Political, Social, and Economic Causes of the American Revolution

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It is easy to interpret the American Revolution simply as a struggle for freedom. The magnanimous phrases of the Declaration of Independence have embedded in our hearts and minds glorious images of the Founding Fathers fighting for the natural rights of man. The American Revolution, however, also had a darker side to it, the side of self-interest and profit. The signers of the Declaration represented various classes – the working class, the wealthy land owners and merchants, the intellectuals, and the social elite. Each of these strata had its own set of expectations and fears, which lent a new dimension to the cause of the Revolution. The pressure of these internal, and often overlapping groups, combined with the oppressive external…show more content…
Local artisans, laborers, and small merchants who traded outside of the British Empire, embraced the boycott of British goods and severance with England entirely because it afforded them economic opportunities that made the risk of revolution worthwhile (p. 145, Berkin). These groups had been living under the yoke of unfair taxation and an inexhaustible source of British competition in labor and goods. Revolution, for them, meant “a release from Britain’s mercantile policies, which restricted colonial trade with other nations, held out the promise of expanded trade and an end to the risks of smuggling (p. 145, Berkin).”
Another large group, the Southern planters (of which Thomas Jefferson belonged), also had economic motives to end ties with England. These elite Southern planters were land owners who had cornered the world market on tobacco. The only problem was, they were not the ones who marketed it. As it stood, pre-Revolution, the South planted and harvested the cash crop, while the British hauled it away and sold it. They did not haul it for free, either. “By 1760 [English duties on tobacco] had risen as high as 15 times the value of the tobacco (Fourth International, Frankel).” Jefferson, himself said

The advantages made by the British merchants on the tobacco consigned to them were so enormous, that they spared no means of
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