The Various Causes That Led to the American Revolution
John Adams’ words were correct; the fighting began much after the Revolution itself due to several different aspects of American history, including but by no means limited to: The salutary neglect of America by England, colonial developments in the realm of politics during the 18th century, and the impact and aftermath of the French and Indian war (1756 1763) on colonists. Salutary neglect is arguably the most important of the various causes of the American revolution. England’s policy of not interfering with the American colonies when it came to enforcement of laws led to a lack of central government in America, creating individual legislative assemblies within each colony.
This worked for a time for England, as Parliament didn’t need to deal with the colonies and the colonies didn’t need to deal with Parliament. However, since the imperial authority did not assert power, the colonists were allowed to govern themselves- essentially sovereign for a time, America became used to the idea of self control. Therefore when England decided to tighten the reigns of control after the Seven Years War (Which was the French and Indian War in North America) (1763) due to a wish for coherent policy, colonists were stirred with suspicion; in their opinion, the colonies had been doing fine without Britain.
In the end, this prolonged lack of contact and isolation finally caused a collective identity- an American identity- that seemed separate from England. As Crevecoeur asked, “What then is the American, this new man?” Colonial politics flourished in America, in large part due to salutary neglect. The Virginia House of Burgesses was the first parliamentary assembly (1619) of English colonists in North America, and allowed colonists to select representatives to govern them. The House of Burgesses was also unique in that protestant, land-owning men over the age of 17 could vote; this was a gigantic step when it came to expanding suffrage, considering that in England, the franchise was much more restricted. In 1780, the electorate in England and Wales consisted of less than 3% of the total population; the British electoral system, compared to that of the colonies, was outdated.
Other aspects of colonial politics such as the Mayflower Compact of the Pilgrims showed a trend towards republicanism, where the Compact was an agreement for the will of the majority; this was yet another step towards self-government. The politics were not restricted to any one part of North America, either; Connecticut had the Fundamental Orders, which was something of the first written constitution in America, while Maryland’s Toleration Act created the first legal limitations on hate speech in the world, inspiring later legal protections for freedom of religion in the United States.
All these events and laws formed the basis for revolution, as the colonies were used to their direct representation and self-taxation, and were already vastly different from the British across the pond. The French and Indian War was fought in America, which required colonial unity, as Benjamin Franklin realized with his famed “Join or Die” political cartoon, meant to assist his Albany Plan in New York. Although the plan failed and no consensus was reached, this laid the groundwork for the future United States- colonists had begun to realize the need for unity, unlike in other Anglo-French wars. Soldiers fighting together began to form bonds, realizing that they shared common ideals and the same language.
The French were defeated and the colonists instilled with confidence in themselves, less so in the British. By the end of the war, the British crown was much less wealthy than it had been at the start: This caused the series of taxes in the late 18th century, giving rise to the American cry of “No taxation without representation”, revealing the battle in beliefs between virtual and direct representation. North America may have been colonized by England, but by the later half of the 18th century, it had begun to split from the British Empire into a new country of its own. Although the revolution involved battles and warfare, it also had much to do with historical events and developments that shaped the growing nation and the people of America. As John Adams implied, before the war started, there was already revolution.