solve their problems. The way England’s policy handled the affairs with the colonists shows that the Crown never wanted America to prosper for its own benefit in order to prevent it from becoming too powerful, it did not really care as long as the profits from the colonists kept coming in. As the conflict grew deeper and the idea of independence matured in the consciousness of people, it created perfect conditions for a revolution to break loose. All in all, in the historical sense the separation of the American colonies from England seemed inevitable. It was only a matter of time.
“The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people.” (President John Adams, 1818)
The Independence of the Thirteen Colonies was declared In Congress on July 4, 1776. The famous extract from The Declaration of Independence states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The Declaration addresses directly to the critical situation in the colonies. To fight for American independence was to fight for a government based on popular consent in place of a government by a king who had combined with others to subject American people to a jurisdiction foreign to their constitution and unacknowledged by their laws. Only a government based on popular consent could secure natural rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thus, to fight for American independence was to fight on behalf of one’s own natural rights.
A Great Invention
Patriotism is love and devotion to one’s country. The word comes from the Greek patris, meaning fatherland. The European people derive their patriotism from the fact that they have common forefathers, share the same blood and belong to the same nation, whereas Americans don’t. At some point they have all been immigrants from different areas of the world. Yet, American people are considered very patriotic. For instance, it’s difficult not to notice how they use the elements of the US flag in all possible places and situations. How come? If it isn’t flesh and blood that unites them, then what does? Although this great nation lacks common blood and kinship, they share the common idea of the American dream, the dream outlined by the principles formulated in the founding documents and the symbols that represent them. It is claimed that the man responsible for the invention of America was Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and signers of the Declaration. Today the most sacred attributes of the American patriotism are the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the US flag and the Pledge of Allegiance.
It is interesting to note that there are several very strong indications of America having been founded on Biblical belief and you don’t have to look very far to find them. The first one is found in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights …”. Another indication can be found in the Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.” And of course, we all know and have seen the official motto of the United States which also appears on the dollar bill, “In God We Trust”. So, is it a Christian country? You do the math.
As stated, a great number of Americans believe that America’s strength lies in the principles outlined in the founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The United States Constitution is the oldest written constitution still in use. This document has a central place in United States law and political culture. However, many Americans today, more than 200 years later, express a great concern about the alarming trends that have been gaining more and more ground in the US in recent decades, but most prominently after the last elections. It seems that America is on the road of abandoning their most sacred principles formulated by the founding fathers. The news about the internal turmoil and the silent drift for worse doesn’t seem to make it across the Atlantic so easily. But once you get to know the issues this vast country is experiencing, you’ll start seeing the situation in America in a whole new perspective.
Just a few examples. The US total national debt is approximately 90% of GDP and for the first time exceeded $13 trillion on June 1, 2010. It has continued to increase an average of $4.05 billion per day since September 28, 2007! Concerned? As the estimated population of the United States is around 310,000,000, each citizen’s (including newborn babies) share of this debt is $42,300. To put it bluntly, it means the economy is in a really bad shape and much of what you see in the US is owned by foreign governments, mainly of Asian origin (Japan and China). While America’s major industries are in decline, there are also some very serious issues with the educational system and social health care, continuing immigration, breakdown of the family values, drug-use, youth violence, etc. But let’s not get into these here. However, one of the issues that seems to threaten the American dream is the recent decay of Christian faith and the rise of islam. Did you know that President B. Obama is a muslim? Watch this video compilation to find out everything about it:
So, unfortunately, things aren’t looking very good, are they?. If it gets really bad, it’ll definitely have some serious consequences in the entire world (including Estonia) as the power balance shifts off. Should America lose its economic predominance and the prevalent position as the stronghold of freedom and democracy, there probably wouldn’t be much freedom left for poor Estonia either.
Today the American citizens take pride in celebrating the Independence Day of the United States of America on July 4, the day the Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776.
Happy 4th of July!