Defending Alden

This paper was written for my History of the American Revolution class this past semester. This was the final paper and was written to defend a quote by John Richard Alden, a noted historian on the American Revolution.

(Footnotes will be added to the works cited page)

John Richard Alden once wrote,[1] The British government seemed unconcerned about how the colonists felt about the new taxes they would lay upon the colonies. However, in a few short years, King George would be sending large amounts of troops to the colonies to calm the tensions between Britain and the colonies. King George and Parliament would soon learn just how serious the colonists felt about maintaining their autonomy and freedom.

A wide ocean both physically and politically stood between Great Britain and what was once the American Colonies. While the colonial residents understood they were part of King George’s kingdom, the distance meant the rule of the King and Parliament had little affected their daily lives. This gave the colonists a great deal of freedom to enact their own laws inside the colonies, and local governing bodies were established and served the will of the individual colonies. This ability to self- govern was trounced upon when the British Parliament began to rely on new taxes and tariffs to pay for the Seven Years War (French and Indian war). Anger that grew between the colonists and the leaders in Britain made the political ocean seem significantly wider.

The colonists had already pushed the idea of self-governance, prior to parliament pushing tariffs on the colonists. Over 20 colonists from several different colonies gathered in Albany, New York in 1754. The delegates debated and agreed on a plan by Benjamin Frankin to form a Grand Council of the colonists with a President General to be appointed by the crown. This Grand Council would be able to make laws for the colonies so long as they were “agreeable to the laws of England.”[2] The Grand Council would also have to send a document of all laws passed to the King for review.  The colonists were organized and ready for self-rule, Parliament’s first blunder was interfering in the colonies without considering the rights of the colonists and allowing the colonies to give their own ideas on how to pay for the military protection.

In March of 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act to raise monies to pay for the French and Indian War. Parliament thought that the colonists should pay for the protection that they received from the British Army, they passed several laws including the Stamp Act to force payment of a tariff on printed paper. John Dickinson wrote letters to the Pennsylvania Gazette which were eventually produced as a pamphlet. Dickinson stated, “With a good deal of surprise I have observed that little notice has been taken of an act of Parliament as injurous in its principle to the liberties of these colonies as the Stamp Act was[3],” to the colonists, the Stamp Act as quite an affront as subjects of the British crown. “ To Divide and thus to Destroy, is the first political maxim in attacking those who are powerful by their union.[4]” The colonial subjects were unhappy with Parliament passing tariffs without having a say in the tariffs and laws.  “Never before did the British Parliament (until the time of the Stamp Act) think of imposing duties in America for the purpose of raising a revenue,” [5] Dickinson had reviewed the British statutes, he knew the laws well.

The continued blunders of Parliament, Charles Townsend and King George in regards to the rights of the colonists. The actions that the British Government would continue to take would push the British citizens in the American colonies towards rebellion. The protests of these acts were growing and drawing more and more attention from colonists and colonial newspapers. The Pennsylvania Gazette run and published by Benjamin Franklin regularly ran articles about Parliament’s actions and letters from colonists resisting these actions.[6] The press had great influence and used that influence to spread the word among the colonists that there was resistance happening.

The Boston Gazette was also a seat of revolutionary printing, carrying stories of the resistance happening in Boston and Massachusetts as well as advertisements from the Sons of Liberty who would write about merchants who continued to carry British goods despite the boycott by the colonists. The Boston Gazette would also run poems that supported the resistance against the British, a poem in the Boston Gazette from John Dickinson stated, “In FREEDOM we’re BORN, and in FREEDOM we’ll LIVE Our Purses are ready, Steady, Friends, Steady, Not as SLAVES, but as FREEMEN our Money we’ll give.” [7] The colonists felt that they had very little or no representation in parliament and for that reason parliament should not have rule over the colonies, the colonists also felt no representation from their Governors who were appointed by King George. Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter that was published in the London Chronicle (January 5-7, 1768) “The Governors are generally strangers to the Provinces they are sent to govern, have no estate, natural connection, or relation there to give them an affection for the country; that they come only to make money as fast as they can; are sometimes men of vicious characters and broken fortunes, sent by a Minister [member of the king’s cabinet] merely to get them out of the way…”[8] This lack of representation would lead to the downfall of British Rule in the colonies and eventually to armed rebellion.

John Richard Alden’s quote at the beginning of this paper defines the reasons and feelings the American colonists had to begin an armed rebellion against British Rule in the colonies. Long after the revolution, Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.”[9] This quote from Jefferson is the greatest summation of the American Revolution. King George and Parliament were the catalysts of the revolution, the actions they took against the people in the colonies, their “blunders” as Alden wrote the true cause of the Revolution.
 

Works Cited

Alden, John Richard. 1989. History of the American Revolution. De Capo Press.

Brainy Quotes. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomasjeff136362.html.

“Colonists Respond to the Townsend Acts.” America in class. Accessed December 5, 2017.

http://americainclass.org/sources/makingrevolution/crisis/text4/townshendactsresponse1767.pdf.

Dickinson, John. 1767. Letter from a Pennsylvania Farmer December 10, 1767. Philadelphia.

Dickinson, John. 1767. Letter from a Pennsylvania Farmer, December 3, 1767. Philadelphia.

“Founders – The Albany Plan of Union.” National Archives. founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-05-02-0104.

Franklin, Benjamin, ed. n.d. Pennsylvania Gazette, November 7, 1765. http://www.smithsoniansource.org/display/primarysource/viewdetails.aspx?PrimarySourceId=1004.

 

 

 

[1] (Alden 1989)

[2] (Founders – The Albany Plan of Union 1754)

[3] (Dickinson, Letter from a Pennsylvania Farmer, December 3, 1767 1767)

[4] (Dickinson, Letter from a Pennsylvania Farmer, December 3, 1767 1767)

[5] (Dickinson, Letter from a Pennsylvania Farmer December 10, 1767 1767)

[6] (Pennsylvania Gazette, November 7, 1765 n.d.)

[7] (Colonists Respond to the Townsend Acts n.d.) page 10

[8] (Colonists Respond to the Townsend Acts n.d.) page 11

[9] (Brainy Quotes n.d.)

Author:

Greetings! I am Shawn MacIntyre, and I grew up with a love of history. When most kids were watching cartoons I was watching documentaries. After a long career in public safety, I chose to return to college to seek a new career path bringing history to the public. In April 2019. I graduated from Point Park University with a Bachelor's Degree in History, Magna Cum Laude. My new path is to make learning history fun, exciting and accessible to everyone. I invite you to join me on my journeys to historic destinations, learn interesting facts about the past, and spark a love for history!

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