The era of questioning established beliefs. Every aspect of thoughts and beliefs was questioned. It was an intellectual revolution where all beliefs based on faith were questioned.
The scientific revolution was seen and new ideas based on secularism and rationality were created. The hold of the church over ideas was questioned. The division of people on the basis of birth was undermined. This period also became the “Age of Enlightenment” or “Age of Reason”.
Ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity became popular. National consciousness was created. This period also led to protests and the overthrow of autocratic rule in many parts. A people’s revolution has seen that challenged privileges of a few. A new social order called Socialism emerged and a democratic and republican system of government became a popular demand.
European countries started the race for colonies. They started exploring new territories with a view to colonizing them. In North, America colonies were set up by France, Holland, England, and Spain.
By the middle of the 18th century, there were 13 colonies in North America belonging to England. Landless peasants, people seeking religious freedom, traders, and profiteers settled there. The bulk of the population was infant farmers. Small industries developed thereof textiles.
In the North, fishing and shipbuilding were the main occupations and in the south slave labor was used to get tobacco and cotton plantations. The colonies had their assembly and each was elected by qualified voters. The assemblies enacted taxes and made local laws. But these worked under the authority of the mother country.
By the 18th century, the colonists found the laws increasingly interfering and they resented it. The idea of an independent nation grew and a revolutionary war was started which culminated in the defeat of England. This was the “American War of Independence”.
Causes of the American war of Independence
- The policies of England impeded trade and industry in every way. The colonists were forbidden to start industries of the owners like iron and steel.
- Heavy import duties were put on goods of other countries forcing them to buy only English goods.
- Certain commodities could be sold only to England.
- The use of Non-British ships was forbidden.
- English aristocrats prevent the farmers from moving to the west into new lands. They wanted the colonists to remain as rent payers to them.
Taxes to finance wars
- The continuous wars of English indebted them and so they wanted more revenues from colonies. They imposed a stamp tax on colonial transactions.
- A revenue stamp had to be affixed on all legal documents.
- This angered all colonists in many cities violent protests were seen and rioters even killed tax collectors.
- The colonists argued that since the English parliament had no representative from the colonies they had no right to impose taxes on them. The taxes were used for the welfare of the British, not the colonists.
- American thinkers like Thomas Jefferson influenced by English and French thinkers too decided to fuel people’s desire for independence.
- The Americans then came up with the slogan “No taxation without Representation”. The protestors forced England to withdraw the stamp tax but the English continued to assert the right to levy taxes and it put the tax on consumer goods.
- This incensed the colonists and they boycotted British imports. The British then withdrew the taxes but kept the tax on tea only. Boston Tea Party was a result of this action, protestors offloaded tea cartons on a ship at Boston port. The British then closed the port to trade.
Final Stage – Declaration of Independence
The representatives of 13 colonies met at the First continental congress in Philadelphia in 1774. They urged the king to not impose any taxes without their consent. But the king considered this act as mutiny and sent troops to crush the revolt.
The colonists then formed an army with help of local militias and other colonial powers. The colonists now fought for their right to form an independent nation, earlier they had fought for their right to be treated as Englishmen.
The declaration of Independence at the Second Congress was “All men are created equal”.
The English army fought the American militia. The militia was familiar with the terrain and had help from other colonial powers who wanted to embarrass the British. British too were facing rebellion from Irish at home also few in the Parliament were against war on colonists. Thus, the British lost the war and General Cornwallis surrendered in 1781.
A Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 declaring American independence.
The American colonies fought with separate armies, finances, and boundaries but in the end Formed the United States. They came together at the Philadelphia convention to form a constitution. This was enforced in 1789.
The US constitution was a federal system that divided powers between centers and states. Due to Jefferson and his follower’s work Bill of Rights was added by 10 amendments to the constitution.
The US became the oldest democracy in the world and the first to set up a republican government when most others were monarchies. The US constitution too was the oldest written constitution that is enforced even today.
The aftermath of the Revolution
The Democracy wasn’t a complete democracy as only the propertied class had the vote. American Negros’s were still enslaved, and women had no voting rights. However, the campaign to end slavery led to the civil war between Northern states and Southern states. This ended in victory for the North and slavery was abolished in 1865.
American war also inspired the French revolution as the soldiers that had achieved victory in America were inspired to free France from the oppression of the King.