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The difficulties between British Parliament and the American colonist came to its climax at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in the spring of 1775. The Colonists fought against the economic exploitation and political oppression of Parliament who refused to believe that the colonies had outgrown, both economically and psychologically, their former status. 

The Problems Begin

The problems between the Colonies and England had begun after the French and Indian war with the Peace Treaty of 1763. In this treaty, the British had gained Canada from France and Florida from Spain.

The French and Indian war and the Treaty of 1763 caused changes in the relationship between the Mother country and the Colonies. These changes were as follows:

  1. The Colonies were no longer threatened by the French menace, thus they were no longer dependent upon British Military protection.
  2. The British had a new sense that they must rule their Colonies. No longer would the British government leave the colonies to themselves, from now on there would be strict and efficient control.
  3. British taxpayers felt that the Americans should start paying a fair share of the cost of the war.

The new British attitude showed itself in the following ways:

  1. In stricter enforcement of the existing laws
  2. In attempts to tax the Colonies
  3. In an effort to take control of the West
  4. In attacks on colonial rights of self-government.

The Grenville Administration

The task of solving the problem of ruling a vast empire efficiently and economically fell to George Grenville, who was the secretary of the treasury.

Law Enforcement

To accomplish this task, Grenville implemented the following changes in Colonial policy of enforcement of the laws:

  1. Customs officials were now required to go to their posts in America and actually do their jobs. These officials were notorious for getting their pay for doing nothing.
  2. The infamous Writs of Assistance gave these officials assistance to stop smuggling in the Colonies. These Writs are blanket search warrants, that could be used anywhere at any time.
  3. British warships would patrol the inlets and ports of the Americas to catch smugglers and seize contraband.
  4. Alleged smugglers would be tried in the Admiralty Courts. In these courts, the accused had no right to trial by jury, and the judges would pocket 5% of the fines they imposed.
  5. The Quartering Act of 1765, a supplement of the Mutiny Act of 1764.
    This Act directed the Colonies to provide quarters for the 10,000 soldiers based in the Colonies, in their own homes if necessary. The soldiers were there to provide protection from Indian attacks and to enforce the newly implemented Parliamentary laws.

Tax changes

Grenville also implemented new levies on the colonies. These levies were in the form of taxes. These taxes raised revenue, instead of regulating the colonial trade. Taxation for revenue purposes was a novel implementation.<

The New tax acts were as follows:

  1. The Sugar Act of 1764, which cut in half the Molasses Act of 1733. This in effect reduced the lucrative trade with the Spanish and French West Indies.
  2. To top this off the Currency Act 1764, forbid the printing of paper currency in the Colonies.

These two acts combined, caused a strain on trade and made Specie (hard money) even scarcer in the Colonies. In the end, it would bankrupt the colonial merchants.

Parliament had also passed the Stamp Act, which had attempted to defray the expenses of the war. The Americans on the other hand, felt that they did not have to pay anything.

Parliament repealed The Stamp Act in 1766, but the same year passed the Declaratory Act. This Act states that the Colonies were subordinate to Parliament and that Parliament will make all laws as it sees fit. The Colonies will in effect obey Parliamentary Law.

The next article in this series: The Townshend Duties, which was Parliament's second attempt to gain control over the colonial economy.


Some of the material in this article are from:

  1. "The Stamp Act Crisis" by Edmund and Helen M. Morgan, PP. 43-45. Printed by Collier Press, Copyright 1963.
  2. Account of a Declaration 
    This is from the autobiography of Thomas Jefferson and put together by Left Justified.