History of the American Revolution – A Documentary


The struggle for freedom
began in 1775 and lasted for eight long years
before it ended in 1783. In the struggle of the
colonies against the British, the thirteen colonies on the Atlantic
seaboard of North America acquired their independence from Great
Britain and became United States. The great Revolution is also known
as the American War of Independence. The American Revolution bought an end to
the two century long British rule for most of the colonies in North America shaped
the present United States of America. The radical epoch was both
disturbing and exhilarating; a time of evolution for some,
disruption for others. In the rouse of the Revolution came
events as diverse as the drafting and endorsement of the Constitution
of the United States of America and the revolts of slaves
who saw the disparity between captivity and
declarations of liberty. What were the ideologies that the
American mutineers battled for? The most common one was sovereignty. The American loyalists
believed that all governments exist to
benefit all the people. Whenever a government sullied
the fundamental rights of the people, they had the
right to coup or change it. The other simple principle
was equality before the law. During times when people in the western
world were mostly governed by kings, the American patriots renounced the idea that
the people ought to be royal subjects. Instead, they asserted that the people
should be viewed as residents with equivalent rights, including the right
to partake in government matters. A third essential principle was rule
of law and constitutional rights. The American rebels
believed in natural rights; the notion that the public
have some fundamental rights that should be safeguarded
against dictatorial coercion, including the right to hearing
by jury, freedom from capricious arrest and penalty and freedom
of speech and integrity. They also believed in constitutionalism; that the people’s
rights and government’s powers and functions
required to be documented. Causes of the American War of Independence Earlier all seemed to be fine and the
colonies were proud to be British. Besides a few occurrences of
Parliament’s control which troubled the colonists, like the
Currency Acts of 1751 and 1764. But it was when the French
and Indian War took place in 1754 lasting till
1763, that King George III incurred heavy losses in buying
provisions for his army and the colonies. To pay off his debts, he
enforced taxes on the colonies without their consent causing
an outrage amid the colonists. An old saying goes that you must
look out for the money trail. The Protestant Reformation had
something similar, and money was undoubtedly one of the chief reasons
of the American Revolution. The idea of paying taxes was not
something the Americans liked because earlier they always
got the goods without taxes. They instantly began to shun British goods. This apparently infuriated the king
who lost no time in sending his army across the Atlantic to ensure that the
colonies were at their best behaviour. Besides there were hundreds of reasons
why the Americans rose to a mutiny. The British had implemented
the policy of Mercantilism. The system was built on the
benefits of lucrative trading. The colonies were asked to
source products which would otherwise have to be got
from non-imperial sources, make the finished products
themselves, generate exports and then sell these products
outside the country. There was a centralized
control over the economy. The trade was confined and there
was a list of goods which could not be exported to European
ports except for England. The Triangular Trade routes were made and
Americans had to trade products which they had in surplus in exchange for
products that were less in their own area. Triangular Trade, together with the
British policy of Mercantilism, delivered a positive balance of
trade profiting only Great Britain. It guaranteed that all precious metals
and domestic credit remained in England. The Navigation Acts were intended
to control colonial trade. The Navigation Acts was to boost British
shipping and permit Great Britain to hold the domination of British colonial trade
for the sole benefit of British merchants. In 1689, English Bill of Rights
stated that all the liberties and rights of an individual were
protected by the English law; Americans debated that they were
not judged the same rights. In 1696, the British adopted the
policy of Salutary Neglect evading the strict enforcement of parliamentary
laws in Colonial America that gave the colonies substantial
liberty in economic matters. Amid 1763-1775 the British tried
to inverse their policy of Salutary Neglect to constrict
their control in the colonies, pay for war debts, impose
the Navigation Acts and other rules and execute
new taxes on products. The Wool Act passed in 1699 by the
British Parliament stated that the Americans could not export
cloth made in their colonies. In 1732 the Hat Act prevented the Americans
to trade their manufactured hats. A Debt Recovery passed
in 1732 pronounced that slaves and land were
equal to property and should be sold to realize debts owned by the
colonial residents to British merchants. Heavy taxes were imposed on sugar in 1733,
through Molasses or Navigation Act. The Iron Act passed in 1750 suppressed the
