Ideas The Colonists Were Seeking When the New World was Discovered
Liberty was only one of the many ideas that colonists were seeking when the “New World” was discovered. Along with liberty, settlers were given the opportunity for farming new lands, the opportunity to be the first to settle unknown territories, and the opportunity to represent England herself. This was such an exciting time for Great Britain, and English rule didn’t hesitate in taking control of new land and the people as well. After numerous acts of tyranny towards the British Colonies by the throne, settlers finally grew tired of the overwhelming control. Independence was seen as a necessity for some, while others saw it as a “…leap into the dark…” for the colonies (16). These opposing viewpoints became known as Loyalists, who aligned themselves with the British crown, and Patriots, who sought independence and liberty from Great Britain.
Declaring independence from Great Britain, an extreme idea at first, became an easy decision after the implementation of demanding new taxes, lack of representation in Parliament and constant police brigades of English soldiers. Many colonists fed up with English acts of tyranny, became interested in the idea of independence from British rule. Many argued that Great Britain was violating their daily rights as Englishmen. Samuel Adam’s described this in a pamphlet in 1772 by stating, “The Legislative has no right to absolute, arbitrary power over the lives and fortunes of the people” (6). Many colonists agreed with Adams and claimed that the throne was starting to gain too much control over the rights of the settlers. Independence was seen as the only option.
The colonists did not just start believing that Britain had too much power over their lives – it was England who provoked the settlers into becoming unhappy with the throne’s antics. Some colonists even tried to fix the problem with Great Britain. Benjamin Franklin says in a letter, “Right to do, it is humbly proposed . . . that a Bill be brought in and passed…” (8). The colonists thought that after the Seven Years War had ended, life would be better and more affordable because of the expected fall in tax prices, but his did not happen. Great Britain’s national debt had only become worse after the war, and Britain saw the colonies as a form of income and a way to escape debt. New Acts such as the “Molasses Act of 1733”, “Sugar Act”, and the notorious “Stamp Act”, demonstrated that Great Britain sought to restrict trade and use taxation to profit from the colonists. However, the new acts and restrictions being placed upon colonists by the English government came with no new representation in English Parliament. The colonists saw these unfair acts as, “taxation without representation”. (17) The settlers believed that if Parliament was going to put new taxes on the colonies, then the colonists should have representation in the royal government. Placing troops in the colonies to act as a type of police force was another source of conflict stemming from the Seven Years War. This was seen by the colonists as mistrust by the English government, and felt it was Britain “checking up” on what was going on in the new world. The colonists were also required to provide the troops with suitable accommodations at their own costs, known as the Quartering Act. The above were just a few issues that made colonists start leaning towards independence. It was not until 1770 that one incident would send numerous colonists over the edge and away from British Rule.
On the night of March 5th, 1770, British troops attempted to protect themselves from a group of hecklers. This later ended with the troops firing live rounds into the crowd, killing 5 and wounding 11, now known as the “Boston Massacre”. This was seen by the colonists as a blatant act of unnecessary violence by the British troops and also as a representation of corrupt British Rule. Samuel Seabury, a farmer wrote in a letter responding to England’s tyranny saying, “Should such another attempt be made upon you, assemble yourselves together…” (9). Soon after this, Patriots of the colonies saw no other way to solve this than to head to war. Patrick Henry states, “The gentlemen may cry, “Peace, peace!” -- But there is no peace. The war has actually begun!” (12). There was no other choice than to wage war with Great Britain to reach what the colonists where searching for – liberty. Patriots took great pride with heading to war even destroying previous friendships. Benjamin Franklin shows this in a letter to a great friend in parliament by saying: “You and I were long friends; you are now my enemy” (11). From here a Declaration of Independence was drawn up to show Great Britain that the Patriots were breaking free.
