During the latter half of the 18th century the Thirteen British Colonies of Northern America revolted against the British colonial rule and gained independence from the British Empire to become the United States of America. In this revolution the Colonies united against the British Empire and entered a period of armed conflict known as the Revolutionary War or “American War of Independence”, between 1775 and 1783.

Ideological background of American Revolution

  • The ideological background of American Revolution was prepared by various kinds of ideas. John Locke’s ideas on liberalism greatly influenced the political minds behind the revolution; for instance his theory of the “social contract” implied the natural right of the people to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the history rights of Englishmen. Historians find little trace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s influence in America.
  • A motivating force behind the revolution was the American love of a political ideology called “republicanism”, which was dominant in many of the colonies by 1775.
  • The “Country party” in Britain, whose critique of British government emphasized that corruption was to be feared, influenced American politicians.
  • The colonists associated the “court” with luxury and inherited aristocracy, which many British Americans increasingly condemned. Corruption was the greatest possible evil, and civic virtue required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires.
  • Men had a civic duty to fight for their country. For women, “republican motherhood” became the ideal, exemplified by Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren; the first duty of the republican woman was to instill republican values in her children and to avoid luxury and ostentation. The “Founding Fathers” of American Revolution were strong advocates of republicanism, especially Samuel Adams, Patrick henry, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.


Larger Background of American Revolution

Navigation Acts

  • Great Britain regulated the economies of the colonies through the Navigation Acts according to the doctrines of mercantilism which stated that anything that benefited the Empire was good policy; Widespread evasion of these laws had long been tolerated.
  • Now, through the rise of open-ended search warrants strict enforcement of this Act became the practice. In 1761, Massachusetts lawyer James Otis argued that the writs violated the constitutional rights of the colonists, he lost the case, but John Adams later wrote, “American independence was then and there born.”
  • In 1762, Patrick Henry argued the Parson’s Cause in Virginia, where the legislature had passed a law and it was vetoed by the Kind. Henry argued, “That a King, by disallowing Acts of this salutary nature, from being the father of this people, degenerated into a Tyrant and forfeits all right to his subjects’ obedience.


Western Frontier

The Proclamation of 1763 restricted colonization across the Appalachian Mountains as this was to be Indian Territory. Regardless of this the groups of settlers continued to move west and lay claim


Taxation without representation

  1. By 1763, Great Britain possessed vast holdings in North America. IN addition to the thirteen colonies, twenty-two smaller colonies were ruled directly by royal governors.
  2. Victory in the Seven Years’ War had given Great Britain New France (Candida), Spanish Florida, and the Native American lands east of the Mississippi River. In North America there were six Colonies that remained loyal to Britain.
  3. The colonies included Province of Quebec, Province of Nova Scotia, Colony of Bermuda, Province of West Florida and the Province of East Florida. In 1765 however, the colonists still considered themselves loyal subjects of the British Crown, with the same historic rights and obligations as subjects in Britain.
  4. The British did not expect the colonies to contribute to the interest or the retirements of debt incurred during the French and Indian Wars. but they did expect a portion of the expenses for colonial defenses to be paid by the American Estimating the expenses of defending the continental colonies and the West Indies to be approximately $200,000 annually, the British goal after the end of this war was that the colonies would be taxed for $78,000 of this need amount.
  5. The issues with the colonists were both that the taxes were high and that the colonies had no representation in the Parliament which passed the taxes. Lord North 1775 argued for the British position that Englishmen paid on average twenty-five shillings annually in taxes whereas Americans paid only six pence. Colonists, however, as early as 1764, with respect to the Sugar Act, indicated that “the margin of profit in rum was so small that molasses could bear no duty whatever”
  6. The phrase “No taxation without representation” became popular in many American circles. London argued that the Americans were represented “virtually”; but most Americans rejected the theory that men in London. Who knew nothing about their needs and conditions could represent them.


New taxes of 1764

In 1764 Parliament enacted the Sugar Act and the Currency Act. Further vexing the colonists, Protests led to a powerful new weapon the systemic boycott of British goods. The British pushed the colonists even further that same year by enacting the Quartering Act, which stated that British soldiers were to be cared for by residents in certain areas.


