The American War of Independence was a military
conflict fought from 1775 to 1783, but the American Revolution was a deeper
transformation of thought and loyalty that began when the first settlers arrived
in America and finally led to the colonies political separation from
One source of long-term conflict was the tension
between the considerable freedom and self-government the colonists enjoyed
in the American wilderness and their participation in the British Empires
mercantile system. While British mercantilism actually provided economic benefits
to the colonies along with certain liabilities, its limits on freedom and
patronizing goal of keeping America in a state of perpetual economic adolescence
stirred growing resentment.
The short-term movement toward the War of Independence
began with British attempts to impose higher taxes and tighter imperial controls
after the French and Indian War. To the British these were reasonable measures,
under which the colonists would simply bear a fair share of the costs of the
empire. To the colonists, however, the measures constituted attacks on fundamental
Through well-orchestrated agitation and boycotts,
the colonists forced repeal of the Stamp Act of 1765 as well as the Townshend
Acts that replaced it, except for the symbolic tax on tea. A temporary lull
in conflict between 1770 and 1773 ended with the Boston Tea Party, conducted
by a network of Boston agitators reacting to the Massachusetts governors
attempt to enforce the law.
In response to the Tea Party, the British imposed
the harsh Intolerable Acts, coincidentally passing the Quebec Act at the same
time. These twin actions aroused ferocious American resistance throughout
the colonies, and led directly to the calling of the First Continental Congress
and the clash of arms at Lexington and Concord.
As the two sides prepared for war, the British
enjoyed the advantages of a larger population, a professionally trained militia,
and much greater economic strength. The greatest American asset was the deep
commitment of those Patriots who were ready to sacrifice for their rights.