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British Incompetence

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The haphazard and disorganized British rule of the American colonies in the decade prior to the outbreak led to the Revolutionary War. The mishandling of the colonies, the taxation policies that violated the colonist right's, the distractions of foreign wars and politics in England and mercantilist policies that benefited the British to a much greater magnitude than the colonists; all demonstrate British negligence and incompetence in terms of colonial management. These policies and distractions play a fundamental role in the development of the Revolutionary War.

British interests regarding the colonies were self-centered. Through the employment of the mercantilist system the English exploited colonial trade. This system was not utilized entirely for its commercial advantages, but also as a means of governing the colonies. Mercantilism is when the state directs all the economic activities from within its own borders. England was the sole beneficiary of this commercial policy, and did not intend to make any alterations that would in turn aid the colonies. Due to such restrictive policies the colonies were compelled to internal trade. The English further abused their power in the colonies by stipulating that the colonies import more from England then they exported to the colonies. Such a mode of trade involved the importation of raw materials from the colonies and the exportation of finished goods from England. The final product was then distributed on an international scale to foreign markets such as the colonies. Throughout the seventeenth century the English saw America as an abundant supply of raw materials, which were not available at home, and moreover as a market to sell finished products. This proved to be detrimental to the colonies' well being because it made them reliant on British trade. The transitory Navigation Acts between 1651 and 1673 later reinforced the mercantilist ideal, which consequently made Britain the nucleus of American trade. With the passing of the Navigation Acts, much disapproval followed, for this policy limited the colonies to exclusive trade with Britain as its focal point, putting pressure on the lucrative smuggling industry already established amongst many, if not all the colonies.

In addition to the discord caused by the repressive mercantilist policies, domestic political issues sidetracked the British from the activities of the colonies. Throughout the seventeenth century, Great Britain was more concerned with trying to solve the Constitutional issue of who was to have more power in the English government, the king or parliament, that when this complex issue was finally resolved in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, England turned its attention back to the colonies and found that colonists had developed their own identity as Americans.

England did not possess an administrative center devoted to regulating the behavior of the colonies from overseas. The executive authority in England was divided among several ministers and commissioners that did not act quickly or in unison. Also, the Board of Trade, the branch of government that was more familiar with the activities of colonies than any other governing body in England, did not have the power to make decisions or to enforce decrees. Due to the distractions of complex constitutional issues and ineffective governmental organization, the colonists' felt further alienated from their English counterparts.

In the years leading up to the final decade before the American Revolution, the relationship between Great Britain and her colonies in North America continued to deteriorate. The situation became worse with the momentous victory over the French and Indians in the Seven Years War. Yet, unwelcome British troops remained in the colonies. This raised suspicions in the colonies of a possible British take over. In 1763, the colonists were shocked to hear that England set up a proclamation refraining colonials from settling beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The British thought it would prevent any further confrontation with the Indians, but instead they were confronted by American hostility. Once again the British did not reflect on colonists' reaction. "The Americans felt that they had given considerable help in conquering America from the French, and were furious at being told that they must not enter the promised land (Adams, 105)." Following this triumphant win, debts regarding the expenditure of the battle were abysmal. The outstanding payments from this war caused the Prime Minister at the time, Lord Grenville, to enforce Mercantilism as a means of compelling the colonists to pay their share of the national debt. He decided to impose the Sugar and Currency Acts, which "secured some custom revenue" (Adams, 105) and allowed new levies on foreign imports in to the colonies as well as interdiction of colonial manufactured paper money. They protested, but with little effect. This was the first of many repressive acts to be impressed upon the American people.

England passed many Acts concerning (direct or indirect) taxation that were injudicious. These policies had long-term effects on the relationship between England and the colonies. The most controversial form of taxation was direct taxes. The last time Parliament had tried a direct tax was as recent as 1765, when Lord Grenville enacted the Stamp Act, which forced the colonists to pay for stamps on printed documents. The Americans had felt the taxes of Lord Grenville were a deliberate aim to divest the colonists by refusing them the rights of the English. The idea of self-imposed taxation caused an upheaval among the colonists. The American people now had to decipher between taxes that were imposed to regulate trade and those that were intended solely to raise revenue. If the tax was used to promote commerce it was justifiable, but if the tax was used only to gain revenue it was not viewed as a legitimate tax. The colonists believed that this new tax was not legitimate and therefore there was strong opposition to it throughout the colonies. After a commotion stirred up by Patrick Henry, James Otis, the Sons of Liberty, Parliament felt it necessary that the Act be repealed. Although the colonists were unaware at the time, this was a major step for the colonies in their quest for their identity.

By 1766 England backed off in their efforts to tax their colonies. Following a year of opposition from the colonists England revoked the Stamp Act and the first Quartering Act, but they still passed the Declaratory Act. In 1766 the Declaratory Act was passed. It was passed the same day that the Stamp Act was repealed. The Declaratory Act gave the English government total power to pass laws to govern the colonies. The British

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