Stamp Act of 1765

  1. In 1765 the Stamp Act was the first direct tax ever levied by Parliament on the colonies. All newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, and official documents-even decks of playing cards-were required to have the stamps.
  2. All 13 colonies protested vehemently, as popular leaders such as Patrick Henry in Virginia and James Otis in Massachusetts rallied the people in opposition. a secret group, the “Sons of Liberty” was formed in many towns and threatened violence if anyone sold the stamps, and no one did.
  3. In Boston, the Sons of Liberty burned the records of the vice admiralty court and looted the home of the chief justice. Several legislatures called for united action, and nine colonies sent delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York City in October 1765. Moderates led by John Dickinson drew up a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances” stating that taxes passed without representation violated their Rights.
  4. Lending weight to the arguments was an economic boycott of British merchandise, as imports into the colonies fell from $2,250,000 in 1764 to $1,944,000 in 1765. In London, the Rockingham government came to power and Parliament debated whether to repeal the stamp tax or send an army to enforce it.
  5. Benjamin Franklin eloquently made the American case, explaining the colonies had spent heavily in manpower. Money, and blood in defence of the empire in a series of wars against the French and Indians, and that further taxes to pay for those wars were unjust and might bring about a rebellion.
  6. Parliament agreed and repealed the tax. But in a “Declaratory Act” of March 1766 insisted that parliament retained full power to make laws for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever”

Townshend Act 1767 and Boston Massacre 1770

In 1767, the Parliament the Townshend Acts, which placed a tax on a number of essential goods including paper, glass, and tea. Angered at the tax increases, colonists organized a boycott of British goods. In Boston on March 5, 1770, a large mob gathered around a group of British soldiers. The mob grew more and more threatening, throwing snowballs fired into the crowd. Eleven people were hit: Three civilians were killed at the scene of the shooting, and two died after the incident. The event quickly came to be called the Boston massacre. Although the soldiers were tried and acquitted (defended by John Adams), the exaggerated and widespread description soon became propaganda to turn colonial sentiment against the British. This in turn began a downward spiral in the relationship between Britain and the Province of Massachusetts.


Tea Act 1773

In June 1772, in what became known as the Gaspee Affair, a British that had been vigorously enforcing unpopular trade regulations was burned by American patriots. Soon afterwards, Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts reported that he and the royal judges would be paid directly from London, thus bypassing the colonial legislature.

On December 16, 1773 a group of men, led by Samuel Adams and dressed to evoke American Indians, boarded the ships of British tea merchants and dumped an estimated $10,000 worth of tea on board into the harbour. This event became known as the Boston Tea Party.


Intolerable Acts 1774

The British government responded by passing several Acts which came to be known as the Intolerable Acts, which further darkened colonial opinion towards the British. They consisted of four laws enacted by the British parliament. The first was the Massachusetts Government Act, Which altered the Massachusetts charter and restricted town meetings. The second Act, the Administrations of Justice Act, ordered that all British soldiers to be tried were to be arraigned in Britain, not in the colonies The third Act was the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the British had been compensated for the tea lost in the Boston Tea Party (the British never received such a payment) The fourth Act was the Quartering Act of 1774, which allowed governors to house British troops in unoccupied buildings. The first constitutional, called for the people to form militias, and called for Massachusetts to form a Patriot government.


Declaration of Independence, 1776

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published a political pamphlet entitled “Common Sense” arguing that the only solution to the problems with Britain was republicanism and independence from Great Britain. In the ensuing months, before the United States as a political unit declared its independence, several states individually declared their independence Virginia, for instance declared its independence from Great Britain on May 15.

On July 2, 1776, Congress declared the independence of the United States; two days later, on July 4, it adopted the Declaration of Independence, which date is now celebrated as the US Independence Day. Although the bulk of delegates signed the Declaration on that date, signing continued over the next several months because many members weren’t immediately available. was began in April 1775, while the declaration was issued in July 1776, Until this point, the colonies had sought favorable peace terms; now all the states called for independence.

