Colonists and The British Colonial Rule
British colonial control was repressive throughout the Americas. The British favored colonial control over kingly rule. England aimed to make colonies self-sufficient and improve colonists’ lives. Many colonists could not abide being under an overlord they couldn’t see or visit. They believed the British simply wanted their devotion and obedience in exchange for trade, riches, and military strength. The British denied most colonies the right to enact laws on war, taxation, and trade. In certain colonies (like Virginia), the assembly was banned from passing such laws. The people felt that the British would tax tobacco, bread, beer, etc. if they tried to make a decision. This made the colonists feel less-than-British. The British planned to use the Army to assert their rule, but the colonists were ready. Soldiers patrolled constantly to arrest insurgents. During the French and Indian War, soldiers protected colonists and their property. If a colonist was suspected of being a traitor or spy, he was jailed without a trial. The British thought this was a good strategy to prevent betrayal or rebellion. Christopher Gadsden’s army idea came from this. He designed a flag with a British Crown on top and “Don’t give up the ship” on the bottom. To keep control, the British utilized spies, informers, and even black slaves. The colonists disapproved of these tactics used by British colonialists.
The Declaration of Independence criticized British colonial government as unfair, unjust, and impractical. It further prioritized taxation and representation. He thought colonial assemblies should have more ability to adopt legislation about taxation, law enforcement, and trade. Letters from a farmer addressed these themes from the Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson writes in Letters from a Farmer that colonies want to be represented in Parliament and not regarded as subjects by Britain: “Our scheme is simple; we seek nothing more.” We’re not jealous. We merely want for equal chance for our commerce and privileges in your ports (farmer letter)” (Dickinson, 1769). Jefferson aimed to represent the colonists in parliament so they may have a role on issues like the stamp act and tea taxes. Colonial assemblies petitioned, protested, and rioted for representation in Parliament. Many colonial society members felt Britain was utilizing them for its own gain. Britain thought representation would turn more people against them, making it harder to rule the colonies.
Cogliano examines Hutchinson’s Stamp Riot Act. Thomas Hutchinson penned 1774’s History of Massachusetts Bay. In his book, he discusses the Stamp Act and the 1774 Regulating Act. “The national indignation that had been suppressed by art suddenly erupted in New England.” Boston was hostile.” Hutchinson explains. When colonists discovered they had to pay a tax on their papers and Boston tobacco, they were angry. This was a Boston-only law. After learning they’d be taxed, several people rioted. Hutchinson writes, “All New England towns were soon ablaze…” Colonial society opposed the Stamp Act and its consequences. People rioted and thought it was unfair that only Boston suffered for the colonies’ tax issues (Fradin, 2010). Thomas Hutchinson quotes Bostonians, says Cogliano. Bostonians created riots in Boston and elsewhere. Cogliano stated that the Stamp Act of 1765 outlawed newspapers and playing cards. Wines, beer, whiskeys, and tobacco were taxed more. People were furious because they saw it as an infringement on their rights to free expression and spending their hard-earned money. Again, this was about America’s newfound freedom of speech. Many colonists felt taxed without proper representation.
British mistreatment made colonists feel oppressed. Virginians, Pennsylvanians, and New Yorkers aimed to vote for their colony’s governor to get better representation. The British government wanted only loyal subjects to vote on who would rule. They avoided colonial elections. British wanted colonists to accept their authority by law, not popular vote. Many still got representation and votes in these counties so they could voice their opinion on matters like taxes and British representation in colonial assemblies. Local colonies would have more power and a say in Britain’s governance. Colonists disliked the British’s power. The British mistreated the colonists. The British didn’t allow them to own guns or organize militias to defend themselves from Native Americans or Frenchmen who sought to take over the colonies (Richter, 2003). This was part of their control by ensuring colonists didn’t lose up on Britain and protected themselves from French or Native American attacks. Again, the colonists felt mistreated. These ideologies meant the government couldn’t control them.
Many colonists resented the British for their harsh treatment. This is clear from protests in Boston and New York. In Boston, Sons of Liberty opposed the British tea tax (so they couldn’t enjoy tea at home). “No taxation without representation! “No draft!” The New York Sons of Liberty denounced the Sugar Act and tried to stop British forces from taxing the colonies. Boston’s Sons of Liberty demonstrated. Due to their protestations, they occasionally fought British soldiers alone. Boston massacre was another occurrence. Five protesters opposing the Sugar Act and tea tax were slain here. Many colonists saw British soldiers as “terrorists” because of their harsh treatment and violence. The Boston Tea Party protested taxation without representation in 1770. Most historians agree with Cogliano that the riots contributed to the conflict. These facts demonstrate British colonial rule and colonists’ opposition.
Dickinson, J. (1769). Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. Against taxation of the Colonies by Great Britain. Each letter signed: A Farmer. By John Dickinson, President of the State of Delaware. William & Thomas Bradford. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=xMQGLmvl0doC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=letters+from+a+farmer+&ots=evh4pWTfhO&sig=5q0k9F8aE0V7wDeYRmPZjeO4Ul8
Fradin, D. B. (2010). The stamp act of 1765. Marshall Cavendish. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=VqJ8CvEuktUC&oi=fnd&pg=PA7&dq=stamp+riot+act+boston&ots=Q_vWLeitj4&sig=FeRSBRreHvucZyvIbYapskmpLaU
Richter K, D. (2003). Facing East From Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Havard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/heb.03491 Accessed 24 Jan 2021.