Hidden Cause for the American Revolution: Desire for More Land

America's Coast Became Crowded

In 1750 a backwoodsmen of the American frontier carried his squirrel gun and dirk (a short Scottish dagger) in his saddlebag. Upon his head he wore a fur cap. He was dressed in greased leather pants and a homespun shirt and moccasins.The seaboard land was wearing out and he was looking for a new home where he could raise his family.

Soils in whole counties in Virginia had been such dry of minerals and had turned back to brush and pasture. German and Scots-Irish settlers like the frontiersman in the paragraph above had moved inland as far as the upper regions of the Susquehanna around Tioga Point. Areas where cornfields had once produced bumper crops now produced less than ten bushels to an acre. Wheat crops moved inland. In five generations millers followed the wheat crop from Boston to Hartford to New York and Wilmington Delaware. They dreamed of building water powered grist mills on mighty inland rivers.They looked to the land beyond the mountains to satisfy their desire for more and better land.

Getting Rid of the French to Make Room for Settlement

By 1750, two million native-born Americans lived in the English colonies. In addition, every day droves of Scots Irish who escaped the tyrannical, penny pinching landlords of the north Irish estates, Palatines and Flemish who survived the pillage of Louis XIV's armies, poured onto American shores. Everyone wanted their own land, and they went west pressing toward the mountains.

Influential families, speculators and land agents influenced colonial acquisition of land grants further and further inland. Virginia planters and London merchants formed the Ohio company and the king gave them a tentative grant of 500 thousand acres west of the mountains. Christopher Gist scouted the land. George Washington surveyed his Lord Fairfax's lands west of the Blue Ridge. Sir Peter Warren, the Renesselaers and their cousin Livingstons also obtained grants north and south of the Iroquois Valley. More and more people were escaping a crowded Europe in search of their own land and freedom in the New World.

For six generations along the seaboard, new cities, farms, and homes sprung up. The problem wasn't just new comers either. Settlers produced big families to work their farms. Pilgrims who had come on the Mayflower were estimated as having as many as 200 thousand descendants each.The land was getting crowded.The English settlers edged west while at the same time the French forts in the Ohio Valley that encircled the English settlements felt threatened. The war moved south through Western Pennsylvania, then moved north into New York. The Yankees as the Dutch first called them fought back the French and their Indian allies until 1763 when the French ran down their colors the Fleur-De-Lise from the fort masts. The English in turn raised the Union Jack rose over the St. Lawrence. The British now had control of all the land east of the Mississippi. The land was free of the French rule in the west and settlers were ready to head in mass over the Alleghenies to claim their fair share.



The Green Mountain Boys
The Green Mountain Boys

Americans Fight Back Against King George's Decree

But it wasn't meant to be, not under British Monarchy rule anyway. The King and Parliament decided that they couldn't afford to maintain the outposts in the far west. The west belonged to the Indians and the British government refused to fight for the colonists in America. It was too expensive.

The backers of the Ohio Company went into secret session. The king's messengers went into session with the governors. when the governors came out of their council, they were scowling. Planters and farmers raged. The king issued the edict that there would be no settlements west of the Alleghenies. The king would not financially support forts with troops and without troops, the frontier would not be safe from Indian attack. The settlers would have to stay east of the mountains if they wanted to remain safe.

To add to the insult, the British government decided to tax the Americans for the war against the French. This only fueled the anger that they had concerning the fact that the Monarchy was limiting their movement. The lines were drawn by 1772, when the frontiersmen of South Carolina staged a private war against planter and merchant control in the Assembly, and the men of Vermont formed the Green Mountain Boys, Further south in political activists formed The Committees of Correspondence, and the Sons of Liberty. Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia had similar problems between the planters, lawyers, rich merchants in the low lands and the poorer cattlemen on the mountain slopes.The desire for land was the powder keg and the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 were the fuse that blew up into revolution.

© 2013 Donna Brown

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Comments 14 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Show me a history hub and I'm there immediately. As a former history teacher this is right up my alley. Well done!


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

That's wonderful to hear! This hub then has at least 2 fans (you and me)! I find so many neat things when researching that do not necessarily fit into my historical novels, but make perfect hubs!


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Well done. thank you


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Than you Mhatter99, it was a pleasure to write.


mbuggieh 3 years ago

Interesting hub...thanks!

Clearly tensions between the American Colonies and the British Empire as to (a) the definition of the western continental frontier and (b) determination of who would pay for security in frontier areas contributed to public sentiments that eventually supported independence.

In some ways we see this from the mid-17th century---particularly in the New England colonies where population pressures contribute to the evolution of the "Halfway Covenant".

That all said, a very good read!


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Thanks for the comment, mbuggieh. As I was writing it, the tensions mentioned reminded me metaphorically of the stalemate that is currently going on in our own country concerning the economy. Except instead of land barriers, we are coming up against economic and ideological barriers.


mbuggieh 3 years ago

Exactly. It will be interesting to see how our current "barriers" are resolved.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Perhaps this time it will not require a revolution.


mbuggieh 3 years ago

I agree. I think this time, perhaps, we just need the upcoming elections.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Perhaps what we need to vote what's in our heart rather than the lesser of two evils. Rather than voting dem or rep, we could vote for the candidate that really says what we want.


IslandBites profile image

IslandBites 3 years ago from Puerto Rico

Interesting hub. Unfortunately, "the thirst for land" did not stop with the American Revolution.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Believe me, IslandBites, I know!


mbuggieh 3 years ago

Very true. The impulse toward Manifest Destiny is evident in Plymouth Colony; evident in William Bradford's assessment of their mission.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 3 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

mbuggieh,

Thank you for your participation in this discussion. The same mentality continues today, just in a different form.

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