Nash, chapter 5 The Strains of Empire



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Nash, chapter 5

The Strains of Empire

All quotes from Chris Harman, A People’s History of the World, Bookmarks, 1999




  1. Imperialist rivalry for Atlantic basin trade



  1. French presence in North America



  1. Ohio River valley



  1. Seven Years War 1756-1763 --- This war between Britain and France “centered on control of colonies, especially in North America, and of the trade that went with them. Britain defeated France in the West Indies, took control of Bengal and conquered Canada, laying the basis for a world empire. But there was a mighty bill to be paid for doing so.”



  1. Pontiac’s Rebellion



  1. British Proclamation of 1763



  1. Colonies debt-ridden and weakened in man-power --- It was at this moment of crisis that Britain imposed a series of taxes on the [North American] colonists --- a tax on molasses (raw sugar used for making rum) in 1764, a ‘stamp tax’ on a range of transactions 1n 1765, a Quartering Act which made the colonists pay for the cost of keeping British troops in America, and a tax on imports in 1767.”



  1. Stamp Act 1765



  1. Stamp Act Riots --- “The anger against the British was intermingled with was intermingled with bitterness against the elite which flaunted its wealth at a time of general hardship.”



  1. Sons of Liberty --- “There was a tradition of popular protests and riots in the colonial towns. The Sons of Liberty acted almost as a political party, directing such traditional crowd action toward the British question and serving to generate new political consciousness among many ordinary Americans.”


  1. Stamp Act Congress --- “In Britain, colonists argued, the House of Commons could veto any government proposal on finance. Surely the assemblies of the different colonies should have the same power in the Americas. Otherwise, their fundamental ‘liberties’ were being trampled on. The language of protest was not yet revolutionary. People saw themselves as defending their ‘liberties’ as ‘Britons.’ But it led them to unite and mobilize for the first time against Britain.”



  1. Repeal of Stamp Act



  1. Impact on populace --- “As any protest movement arises, action changes peoples ideas, and the change in ideas leads to more action.”



  1. Townsend Acts 1767



  1. Boston Massacre 1770

  2. Repeal of Townsend duties 1770 EXCEPT



  1. Tea Act of 1773



  1. Boston Tea Party



  1. Intolerable Acts (Coercive Acts) 1773 --- General Gage was appointed Governor of Massachusetts, with a mandate to bring the colony to heel. He dispatched troops to Boston and passed the Intolerable Acts which decreed that colonists breaking the laws would be hauled to Britain for trial



  1. First Continental Congress 1774 --- Jefferson exclaimed should we allow “160,000 electors in the island of Great Britain give law to four million in the state of America’ (conveniently forgetting that in his own Virginia, black slaves and many poor whites had no say whatever)”



  1. Committees of Correspondence --- The severity of the measures taken by the British government meant that [the boycotts] could not just be left to the merchants. It had to be reinforced by the organization of mass resistance. In every ‘county, city and town,’ people had to elect committees to agitate against buying or consuming British goods . . . the struggle only advanced because people set up new institutions in opposition to the old elites: ‘Between 1774 and summer of 1776 those committees did in New York what similar bodies did in Paris between 1789 and 1792 and Russia in 1917.”



  1. Urban artisans



  1. American farmers


  1. Second Continental Congress 1775



  1. Battle of Lexington-Concord 1775



  1. Revolutionary ideology --- Pamphlets as weapons --- breaking the habits of deference “required both mass agitation and mass propaganda. In 1776 alone more than 400 pamphlets appeared, as well as scores of newspapers and magazines. But the decisive role was played by a 40 page pamphlet written by a recent British immigrant, Tom Paine.”



  1. Enlightenment thought



  1. Common Sense --- The pamphlet was written in a popular style, using the language of the artisan and trader rather than that of governors and assemblymen . . . Paine would have come across some of the ideas of the Enlightenment by attending popular scientific lectures and debating clubs in England. Now he translated these ideas into the language of the street and the workshop, insisting that ‘of more worthies one honest man to society than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.’ He scorned George III’s alleged ‘right to rule’, derived from his descent from a ‘French bastard’ leading a gang of ‘banditti.”



  1. Declaration of Independence 1776 --- “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”



  1. British strategy --- “The British strategy was to separate the colonies from one another by seizing New York, cause hardship by blockading coastal trade, and then march powerful armies to seize strategic points and towns . . . [But this strategy] was eventually doomed for a single reason --- the committees and the agitation had cemented [a significant] mass of people to the rebel cause.”



  1. Slavery? South and radical New England


  1. Lord Dunmore



  1. Revolution as civil war --- “Just as there were sections of the upper class which sided with the rebellion, there were many lower and middle class people who did not embrace the struggle for independence . . . So,[for example], in New York state, many tenants supported the British because a hated landlord was against them. Similarly, in parts of North and South Carolina, poor farmers took up arms as Tory guerrillas because of their bitterness against plantation owners who were for independence, leading to bloody reprisals on both sides.”



  1. Rebellions in the ranks



  1. American strategy



  1. The French




  1. Stability and control




  1. Plight of Native Americans --- The British succeeded in getting more support than the revolutionary armies from the two most oppressed groups in North America --- the black slaves and the Native Americans.



  1. Slave system



  1. Women



  1. Who benefited? Segments of the elite, “middling classes”



  1. Meet the new boss --- same as the old boss (We the People)



  1. Genie out of the bottle --- historical struggle continues. “The deference of the people for the ‘great families’ was shaken. Hundreds of thousands of people in the northern and central colonies were won to the ideas of human equality and liberty from oppression which, they could see, should apply to black people as well as white.”



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