This paper is dedicated to the history of American Revolution and the War for Independence. The primary purpose of the survey given here is to carry out an analysis of the events of the late 18th century in the British colonies in North America on the basis of vast historical material published in the United States. The process that took place before and during the 1776-1783 period when 13 British colonies’ aspiration for independence broke out into the so-called War for Independence is very remarkable for it’s many unique features, on the one hand, and for many historical parallels that took place a century later when the world-wide spreaded colonial system began to collapse.
John Adams, second President of the United States, declared that the history of the American Revolution began as far back as 1620. "The Revolution," he said, "was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people." The principles and passions that led the Americans to rebel ought, he added, "to be traced back for two hundred years and sought in the history of the country from the first plantation in America."
As a practical matter, however, the overt parting of the ways between England and America began in 1763, more than a century and a half after the first permanent settlement had been founded at Jamestown, Virginia. The colonies had grown vastly in economic strength and cultural attainment, and virtually all had long years of self-government behind them. Their combined population now exceeded 1,500,000-a six-fold increase since 1700.
The implications of the physical growth of the colonies were far greater than mere numerical increase would indicate. The 18th century brought a steady expansion from the influx of immigrants from Europe, and since the best land near the seacoast had already been occupied, new settlers had to push inland beyond the fall line of the rivers. Traders explored the back country, brought back tales of rich valleys, and induced farmers to take their families into the wilderness. Although their hardships were enormous, restless settlers kept coming, and by the 1730s frontiersmen had already begun to pour into the Shenandoah Valley.
Down to 1763, Great Britain had formulated no consistent policy for her colonial possessions. The guiding principle was the confirmed mercantilist view that colonies should supply the mother country with raw materials and not compete in manufacturing. But policy was poorly enforced, and the colonies had never thought of themselves as subservient. Rather, they considered themselves chiefly as commonwealths or states, much like England herself, having only a loose association with authorities in London.
At infrequent intervals, sentiment in England was aroused and efforts were made by Parliament or the Crown to subordinate the economic activities and governments of the colonies to England's will and interest - efforts to which the majority of the colonists were opposed. The remoteness afforded by a vast ocean allayed fears of reprisal the colonies might otherwise have had.
Added to this remoteness was the character of life itself in early America. From countries limited in space and dotted with populous towns, the settlers had come to a land of seemingly unending reach. On such a continent natural conditions stressed the importance of the individual.
1. Frontier situation
The colonists-inheritors of the traditions of the Englishman's long struggle for political liberty-incorporated concepts of freedom into Virginia’s first charter. This provided that English colonists were to exercise all liberties, franchises, and immunities "as if they had been abiding and born within this our Realm of England." They were, then, to enjoy the benefits of the Magna Charta and the common law.
In the early days, the colonies were able to hold fast to their heritage of rights because of the King's arbitrary assumption that they were not subject to parliamentary control. In addition, for years afterward, the kings of England were too preoccupied with a great struggle in England itself - a struggle which culminated in the Puritan Revolution - to enforce their will. Before Parliament could bring its attention to the task of molding the American colonies to an imperial policy, they had grown strong and prosperous in their own right.