Whigs, Tories, and Confederates (not those Confederates)


Before 1783

Prior to 1783, the British colonies in North America had a pretty busy schedule. They fought a war against the French, successfully overthrew a major world power, and started their own nation. But it’s not quite the United States yet. Let’s take a look at some early political parties in the colonies, and the success (failure) of the Articles of Confederation.

What’s a Whig? Should I be insulted?

The terms Whig and Tory came to colonial America from British politics. While both parties have a long and violent history in Britain, their American counterparts are a little bit different. American Whigs are who we associate with the growing movement for independence in the 1700’s. The Tories, or Loyalists, still wanted to be part of the British Empire.

Whigs you might recognize: John Adams, Thomas Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and most of the dudes you remember from the American Revolution

Tories you might recognize: William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin. It’s a good thing Thanksgiving wasn’t around yet – that would have been terribly awkward for the Franklin family.

The political difference between William Franklin and his hundred-dollar-famous-father kept them apart. Will could never look at a kite without tearing up. (Not historically true, but very probable.)

No Taxation Without Representation! And Other Cool Phrases from the Revolution

Leading up to the Revoultion, political debates over taxation were getting heated. The British government had largely been absent from the colonies in the years prior, but the cost of the Seven Years War (we call it the French and Indian War), push the British government to push for heavier taxation in North America.

Some of these taxes were direct taxation: these taxes are paid directly by an individual, like the Stamp Act which applied to paper products like newspapers.

Some of these taxes were indirect taxation: these taxes are paid by manufacturers or transporters, and the price increase is reflected on to the customer as well.

Not a lot of people were fans of these taxes, especially since the British government issued them without asking the colonists how they felt about it. The phrase “no taxation without representation” became a rallying cry against these seemingly unfair taxes.

Join or Die
Another famous Revolutionary phrase that sought to bring the colonies together. Not to be confused with it’s modern-day cousin: no step on snek.

The Articles of Confederation (Not the Confederates)

The Second Continental Congress sent out the Articles of Confederation to be ratified by the states and become the first official government of the former British colonies. The Confederation consisted of one congress that had the power to make treaties and raise armies, but not raise taxes. All in all, the Confederate Congress was a pretty weak body, made obvious by the outbreak of Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts.

Frustrated Americans wanted something better. The Constitutional Convention in 1787 started out to fix the Articles, and ended up creating an entirely new government and the Second American Revolution.

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