An Explanation On The British Imperial Policies History Essay

Modified: 28th Jun 2023
Wordcount: 1829 words

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Argument 2: British policies between 1763 and 1776 were focused on using the colonies to raise revenue in ways that the colonists saw as unconstitutional.

Fact 1: sugar act and writs of assistance

Fact 2: stamp act and declaratory act

Fact 3: the Townshend duties

Fact 4: intolerable acts

Argument 3: The majority of the colonists were extremely loyal to the crown, and only became “reluctant revolutionists” when there was no other choice.

Fact 1: olive branch petition and others

Fact 2: blaming corruption and evil ministers

Fact 3: Loyalists

Prior to The United States becoming a nation of its own, it was thirteen colonies that enjoyed a certain degree of economic and political autonomy. The British policies changed drastically from their original form to the British imperial policies between 1763 and 1776 and this led to the colonists becoming reluctant revolutionaries. The original British policies were primarily based on the concept of salutary neglect, focusing only on import and export duties to control trade, and the promotion of mercantilism. Previous policies allowed the colonists to enjoy certain political leeway, and allowed them to develop colonial assemblies. Differing extremely from the original policies, the policies between 1763 and 1776 were primarily based on revenue raising, including internal taxation, which was previously left to the colonists and eliminating colonial control of the purse. The colonists would become “reluctant revolutionists” after these policies were adopted, due to the fracture in the bond between the colonists and Great Britain because of the new policies, as well as Parliament trying to remove rights that the colonists would refuse to give up.

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British policies before 1763 were based on salutary neglect, the British chose not to overrule the colonies. This concept was epitomized by the colony of Virginia. First the colony was funded by a joint stock company called the Virginia Company of London, which in 1619 the company granted the colonists to have the first colonial legislature assembly, later known as the Virginia House of Burgesses. The colony later became a royal colony and the king appointed a governor. The colony was allowed to keep the House of Burgesses if they paid for the governor’s salary; this became known as control of the purse. Virginia learned to depend upon the control of the purse; they could influence the governor’s decisions by affecting his pay. The right to control of the purse spread throughout all the royal colonies, this and the colonial assemblies would become a right that the colonists would refuse to give up. The colonial assemblies in royal colonies were bicameral legislatures, with the House of Burgesses and the governor’s council. The colonies had such political leeway that they could develop their own requirements to vote, the Chesapeake region required land, the New England region required sainthood. The concepts of salutary neglect lead the colonists to later identify themselves as part of a confederation with the British, but not part of their nation. Another major point of the original British policies were to promote the concept of mercantilism. The colonists taxed themselves internally, but to promote mercantilism Parliament had external import and export duties, such as the Molasses Act. The Molasses Act put a tax on French products to discourage the colonists from buying them and in turn making English products cheaper.

