Was the Revolution Justified?

Did the colonists have grievances against the British government substantial enough to justify revolution?

In the Declaration of Independence, the American patriots listed "a history of injuries and usurpations" designed to establish "an absolute Tyranny over these states." Some of the grievances are listed below:

  • The King had rejected laws passed by colonial assemblies.
  • The Crown had failed to redraw the boundaries of legislative districts to ensure that newly settled areas were fairly represented in colonial assemblies.
  • Royal governors had dissolved colonial legislatures for disobeying their orders or protesting royal policies.
  • Royal governors had delayed in calling for elections of new colonial assemblies.
  • The King had rejected a North Carolina law setting up a court system.
  • The royal government had appointed tax commissioners and other officials.
  • The royal government had claimed the power (in the Declaratory Act of 1766) to make all laws for the colonies.
  • The Crown had required the colonies to house British troops stationed in America.
  • Parliament had passed a 1774 law permitting British soldiers and officials accused of murder while in Massachusetts to be tried in Britain.
  • Parliament had enacted laws restricting the colonies' right to trade with foreign nations.
  • Parliament had imposed taxes (such as the Sugar Act of 1764) without the colonists' consent.
  • The royal government had deprived colonists of a right to a jury trial in cases dealing with smuggling and other violations of trade laws.
  • The 1774 Quebec Act extended Quebec's boundaries to the Ohio River and applied French law to the region.
  • The Crown had authorized General Thomas Gage to use force to make the colonists obey the laws of Parliament.
  • The British government had seized American ships that violated restrictions on foreign trade.
  • The Crown had forced American sailors to serve in the British navy.

In November 1775, Virginia's royal governor promised freedom to slaves who joined British forces. The royal government also encouraged Indian attacks on frontier settlements.

In the eyes of the American patriots, what rights or liberties had the British Parliament violated?

Parliament seemed determined to slow the colonies' growth and to protect British economic interests at the colonists' expense. They restricted westward expansion, levied taxes without the colonists' consent, and stationed a standing army in the colonies in peacetime. In addition, the Crown had expanded the bureaucracy, made the West a preserve for French Catholics and Indians, and cut back on traditional English liberties, including the right to trial by jury, freedom from arbitrary arrest and trial, freedom of speech and conscience, and the right to freely trade and travel.

Source: Was the Revolution Justified?
© Copyright 2016 Digital History

Back to top