Path to Revolution: The Tipping Point for Independence
The Society of the Cincinnati - Princeton's Alexander Hall
Why did the British government pass the Stamp Act, the Townshend
Duties, the Tea Act and the Intolerable Acts? Why did they pass a series of measures seemingly calculated to offend and provoke North American colonists? These measures cannot be fully understood without taking into account a profound political economic debate taking place across the empire about the proper way of dealing with the national debt. This debate began not in the wake of the Seven Years War but in fact in the midst of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713). While everyone agreed that the debt was a potentially catastrophic problem, Britons disagreed as to whether the problem should be addressed by austerity measures or a program to stimulate imperial economic growth. In addition the particular measures adopted were deeply informed by the simultaneous emergence of a power British imperial presence in India after the seizure of the Diwani in 1765. Grenville, Townshend, North, Knox, and Wedderburn were just as much involved in debates over how to organize the empire in India as they were in the more well known debates about North America. It is impossible to understand their fiscal and administrative policies in the one place without considering in depth their views about the other.