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Independence

INDEPENDENCE

INDEPENDENCE. On 2 July 1776, the Continental Congress voted to sever all connections with the British Empire. Two days later, the delegates debated, revised, and finally approved the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson. These actions were the climax to a decade of controversy that began when Parliament attempted to impose taxes on the American colonists with the Revenue Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765. Americans opposed these measures for various reasons, including a general aversion to taxation in any form. But the basic dispute was a constitutional one. Could Parliament enact legislation binding the American colonies "in all cases whatsoever," as its Declaratory Act of 1766 asserted? Americans argued that they could only be governed by their own legislative assemblies, not a distant Parliament to which they sent no members. But if the colonies were exempt from its jurisdiction, how could they remain part of the larger empire within which Parliament was the supreme source of law?

From an early point, observers in both countries worried that the dispute might end with the colonies seeking independence. Imperial officials had long fretted over the autonomy that the colonies enjoyed and the loose control the empire exerted. The British victory in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) exacerbated those fears by removing the threat to colonial expansion posed by French control of Canada. Americans felt deep attachment to Britain and to the prosperity and security they enjoyed within the empire. Yet colonial legislatures repeatedly quarreled with royal governors and other imperial officials.

There is, however, little evidence that Americans actively sought independence. Through 1774, the colonists affirmed that their goal was the restoration of the rights they had previously enjoyed. Under the prevailing imperial policy of "salutary neglect," British authority rested lightly on Americans. Laws regulating daily life were enacted by the colonists' own assemblies. Within the empire, Americans accepted the framework for commerce laid down by successive navigation acts that Parliament had adopted beginning in 1651. Although they often violated specific regulations, the navigation system worked to the mutual advantage of both Britain and its colonies.

The Stamp Act and Townshend Acts

The adoption of the Stamp Act threw these understandings into crisis. Americans first objected that they were not bound by the acts of a legislature in which they were unrepresented. The British government responded that Americans were "virtually represented" in Parliament. When that claim proved unavailing, it further argued that Parliament was the sovereign source of law within the larger polity of which the colonies were indisputably a part. Because sovereignty was regarded as an absolute, unitary power, American arguments about representation would have to yield to the ultimate authority of Parliament.

In 1767, Parliament enacted the Townshend duties, exploiting a distinction some colonists had made between "internal" taxes like the Stamp Act and "external" duties on imported goods. Prompted by John Dickinson's influential Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer (1767–1768), Americans replied that duties clearly levied as taxes were constitutionally unacceptable. A few writers suggested that the colonies were completely independent of Parliament, but still bound to the British Empire through their historic link to the crown.

This debate largely subsided after Parliament repealed the Townshend duties in March 1770, leaving only a duty on tea as a symbolic statement of its authority. In most colonies, politics reverted to normal and the harmony of the empire seemed restored.

The Tea Tax, the Coercive Acts, and the Continental Congress

In Massachusetts, however, a fresh controversy erupted between the royal governor, Thomas Hutchinson, and his detractors, led by Samuel Adams of Boston, after it was learned that Hutchinson and the provincial judges were to receive royal salaries, rendering them politically independent of the legislature. The debate ultimately led to a full-blown discussion of the constitutional rights of Americans and the constitutional powers of Parliament. It also disposed Hutchinson to enforce the new Tea Act that Parliament enacted in 1773. Rather than allow the dutied tea to land, as Hutchinson insisted it must, the Boston radicals dumped it into the town harbor. In response, Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts of 1774, closing the port of Boston, altering the provincial charter granted by the crown, and providing legal protection for British officials accused of crimes against Americans.

In town and county meetings, the American population mobilized to protest these measures, which demonstrated what allowing Parliament to legislate "in all cases whatsoever" could mean. Deputies from every colony but Georgia gathered in a Continental Congress at Philadelphia in September, and agreed to a program of opposition combining a commercial boycott of Britain with a demand that Parliament repeal its offensive legislation. In response to the British military occupation of Boston, Congress instructed the people of Massachusetts to take only defensive measures, but when the delegates adjourned in October, they understood that hostilities might erupt before they reconvened in May.

Armed Conflict and the Failure of Reconciliation

When war broke out at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts during April 1775, a second Congress reviewed the American position but did not flinch, organizing the Continental Army that it named George Washington to command. Congress sent a new petition seeking redress to the crown, but the latter did not modify the positions it had taken in 1774. For its part, the government of Lord North, firmly backed by King George III, was committed to a policy of repression, believing that a decisive show of force would convince the Americans to retreat. New parliamentary acts declared the colonies in a state of rebellion and subjected their commerce to seizure.