British policies between 1763 and 1776 were focused on using the colonies to raise revenue in ways that the colonists saw as unconstitutional. The change in these acts and the colonists’ reaction was the start of a battle of wills between the colonists and parliament over the principle of taxation. The start of the change in policies was the writs of assistance. The writs of assistance was passed to discourage smuggling, however it was a general warrant that allowed officials to enter any ship where smuggled goods may or may not be hidden. The writ required no prior evidence for a seizure; colonists saw this as a breach of their constitutional rights. The writs of assistance also discarded traditional privacy of families’ homes, being that most merchants businesses were home based. Three years following the trial against the writs of assistance, which the colonists lost, was the passing of the Sugar Act (1764). The Sugar Act was designed to raise revenue, and was an amendment to the Molasses Act. The Sugar Act also introduced new complicated shipping requirements, and disregarded the concept of a fair trial. There was no jury for the people who were suspected for smuggling, and the suspects were considered guilty until proven innocent. The Sugar Act was never strongly resisted because it didn’t widely affect everyone in all of the colonies. However the Stamp Act was strongly refuted. The Stamp Act was passed due to the failure of the Sugar Act to ease Britain’s financial debts. It obligated colonists to buy special stamped paper for wills, newspapers, documents, and diplomas. Also unlike the Sugar Act, the stamp act would affect everyone living in any of the colonies multiple times. Another major difference is the tax to be an internal tax, instead of an external tax like the Sugar Act. Similar to the Sugar Act the violators of the law will face a jury-less trial. With the Stamp Act came the idea of spreading the concept or virtual representation to the colonies. Virtual representation is the theory that all British subjects were considered and parliament would protect their well being. The colonists denied the theory that virtual representation could be spread to the colonies, and they felt that they were being denied constitutional rights by the act. The concept of virtual representation and the act being an internal tax led colonists to resist the Stamp Act. In response to the great resistance parliament repealed the stamp act, but left in its place the Declaratory Act. The colonists mistakenly took the Declaratory Act as an effort to “save face”; however its true meaning was that the colonists could not claim exemption to any parliamentary statue. Due to the colonists’ strong resistance to an internal tax, parliament passed the Townshend duties, external taxes to raise revenue. The new law posed taxes on certain items such as glass, paint, led, paper, and tea, which were imported to the colonies. The colonists only accepted taxation on trade as a form of regulation, not as a way to raise British revenue. Raising revenue was not the only reason the Townshend duties were made, another goal was to use it to pay the governors salary. This would allow Britain to take control of the purse away from the colonists. In response to the offensive law Massachusetts released a circulatory letter that condemned taxation without representation. Though the Townshend duties were offensive, the acts that finally caused a fatal fracture in the bond between the colonists and Britain were the Coercive Acts, or Intolerable Acts. In response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts, ordering the Boston harbor to be closed till the ruined tea to be paid for. The second Coercive Act made Massachusetts a royal colony, and restructured the government to be less democratic. The governor would elect the judges and sheriffs, and the upper house would be appointed by the royal governor for a life time sentence. There would also be no more than one town meeting per year. The last of the Coercive Acts instructed that any British soldier charged with murder will be tried in another colony or in Britain, and gave any empty buildings to be housed for troops. The Coercive Acts were the final push to the edge of rebellion, and the repeal of the acts became a nonnegotiable matter. Though the colonists were on the edge of rebellion, they were not all fully ready for a revolution.

The majority of the colonists were extremely loyal to the crown, and only became “reluctant revolutionists” when there was no other choice. Before considering rebellion the colonists sent many letters pleading for negotiations, on Britain’s part, and reconciliation. Among these was the Olive Branch Petition. The Olive Branch Petition was an extremely polite “loyal message” that consisted of three demands: a cease fire at Boston, repeal of Coercive Acts, and negotiations to establish American rights. Despite the dismissal of the Olive Branch Petition, many colonists put the blame on “evil ministers” and not the king. Most hopped and expected that Britain would “come to their senses”, revoke the Coercive Acts and go back to the original British policies. However their hope diminished with the publication of “Common Sense.” This told the reluctant colonists what they couldn’t say, that the “monarchy was an institution rooted in superstition, dangerous to liberty and inappropriate to Americans.” Though the Declaration of Independence was written and war was declared about twenty percent of the colonists were loyalists. Even throughout the war many of the loyalists would side with the British troops.

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There was a crucial change in British policies after 1763. The previous policies were focused on salutary neglect and controlling trade to promote mercantilism. The British imperial policies between 1763 and 1776 were focused on raising revenue for the British and the concept of mercantilism. This change in policies caused a rift between the colonists and the British Parliament. The British refusal to repeal these offensive laws ultimately forced the colonists to become “reluctant revolutionaries”. The British polices before 1763 showed its leniency through the colonial assemblies, royal colonies having control of the purse, and the political leeway. The British imperial policies between 1763 and 1776 were exemplified by the new laws that gradually became more offensive to the colonists, starting with the Sugar Act and writs of assistance, leading to the Stamp Act, the Townshend duties, and eventually to the nonnegotiable Coercive Acts. Because of the Coercive Acts being a nonnegotiable matter, despite the pleas of the olive branch petition for removal and reconciliation, led the colonists to be reluctant revolutionaries, so reluctant that one fifth of the colonial population were loyalists, and many blamed the ministers for corruption and not the crown. Though many Americans were British sympathizers, with French and Spanish aid, the colonists would win the war and become a new nation.


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