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America: 1763-1776

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The French and Indian War changed the balance of power in North America in favor of the British. The French were driven out by a coalition of Britons, colonists, and Indians. However, once peace returned, these groups began to quarrel, and the situation in North America became more fragile every day. The colonists and the British held deep resentment toward each other following the war, stemming most particularly from the poor relations between British and colonial troops. Indian tribes feared that the British would allow the colonists to invade their tribal lands, and thus conducted attacks against the British in North America in attempt to stave off western settlement. Eventually, the British passed the Proclamation of 1763, limiting colonial expansion to appease the tribes, but this angered the colonists, who thought that Britain should stay out of North American affairs all together.

The next ten years consisted of a string of British impositions on the colonies, as if to test the limits of Parliament's power in North America. The first of these impositions was the use of writs of assistance, which allowed customs agents to search any building or ship without a specific warrant. The colonists saw this as a great infringement upon their natural rights. The effect of the writs was compounded by the advent of the Sugar Act, which put tight regulations on American trade, and provided for jury-less trials for accused smugglers. The colonists were greatly inconvenienced by this act, but full- fledged opposition to the British was hesitant in coming.

Parliament passed the Stamp Act in March 1765, requiring all colonists to buy specific watermarked paper for all newspapers and legal documents. Due to the Stamp Act's wide effect throughout the colonies, and the fact that it placed an internal tax on the colonies, it roused significant opposition. As violence broke out all over the colonies, the groups such as the Loyal Nine and the Sons of Liberty took control of the resistance and mobilized the citizenry in efforts to pressure Parliament to repeal the act. The culmination of the Stamp Act crisis was the strategy of non-importation undertaken by colonial businessmen, severely damaging the British economy and forcing repeal.

However, it was not long before the British again offended the colonists. Tension rose up around the Quartering Act in New York in 1766, and Parliament threatened to remove the colony's power of self-government if it did not comply with British orders. In 1767, Parliament passed the Townshend duties, a series of taxes on certain imported goods clearly designed to raise revenue for the British treasury and undertaken by Parliament in the hope of establishing a fund with which to pay the salaries of colonial governors.

The corruption with which the Townshend duties were enforced caused the tide of colonial opposition to rise to new heights. After the Boston Massacre the colonists became convinced that the British government planned to suppress them by force and deny them the right to self-government. Organized political resistance arose in the form of the Committees of correspondence, which linked the colonies in a network of political thought and action. The committees of correspondence would help lead the colonists into the Revolutionary War.

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