Prospects for reconciliation dwindled with every passing month and independence became increasingly a matter of timing. Many Americans still resisted taking the final step of renouncing allegiance to the king. Even in Congress, moderates desperately hoped that Britain would send commissioners authorized to conduct serious negotiations. But the publication in January 1776 of Thomas Paine's electrifying pamphlet Common Sense made independence a legitimate subject of debate. In the spring, local meetings started to endorse the idea, as did the provincial convention of Virginia in May. Reports that Britain had begun contracting for Hessian mercenaries confirmed that the government was uninterested in negotiations.

In mid-May, Congress adopted a resolution authorizing the provincial conventions to establish new legal governments, resting on popular consent, to replace the old colonial governments that drew their authority from the crown. Three weeks later, it appointed committees to draft articles of confederation, a plan for foreign treaties, and a declaration of independence. A handful of delegates, led by John Dickinson, urged greater patience, but when the decisive vote came, Congress and the bulk of the politically active population supported the break with Britain. Seven years passed before their desires were secured.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Enlarged ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992. Immensely influential.

Christie, Ian R., and Benjamin W. Labaree. Empire or Independence, 1760–1776: A British-American Dialogue on the Coming of the American Revolution. New York: Norton, 1976. Balanced and shrewd assessment from both sides of the Atlantic.

Maier, Pauline. American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York: Knopf, 1997. Provocative study of the decision and the document.

Rakove, Jack N. The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress. New York: Knopf, 1979.

JackRakove

See alsoCommittees of Correspondence ; Common Sense ; Continental Congress ; Declaration of Independence ; Revolution, American: Political and Military History .

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Independence

Independence:1 City (1990 pop. 9,942), seat of Montgomery co., SE Kans., on the Verdigris River, near the Okla. line, in an important oil-producing area where corn and wheat are also grown. Light aircraft, motor vehicle parts, cement, and printing and publishing are important industries; natural gas is distributed. The town was founded (1869) on a former Osage reservation. It boomed with the discovery of natural gas in 1881 and oil in 1903.

2 City (1990 pop. 112,301), seat of Jackson co., W Mo., a suburb of Kansas City; inc. 1849. Its manufactures include machinery, building materials, apparel, foods, paper products, and ordnance. Soybeans, corn, and sorghum are grown, and there is dairying and natural-gas production in the area. In the 1830s and 40s, Independence was the starting point for expeditions over the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, and the California Trail. A group of Mormons settled there in 1831, and the city is the world headquarters of the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Independence was the home of President Harry S. Truman and is the seat of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, on whose grounds the former president is buried. Other points of interest include the old county jail and museum (1859; restored); the old county courthouse (1825; restored); and nearby Fort Osage (1808; reconstructed). Park Univ. has a campus in Independence.

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Independence

362. Independence

  1. Bastille Day July 14; French national holiday celebrating the fall of the Bastille prison (1789). [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 245]
  2. Declaration of Independence by delegates of the American Thirteen Colonies announcing U.S. independence from Great Britain (1776). [Am. Hist.: NCE, 733]
  3. Huggins, Henry self-reliant boy; earns money for toys. [Childrens Lit.: Henry Huggins ]
  4. Independence Day Fourth of July; U.S. patriotic holiday celebrating the Declaration of Independence. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 990]
  5. Maine often thought of as the state of independent Yankees. [Pop. Culture: Misc.]
  6. Mugwumps Republican party members who voted independently. [Am. Hist.: Jameson, 337]
  7. Quebec Canadas French-speaking province has often attempted to attain independence from rest of country. [Canadian Hist.: NCE, 2555]
  8. Tree of Liberty symbolic post or tree hung with flags and other devices and crowned with the liberty cap. [Misc.: Brewer Dictionary, 911]
  9. white oak indicates self-sufficiency. [Flower Symbolism: Flora Symbolica, 178]

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Independence

INDEPENDENCE

One of the essential attributes of a state under international law is external sovereignty—that is, the right to exercise freely the full range of power a state possesses under international law. Recognition of a state as independent necessarily implies that the recognizing states have no legal authority over the independent state. The status of a fully independent state should be contrasted with that of dependent or vassal states, where a superior state has the legal authority to impose its will over the subject, or inferior, state.

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independence

in·de·pend·ence / ˌindəˈpendəns/ • n. the fact or state of being independent: Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1816 | I've always valued my independence.

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independence

independence Independence Day another term for Fourth of July.
Independence Hall a building in Philadelphia where the US Declaration of Independence was proclaimed and outside which the Liberty Bell is kept.

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Independence

In·de·pend·ence / ˌindəˈpendəns/ a historic city in northwestern Missouri, east of Kansas City; pop. 113,288.

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Independence

Independence

See Models; Science and Religion, Models and Relations; Science and Religion, Methodologies

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independence

independence See STATISTICAL INDEPENDENCE.

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