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Unity and Identity in the Colonies Essay

Because of several events that preceded and lead to it, Colonists had developed strong senses of both identity and unity as Americans by the eve of the Revolution. The French and Indian War was one of the initial events that played a pivotal role in establishing unity amongst the colonists. Winning the war was crucial to the colonists because a loss to the French would result in a loss of British superiority. A British victory would enable colonists the opportunity to expand in territory and form a new nation. Many such as Benjamin Franklin urged colonial alliance.

During the war’s first year, Franklin published his famous ‘Join or Die’ cartoon in Philadelphia, which strongly urged unity amongst the colonies. Due to poor battle tactics, Britain suffered early losses. The losses deteriorated the image of the British as an invincible force in the eyes of the colonists. It showed an underlying layer of weakness, which distanced the colonists from their mother country, Britain. While the actual war served as a catalyst for the unification of the colonies, the results of the war also had large effects on their identity as a new nation.

The victory increased colonial self-esteem, and helped the colonists to perceive themselves as independent people who could defend themselves. Like the French and Indian War, The Proclamation of 1763 was a cardinal event in the development of the colonists’ sense of identity and unity. The Proclamation declared that settling west of the Appalachians was illegal to colonists. The land was declared off limits because it was Indian land, and the King did not want to cause any more dispute between Britain and the Indians. The colonists found this law to be unacceptable.

Colonies had already begun planning on settling west, and found that giving land to the Indians was defeating the purpose of the French and Indian War which they had just fought in. Colonies had come to realize their independence and self-sufficiency. They rebelled against the law, and proceeded in settling westward. Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” is arguably one of the greatest influences on the unity and identity of the colonists. Thomas Paine’s pamphlet brought the possibility of Revolution into full focus for the colonists. The writings placed blame for the suffering of the colonies solely on King George III, the current British ruler.

Paine beseeched the idea of an immediate declaration of independence, implying that America had a moral obligation to secede from the corrupt nation. “Common Sense” further inspired colonists to initiate secession from Britain, and lead to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. During the time of the American Revolution, the colonies had come to identify themselves as a self-governing nation, enraged by the country who had ruled them. Throughout key events in history, the once estranged colonies that lacked a sense of identity metamorphosed into a full blown and unified nation on the verge of revolution.


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