The American Colonists' Quarrel with Great Britain - North American Colonies

Taken from The British Empire in the Nineteenth Century (1898) by Edgar Sanderson

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act, from her political embrace. The causes of the quarrel, remote and immediate, were manifold. Some were of long, slow, and pernicious growth and effect; others took the form of exasperation which produced instantaneous retaliation of explosive and disastrous force. This history knows nothing of political party, Whig or Tory, Conservative, Radical, or Liberal. The one thing certain, as to the loss of the American colonies, is that, even assuming the colonial subjects of George the Third to have been wholly wrong on the principles involved in the disputes between them and the Crown, the British king and ministers did not act according to the saying of Marcus Aurelius, the wise and benevolent emperor of Rome, which lays down that "a prudent ruler will not offend the prejudices of his people, though he might wish they were wiser". It is equally certain that, as in most quarrels, there were faults on both sides. If there was provocation from the home government, there was also selfishness on the part of colonists who forgot the benefits lately conferred, at vast cost of men and money, by their fellow-subjects in Britain. The capture of Quebec, and the destruction of French power in America, with the maritime superiority acquired by Great Britain, had left the colonists free from all apprehension of danger both by sea and land. They were thus no longer dependent, for their very existence, on the mother-country, and they appear to have been somewhat hasty in showing resentment for attempts to exact a small contribution towards the cost of the struggle which had brought them a great, manifest, and lasting advantage.

There had been efforts made, in the earlier part of the eighteenth century, to obtain a revenue from the colonies, and many disputes had arisen concerning schemes for colonial defence, and methods of federal union amongst the different colonies. The restrictions on colonial trade appeared, to the colonists themselves, to be part of a system devised and worked for the benefit of the home merchants. They felt as if they were being treated, in this respect, as a mere possession, as conquered people, though the claim to interfere at all with any of their affairs was based upon the fact that they were brothers and Britons, mainly one with their fellow-subjects at home in blood, language, and religion. The Navigation Acts had long been evaded in various ways, notably in an illicit trade carried on by the colonists with South … continue reading »

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