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2 percent tax myth. American revolution.

Revolutionary Reality: Why America Fought for Independence

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A popular misconception is that the American War for Independence was fought solely over a 2% tax, as if this alone immediately galvanized the colonists into armed resistance against the British Empire. This myth is common even among ardent American patriots today. Why America fought for independence is probably one of the most commonly misunderstood facts of history. While taxation played a significant role, it was far from the only reason the American colonists decided to take up arms and fight for their independence. The Revolutionary War was the culmination of a complex interplay of political, economic, and social factors that had been building for many years, with other significant factors arguably acting as true catalysts for the war itself, rather than just taxes.

It’s important to debunk this popular myth because it is often used to suggest that Americans are exceptionally more complacent today than those of the past. It implies that we should be ashamed of our contemporary American folk, as if “We’re here living like overtaxed peasants while our ancestors picked up rifles over a 2% tax!” Despite the historical evidence against it, some may continue to believe this myth has value in potentially shaming people into action. However, I believe it has the opposite effect, fostering a state of passivity through hopelessness and disappointment. It’s not wise to let ahistorical myths (and outright lies) black pill you into unwarranted feelings of inferiority and defeatism.

This myth has also been appropriated by the anti-second-amendment left to suggest that the American colonists were just stubborn, gun toting rash rednecks that quickly resorted to armed violence because they didn’t immediately get their way with a more “reasonable” establishment. But as we delve into the history leading up to the War for Independence, what we find is the opposite: it was the British Crown that was rash, violent, unreasonable and unwilling to negotiate.

why america fought for independence
“The American colonists were just stubborn, gun toting rash rednecks that heard a Brit say something about taxes and started blasting.” — some leftist I heard IRL many years ago.

Historical Context

Many years before the first shots of the American War for Independence, the relationship between the American colonies and Britain became increasingly strained. The British government, seeking to recover from the financial burdens of the French and Indian War (1754 to 1763), imposed a series of taxes and regulations on the colonies. From 1764 to 1775 — 11 years — the colonists begrudgingly lived under these taxes and regulations before the first shots of the war were fired at Lexington and Concord — so they clearly didn’t just pick up rifles on day one over unpopular taxes. Taxation was just one aspect of a broader set of grievances; and It wasn’t even the taxation itself that was the problem for the colonists, but rather taxation without representation.

Taxation Without Representation

The phrase “no taxation without representation” became a rallying cry for the colonists — not ‘no 2% taxation.’ The Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed a direct tax on printed materials, was particularly unpopular. The Townshend Acts of 1767, which placed duties on common items like tea, glass, and paper, further inflamed tensions. The Tea Act of 1773, which led to the Boston Tea Party, underscored the colonists’ frustration with being taxed by a Parliament in which they had no representation. Read that again: the primary issue was the lack of political representation in Parliament, not the specific amount of tax.

Timeline of British Taxes Imposed on American Colonists

1764 – Sugar Act

  • Details: Also known as the American Revenue Act, it reduced the previous Molasses Act tax rate but increased enforcement against smuggling.
  • Impact: The act imposed duties on sugar, molasses, and other products imported into the colonies. This affected merchants and contributed to the growing sense of economic oppression.
  • Colonial Reaction: Widespread protests and boycotts of British goods began as colonists viewed this as an infringement on their economic freedom.

1765 – Stamp Act

  • Details: Required all legal documents, newspapers, and other papers to bear a tax stamp purchased from British authorities.
  • Impact: This was a direct tax on the colonists and affected a wide array of everyday activities and business transactions.
  • Colonial Reaction: Massive resistance including the formation of the Stamp Act Congress, widespread protests, and violent demonstrations. The act was repealed in 1766 due to colonial opposition.

1765 – Quartering Act

  • Details: Required colonial assemblies to house and supply British troops stationed in America.
  • Impact: This was seen as another financial burden and an imposition on the colonists’ rights.
  • Colonial Reaction: Resentment and resistance as colonists were forced to provide for British troops in their homes and public buildings.