production of finished products in the colonies and the production and export
of iron was done to Great Britain only. An edict imposed On October 7, 1763
prohibited private citizens and colonial governments to buy land or
make any contracts with natives; only the British Empire would
have all official relations. Additionally, only traders who
were licensed would be permitted to travel west or have any
dealings with the native Indians. The Americans thought
the British were siding with the native Indians
against the colonies. The British issued a Sugar Act or
the American Revenue Act in 1764 as the taxes from 1733 Molasses Act
was not collected efficiently. The 1764 Act instated tax on
molasses and sugar imported in the colonies which heavily impacted
the rum business in New England. In the Boston Boycott of August 1764
the traders and women of Boston refused to buy any British clothing
like satin, ruffles and laces. On September 1, 1764 the Currency Act
was passed regulating depreciated paper currency of the colonies which was used
to pay the British traders and creditors. Stamp Act was passed on March
22, 1765 in which taxes were levied on newspapers,
legal papers and pamphlets. Mayhem broke which forced the
British to annul the act in 1766. Quartering Act of 1765 stated
that the British troops were to be housed in the barracks
provided by the colonies, if the barracks were too small then they
should occupy the lodges and inns and if there were no place for them still
the public houses were to be occupied. The Americans disliked the idea
of British soldiers living amidst them and they refused
to comply with the Act. In May 1765 Patrick Henry was elected as a
member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. He headed the disapprovals
against the loathed British laws and taxes in
the House of Burgesses. In March 1766 the British
took steps against the Americans by issuing
the Declaratory Act that stated the British right to
make laws compulsory on the colonies. On June 29, 1767 some laws called the
Townshend Acts added taxes on items that are imported by the colonists including
lead, paints, glass, tea and paper. The levying of taxes seemed to be endless
and yet another Townshend Act was passed imposing taxes on imported
goods by the colonies like paint, paper,
glass, tea, lead etc. October 1, 1768 saw two British
warships sail into Boston Harbour leaving behind two regiments of
English troops to keep law and order. Boston Massacre also known as the
incident on King Street, on March 5, 1770 British soldiers killed five
civilians and injured six others. It was the result of a
revolt when eight British soldiers barged into the
revolting crowd without orders. The Tea Act of May 10, 1773 permitted the
British East India Company to sell their low priced tea to the colonies directly,
discouraging the local colonial tea merchants. A protest by the Sons of Liberty
(organisation created by the colonists) in Boston when they
dressed as native Americans and destroyed a whole ship of
East India Company carrying tea, they threw chests of tea into
the sea on December 16, 1773. It is an iconic event in the
history of American Revolution. The British passed a series of laws
that were known as Intolerable Acts, in retaliation to the
Boston Tea party rebellion. The five laws aimed at punishing
Massachusetts for their revolt Boston and to reinstate British
authority in the American colonies. The Intolerable Acts were: »Boston Port Act »Massachusetts Government Act »Administration of Justice Act »Quartering Act »Quebec Act Between September 5, 1774
and October 26, 1774 the First Continental
Congress met in and the elected representatives
of colonists assembled in uprising
against the British rule. The Continental Association
was created by the Continental Congress
in 1774 in an answer to the ‘Intolerable Acts’ and to enforce
economic authorizations against Great Britain. The Articles of Association were
adopted on October 20, 1774. The association was powerful and its
continuous revolts gave fire to the American Revolution, their trade
with Great Britain fell speedily. It was on March 23, 1775
when Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty
or give me death!” speech referring to the “warlike preparations”
of the British army and sounding crucial call to arms saying “The war
is inevitable – and let it come!” On Wednesday, April 19, 1775
the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord started
the American Revolution. Round 700 British Army patrons
in Boston, under Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, were given
surreptitious orders to arrest and end rebellious military
provisions allegedly stored by the Massachusetts
militia at Concord. However the colonial loyalists had received
the news weeks before the mission that their provisions might be at risk and had
relocated most of it to other places. They also got the details of the plans
of the British a night before the war and were able to quickly inform the area
militias about the British mission. The first gun shots were fired just
as the sun was rising at Lexington. The Second Continental Congress
issued the Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of
Taking up Arms on July 6, 1775 to explain why the thirteen
colonies had taken up arms and marked beginning of the