The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, commonly known as the Articles of Confederation, formed the first governing document of the United States of America, combining the colonies into a loose confederation of sovereign states. The Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles in November 1777, though they were not formally ratified until March 1, 1781. On that date the Continental Congress was dissolved and the new government of the United States in Congress Assembly was formed.

Monroe Doctrine

  • During the period from the 1890s to the early years of the twentieth century, the United States spread its control, direct and indirect, over South America and the Pacific In 1823, the President of the United States had proclaimed the Monroe Doctrine which warned the European powers against any attempt to extend their power in the Western/ Hemisphere In 1895, the Monroe Doctrine was given a new meaning. There was a territorial dispute between British Guiana (now Guyana) and Nicaragua, and the British threatened to send troops against Nicaragua. The US government forced Britain not to send her troops and declared that “Today the United States is practically sovereign on this Continent“.


  • A new corollary was added to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904 by the then U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt Britain and Germany had imposed a naval blockade of Venezuela as she had failed to repay the loan which she had taken from them. Theodore Roosevelt forced Britain and Germany to lift the blockade and declared that the United States alone had the right to intervene in the affairs of her neighbouring countries if they were unable to maintain order on their own.


  • The United States took control of the finances of the Dominican Republic which she retained for three decades and occupied that country in 1916 for eight years. In 1906, American troops were sent to Cuba and remained there for three years to ‘protect’ Cuba from disorder. In 1909, American troops were sent to Nicaragua in support of a revolt which had been inspired by an American mining company. The United States secured from the government which had been installed there the ugh t to intervene in that country to protect American interests. In 1915, American troops were sent to Haiti and remained there till 1934.



In Mexico, where the United States had huge investments, Fransisco Madero, a popular leader was deposed with the support of the United States The intervention by the United States in Mexico continued for many years.


Big Stick Policy/Dollar diplomacy.

  • The policy of the United States was described as the ‘Big Stick’ policy and one of an ‘international policeman’ . The extension of the U S influence through economic investments in the region is known as the ‘Dollar diplomacy’. The economic and political domination of South America was facilitated by the absence of strong governments in the countries of South America. Many of these countries were ruled by caudillos, or crude and corrupt military leaders with armed gangs.
  • They floated loans for ready cash and sold concessions to foreign companies to exploit the natural resources of their countries. They served as markets for manufactures, and sources of raw materials for industrialized countries, particularly the United States, as well as avenues for investment of capital from these countries. Most of the countries of South America, though political independent, came under the economic and political control of the United States.


Panama Canal

  • One of the major acquisitions by the United States in this period was the Panama Canal. A French company had started the construction of the canal in the Isthmus of Panama in Colombia (Central America). The canal which would link the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans was of great economic interest in 1901, the United States decided to undertake the canal project alone.


  • She paid $40 million to the French company and entered into an agreement with the government of Colombia. According to the agreement, Colombia was to give the United States perpetual rights to a six mile wide ‘canal zone’ across her territory in exchange for ten million dollars plus $ 250,000 as annual rent. The agreement was completely against the interests of Colombia and Colombia’s Parliament refused to ratify it. In 1903, the United States financed and organized a revolt in Panama and landed her troops there. Soon after, the United States recognized Panama as an independent state.


  • The government of Panama signed a new agreement with the United States according to which the amount of compensation remained the same but instead of the six mile wide canal zone, ten mile canal zone was granted to the United States. The canal was opened in 1914 and the canal zone has remained under the occupation of the United States since then.



  • The United States also extended her control in the Pacific during this period The islands of Hawaii had been important for American shipping and for trade with China The United States’ economic and commercial influence gradually increased in these islands and with the settling of Americans there, particularly as sugar planters, these islands became closely tied to the economy of the United States.


  • The United States had secured the exclusive use of Pearl Harbor as a naval station. In 1893, the American residents in the Hawaii islands revolted against the queen of Hawaii and, asked for the annexation of the islands by the United States. By 1898, Hawaii had been annexed by the United States. Later, it became one of the states of the United States. The United States also extended control over other islands in Pacific. There was rivalry among the US Britain and Germany over these lands. In 1899, Germany and States divided these islands bets selves and as ‘compensation given islands elsewhere in the Pacific.