Most of the first settlers in America came from England and considered themselves to be Englishmen. At first they relied on their mother country for money, supplies and protection. As the colony became larger and more populous, people gradually started feeling as if they were a separate nation. By the eve of the Revolution the patriotism had built up to such an extent, that the colonists believed America was self-sufficient enough to exist as an independent unit from England.
At first, America existed just as any of the other English colonies. England provided financial and military assistance, and in turn America shipped goods that were to be sold in England. This mercantilist system worked out at first, but as soon the population increased people began to feel that many of England’s trade policies and laws were unfair. They also expected to be represented in the English Parliament. Edmund Burke said, “Govern America? As you govern an English town which happens not to be represented in Parliament?” (Document B). However, England declined the colonist’s requests, and only made the situation worse by declaring harsher laws. Some laws prevented the colonists from trading with other countries, and others placed larger taxes on goods.
The English gave the colonists everything but then gave nothing. “We saw a set of men … under the Auspices of the English Government & protected by it, for so long Series of Years… rising, by easy Gradations, to such a State of Prosperity & Happiness as was almost enviable, but we also saw them go mad with too much Happiness” (Document F). The colonists had to go into rebellion after the British refused to keep on giving them what they wanted. “We saw them also run mad with too much Happiness, & burst into an open Rebellion against that Parent, who protected them against the ravages of their Enemies….” (Document F). In other words, the colonists did not need any assistance from England, except for protection. However that changed after the end of the French and Indian war. ” The generality of the People were not of this stamp; but they were weak, & unversed in the Arts of Deception” (Document F). The British losses were extremely heavy, and it would hardly be able to defend itself if war was to break out. Therefore England did not have a sufficient armed force to enforce its laws.
The Colonist in the New World were not completely united at first, but by the eve of the revolution they developed a great unity between them and even though America was now completely self-sufficient, there were still people loyal to England. Often referred to as the “Tories”, they did not want to abandon their parent country. The loyalists believed that America would never survive without England’s protection and guidance. Mather Byles said, “…which is better, to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away, or by three thousand tyrants not a mile away.” (Document D). People like him believed that creating a separate government in America would not solve any problems, but only create new ones. Others preached that it is a shame to leave their parent country. However, since the loyalists made up a small percentage of the population and were generally rich, the majority of people rarely favored their ideas. Prior to the breakout of the Revolution, many Tories had been tarred and feathered, beaten, or were subjected to other forms of punishment.
By 1754 the colonies started to realize the need of unity. Political cartoons played a big role during this time. For example: “Join or Die” (Document A). One of the most famous cartoons was the snake divided into many pieces. “This political cartoon, published during the tension prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution, called for the colonies to unite against the British.” (North Wind Picture Archives). Each piece represented each colony showing the need to join together or else die. Their message was that the snake couldn’t survive in pieces, unless they were together. Also, this expressed the fear of not being united and not been able to fight for their independence against the British. The people knew that if they did not unite it would be much easier for the British to destroy them.
Now, by 1774, the colonists felt more united than before. Richard Henry Lee wrote to Arthur lee “all N. America is now most firmly united and as firmly resolved to defend their liberties ad infinitum against every power on Earth that may attempt to take them away”(Document C) the 24th of February of the same year. What Lee meant was more than clear, America was now firmly united forever and as going to fight together against all of those who opposed.
After gaining freedom, colonists thought that after someone comes to North America he or she no longer is a European. “…He becomes and American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater” In other words, now that they have become an independent country, anyone who comes to North America shall not be an European but an American.
To conclude, American people gradually began to feel as a separate nation from England. Though the Americans shared much in common – culture, religion, and their common opposition of British rule, they still were somewhat reluctant to unite as a single country, even though they did unite and successfully overthrew the British, establishing the United States.
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