Breaking away form British Rule was the idea for the majority of English settlers, but some did not have the same feelings. Many loyalists felt it was a bad idea to break away from the comfort that Great Britain had given them, and in a way, had reasons to feel that way. Great Britain had provided an instant support structure for the new colonies and served as great protection for the colonies. After the Boston Massacre many loyalists were offend with what the patriots had started with British Troops. An English goods merchant in the colonies says in a letter: “it always seemed strange to me that people who contend so much for civil and religious liberty should be so ready to deprive others of their natural liberty” (4). Some of the loyalists where even frightened by all the mod-like antics patriots had been participating in. A Boston doctor writes to his step-son saying, “I found I could not stay in Boston and trust my person with a set of lawless rebels whose actions have disgraced human nature” (5).
Additionally, some loyalists did not want to leave British Rule as they were fearful to wage war with such a great power. In winning the Seven Years War against the French, Great Britain proved its large, military power. Many colonists feared that a developing country going to war with such a power seemed unreasonable. Daniel Leonard who was member of an aristocratic Massachusetts family states, “War is no longer a simple, but an intricate science, not to be learned from books or two or three campaigns, but from long experience” (10). Inexperience was not the only problem for the patriots, they were also overwhelmingly outnumbered and did not have the ideal land for fighting. James Chalmers explains this when he stated: “Our most fertile provinces, filled with unnumbered domestic enemies, slaves, intersected by navigable rivers, everywhere accessible to the fleets and armies of Britain, can make no defense” (15).
The structure and government that Great Britain had automatically provided to the colonists was another main reason why many loyalists did not wish to wage war. Some of the loyalists in the colonies made a point to show that the English form of government was not that bad. John Dickinson states in a speech: “Shall we this day renounce that to go and seek it in I know not what form of republic, which will soon change into a licentious anarchy and popular tyranny?”(33). A good point is made here when John talks about letting a mob-like group run a government after war. Not only does John say this, but Gouverneur Morris also says in a letter to Thomas Penn: “we shall be under the worst of all possible dominations; we shall be under the domination of a riotous mob. (7)
Loyalist settlers along with the King urged to colonies not to take place in the war by basically saying if you go to war with us, Great Britain will punish you. The King states in a letter to the American Colonies: “all our Officers, civil and military, are obliged to exert their utmost endeavors to suppress such rebellion and to bring the traitors to justice…” (13). Not only did the King partake in rallying loyalists to join Great Britain’s army, but colonial officials did too. The royal governor stated in his proclamation to the colony: “And I do hereby further declare all indentured servants, Negroes, and others, (appertaining to Rebels), free that are able and willing to bear arms” (14). Great Britain was willing to get anyone and everyone to keep the colonies under British Rule.
Although loyalists had great points on why not to wage war with Great Britain, history cannot be changed and war was brought on by the colonies. Both parties made reasonable points in this tough decision on independence but in the end, the Patriots came out on top. As some saw independence as a shot in the dark, others saw it as the light at the end of a tunnel of tyranny. If it was not for the few who saw the light at the end of the tunnel, we would not be the great United States of America that we are today.
William Henry Drayton
William H. Drayton was a South Carolinian son of a wealthy farmer. As a boy William was sent back over to England for his studies but was later brought back to South Carolina by his father. There he later married and was elected a seat in the South Carolina General Assembly. William traveled back to England to express his loyalist ideas only to return to Charleston. Through the years Drayton became frustrated because so many Englishman were receiving political spots, which urged him to explain his frustrations with parliament in “A Letter From a Free Man.” From here Drayton had a campaign in the circuit courts where he spoke in favor of freedom. He later became a major leader in South Carolina and was granted Chief Justice. He rejected peace treaties with England and supported the war for liberty. William was elected into the Second Continental Congress where he served seventeen months and died later of typhus.
It was obvious that William H Drayton was a great believer when it came to independence from England. In his early years he was in support of loyalty towards British Rule, but like other colonists it changed to patriotism. Being a major leader in the new colonies and dealing closely with British Parliament, it was easy to get annoyed with the corruption. It was when multiple Englishmen where elected political positions over more qualified settlers, William finally came to realize independence would be best option. The British flooding the colonists’ government turned William over to his true beliefs on the decision between independence from a corrupt government, or a fresh start on a new way of rule.