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Why the American Revolution was Justified

July 4, 2016
Colonel George Washington at the time of the Seven Years War - Source: Wikipedia

Colonel George Washington at the time of the Seven Years War – Source: Wikipedia

It is a trend among liberals to belittle the American Revolution. The principle reason for this is to say that what the Revolution was simply over taxes, and the taxes that Britain was asking for were not that high. Thus, what Americans were going to war for were the purely selfish reasons of a greedy elite. Furthermore it s should not be celebrated. This – and conservatives fail to make the distinction as well – forgets the second part of the rallying cry of American rebels in the 1770’s and 1780’s: “No taxation without representation!” There are three reasons why the American Revolution was justified: a lack of effective representation, the age of the colonies, and the unprecedented nature of the taxes.

English liberty, the phrase that was used to describe what the revolutionaries originally wanted, meant that taxes could only be levied on subjects if they had a hand in crafting them. This was an early version of what is today termed liberalism. The thirteen colonies in British North America had plenty of taxes, they were not – as some conservatives claim – a group of freewheeling, capitalist, libertarian, states, but rather classically liberal in the sense that the colonial governments could tax because they had been elected by the taxpayers. No one in the colonies had elected the governments of Lord North, the Duke of Grafton, the Earl of Chatham, or the Marquess of Rockingham, the four Prime Ministers of Great Britain between 1765 and 1782. Nor did any colonist vote for the parties or members of parliament that would install those men as Prime Minister. Furthermore, none of the colonists – with a few exceptions – had ever seen, let alone met, the king that authorized their governments. In essence, there was no dedicated representation of the colonies in parliament, and no effective way for them to be represented had the British government and crown wanted to seat them.

George III By the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Archtreasurer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, last monarch of the thirteen colonies - Source: Wikipedia

George III By the Grace of God, King of Great Britain, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Archtreasurer and Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire, Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg; last monarch of the thirteen colonies – Source: Wikipedia

The second point is that the age of the colonies was in fact, an important part of their desire for independence. By the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Georgia was the youngest colony, having been formed in 1732. The next youngest were the Carolinas, having been formed in 1712 (but they were far older, having been one colony before that). There were no people alive in New York, Virginia, or Massachusetts, who could remember a time before their colony existed. Throughout that existence, the British crown had allowed the colonies a relatively free hand in managing their own affairs. The imposition of British Parliamentary and Royal authority was done quickly in the period 1763-1775.

Finally, there was the nature of the taxes. The first of the taxes that Britain would levy on the thirteen colonies, were levied in the aftermath of the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in North America). This war had cost Great Britain a staggering amount of money, and had been fought in defense of the colonies. In London, it only made sense to have the colonists pay their fair share of the costs of a war, that the colonists had inadvertently started, and had been beneficial to them. That logic makes sense until one unpacks the fact that there had been North American components to the Nine Years War (King William’s War: 1688-1697), the War of Spanish Succession (Queen Anne’s War: 1702-1713), and the War of Austrian Succession (King Georges War: 1744-1748). These were all known as “French and Indian” wars, and all had been fought and settled without the British turning around and having the colonists foot part of the bill.

Timeline of European and North American Wars - Source: Wikipedia

Timeline of European and North American Wars – Source: Wikipedia

Thus, to American eyes in 1763, it seemed that the British had unilaterally changed the compact by which the colonies had governed themselves for over one hundred years, and changed the post war arrangements, after nearly 80 years of conflict. The British, for their part, were conflicted about how to treat the rebellious Americans, many in the British parliament thought the Americans had no right to rebel, as they were English, and thus the authority of the Crown, but others understood the American argument. William Pitt the Elder said on the floor of the House of Commons,

The gentleman asks, when were the colonies emancipated? But I desire to know, when were they made slaves.

So, remember, for all the flaws of the Founding of the United States, it was not an unjust conflict, and from our war of independence sprung a nation that has the means to change itself to form “a more perfect union Union.”

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