Political, Social, And Economic Causes Of The American Revolution

1428 words - 6 pages

It is easy to interpret the American Revolution simply as a struggle for freedom. The magnanimous phrases of the Declaration of Independence have embedded in our hearts and minds glorious images of the Founding Fathers fighting for the natural rights of man. The American Revolution, however, also had a darker side to it, the side of self-interest and profit. The signers of the Declaration represented various classes – the working class, the wealthy land owners and merchants, the intellectuals, and the social elite. Each of these strata had its own set of expectations and fears, which lent a new dimension to the cause of the Revolution. The pressure of these internal, and often overlapping groups, combined with the oppressive external tyranny of the British Parliament gave momentum to the already snowballing revolt. My goal in this paper is not to diminish the cause or tenets on which this country was founded, nor to mar the character of those Founding Fathers, but rather to illustrate some of the political, social, and especially economical constraints of the American colonies that surrounded the events leading to the signing of the Declaration.
     The Founding Fathers were also business men, and their revolutionary attitude wavered with economic irregularity. The series of taxation acts Parliament levied upon America to recoup its wartime debt took a serious toll on colonial businesses, increasing their debt and frustration with England. At the same time, colonial merchants also wanted to maintain ties with their primary consumer, England. After the French and Indian War, wealthy merchants had stock piles of inventory which had primarily been sold to British regiments that had been encamped throughout the colonies. With their primary consumers gone, colonial merchants eagerly jumped on the bandwagon to boycott British goods, a way to maintain the sell of backlogged inventory to local colonies. After the Townshend Acts were repealed, however, these merchants were eager to continue their importation of British goods, in addition to selling their goods back out to the motherland. For the wealthy colonial merchants, the disruption of profit from the backlogged inventory led them to appear revolutionary as they boycotted British goods. Once the economic tide turned, they were back to building good relations with Britain (many becoming British loyalists). The revolutionary spirit fluctuated with the prospects of profit.
For the revolutionaries coming from lower social classes, economic factors would also influence their decisions. Local artisans, laborers, and small merchants who traded outside of the British Empire, embraced the boycott of British goods and severance with England entirely because it afforded them economic opportunities that made the risk of revolution worthwhile (p. 145, Berkin). These groups had been living under the yoke of unfair taxation and an inexhaustible source of British competition in labor...

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