It Was the Economy, Stupid
THE SOURCE: “Free Trade, Sovereignty, and Slavery: Toward an Economic Interpretation of American Independence” by Staughton Lynd and David Waldstreicher, in William and Mary Quarterly, Oct. 2011.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," may be among the most famous phrases in the English language. Similarly inscribed on the hearts of Americans are the personal liberties the Declaration of Independence enshrines. But “the final text of the Declaration was anything but a transparent ranking of all the real reasons for independence,” argue Staughton Lynd, an independent scholar, and David Waldstreicher, a historian at Temple University. Economic frustrations, not a desire for “certain unalienable rights,” planted the seeds that grew into the American Revolution.
Scholars tend to view the ideological arguments for independence as building to a critical point and preoccupying the colonists thereafter. That’s inaccurate, Lynd and Waldstreicher write: From the mid-18th century right up to the signing of the Declaration, Americans objected to a myriad of British imperial policies principally on economic grounds. The antitax sentiment of the Boston Tea Party in 1773 is well known, but Americans also protested British attempts to requisition resources during the Seven Years’ War (1756–63), imperial currency manipulation that left the colonies strapped, and prohibitions on trade with the French West Indies, along with many other policies.
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