In 1760, King George III took reign of England, making quite a few controversial decisions along the way. By acting more aggressively towards France, George III started to alienate the rest of Europe, and tensions started to mount between George and the Whigs, as well as other European countries. By contrast, the sociopolitical climate of the colonies at the time was incredibly harrowing - increased taxation and more and more controversial legislation on the part of England was breeding resentment among the colonists. The Sugar, Currency, Stamp and Quartering Acts of the mid-1760s, among others, were thought to be unfair taxes that did not guarantee colonists representation in the British government.
With this said, there were a number of immigrants coming to the country who were yet to be completely Americanized when the taxation started. Given this lack of experience or loyalty to the colonies, they tended to support the King a lot more, particularly the further away they got from the rampant taxation. Examples of these immigrants included Flora MacDonald and other Scottish settlers; as they were both immigrants and living in the backcountry, they did not feel the same level of frustration that those in the coastal cities felt about their British leaders (Calhoon, p. 235). In this respect, the country was fairly well divided; groups like the Quakers wanted to maintain their business relationship with the British, and so discouraged revolution. Meanwhile, Patriots living in the city, and therefore closest to the oppressive taxation levied by the British, were quick to revolt.
After the French and Indian War, which cost nearly 150 million pounds to wage, Britain was severely strapped for cash. As a result, given the fact that the colonies were the ones being defended in that war, the House of Commons felt as though it was their responsibility to pay a larger portion of the bill. The biggest reason that the colonists opposed these decisions was that they were being unfairly taxed without representation; since they did not have a say in how the government was run, they felt they should not have to pay these taxes. The colonists considered this a violation of their civil rights (Bailyn, 1992).
As the English debt came as a result of fighting the French and Indian War, there is little to really say that could have prevented the war. Perhaps if the war were waged with greater efficiency, or more care was taken in proper offensive and defensive measures, the debt would not have been as great. Preventing the political fallout in North American could potentially have been solved in one of two ways. First, the British government could have raised taxes domestically so as to prevent the unfair taxation of American citizens. Alternatively, the British government could have taken measures to provide the colonies with appropriate representation; in this way, the colonies would have a say in how the tax money was used, and they would not be as upset with the new acts.
Canada's response was somewhat different, as the British presence in Canada was directly created by the victory in the French and Indian War. As a result, they were increasingly loyal to Britain; furthermore, they were not being taxed to the extent the colonies were.
In the 1760s and 1770s, certain political ideals were beginning to take shape which kickstarted the American Revolution. In the 1760s, direct taxes were levied against the colonies for the import and use of goods, as payment for the costs incurred in the French and Indian War. Tensions increased between the colonies and the British over these issues, with the colonies espousing ideas of freedom and democracy (Brinkley, 2010). These tensions culminated in the Boston Massacre, the killing of six colonists by beleaguered British soldiers, kickstarting a breakdown in political goodwill and the beginning of revolution.
The colonists started to take measures to protest the British taxation of goods. The Boston Tea Party was a Patriot prank aimed at directly protesting the tax on tea that was being levied against the colonists. Furthermore, American politicians and scholars met for two Continental Congresses in order to discuss the increasing crackdown on assembly and human rights that the British started to engage in. Eventually, the king declared that the states were "in rebellion," and the Second Continental Congress write the Declaration of Independence, setting itself apart as a sovereign nation.
In my mind, the grievances of the colonists were more than legitimate. The colonies were being taxed without representation, which effectively amounted to being stolen from with no say in where the money went. As these tensions mounted, it became clearer that the colonists wanted nothing to do with their British masters, as they did not feel that it gained them to be under their rule. The American people wanted to forge their own destiny, and so they did not see arbitrary taxes that returned nothing to them to be necessary.
In the Declaration of Independence, several passages mark the colonists' main arguments for independence. The preamble itself marks the main reasoning for independence - that when a government denies its citizens basic human rights, it is the duty of the governed to resist:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness" (Declaration of Independence, 1776).
In its way, the United States did its best to uphold the ideals of 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness' by attempting to fight to make America a free country, separate from the grip of Britain. However, the statement that 'all men are created equal' was not held to a very strict standard; slavery was still in effect for nearly another century, and the rights of women were still virtually nonexistent. With that in mind, the United States still had a long way to go toward equality.
The Declaration of Independence shared a lot of ideas with the Constitution of the United Kingdom, including equal application of the law and the rule of law (Runciman, 2008). However, as opposed to the right to function as a free individual under a monarchy, the Declaration of Independence stated that all men are equal regardless of wealth or status.
At the beginning of the war, the Americans had plenty of disadvantages to deal with. First and foremost, there was little to no sense of organization - there was no organized government or national armed forces, and the sheer number of fighters was insignificant compared to the capabilities of the British. However, there were plenty of advantages to choose from: the Americans were able to fight on their own territory, draw the normally naval-based British out of their boats into costly land battles, and used guerilla tactics to fight against regimented British forces. Local militia were well-trained and equipped, as well. The British fought in a very regimented, ordered fashion; they relied on naval supremacy when they could, and they fought out in the open. This was a tremendous disadvantage for them, as American forces could hide easily in woods and fields, their smaller militias being more mobile.
Eventually, there were a number of factors that led to the ultimate victory over the British. First and foremost, the Americans were able to secure more allies in countries such as France and Spain, gaining more supplies, military training and support. Due to the fairly steady stream of supplies provided by the local food that sustained them, as well as superior flints in their muskets and rifles, the British ran out of supplies long before the Americans did. The harsh climate also worked in their favor as well, as the British were not as used to it, and therefore not as effective in battle (Higginbotham, 1983).
Bailyn, Bernard (1992). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Brinkley, Douglas (2010). "The Sparck of Rebellion". American Heritage Magazine 59 (4).
Calhoon, Robert M. (1992). "Loyalism and Neutrality". In Greene, Jack P.; Pole, J.R.. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, Limited.
Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763–1789. Northeastern University Press, 1983.
Runciman, David (2008-02-07). "This Way to the Ruin". London Review of Books. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
United States Department of State, "The Declaration of Independence," 1776.