History Optional Paper- 2 Solution – 1995: Q.5 (b)
Q.5 (b) “The American Revolution was a natural and even expected event in the history of colonial people who had come of age.” Comment.
It is believed by many that the mild bond of union which held the American colonies to the mother country, England, might have remained unbroken for an indefinite period if unwise policies of England that brought about the resistance of the former, had not happened.
But many others believe that the American colonies as children of England, had come of age, and that nothing could have long delayed a political separation. It is argued that those who find in the Stamp Act, the tax on tea, and the like, the cause of the Revolution, fail to look beneath the surface. These were but the occasion; the political separation got hastened through revolution, but the true causes of the separation had their roots in the far past.
For more than fifty years before the Seven Years’ War (Anglo-French War) there was a strong attachment between the two peoples, and that the thought of severing their bond of union was nowhere entertained. There were some mild problems like:
(a) The royal governors were forever complaining about the unruly spirit of the colonial assemblies;
(b) The colonists were constantly annoyed by the Navigation Acts, and that they thought it not robbery to evade them when they could.
But these were only ripples on a smooth sea and America was happy. The people continued to prosper and grow in strength and they did not want to escape the mother country’s wings and their proudest boast was still that they were Englishmen.
But a separation sooner or later was inevitable. It is true that there was no plot, no conspiracy in America looking to independence; but there were forces at work for many years that must eventually dissolve the political bond between the two peoples.
It is true that America was the child of England, it was not the child of the England of 1760, but rather of the England of 1600. The great immigration had ceased in 17th century and in all the century that had passed since then the migration from England had been small. By 1760, the child of England i.e. America, has come of age. The English institutions, transplanted to America early in the seventeenth century, had developed on purely American lines, had been shaped by the social, political, and economic conditions peculiar to America.
The result was that the two peoples unconsciously grew apart, so far apart that they were no longer able to understand each other; and when England now attempted to play the part of parent the fact was brought out that the relations of parent and child existed no longer between the two countries. The colonies had come of age in their development and they could govern themselves better than they could be governed by a power beyond the sea.
The conquest of Canada by England from France changed the relations between England and the colonies. So long as old enemy France hung on the north, both England and her colonies were held in check: the colonies felt a certain need of protection; England felt that a contest with the colonies might drive them to a coalition with the French. But now as this obstacle was removed after defeat of French colonies of Canada, both could be natural in their relations with one another; and this normal relationship soon revealed how far apart they stood. England then failed to recognize this divergence; she attempted to deal with America as child which it was not.
But still the old relations of mother-child might have continued for years to come at least nominally if not practically. But events like imposition by Acts of British Parliament on America irritated colonists. Stamp Act, Quartery Act, Tea Act etc were considered by the Americans as the interference in their freedom and liberty which they had learnt from their mother country itself. This led to full blown American War of independence where a grown up child (America) opposed the imposition of will from mother (England). This finally led to American Revolution causing political dis-union of America with England.
American Revolution did not bring widespread social and economic changes. Important social changes were left untouched by the Revolution like the class structure, the distribution of property, the capitalistic economy. Revolutionaries were not disgrunted lawyers, frustrated bourgeois, the tyrranized workers, and the land hungry peasants who caused revolutions in France or Russia. Revolutionaries were contented and prosperous people under the British Crown and they wanted to be undisturbed in their accustomed ways, as they had come of age.
Hence, it can be concluded that, instead of being an abrupt break, the American Revolution was a natural and even expected event in the history of colonial people who had come of age.