Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Causes of the American Revolution: Part 5 – Boston

For Great Britain, even before the Revolution began, Boston was always trouble.

Whatever the incident, the British overreacted. The Bostonians were itching for a fight, so any situation quickly became volatile. With revolutionary voices such as the Boston Gazette and zealots such as Sam Adams and organizations to whip up seething hatred, Boston was not a calm city.

Boston was ready for revolution.

How did this happen?

A significant factor was that by the middle of the 18th century, the urban poor were becoming a permanent population in American cities.

Many immigrants were very poor. They were also landless, so there was nothing to inherit. Some moved on to the frontier, fought against Native Americans, and tried to speculate in land. They joined an already lawless society there.

In Boston, most of the wealth and power was held by just a few people. The poor were looking for anything to improve their situation. Working for wages sometimes was an option. But improving the immigrants’ financial plight was very difficult. The urban poor were a restless underclass. They were ready to riot.

In 1768, smuggling brought British troops into Boston streets. The population, rowdy, anti-British (also anti-Catholic and anti-French at later times) viewed the occupation as tyranny.

After all, as we already know, smuggling was quite illegal and therefore very profitable. It was well-established in the economy. All kinds of goods were smuggled, including luxuries. Smugglers became very rich. You might say, smugglers improved the standard of living, if you could pay!

The British believed that troops would control dissent. Instead it just encouraged rebellion. If one was a loyalist British supporter, your situation was very precarious.

The Boston Massacre (1770) turned an incident, which was basically a lack of crowd control, into a major military snafu.

The Boston Tea party is the most notorious Revolutionary War episode, apart from the start of the shooting war nearby. The British wanted to punish Boston for ruining all that tea. So they essentially put the valuable harbor out of commission till someone paid for the damages.

Who did pay for the damages, anyway?

The rest of New England supported Boston’s revolt.

Boston was Britain’s thorn. Credibility was at stake here.

The British finally gave up on Boston, as the war moved to the southern colonies, and took on new directions with the entry of other countries.

But ten years before, Boston was a formidable adversary. – Renata Breisacher Mulry

1 comment:

LoomisBooks.com Editor said...

Interesting points. Boston seems to have had the right combination of brainpower and manpower to spark a revolution.