1767 – Townshend Acts

  • Details: Imposed duties on common goods imported into the colonies, such as paper, paint, glass, and tea.
  • Impact: These acts aimed to raise revenue to pay for colonial governors and judges, undermining colonial self-governance.
  • Colonial Reaction: Renewed boycotts, protests, and violent confrontations, such as the Boston Massacre in 1770. Most of the Townshend duties were eventually repealed, except for the tax on tea.

1773 – Tea Act

  • Details: Allowed the British East India Company to sell surplus tea directly to the colonies, bypassing colonial merchants and imposing a tax on tea.
  • Impact: This was seen as an attempt to force colonists to accept British taxation.
  • Colonial Reaction: Led to the Boston Tea Party, where colonists, disguised as Native Americans, dumped an entire shipment of tea into Boston Harbor as a protest.

1774 – Intolerable Acts (Coercive Acts)

  • Details: A series of punitive measures including the Boston Port Act (closing Boston Harbor), the Massachusetts Government Act (revoking Massachusetts’ charter), the Administration of Justice Act, and the Quartering Act.
  • Impact: These acts were intended to punish Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party and to restore British authority.
  • Colonial Reaction: United the colonies in opposition to British rule, leading to the formation of the First Continental Congress and further coordinated resistance.

This timeline shows us that the War for Independence didn’t start immediately: the colonists didn’t just start shooting British Redcoats over taxes right away. While taxation was a significant cause of the revolution, the main issue was that these taxes were imposed without any input from the colonists, leading to a sense of tyranny and second-class citizenship that boiled their blood for 11 years.

Leading to the War for Independence

The cumulative effect of these taxes and acts was a growing sense of injustice and a belief among the colonists that their rights as Englishmen were being violated. The slogan “no taxation without representation” encapsulated their grievances. The British government’s refusal to grant the colonies representation in Parliament or to address their concerns contributed to escalating tensions.

The enforcement of these taxes and acts, along with incidents like the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, galvanized colonial resistance. The Intolerable Acts, in particular, were seen as a direct attack on colonial autonomy and liberties, leading to the convening of the First Continental Congress in 1774. This set the stage for open conflict in 1775 with the battles of Lexington and Concord marking the very beginning of the American Revolutionary War.

Economic Control and Trade Restrictions

Beyond taxes, the British government imposed numerous trade restrictions that stifled colonial economies. The Navigation Acts required that all trade between the colonies and other nations be conducted on British ships, effectively giving Britain a monopoly on colonial trade. These acts, along with other restrictive policies, limited economic opportunities and fostered resentment among colonists.

Political Autonomy and Self-Governance

Colonial resistance was also driven by a desire for greater political autonomy. The colonists had established their own legislative assemblies, which they believed should have the authority to govern local matters. However, British interference in these assemblies, including the dissolution of the Virginia House of Burgesses and other colonial legislatures, was seen as an affront to their rights and liberties. For example, the Virginia House of Burgesses, established in 1619, allowed colonists to have a say in their governance and provided a model for other colonies. By the 18th century, most colonies had their own elected assemblies that managed local issues and reflected the interests of the colonists.

British Interference and Colonial Grievances

Over time, the British government began to interfere more directly in colonial governance. This interference took several forms, including the dissolution of colonial assemblies1, the appointment of royal governors with significant powers, and the imposition of laws without local consent. These actions were seen as direct attacks on the political autonomy and rights of the colonists.

Ideological Foundations

The desire for political autonomy was deeply rooted in Enlightenment ideas about governance and natural rights. Influential thinkers like John Locke argued that governments derive their legitimacy from the consent of the governed and that people have the right to alter or abolish governments that fail to protect their rights. The colonists drew on Locke’s theories to justify their demands for greater self-governance and resistance to British interference. They believed that their legislative assemblies were legitimate expressions of their consent and that British attempts to undermine these bodies were tyrannical.

Unlike the tax myth, the drive for greater political autonomy was a central factor in colonial resistance to British rule. The colonists’ legislative assemblies were not only practical institutions for local governance but also symbols of their rights and liberties. British interference in these assemblies, including their dissolution and the imposition of royal authority, was perceived as a direct affront to these rights. This interference, combined with Enlightenment ideas about governance, fueled the revolutionary movement and the quest for independence.

