Imperial Reorganization

Following the conclusion of the French and Indian War (the Seven Years' War in Europe and elsewhere), the government of King George III acted to tighten imperial controls and deal with an immense public debt that had grown to more than ?130 million. Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy and some of the home population were already rioting in opposition to chronically high taxes.

First Lord of the Treasury and Secretary of State George Grenville became prime minister in 1763. He possessed no particular talent other than fussiness over detail. Grenville was the brother-in-law of William Pitt the elder, but lacked that leader’s understanding of, and sympathy for, the American colonies.

Grenville, who fancied himself a financial expert, was particularly concerned about the meager contribution made by the American colonies to the recent war effort, a conflict that many in England thought had been fought for the specific benefit of North American settlers. Grenville made a fateful decision to impose taxes and administrative reforms on the colonies rather than to seek voluntary financial contributions from the colonial assemblies, as had been done in the past.

Immediate steps taken in the Grenville program included:

While Britain was attempting to tighten imperial controls and gain financial support from the colonies to ease the crushing burden of the national debt, the Americans responded in anger and disbelief. The great threat in North America, France, had been vanquished in the recent war. In the colonists' eyes, Britain should have loosened its grasp over American affairs, not tightened it. This fissure of disagreement would widen over the next dozen years.


See timeline of the American Revolution.