Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries Americans developed a unique system of government with revolutionary ideals – never seen anywhere else before. Americans adopted representative governments with democratic principles that allowed each person to have a voice in the decisions about their country. This atmosphere of new ideas and new political rights fostered a growing sense of a unique American identity – not found anywhere else. By the eve of the American Revolution, colonists had embraced a new identity – completely different from their English roots – that helped fuel their resistance against Britain; however, plagued by petty disagreements and discouraged by the large Loyalist population, the Americans were never able to effectively unite against the British.
During the early 18th century, the British government adopted a policy of “salutary neglect” toward the colonies, which gave Americans freedom to develop their own political systems – as long as they followed the ideas of Mercantilism. When the first colonies were chartered in the 17th century, the majority adopted some sort of political institution that gave voting rights to each and every man. In the North, most citizens were able to participate in the local Town Meetings and voice their opinions. In addition, nearly every colony had a representative assembly with elected officials. These new political institutions – that the Americans had built from the ground up, and learned to cherish – caused Americans to forge a distinctive identity. However, there were other factors that contributed to the growth of a new American identity.
The American/British victory in the French and Indian War taught the Americans that they could unite in difficult times and triumph over adversity. The victory increased American morale and promoted patriotism throughout the colonies. However, when Parliament attempted to tighten control of the colonial governments and make the colonists pay for their fair share of the war, colonists were furious at the attack on their freedoms. Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765, the proud colonists felt insulted that the British government would bypass their own colonial system of taxation. Americans were upset because they felt that they shouldn’t be taxed by an assembly in which they had no representation. Combined with Parliament’s other unreasonable acts like the Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act, colonists became concerned about the increasingly hostile acts of Parliament which, in their eyes, were designed to limit their rights and liberties. Parliament’s aggression towards the colonies reinforced the fact that colonist’s political, economic, and social ideas varied significantly with those of the British. In addition, a large percentage of the colonists were not British in the least, but rather Dutch, or Scots-Irish, or some other race and had no loyalty to the Crown whatsoever. Why would the proud colonists listen to an assembly 3000 miles away, when they had their own representative assemblies that spoke for their interests? It is precisely this question that colonists were asking on the eve of the Revolution.
Colonists had developed a strong sense of American identity by the 18th century, however, when the time came for the colonists to unite against the British, disorganization and uncertainty ran rampant. Organizations that were meant to be unifying factors for the colonists, like the Continental Congress, were little more than debating clubs that had to work for weeks before agreeing on anything. In addition, American resistance was further hampered by a conflict of colonial interests. Many colonists, dubbed Loyalists, were still faithful to the Crown and did not want to break away from Great Britain. Furthermore, some colonists refused to support the revolution, because they felt that a break with Britain would mean economic turmoil – a fact probably not far from the truth. Loyalists fought with the American rebels, while the rebels also fought with the British troops. Some colonists aided the Patriots, while others aided the British. In one instance, Loyalists made clothes and shoes and sold them to the British soldiers (with profits of 50 to 200 percent), while George Washington’s army was freezing in nearby Valley Forge. Such was the colonial conflict of interests.
By the eve of the American Revolution, Parliament’s aggression towards the colonists had drawn a distinction between the colonist’s political, economic, and social ideas and those of the British. Colonists had embraced a new identity that helped fuel their resistance against Britain. However, disunity plagued the Americans, and it was only with the support of the French that the Americans were finally able to gain independence.
Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "American Identity and Unity" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/sample-essays/american-identity-and-unity/>.
Show MoreBy the time the American colonists had reached the point of a revolution, there was a good sense of identity and unity between them. It took a great deal of time and effort by the men leading the country to get the colonists to attain colonial unity and suspicion and envy slowed colonial unity. These road blocks were removed when the colonies were forced to fight and work alongside each other for their rights.
The struggle for colonial unity was a battle of great importance for the survival of American freedoms. The poster “Join or Die”, published in 1754, in the Pennsylvania Gazette, was the work of Ben Franklin and was created during the French and Indian War (Document A). It was used to show the importance of colonial unity when the…show more content…
The colonists even went as far as pledging their loyalty by sending the Olive Branch Petition to King George III in 1775. When the peace offering was rejected, many colonists wanted independence in order to save the rights they believed were theirs. Richard Henry Lee wrote to Arthur Lee In 1774 saying that “…N. America is now firmly united and as firmly resolved to defend their liberties ad infinitum against every power on earth that may attempt to take them away “(Document C).
Another thing that helped the American colonists to develop a sense of identity was that face that they were 3,000 miles away from the British. The British allowed the American colonies much more freedom than other colonies because of the great distance. This leniency in ruling led the colonists to start to form their own local governments and to work together. This gave them a totally unique identity. Edmond Burke, a member of the House of Commons, wrote in 1766 that “The eternal Barriers of Nature forbid that the colonies should be blended or coalesce into the Mass…of this Kingdom.” (Document B). The American colonists grew used to this leniency so when the British began to actually start enforcing laws and placing taxes on the colonies the people became greatly distraught, further separating themselves from the British.
Many different aspects of the American colonists set themselves apart from the British.
Distance as well as years of relaxed rule and a huge cultural