By understanding the importance of political autonomy and the role of colonial assemblies, we can better appreciate the complex motivations behind the American Revolution. The resistance was not merely about specific taxes or regulations but about the broader struggle for self-governance and the protection of fundamental rights.

Confiscation of Arms and Military Presence

gun grabs, part of the reason why America fought for independence
A very accurate depictiom of the gun confiscations in Boston in 1775

This leads us to the actual catalyst of the War for Independence: gun confiscations. The War for American Independence began as resistance against firearm confiscation, not resistance against taxation.

The British attempts to confiscate colonial arms and gunpowder were pivotal in escalating the conflict. Events such as the Powder Alarm in 1774 and the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 demonstrated the colonists’ willingness to defend their rights with force. The presence of British troops in the colonies was perceived as an occupation, further aggravating tensions.

Key Examples of Gun Confiscation as a Catalyst:

Powder Alarm (1774)

  • Event: On September 1, 1774, British troops seized gunpowder from a magazine in Charlestown, Massachusetts.
  • Impact: This action sparked widespread alarm and rumors that the British were marching on Boston, leading to the mobilization of thousands of militiamen. Although the rumors were false, the incident heightened tensions and demonstrated the colonists’ willingness to defend their arms.
  • Source: “Powder Alarm.” Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Link.

Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775)

  • Event: British General Thomas Gage ordered troops to march to Concord, Massachusetts, to seize and destroy colonial arms and ammunition stockpiled there. On their way, the British troops encountered colonial militiamen at Lexington, leading to the first shots of the war.
  • Impact: The skirmishes at Lexington and Concord marked the beginning of open armed conflict between the British and the colonists. The British attempt to confiscate arms confirmed the colonists’ fears of disarmament and spurred widespread revolutionary activity.
  • Source: “Battles of Lexington and Concord.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Link.

Fort William and Mary (December 1774)

  • Event: Local patriots, forewarned about British plans to seize gunpowder stored at Fort William and Mary in New Hampshire, raided the fort and removed the gunpowder.
  • Impact: This event further escalated tensions and demonstrated the colonists’ determination to retain their arms and resist British control. It showed the colonists’ readiness to take direct action to protect their military supplies.
  • Source: “Raid on Fort William and Mary.” American Battlefield Trust.

Broader Impact and Context

Symbolism of Arms

  • Self-Defense and Liberty: For the colonists, the right to bear arms was closely tied to their concept of self-defense and liberty. The British attempts to disarm them were seen as efforts to subjugate and control the colonies, stripping them of their ability to resist tyranny.
  • Source: Halbrook, Stephen P. “The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms.” 2008.

Escalation to Armed Conflict

  • Militia Mobilization: The repeated attempts by the British to confiscate arms led to increased militia mobilization and preparedness. The colonists viewed these actions as acts of aggression that justified their preparation for armed resistance.
  • Source: Middlekauff, Robert. “The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789.” Oxford University Press, 2005.

Conclusion

The American War for Independence was not some sudden reaction to a 2% tax. It was the result of a multifaceted struggle involving taxation without representation, economic control, political autonomy, and the defense of personal liberties — resistance against gun confiscation. Understanding the diverse motivations behind the colonists’ fight for independence provides a more accurate and comprehensive view of this pivotal period in history. The war was a complex and revolutionary movement that reshaped the course of history, rooted in a desire for self-determination and freedom from oppressive rule.

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I enjoyed the detailed breakdown of these American grievances against Britain. Suppose whites had a similar list of grievances against today’s regimes: Are we nearer to the beginning of that list, or are we nearer to the end? Perhaps things should run their course a little longer, and in the meantime, we can cut ourselves a bit of slack. I like this line: “It’s not wise to let ahistorical myths (and outright lies) black pill you into unwarranted feelings of inferiority and defeatism.” I think that’s a crucial perspective to explore. In my life I have seen that a little bit of the right sort of work can be very valuable, whereas the wrong kind of work can be done very thoroughly and yet have no effect on the desired outcome. White guys perceive their weaknesses with too much detail, while the strengths they desire could be achieved with just a little bit of effort in the right direction. In that sense, our “superiority” might be easily within our grasp, despite the feeling that we’re underdeveloped and disorganized. Another encouraging article from Radical Dose!

Last edited 15 days ago by William
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