American Revolutionary War. They determined to die free men
than live their lives as slaves. Independence and Union The North Carolina Provincial Congress
issued the Halifax Resolves on April, 1776, openly permitting its
representatives to vote for independence. Congress asked all the states to
write constitutions, and remove the last fragments of British
rule, in May the same year. By June nine colonies were
prepared for independence; slowly the remaining four
– Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland
also lined up. Richard Henry Lee was asked
by the Virginia legislature to propose independence, which
he did on June 7, 1776. On the June 11, 1176 a committee
was formed to draw a document asking for justifications to be
separated from Great Britain. After safeguarding
sufficient votes for clearance, independence
was voted for on July 2. The Declaration of Independence
was drafted mainly by Thomas Jefferson and
presented by the committee, which was slightly reread and universally
accepted by the entire Congress on July 4. This marked the foundation
of a new sovereign nation that was called the
United Stated of America. The Second Continental
Congress sanctioned a new constitution, the “Articles
of Confederation”, for approval by the states
on November 15, 1777, and instantly began functioning
under their terms. The Articles were formally
endorsed on March 1, 1781 and the Continental
Congress was dissolved and was replaced by a new government
of the United States of America in Congress Assembled with Samuel
Huntington as the presiding officer. Protecting the Revolution It seemed that the royal army did not
want to let go of their reign so easily. They tried to take over their
rule between 1776 to 1777. British Return: 1776-1777 As per the British historian
Jeremy Black, the British had substantial leads with
the world’s largest navy, exceedingly trained army, and
an extremely competent system of public finance which could
effortlessly fund the war. But, the British were utterly
handicapped and misinterpreted the complexity of backing
for the patriot position. Disregarding the guidance
of General Gage, they misjudged the situation to
simply be a big revolt. London thought by directing a
big military and naval force they could subdue the Americans
and force them to loyalty. Convinced that the Revolution was the
work of some troublemakers who had united an armed mob to their cause, they anticipated
that the rebels would be daunted. Then the massive majority
of Americans, who were loyal but scared by the
terroristic strategies, would upsurge and kick
out the protestors and reinstate a loyal
government in every colony. When Washington forced the British
army out of Boston in 1776, neither the armies Loyalists nor British
controlled any important areas. Nonetheless the British
were gathering armies at their marine base at
Nova Scotia (Halifax). They returned with forces in July
1776, arriving in New York and overpowering Washington’s Continental
Army at the Battle of Brooklyn. After they won the Battle of
Brooklyn, the British entreated a meeting with councils from Congress
to discuss an end to conflicts. John Adams and Benjamin Franklin
and some other delegates met Howe on Staten Island in New
York Harbor on September 11, which came to be known as the
Staten Island Peace Conference. Howe necessitated a withdrawal
of the Declaration of Independence, which was denied
ending all discussions. The British then hastily clutched New York
City and almost captured Washington’s army. They made New York their
political and military hub of operations in North
America till November, 1783. The city became a terminus
for Loyalist refugees, and a principal point of
Washington’s intellect network. The British also seized New Jersey, driving
the Continental Army to Pennsylvania. In 1776 the British army was taken
by a surprise attack when Washington defeated Hessian and British
regiments at Princeton and Trenton, thus retrieving control over
most parts of New Jersey. The victory was a lift to the
fading morale of the patriots. The British strategized again in 1777 and
to end the war they sent their forces from Canada to block New England, which the British
professed as main source of campaigners. However, there was a big misunderstanding
and the army went to Philadelphia. The army was headed by Burgoyne
who hopelessly waited for reinforcements from New York and
was trapped in northern New York. They lay down their arms after the
Battle of Saratoga in October 1777. There was a crucial siege in
Philadelphia at Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania between October,
1777 to November 1777 diverting British troops and giving
Washington time to save the Continental Army and securely lead his army to
severe winter housings at Valley Forge. American Alliances, 1778 The imprisonment of British
forces at Saratoga fortified the French to officially enter the
war in support of Congress, as Benjamin Franklin discussed an enduring
military alliance in early 1778, knowingly becoming the first country to formally
recognize the Declaration of Independence. On February 6, 1778, a Treaty of
Alliance and Treaty of Amity and Commerce were signed between France
and United States of America. William Pitt tried to initiate
the British on making peace with Americans, and join hands
