As the British and Colonists were engaged in the Seven Years War against the French and Indians, the colonists were slowly building up feelings for their removal from under the British crown. There had been several uprisings to overthrow the colonial governments. When the war ended and the British were victorious, they declared the Proclamation of 1763 which stated that the land west of the Appalachians was to be “reserved” for the Native American population. The colonists were confused and outraged and the now ambitious social elite’s were raring to direct that anger against the English since the French were no longer a threat.
However, the social elite was a miniscule percentage of the colonial population. As documented in city tax lists, the top 5% of Boston’s taxpayers controlled 49% of the cities taxable assets. The lower classes then started to use town meetings to express their feelings. Men like James Otis and Samuel Adams from the upper classes formed the Boston Caucus and through their motivational speaking, molded and activated the laboring-class.
After the Stamp Act of 1765, the British’s taxation of colonists to pay for the Seven Year War, the lower-class stormed and destroyed merchant homes to level the distinction of rich and poor. A hundred lower-classmen had to suffer for the extravagance of one upper-classmen. They demanded more political democracy in which the working class could participate in making policies. In 1776 elections for the constitutional framing of Pennsylvania, a Privates Committee urged the opposition of rich-men in the convention.
Even in the countryside, there were similar conflicts of rich against poor. Several riots in the New York/Jersey area were more than riots but long lasting social movements to create counter governments. Rioters were breaking into jails and freeing their friends. Soon however, the lower-classmen started to turn to the British for support against the rich colonists. With the intensification of the British conflict, the colonial leaders started to think of ways to unify themselves with the rioters to handle the British. But the Regulators, laborers, petitioned the government on their grievances and as a result a large riot broke out in 1770 in a court.
Riots against the Stamp Act swept Boston in 1767. The leaders instigated crowd action and at this time, 10% of the taxpayers accounted for 66% of the taxable wealth.This riot made leaders realize the dilemma and so the Loyal Nine was formed, a group of skilled laborers, and a procession, of two or three thousand, against the Stamp Act was organized in August 1765. Still the leaders denounced the procession’s actions and even when the act was repealed, a celebration was only attended by the non-processioners.
In Britains next attempt to tax the colonists, troops were sent and friction grew.On March 5, 1770 British soldiers killed workers in a fight known as the Boston Massacre and anger mounted quickly. This led to the removal of the soldiers form Boston. There had also been soldier-worker skirmishes elsewhere.
In 1772 the Boston Committee of Correspondence was formed to organize anti-British actions. With the Boston Tea Party of 1773, an action against the tea tax, the Parliament proposed the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts which closed the Boston port dissolved the colonial government in Massachusetts and led to the importing of troops.
In other colonies it was clear to the leaders that they needed to persuade the lower class to deflect their anger against British and join the revolution. Men like Patrick Henry, an orator, and Tom Paine, author of Common Sense, relieved the tension between classes although some aristocrats were angered by the idea and didn’t want the patriot cause to go too far into democracy. However, Paine strongly believed that such a “democratic” government could represent some great common interest.
The Continental Congress was formed in 1774. After the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, a small committee was formed to draw up the Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Congress on July 2 and proclaimed July 4, 1776. By now most colonials had already experienced their feelings of independence and welcomed it. The Declaration included a list about the king holding a tyranny over the states. Some people, though, were omitted from the Declaration: Indians, blacks, slaves, women but in the phrase “all men are created equal”, they were not deliberately included but included by the definition of men. It also states that a government is formed to promote the life, liberty, and happiness of the people and when so stopped the people may replace it. Some trace this idea back to John Locke’s Second treatise on Government.
The Declaration was introduced and read from the town hall balcony in Boston. Ironically a member of the Loyal Nine, men that opposed militant action against the British, read it. Four days later a military draft occurred and the rich dodged it by paying for substitutes when the poor had to serve. Rioting followed with the shouting of “tyranny is tyranny let it come from whom it may.”