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Declaring Independence Essay

985 words - 4 pages

A close look at the history of the 18th century reveals that the fight for a formal break from England was not a radical leap but instead a subtle change within the minds of the colonists. This shift from agitating for a change in colonial policies to rallying for independence is due in part to a variety of actions initiated by a variety of people. Parliament, the slaves, and the native peoples each played a role in the ultimate shift, but it was the implementation of nonexportation by the colonists at the end of 1774 which is the most significant in the understanding of this change. This initiative, and the Parliamentary response, the New England Restraining Act, were so significant because they affected every colonist rather than a limited group, they created time-critical problems that required rapid decision making, and they resulted in a situation in which few compromises could be made, and

The colonists adopted nonexportation to Britain in late 1774 and planned to "withhold their tobacco for the...purpose of driving up its price" (Holton 94). Although successful in ending the tobacco glut and increasing the price of tobacco, Britain responded with the New England Restraining Act, which "prohibited...colonies from engaging in even the limited foreign trade they had been permitted under the Navigation Acts" (Holton 131). Britain was concerned that the colonists were looking to shift their commercial ties elsewhere in Europe, and under the new act, began patrolling colonial ports and shutting down foreign trade. Few actions taken by any party in the events leading up to the war affected every colonist, but the consequences of nonexportation had an adverse effect on everyone. As the Restraining Act took effect, many essential commodities began to run out in the colonies, and "the first item to run out was salt" (Holton 173). Seemingly a trivial substance, salt was a necessary nutrient for all the colonists and livestock, and was essential for the preservation of meat (173). For the first time, the colonists faced a threat that impacted the health and welfare of every person, and this bred discontent amongst many. By late 1775, Lund Washington reported that "the people are run[nin]g mad about Salt" (Holton 173). Wide-spread riots began to spring up, and Richard Henry Lee "urged Virginia leader to find some way to produce or procure salt, lest 'the want of this Necessary...produce universal riot and convulsion" (Holton 174). This sort of general discontent needed to be addressed with haste, as each day, the quality of life for every colonist was diminishing.

The time-critical aspect of the situation created by nonexportation and the subsequent Restraining Act is another reason the initiative is so significant in the need for a break from Britain. Salt shortages occurred within a year of nonexportation, but salt was just the first commodity to run out. John Page,...

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