Gareth’s Causes and Results of the American War of Independence

The Social Contract

At the time of the American War of Independence the writings of the Philosophs were beginning to spread across the world. Of these the writings of John Locke are probably the most relevant to this particular discussion. One of his most revolutionary and most relevant was the Social Contract. An idea that the government and the people had a contract; that the government would give people certain rights, the right to free speech, the right to vote etc. and they would also protect them militarily. In exchange the people would agree to taxed and have a few other of their liberties taken away (the right to kill, to steal etc.).

The social contract has become a vital part of human civilisation even during the days of the American war of independence. When people see the social contract being violated they get very angry and when they complain and the government refuses to cooperate then they get violent.

This is one of the biggest reasons the American War of Independence happened. It is intertwined in three main issues.

Causes

Economic:

Even though the Colonists were being protected by the English and the English had just fought a war to protect them, the Colonists felt no obligation to provide funds to their protector and ruler. However, since the English had just finished fighting a war, they were moderately short on resources, money, and supplies. There had been little economic gain at the end of this war and the English needed to regain their losses, at least partially. So they imposed a tax on many of the goods the Colonies imported.

The colonists weren't too happy about this change: they were not used to paying taxes, which was one of the reasons they had come to the new world. They believed that the English were taking advantage of them by taxing them without representation. This idea was reinforced by the work of the Philosophers, specifically Locke’s 'Social Contract'.

This spread a feeling of discontent through the colonies and fanned the flames of what would become a long and bloody resistance. The economics of the situation, were the colonists already felt oppressed before the taxation began was a large contributing factor to the start of the American war of independence.

Political:

The events prior to the breakout of the war were the last time the King of England had anything to do with England’s foreign policy. For good reason, the negotiations prior to the war, though they barely rate the name, were a disaster. The King refused, allowing extremist organisations like the Sons of Liberty to spread rumours of a dispassionate king that cared nothing for his subjects.

Not only were the kings political relations with the colonies bad, but once the people of the colonies started speaking out and trying to get political independence the king gave orders to suspend the meetings of their town councils and taking away the small amount of political freedom he gave them in the first place.

Every man values their political freedom, taking that away from them when they were already in a situation where the felt that they were oppressed was simply opening the door to bloodshed and violence. It was a door that the Sons of Liberty exploited fully and thus was a major cause of the American Revolution.

Ideological:

There’s no denying it: people like to be free and after becoming familiarized with the taste of it, they won't be too happy when their freedom gets taken away, which fuels feelings of anger and aggravation. Their reaction is very similar when the social contract is violated. The social contract is deeply involved in our ideology, our idea of how the government should run our country. This idea spans all of western civilization and existed during the American War of Independence.

Firmly embedded in this ideology is the idea that the government exists to support and protect you. Like in Rousseau’s social contract. If the government does not it deserves to fall and let the people create a new one. Almost one third of Americans believed that the English government was in the wrong, that they had broken the social contract and that the English government should leave its American colonies to govern themselves.

The trouble was, another third of the people did not agreed with the separatist movement that was sweeping the colonies. They believed that the government taxing them after fighting a war for them was completely reasonable. So, as people do when their ideologies diverge their disagreements escalated into violence.

The ideologies of the various fractions in the colonies were a major contributing factor to fan the flames of revolution. These clashes were inflamed by the propaganda of the Sons of Liberty. It was this ideology that gave rise to ideas that still exist today and provided the majority of the reactive force that would propel America to Independance.