For the first 150 some odd years that America was colonized, the relationship between the British and the Colonials was copacetic. Like other British colonies, America was a money making machine, shipping raw goods like cotton and timber to the United Kingdom for monetary gain. It worked well, a cross Atlantic quid pro quo that benefited empire and it benefited the newly formed New World colonies. Still, that did not address the question of national identity. And for the most part, this was the real question in the Revolutionary War, am we subjects of the Crown? Or are we Americans.
What the British perhaps never factored into their equations when gathering land and power was national identity. In the 150 years since they had peed on the fence post in the New World, there were two generations of people who were born and bred in America, and their fealty to the United Kingdom was tenuous at best. They knew who King George III was. That said, they didn’t know King George III. They never heard him speak. They never saw him at the head of a parade. They never saw the King lead at all. He was just a name or a drawing in a history book, and the Americans of the first generation had a sense that they were independent, even if they weren’t.
The French and Indian Wars were the Seven Years War fought on this continent. The British were able to drive the French out of holding enormous amount of land in North America and secure a larger colony. So the British felt that they had spent billions defending the American’s rights to trade freely and the victory had put so much new land in the pockets of the Americans. They should certainly appreciate that and all the native people they British protect them against. The very lest the Colonials could do is help pay this bill.
But the American already had more land than they could even map.
While King George III would go down in history as a successful monarch, it’s not like he didn’t face some difficulties. His kingdom was in debt and he was afraid of defaulting on payments across the world. He passed the Stamp Act that taxed some transactions Americans made. The law was passed of course without any input from the tax-payers, and so they, we I should say, revolted. If you look at the timeline, Stamp Act 1765, and then the Boston Massacre was 1770 and then the Boston Tea Party in 1773, it’s an explanation of the war all in itself. The Americans did not want to pay for the war. They had expected the British would fight because a win would go in the pocket of the Empire that needed the trade. If you own the store, you clean up the messes.
The British had set the table so they would lose, failing to understand people. They had ruled the colonies loosely for 150 years and suddenly they came in and took money from the pockets of Americans and did it with an iron hand. Few history books elucidate the war of nerves the King was playing in the colonies. Boston had 15,000 people living there, all born in America. By the time the Revolution burned, the King had 7000 British regulars stationed in Boston. It was a show of force, intimidation, period.
The tensions rose and ebbed in national identity politics. The issue became, if we allow a man across the ocean to decide our lives, then we are being governed without our consent. The counter issue became, you are subjects of the King and he put you here and made it possible for you to enjoy this lifestyle.
The colonists were led early on by Dr. Joseph Warren, a patriot born in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard – and a firebrand speaker. He helped create the Minute Men and he curated an extensive spy matrix gleaning the whereabouts of British troops, movements, battle plans and so forth. Few have ever heard of him, but Warren actually lit the fuse. It was his idea to toss 45 tons of tea off three shipping boats in harbors all down the American coastline.
Warren was organizing men to resist. He was helping to secret weaponry away for the Patriots. He was working under a secret seditious document called the Suffolk Resolve, an organized boycott of British products. He needed to stir up the anger on both aides. He needed to set a trap for these arrogant fools. He thought, well, if we destroy money that would otherwise go to a desperate King’s treasury, a King who is in arrears, perhaps that would get an angry response.
Then they had the Boston Ta Party where 340 chests of British East India Company Tea was tossed overboard.
Not long afterwards, King George III couldn’t resist the bait. Early one morning a New York military commander unsheathed and extended is telescope and saw 300 ships of the line converging on the harbor. This was followed soon thereafter by what is known as the Revolutionary War.
You bet that earned the Colonies a response from the British.
Man, do not fuck with the King’s tea.
Dr. Joseph Warren, Early Patriot Firebrand