That’s the phrase I kept jokingly throwing around in my head as I’ve been reading Edmund Morgan’s The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89. I took a course on colonial America this past year which really sparked my interest in this time period. I figure since the colonial time period is a direct lead up to the Revolution, I should read about the lead up to the Revolution and pin point all the colonial events that were the brewing pots for the Revolution, like the House of Burgesses (Just kidding, Dr. Fea). In all seriousness, this time period really does interest me, and while I am looking for contingency, I’m not trying to inject false assumptions on the past, because that’s just not history.
To look over the first couple of chapters, the general argument is that the Revolution was when the American Colonists took their thoughts for British liberty into action. So Morgan talks about some of the thoughts regarding property rights asserted by the colonists.
Essentially, colonists for a significant time did what they pleased. Sure the king and parliament would pass laws for the royal governor’s to execute in the colonies, but it wasn’t anything a decent bribe couldn’t hide. In particular in Massachusetts, after more duties were put on foreign sugar, rum-makers bribed custom’s officers to turn the way, so that they could import more sugar at a cheaper price and keep up with the demand of rum in the colonies. I love reading about these more micro stories of history, it makes grand concepts easier to tackle when you can see how some of the every day American’s could handle them.
In Virginia, many Virginia Resolves sought to more politely challenge Parliament’s right to tax. While England responded with the argument of virtual representation, Maryland and New York seemed to directly challenge the idea that someone living in the mother country was really thinking of the colonies.
Though unlike what Whig historians may argue, I would significantly challenge the idea that this was all the brewing pot of the American Revolution. I challenge this, because the colonists still identified themselves with a strong English heritage. Even those who had never been to the mother country referred to England as home.
The American colonists, as Morgan argues, were not looking for more freedom and separation. Nor were they looking for any less. The colonists following the passage of the Sugar Act were simply looking for the same freedoms that they had enjoyed before. For that reason they challenged Parliament’s ability to tax, but not its’ ability to legislate. Though eventually that ability to legislate would eventually be questioned, it was not as early as many would believe, I mean even in 1766 of this book, I have not read a single argument for separation between the colonies and England. They simply wanted the English to step off and allow the colonies to enjoy the British Liberties that they felt entitled too.