In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, there were numerous ideas and visions of what should become of America. Many of these ideas and visions, yet often contradicting and varying compared to one another, eventually led to an idea of unity and a identity among the majority of Americans. The time period of 1750 to 1776 displayed numerous events and actions relating to this general idea. During the early years of the 1740's and 50's, there was a great amount of unrest between colonies.
Major conflicts were visible between the developed Atlantic Coast colonies and the newly settled colonies in an area known as the " backcountry." Colonists in the backcountry felt that they were underrepresented and virtually represented in colonial government. Numerous revolts against the Atlantic Coast colonies over proper protection brought out a prevalent message that there was unrest in the colonies. An important event that stands out in this period was when an organization known as the Paxton Boys went to Philadelphia with demands for relief from colonial taxes and money to help defend against natives. In other areas in the colonies, farmers were angered over taxes that were being placed on them. Small-scale civil wars broke out, such as the Regulator movement in North Carolina, a rebellion among farmers who were opposed to high taxes that local sheriffs collected.
There was also a great lacking of unity between the socioeconomic classes of the time. Members of the lower classes displayed a great amount of unrest towards their rich counterparts of the upper classes. Even though such a great amount of non-unity was displayed in this time of turmoil in the colonies, events would quickly change. An idea of unity soon began to emerge on the onset of the Grenville ministry. Even though civil disagreements and rebellions such as the Regulator Movement occurred during the Grenville ministry, colonists began to realize the oppression of British rule. With the onset of the ministry, Britain increased its political power in the colonies in more direct ways.
Colonists were bombarded with such policies that many considered to be unjust. Policies such as the Sugar Act of 1764 brought an increased awareness of British power. Later policies such as the Stamp Act brought out the idea that the Grenville program was a threat basically to every member of colonial society from the poorest of poorest in the lower classes to the elite of the upper classes. When economic slumps began to occur that influenced every aspect of the colonies, a true sign of unity was displayed.
Even though this unity did not begin as a whole, it developed a strong foundation in the various classes. The unity among Americans began to grow when boycotts were formed in response to the Stamp Act. Boycotts were a true sign of unity leading up to the resistance due to the fact that a boycott involved large segments of the population and almost every colony in America. Groups such as the Sons of Liberty were formed in this turmoil with Britain to bring about a larger sense of unity among the colonists. When the Grenville ministry came to a close, the Townshend Program came about. Even though Townshend made numerous attempts to avoid confrontations with the colonies through developing and implementing policies that he viewed as fair, he was highly unsuccessful.
The new duties that were placed on the colonies angered them just as equally, if not more than the earlier Stamp Act. Americans viewed the numerous taxes that were being placed on them as an annihilation of personal rights. Even though these policies further heightened unity, a display of non-corporation was shown as the same time. The Massachusetts Assembly took the initiative in opposing the new policies by circulating a letter to all of the colonial government, urging them to stand up against every tax imposed by Parliament. Yet the circular was not widely responded to.
This event shows that there still wasn't a strong bond between colonies. Unity was again displayed when in 1768, merchants of Philadelphia and New York joined with Boston on a nonimportation agreement. This boycott lead to the corporation between merchants, planters, and traders, drawing a unity between classes. Other colonies also displayed their unity when participating in the relief effort of Boston.
Spirits of revolution in the colonies greatly increased after the occurrence of the Boston Massacre in 1770. The massacre brought out great resentment towards the British from a majority of the colonial population. A breaking point in colonial unity occurred over the idea of " representation." Americans came to believe that it was their right to be taxed only with their own consent. John Dickinson's pamphlet Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer extended on the idea through the fact that external taxation was legal only to regulate trade, not to raise revenue. Gradually, a united stand among Americans took place through the breakthrough phrase of " No taxation without representation." The theory of actual representation, displayed in generally successful local community governments, led to a unified resistance against oppressive policies. This debate over representation was a major breaking point in the friction between Britain and the colonies.
Americans began to believe that a " conspiracy against liberty" came about in the British government. Friction and hatred toward British policies heightened to an even greater level when the Tea Act of 1773 was passed. The act was a great example of " taxation without representation." In return, yet another boycott was placed on British tea, again unifying a large amount of the population. The events rotted from the act led to a mass popular protest that linked every colon. In 1774, another event of great unity occurred, a unity among every colony, the meeting of the First Continental Congress. The congress made five major decisions including: a statement of grievances, acts of nonimportation, non exportation, and non consumption as means as stopping trade with Britain, the formation of a "Continental Association", and the act of military preparations for defense against Britain.
These crucial decisions interconnected every colony in policies against British rule. In 1775, clashes at Lexington and Concord occurred, which in turn sparked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. A majority of the American population was ready unite and go to war in order to defend their liberties. The later year of 1776 turned out to be a year of unity in America. Common Sense, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine, brought out the awareness of the ultimate goal of independence.
With more than 100, 000 copies sold in its first few months, virtually every colonist either read, heard of, or discussed the material of independence. Bringing out the idea that is was simple "common sense" for Americans to break completely away from Britain sparked the true desire for independence. In 1776, the Continental Congress again met. A committee was appointed to draft a formal declaration of independence with a resolution " That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, free and independent states. ." .
On July 4, the Congress formally approved the Declaration of Independence. In numerous cities, crowds gathered to celebrate the independence. The colonies now became states. But this newly founded independence wouldn't come from the signing of a document, it would come from a long fought war in which the majority of the American population was united in every aspect. Even though a minority of the population of America (Tories and loyalists) were still not in unity due to contradicting ideas of the war and the breaking away from Britain in general, unity was still a prevalent occurrence. Unity was visible among the various economical classes, even though in some cases it might have been brought about through a blinded false leading.
The ideas that were instilled in the majority of the colonists through the events that had occurred created a strong identity among Americans, as well as a vision of what America was supposedly going to become.