with America against France, while other British politicians who were
sympathetic towards the American colonial grievances were now against Americans
for associating with Britain’s enemy. By 1780 France had two more allies; Dutch and the Spain, singling the
British Empire to battle a war alone. The American Theater thus became
only one front in Britain’s war. The British were forced to pull out their
armies from continental America to support Caribbean colonies who produced sugar
which was far more important than this. The French coalition and declining
military conditions forced Sir Henry Clinton to vacate Philadelphia
to strengthen New York City. Washington’s attempt to
stop the retreating army resulted in the Battle
of Monmouth Court House; it was the last big clash between
Americans and the British. After an indecisive battle, the British
successfully withdrew to New York City. The northern war consequently
became an impasse, as the attention moved to the
smaller southern theater. The British Flee South, 1778-1783 The British approach in America now
focused on an operation in the south. With lesser steady regiments at their
disposal, the British commanders though that the southern strategy
was a more feasible plan, as the south was apparently more strong
Loyalist, with a huge population of fresh migrants and a large number of slaves who
would be seized or run away to join Britain. Late in December 1778,
the British army took Savannah and took control
over Georgia coastline. In 1780 they hurled a new attack
and grabbed Charleston too. A momentous conquest at the Battle
of Camden meant that British armies soon controlled most of
South Carolina and Georgia. The royal army laid up a
network of internal forts, expecting the Loyalists
to assemble to the flag. Very few loyalists turned up and the
British army had to fight their way to Virginia and North Carolina
with a terribly weak army. Their captured territories were fought
over by the loyalists and American militia reversing all the British
gains made in those territories. The British Finally Surrender, 1781 The Battle of Yorktown or German Battle
or The Siege of Yorktown and most famously remembered as the Surrender
of Yorktown was on October 19, 1781 when combined forces of American
Continental Army and French Army troops led by General George Washington and
Comte de Rochambeau respectively were victorious in a battle
against the British army commanded by Lieutenant
General Charles Cornwallis. The siege was the biggest
land battle fought in the American Revolution
War of Independence which concluded the
Yorktown movement with the surrender and capture
of General Cornwallis and his army, provoking the British
government to negotiate and end the battle. The battle upped the hesitating morale of
the Americans and invigorated the French fervour for the war, as well as sabotaging
the support for battle in Great Britain. France sent 500 soldiers to Rhode
Island in 1780 to support their American Allies in the campaign
against the British in New York City. There were more fleets dispatched
from France which also had the support of French West
Indies fleet of Comte de Grasse. Rochambeau and George Washington
requested Grasse to aid them in besieging New York or against a
British campaign in Virginia. Cornwallis was ordered to build a
defensive water port in Yorktown but the Continental Army led by
Lafayette shadowed his actions. In the summer of 1781, American
and French armies waited united in north New York
City for Grasse’s orders and they finally moved south to
Virginia engaging in illusory tricks leading the British to believe that
the New York siege was strategic. De Grasse bought additional
soldiers to Chesapeake Bay in the end of August and made a
naval cordon of Yorktown. De Grasse was carrying 500,000
silver pesos the Cuban citizens had collected to fund the siege
and pay the Continental Army. Back in Santa Domingo Grasse
met representative of Carlos III of Spain, Francisco
Saavedra de Sangronis who assured that Spanish
navy would assist the French merchant fleet and help him
sail north with his warships. Grasse defeated Sir Thomas
Graves British fleet in early September who came to release
Cornwallis at Chesapeake Battle; he blocked all ways for
Cornwallis and his army. Rochambeau and Washington
arrived by the end of September and had
Cornwallis entirely fenced. The British defence weakened once the
French and American armies started barrage and on October 14, 1781 two
columns sent by Washington attacked what was remaining
of the British defences. The French and Americans took one redoubt
each, worsening the British speedily and finally on October 17, 1781
Cornwallis requested for capitulation. The surrender ceremony took place two
days later when more than 7,000 British soldiers were captured, Cornwallis was
absent in this ceremony stating he was ill. Once the discussions started it resulted
in the Treaty of Paris in 1783. And it Finally Ends There is a long debate among
the historians whether the odds for the victory of
America were short or long. John E. Ferling believes
that the odds were so long that the victory for
Americans was a miracle whereas Joseph Ell debates the odds
were in the favour of Americans and questions if there was ever a realistic
