From Resistance to Rebellion
Acts of Protest
For years the colonies had flourished in a state of “salutary neglect.” Britain had been content to leave the day-to-day administration of local government to its royal governors and to the colonies’ own English-style representative legislatures, common-law jury courts, and local militias. Following its victory in the French and Indian War, Britain looked anew at its imperial responsibilities. Parliament decided to secure its expanded American empire with British troops. English commoners paid taxes to support Britain’s powerful army and navy and finance its war debt; it seemed fair that colonists should pay too.
Colonists bristled when the British government began to enact and execute taxes and other binding laws without deference to colonial governments or popular consent. Colonial resentment gradually turned to open resistance. Colonists issued statements of their rights, appealed to the king and people of Britain, and petitioned Parliament. They boycotted British goods and harassed royal officials. Some protests turned violent.
Differing economic interests, regional and ethnic identities, and religious beliefs divided the colonists. But as they began to communicate and coordinate insurgencies, they came to realize that they shared a common understanding of their rights and liberties.