Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume II by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume II by  Mara L. Pratt

Causes of the Revolution


Y OU remember, in the French and Indian War, the colonists began to feel dissatisfied with the way England treated them. Up to that time, England had left them pretty much alone; but as soon as she found they really were beginning to be quite important, that they were carrying on quite a little commerce and manufacturing, that they were raising quite a large amount of cotton and tobacco, and were really growing every year in wealth, and in numbers, and in power, then she thought it quite time that they be made to help support the English government.

The colonists, since they considered England their mother country, were quite willing to do this, and would have done it had England treated them fairly.

Did you ever think where the money comes from to keep in order the cities or town you live in—to build its public buildings, to lay out its streets, and to pay all the officers and workmen for their work?

Of course you know that every State has a Governor, who has been chosen by votes of the people. He stands as the head man in the State; but of course he could not go about to every house to ask people what they would like to have done in their particular cities or towns.

And so the work is divided; somewhat as the school system is in large towns and cities. There is a Superintendent, who has charge of the teaching in the town or city; but as he could not teach every child, he engages a principal to take charge of each school building, and each principal, in his turn, has a teacher to take charge of each room in the building.


Patrick Henry Delivering his Celebrated Speech, 1765

The government of the State is somewhat like this—in its division at least. All the men of one town go to the "polls," as they call it, and vote for some one man to represent them. They tell him what they want, and he is expected, when he meets at the State House with the representatives from all other parts of the State, to express the wishes of these men who voted to have him fill this office.

The State calls these representatives together, finds what each town wants, and the money which all these property owners in all the towns have paid in, is distributed as these representatives think best.

In the same way, the work is divided in each city or town. The men all go to the polls again for a municipal election, as it is called; that is, to elect men to carry on the city affairs. They elect one man to oversee the whole city, much as the Governor oversees the whole State, and as the Superintendent oversees the whole school system. Then there is another man elected to oversee the water supply, another to oversee the roads, another to collect the taxes—and many, many more; so many that, rather than take the time here to try to name them, I think I will leave you to ask your fathers about them; for very likely they can explain it all to you a great deal better than I can on paper.

But all these officers must be paid for working for the city, and they must also have money to carry on the work that is expected of them. And this money is raised by taxation,—that is, every property holder pays in a certain amount of money to help pay the expenses of the town or city. The tax-payers are willing to do this, because they know it will all go to pay the salaries of these officers, to build roads, lay out public parks, support the schools,—all those things that go to help make our cities and towns pleasant and comfortable.

This sort of tax paying is perfectly just; because each town in this way gets its share of the good things which its tax money has bought.

Now let us see what England tried to do,—what it was that made the colonies so angry that at last they rose in arms against the mother country.

She said, "You are getting so wealthy now, you ought to pay tax to us."

The colonists said, "Very well, we shall be glad to do so; for we consider ourselves as little towns belonging to England, and so of course we expect to give our share of the money which the government needs."

"But you are not to have any of this money back again," said England. "The King will do what he pleases with it. Neither are you to send any representative to us, and we will hear none of your prayers."

Then the colonists were angry indeed. "We are not slaves," said they, "and we are not going to pay money to England unless we can have representatives and be treated like the towns in England."

But greedy England only laughed at them, and said, "You shall do as we tell you to, or we will send our soldiers over to whip you into obedience."

England didn't realize that the colonies might prepare to whip British soldiers themselves.

Now I hope from all this,—and this has been a pretty long lesson I fear,—I hope you will understand, and will never forget, that the reason the colonists made war with England was because England was determined to tax them without allowing them any part in the government. As the histories say, the cause of the Revolution was "Taxation without Representation."


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