Origins of the American Revolution

Origins of the American Revolution

Origins of the American Revolution

Origins of the American Revolution

Excerpt

In 1763, Great Britain attained a height of power and dominion which led many Englishmen to conclude that a new Roman Empire had been brought into being through the genius of William Pitt and the valor of British arms. France and Spain, united by the Family Compact, had been decisively defeated and a large part of North America and India had been brought under British control. A period of "prosperity and glory unknown to any former age" seemed to be opening for Great Britain and her colonies. Yet those Englishmen who in 1763 regarded themselves as the heirs of Rome soon perceived a new and highly disquieting resemblance between Britain and Rome: the British Empire seemed about to go the way of the Roman Empire. It appeared probable that the same generation of Englishmen which saw the empire reach. its highest point of grandeur would be the witness of its decline and fall. So swiftly did fortune turn that William Pitt, who had brought Great Britain to the zenith, died in the House of Lords fifteen years later in one of England's darkest hours.

The Englishmen who lost the American colonies were not solely responsible for the catastrophe which overtook the empire, although George III and his ministers must bear a large share of the blame. Because Americans were such good Englishmen -- in the seventeenth-century mold -- and held fast to the liberal traditions of English history, they made uncommonly troublesome subjects from the point of view of British imperialists. Eighteenth-century Englishmen found Americans "of a disposition haughty and insolent, impatient of rule, disdaining subjection, and by all means affecting independence" -- in sharp contrast to "the remarkably pliant and submissive disposition" of the inhabitants of Bengal.1 As a result, the British Empire was at best, in Benjamin Franklin's words, a fragile Chinese vase which required far more delicate . . .

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