Women of Washington

Communicating America’s Founding Principles

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Monarchy vs. The People

PROLOGUE

The early American colonists considered themselves to be British subjects. While they appreciated their rich English heritage, it’s worth noting that by the 1700s their lives were becoming as insufferable under King George III as they were in the early 1200s under King John. Both English kings drained their respective treasuries after engaging in expensive wars with the French. In the case of King John, after losing several wars to the French, these costly defeats caused him to cede significant portions of British land to the French--land which rightly belonged to his English barons.

Due to his depleted treasury, King John began to demand exorbitant taxes, which alienated his House of Lords, as well as the whole of the English people. It was only after a full contingent of irate barons entered London in protest, that the king consented to a peace agreement. In 1215 the king was presented with the Magna Carta which left him with no other choice but to sign it into law. The document proclaimed certain rights for the English people, including: 1) all people, including the king, were subject to the laws of the land; 2) all authorities, from judges to constables, needed to be educated in the law; 3) justice could not be sold, denied, or delayed; 4) in a court of law, free people would be judged by their peers, and; 5) taxes could only be levied with the consent of the governed.

Five centuries later, the English and French governments found themselves in competition over control of valuable trade routes in North America. The French won the so called “French and Indian War” (c. 1756). However, tensions between these ancient adversaries escalated onto the European continent. Other monarchies, including Spain, Portugal, Russia and Austria, militarily supported either the French or the English governments, which only served to perpetuate this conflict, turning it into The Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). England and its allies ultimately defeated the French forces, and the Treaty of Paris was signed on February 10, 1763. In his book, History of the English Speaking Peoples (1956), Winston Churchill pointed out that since it involved most of the empirical powers of the world, at that time, The Seven Years’ War was undoubtedly, the “First World War.”

Like King John in the 1200s, England’s King George III faced, in the middle of the 1600s, a depleted post-war treasury. After this costly war, King George was also intent upon replenishing his treasury, this time, by increasing the tax burdens on the American colonists.

It was true that natural resources were abundant in North America. However, the early colonists had not yet developed the manufacturing capabilities to turn their resources into marketable goods. This put the colonists at a disadvantage because English merchants could buy raw materials from them at a low cost, then return with much needed finished goods to sell to the colonists at elevated prices and high taxes. Not only was life in the colonies becoming insufferable under the king’s taxes, brutal treatment by the English governors controlled significant aspects of their lives, as well. To make matters worse, the colonists were denied legal representation in the English Parliament, even though they were considered subjects of the British Crown.

However, as the colonists carved out a way of living in the uncharted land of North America, a new sense of self-rule began developing among them. After having their petitions for fair treatment fall on deaf ears in Parliament, men and women were willing to challenge the tyrannical rule of King George and his powerful military. Spurred on by their belief in living as free people, as well as by their sheer courage, our founding ancestors changed history forever by seeking their sovereign independence.

New World colonies eventually emerged up and down the east coast of North America. After the 1607 founding of the Virginia Colony and, next 126 years saw twelve more colonies established under British rule. They included: New Hampshire – 1622; New York – 1624; Massachusetts – 1630; Maryland – 1632; South Carolina – 1663; New Jersey – 1664; Pennsylvania – 1681; and, Georgia – 1733. By the 1750s, more than 2,000,000 people inhabited the American Colonies. The colonists were building a country where their destiny would not be reversed.