Several factors led to the American Revolution in 1775. The war began because of the mistreatment of the colonies by the British Empire. The conflict was further fueled by the colonialists’ continual restriction of Americans and their way of life. A myriad of political, social, and economic factors led to the colonists’ uprising against the Empire.
1. Political Factors
Colonial legislatures for the colonies created an assumption that the colonists were indeed free from the colonialists. The legislatures allowed the colonies to pass laws, muster troops to fight, and levy taxes on themselves. Many colonists believed that the legislatures conferred upon them rights and thus they were independent from the colonialists. When the British began to curtail these rights, conflict between the two parties ensued (Jensen, 2004).
The Enlightenment also played a great role in fueling the conflict. Most of the American revolutionary leaders had studied the works of Enlightenment leaders including John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. From the writings, the revolutionary leaders gleaned fundamental concepts such as the consent of the governed, social contract, and separation of powers. The leaders used the concepts to fight against British imperialism (Price, 1992).
2. Social Factors
The geographical distance between Britain and the colonies made the colonists believe in self-rule. The colonists were independent as far as they were concerned because they were millions of miles away from the colonialist. In fact, those who set out in the new world had a strong independent streak that became a culture among the colonists. Their sense of independence was hard to overcome (Jensen, 2004).
3. Economic Factors
The French and Indian War that took place between 1754 and 1763 was a very expensive conflict for the British Empire. To compensate for the great economic loss, the Empire increased taxes on the colonies. The increased taxes were imposed without the consent of the governed outraging the colonists. The governed began boycotting British goods due to the increment in taxes. One of the most famous instances of colonists boycotting goods from Britain was the Boston Tea Party. King George III was furious and sent troops across the Atlantic to force the colonists into submission and conflict soon ensued (Price, 1992).
Other taxes were put in place, which further enraged the colonists. The taxes included the Stamp Act and the Sugar Act. The colonists thought that these taxes were too harsh. The British imperialists made things worse by imposing legislation that curtailed the production and exportation of American goods. For instance, the Iron Act was passed with the intention of suppressing the manufacture of iron finished goods in the continent. Other Acts that served to undermine American industry included the Wool Act, the Hat Act, and the Tea Act.
Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade took place between the 15th and 19th centuries across the Atlantic Ocean. Prior to the 15th century, naval navigation of the Atlantic Sea was perilous leaving little or no contact between the Europe, the Americas, and the African continents. However, new technology employed in building ships meant that European ships could safely reach the African continent and other destinations across the Atlantic Sea.
Slavery was a practice in many parts of Africa, the Americas, Europe, and Asia before the Atlantic trade began. There were other slave trades occurring in Africa apart from the Atlantic Slave Trade. However, the Atlantic trade was the largest in intensity and volume among the slave trades occurring in the continent.
Historians usually divide the Atlantic slave trade into two eras, the First and the Second Atlantic Systems. The First system primarily involved the trade of African slaves to South American colonies belonging to the Spanish and Portuguese Empires. It began in 1502 and continued for the next 80 years or so. Most of the slave traders were Portuguese, giving them a near monopoly of the slave trade at this time. The First system began to decline when Portugal came under Spanish rule. The Spanish prohibited the Portuguese from engaging directly as carriers in the slave trade. Spain favored the asiento system where merchants from other nations were awarded licenses to provide slaves to its colonies (Klein, 1999).
The Second Atlantic system was the African slave trade conducted by the Dutch, French, British, and Portuguese traders. The slaves were mostly taken to Brazil and the Caribbean colonies where the European colonialists had created economies heavily dependent on slave trade. By 1690, England had become the biggest African slave trader in the entire world. The British were shipping the most slaves out of harbors in West Africa.
The trade was necessitated by Europe’s need for cheap labor in the New World. Other sources of labor had been used but they proved unprofitable. The Native Americans died from overwork and exposure to European diseases. The Europeans even used indentured servitude but this failed to provide the much-needed workforce. Crops could not be sold at a profit using indentured servitude. African slaves were the cheapest form of labor available and their mass numbers would lead to profitable ventures for European plantations in the Americas.
The Trans-Atlantic Slave trade was triangular in nature involving Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The first side was the transportation and trade of goods from Europe to Africa. African merchants and kings would trade African slaves for the European goods. The Europeans would then transport the slaves to the New World where they would force the slaves to work in the plantations. The third leg of the trade was the transportation of slave-manufactured goods from the Americas to Europe (Klein, 1999).
Jensen, M. (2004). The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution, 1763-1776.
Klein, H.S. (1999). The Atlantic Slave Trade. Cambridge, CA: Cambridge University Press.
Price, Jr., W.S. (1992). Reasons Behind the Revolutionary War. NCpedia.com. Retrieved on 5/3/2016 from http://ncpedia.org/history/usrevolution/reasons