The patriots had various reasons for seeking independence in the fateful years of 1775-1783. These reasons did not materialize instantly but can be traced back to decades earlier. Two revolutionary impulses existed: independence from Britain’s tyrannous rule and the desire to democratize a failing American society and government.
Before the French and Indian War, the objective of the British was to regulate trade and in general influence the colonial government. However, Britain achieved these aims in a limited way and did not over-manage the colonies. Britain did not intervene excessively during a period of salutary neglect. During this time the colonies were increasingly able to develop their economy. But Britain depended on the colonies to provide raw materials and saw them as a market for its goods. For example, Great Britain needed the timber found in large quantities in the new world to maintain its fleet of wooden ships. This motivated laws to provide for the mother country that eventually created conflict. This legislation manifested itself in the mercantilist system.
Major mercantilist policies in the pre-1760 period began with the Navigation Laws of 1660. These laws were made to control colonial trade and promote English shipping. Important crops, such as tobacco, and other resources had to be shipped only in British ships. In addition, ships were required to stop in England first when America traded with other nations. This law would have devastated the American economy had the British enforced it. The Molasses Act (1733) was used to control sugar cane sales to the colonies. These restrictions were not well enforced. Anyway, Americans often bought sugar from the non-British Caribbean islands. Although the mercantilist system did impose some restrictions, its most Americans did not challenge the policies because they were difficult to enforce.
1763 can be seen as a turning point in the relationship between Britain and its colonies. In this year the...