What Caused England to Tighten Controls Over American Colonies in 1760s

What Caused England to Tighten Controls Over American Colonies in 1760s

In the 1760s, Great Britain began tightening controls over its American colonies in the wake of the Seven Years War, often referred to as the French and Indian War. British victory gave them more land in North America but it also left them with more debt to collect from the colonies in the form of increased taxes. Additionally, Native American warfare continued after 1763, requiring British troops to actively police the borders of the colonies. These new controls eventually led to the American Revolution, as after the 1760s the colonists began to see the British as overlords rather than protectors.

1 Background

The Seven Year's War, fought from 1756 to 1763, was a major war between various European powers, but in North America it was primarily a war between Great Britain and its colonies against the French and their Native American allies. By 1763 the British had defeated the French, and the subsequent Peace of Paris gave to Great Britain all French land on North America, which included the Louisiana territory and Canada. Not only was the war expensive, but the land required additional policing by British forces. New government ministers appointed by King George III, such as Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend, sought to increase taxes in order to pay for the land and the additional policing required.

2 Raising Taxes

To help pay for the expensive war, Britain began directly taxing the colonies, first by enforcing existing taxes which it had not been collecting, such as the Navigation Acts and the Molasses Acts, and secondly by implementing new taxes through the Sugar Act in 1764, the Stamp Act in 1765, and the Townshend Acts of 1767, the latter of which taxes essential goods such as paper, glass, and tea. Such taxes were a major imposition on the colonists, who say their previous economic prosperity diminish with these new regulations.

3 Proclamation of 1763

Additionally, the British imposed further restrictions to police the new land gained from the French. Pontiac's Rebellion of 1763, a Native American revolt that unified various tribes who had previously fought with the French, demonstrated the need for additional policing. As a result, Britain passed the Proclamation of 1763, which restricted colonial settlement beyond the Appalachian Mountains to prevent skirmishes with Native Americans. They also passed the Quartering Act of 1765, which required British soldiers be quartered at colonists' expense to defend them from any further Native American attacks. Like the taxes, these new regulation contributed to the colonists resentment of British control.

4 Colonial Response

The colonial response to these new impositions gradually built toward the American Revolution in 1776. The colonists objected to being taxes without representation in British parliament, and after the Stamp Act, many responded by forming the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, an official gathering of representatives from different colonies that would be a precursor to the Continental Congress. Additionally, groups such as the Sons of Liberty were formed and led riots and used the threat of violence against British officials to protest the taxes from the Stamp Act. These tactics would help lead to the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766, but not the end of British taxes as a whole. Further British taxes in the 1770s would only deepen tensions, culminating in the outbreak of war in 1775 and the colonies' declaration of their independence in 1776.

Aatif Rashid writes on international politics and culture. His articles have appeared in magazines such as "The Oxonian Globalist" and online at Future Foreign Policy and ThinkPolitic. He holds Bachelor's degrees in English and history from U.C. Berkeley and a Masters degree from the University of Oxford.