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The content of the lecture: THE WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE

The discovery of America resulted from the break-up of the feudal system, the rise of the nation, the revival of commerce, and the search for the trade routes to the riches of the East. Later, the long process of the English colonization of the New World was motivated by the desire for economic opportunity colonies existed to produce essential raw materials cheaply, to provide an unlimited market for manufacturing goods, and to offer a minimum of economic competition. Competition by the colonists was nearly eliminated through laws such as the Woolens Act (1699), the Hat Act (1732), and the Iron Act (1750), which prohibited or limited local efforts at manufacturing.

For long decades before the conclusion of the French and British were too immersed in bitter rivalry with France to enforce their restrictive legislation. With the defeat of France, however, the British were able to turn their full attention to strict enforcement of colonial policy. The Sugar Act (1764), the Stamp Act (1765), the Tea Act (1773), and others imposed the severest restrictions upon colonial self-government.

The Sugar Act.In 1764 Britain’s parliament passed a law taxing the colonies. It was called the Sugar Act. The Sugar Act put a tax on sugar, wine and other products that were shipped to the colonies from countries other than Great Britain. When ships landed in the colonies with these products, a tax had to be paid by the people who ordered the goods.

The colonists refused to pay the tax: they did not want to pay taxes passed by the British Parliament. They wanted to decide themselves whether a tax was necessary. However, the British leaders were serious about the Sugar Act. They sent tax collectors from Great Britain to collect the money. These men searched all the ships that came into colonial harbours. If they found hidden goods that were supposed to be taxed, they could take the ship away from its owner.

To avoid paying the tax, many ship-owners became smugglers – the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act put a tax on all printed paper goods that colonists bought. Colonists had to pay a tax when buying books, newspapers and playing cards. A person who finished college had to pay a tax on the diploma. Lawyers had to pay a tax on the wills, agreements and other documents. To show that the tax had been paid, a stamp seller put a stamp on the paper.

The colonists hated the Stamp Act. In Boston crowds broke the offices of the stamp sellers. They poured hot tar on the sellers and then covered them with feathering.

Why did the colonists fight so strongly against the tax? The main reason was that the tax had been passed without their agreement. The colonists knew about taxes and paid them at home. They elected representatives who decided how much tax money to collect. The colonists were ready to pay these taxes, because their representatives used the tax money to improve the life of the colony. The tax money was used to pay for things which the colonists needed, such as roads. But the Stamp Act and other British taxes had been passed by the British Parliament. The colonists had no representatives in the British Parliament. The British tax laws were passed by people that the colonists did not elect, and the tax money was used for the British soldiers whom the colonists did not want.

The Boston Tea Party.Three ships loaded with tea came into the port of Boston. Before unloading the ships it was necessary to pay the tax. Colonists refused to unload the ships. The British governor of Boston said that the ships would stay in the harbour until the colonists agreed to pay the tax on the tea.

On the night of December 16, 1773, some colonists, dressed as American Indians, climbed aboard the ships. They opened hundreds of boxes of tea and threw them into the water. If there was no tea, they said angrily, there would be nothing to tax. This event became known as the Boston Tea Party.

Britain’s King George and Parliament were furious. British warships were sent to Boston Harbour to block any ships sailing into or out of Boston. The British said that they would block the harbour until the tea was paid for. This British blockade ruined Boston’s trade. But still the colonists refused to pay for the tea which they had thrown overboard.

Meeting for action.In September 1774 the colonies sent representatives to the First Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia. The Congress decided to take action on the blockade of Boston.

The members of the Congress wrote to King George asking him to reopen Boston Harbour. They also told him that the colonists would decide themselves what their taxes should be and what the tax money should be used for. Finally they said that they would boycott British goods until they got what they wanted.

King George never answered the letter. Instead of it, he sent more warships to the colonies.

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