opportunity for the British to win. He disputes that they had the
prospect once in 1776 and the Howe brothers missed several occasions
to abolish the Continental Army; there were of course other factors such
as luck, chance and whims of weather. His point is that the Howe’s
were disastrously flawed as they underrated the
challenges faced by Patriots. Back in Britain there were many who always
commiserated with the colonial rebels. King George wanted to
continue the war but he did not get any financial
help from the Parliament. The Parliament of Great Britain had
never expected the war to last so long. They had already raised the taxes
exceedingly high to pay for the war. The English Parliament
was also concerned about the Colonies association
with the French; it would affect their trade with America
which was quite lucrative for the British. In March 1782, the Parliament said
all those who advised or attempted any further action of belligerent
conflict on North America would be considered to be the enemies
to his Majesty and the Country. Washington was not convinced that
Yorktown would be the end of the war it was only when he saw General
Sir Guy Carleton move out with his troops assured him that
the war had come to an end. In the summer of 1782, the representatives
of the colonies, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Jay negotiated
with the English ambassadors in Paris. Both parties reached to an
agreement and now it was the turn of the British envoys to
enlighten King George III, the English also had to
make peace with the Spanish and the French before the
pact could be signed. In February, 1783, George
III eventually gave his Proclamation of
Cessation of Hostilities that opened the gates for a peace treaty
amongst English and the American Colonies. Benjamin Franklin and
John Jay signed the Paris Peace Treaty on September
3, 1783 in Paris. The treaty: Documented the United States of
America as an independent government. Laid borders of the new
United States of America: The Atlantic Ocean on the east,
the Mississippi River on the west, Great Lakes on the north,
and Florida on the south. Stated that people from Britain,
Spain, Holland, France and the United States had rights
to the Mississippi River. Affirmed fishing rights off
the Newfoundland coast. Gave back the property and
rights to the Loyalists who wished to stay
back in the Colonies. Recognized rules for the exclusion
of British forces which were in America and returned Senegal
to France and Florida to Spain. Britain lost a lot of terrain
because of the Peace Treaty. British forces left New
York City in November, 1783 and the Continental
army finally parted. Washington left for his
home in Mount Vernon and intended to retire by
working on his plantation. The Continental Congress was now
the Constitutional Congress and the participants began
to draft the Bill of Rights and Constitution of the
United States of America. Impact of War on Great Britain and Finances
of the Countries in the Revolution Losing the 13 American colonies and the
battle came as a great shock to Britain. The battle exposed the boundaries
of Britain’s fiscal military state when it saw powerful enemies
on its face with no associates and reliant on protracted and susceptible
transatlantic lines of communication. The defeat intensified
opposition and spiralled political resentment to the
ministers of the King. Within the Parliament, the main problem
changed from fears of a mighty ruler to the issues of representation, government
cutback and parliamentary alteration. Reformers pursued to finish what they saw
as pervasive institutional corruption. The outcome was a great
crisis from 1776 to 1783. The treaty in 1783 left France
financially drained, whereas the British economy flourished with
the return of American business. The crunch ended after 1784 because
of the King’s astuteness in outsmarting Charles James Fox – the
leader of the Fox-North Coalition, and rehabilitated assurance
in the system provoked by the headship of William Pitt,
the new Prime Minister. Historians say that the loss of the
American colonies facilitated the British to handle the French Revolution in a
more organized and harmonious way. Britain took course to Asia, the Pacific
and later on Africa with ensuing exploration leading to the upsurge
of the Second British Empire. Finance Their war against the French,
Americans and the Spanish cost the British dearly, which
amounted to around £100 million. Chunks of money just vanished
against the funding of war and bought France on the
brink of being bankrupt and revolt in comparison to
Britain who was in a less problematic situation in
maintaining and hiring soldiers. Britain had an urbane monetary system grounded
on the fortune of many of landowners, who sustained the government, collectively
with financers and banks in London. The competent British tax
system gathered about 12% of the GDP in the form
of taxes in the 1770’s. In contrast, the Congress
and the American states had no finish to the hitches
of financing the war. In 1775 there was around 12 million dollars
in gold in the colonies, which was not sufficient for the present transactions
leave alone funding a huge war. The British worsened the
situations by blocking every American port
cutting off almost all its exports and imports
making them dependent on donations from
citizens and militiamen. The actual payments of the
soldiers were delayed and the suppliers and soldiers were
paid in depreciated currency with promises to be paid well in land
grants against the wages they earned. The weak system continued
till the government had a strong financial leader in
the form of Robert Morris who was made Superintendent of Finance
of the United States of America in 1781. In 1782, Morris used a
French loan and set up the private Bank of North
America to fund the rebel. Looking for more competence,
Morris condensed the civil list and saved money by
reasonable bids for contracts, stiffened bookkeeping system, and
necessitated that the national government’s give them full portion of supplies
and money from the allied states. The Congress mainly used four
ways to cover the war cost; about 66 million dollars
in gold and silver. They issued paper money twice; the
first one went to 242 million dollars, it was supposed to
be exchanged for state taxes, the paper holders were later on paid off in
1791 at the rate of one cent per dollar. The steeply rising inflation came down too
hard on some people who had fixed incomes but 90 %of the citizens were farmers, and
were not straight affected by the inflation. Borrowers profited by clearing their
debts with the depreciated paper money. The heaviest burden was tolerated by
the soldiers of the Continental Army, whose wages normally came in arrears
and waned in value month after month, flagging their morale and adding to
the adversities of their families. In 1777, Congress continuously requested
the states to give money but they did not have a proper taxation system
in place either and were of no help. By 1780 Congress was making explicit
demands for supplies of beef, corn, pork and other provisions
which barely kept the army going. Congress pursued to raise money
by credits from prosperous people, and promised to convert
the bonds after the war in 1776. Congress kept their promise and
the bonds were redeemed in 1791 at their face value, but the
campaign raised very less money as Americans had little
silver and gold, and most of the rich merchants
supported of the British. In 1776, France covertly gave
the Americans money, munitions and gunpowder to weaken Britain
which was its biggest enemy. When France formally joined the war
in 1778, the grants continued. The government of France and
the bankers in Amsterdam and Paris lent huge amounts towards
the American Revolution. The loans were repaid in full by the
United States of America in the 1790s. Concluding the Revolution A Better Union and Guaranteed Rights Once the war finally ended in 1783,
there was an era of richness. The national government,
still operated under the Articles of
Confederation, was able to resolve the problem of
the western territories that were yielded by the
states to Congress. American settlers stirred
quickly to those areas with Kentucky, Vermont and Tennessee
becoming states in the 1790s. The government was neither able
to pay back the debts or the war that they owed to the private
banks and European nations not to the Americans who
gave millions of dollars of promissory notes to
fund the revolution. Alexander Hamilton, George
Washington and other experts of the Nationalists were afraid that
the young nation was too weak to withstand an international
war or an internal revolt like the one of 1786 in
Massachusetts (Shay’s Rebellion). The nationalists renamed themselves
“Federalists” and convinced Congress to summon the
Philadelphia Convention in 1787. They embraced a new Constitution
which delivered a much sturdier federal government which consisted
of an operative executive in check and balance system with the
legislatures and judiciary. The Constitution was approved
in 1788 after a fiery debate in the states upon the type of
the projected new government. In March, 1789 President
George Washington took over office under the new
government in New York. As guarantees to all who were careful
about federal power, amendments to the Constitution assuring many
of the unchallengeable rights which made a basis for the
revolt were fronted in Congress by James Madison, and later
approved by the states in 1791. National Debt After the American Revolution the national
debt was divided in three categories. The first was the $12
million payable to other countries mostly money
taken as loan from France. There was a universal arrangement to
pay the external debts at full value. The state government owed
around $25 million and national government owed $40 million
to American citizens who sole supplies, food and
horses to the rebellion forces. There were other debts which
comprised of promissory notes given in the Revolution
to the merchants, farmers, soldiers and farmers who took these
payments on the condition that the new Constitution would form a government who
would ultimately pay off these debts. The expense of war for a state
singly added up to around $114 million in comparison to the $37
million by central government. Alexander Hamilton collated all the
state debts with the domestic and foreign debts into one massive national
debt which added up to $80 million. The national honour of the country
was sustained and everybody was redeemed the face value for the
certificates issued during the war.

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