The British defeated the French and their Indian allies in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The result was British control over much of North America. But the war had cost England a great deal of money and Parliament decided it was time for the Colonies to pay a share for their own defense.
To raise money, Parliament passed the Stamp Act in 1765. This law required the purchase of tax stamps to buy paper. The Colonists were outraged. After years of "Salutary Neglect" wherein Colonial taxes were not collected by the British, the new policy was unwelcome.
The Colonists had always considered themselves Englishmen. Among the rights granted to all Englishmen was a voice in Parliament -- something they didn't have. With the Stamp Act, "Taxation without representation is tyranny," became a battle cry. Rioting, rhetoric, and the calling of the Stamp Act Congress quickly led England the repeal the Stamp Act. But many new taxation measures, such as the Sugar Act and Townshend Acts followed. The Americans reacted by forming organized political groups such as Committees of Correspondence and the Sons of Liberty.
The people of Boston were most outspoken and violent in their reaction to taxes. They threatened and harmed British customs officials trying to collect taxes. So, the British quartered troops in Boston to protect their officials. In 1770, the Boston Massacre occurred as British troops fired into a group of protesters, killing five of them. This was the first blood.
In 1773, with the issuance of the Tea Act, the East India Company was granted a virtual monopoly on the importation of tea. In protest, a group of Boston citizens disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded a ship and dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston harbor. This ws known as the Boston Tea Party.
Parliament responded with the "Intolerable Acts."
- Accused Colonists could be tried in England
- American homes were forced to host British troops
- Boston Harbor was closed
This resulted in the First Continental Congress, in 1774, which met at Philadelphia's Carpenters' Hall. Twelve colonies sent delegates to discuss how to return to a state of harmonious relations with the Mother Country - not revolution! But radical thinking won out. Parliamentary acts were declared "unconstitutional." Taxes were not paid, an import-export ban was established, and Colonists were urged to arm themselves.
The "shot heard 'round the world" was fired at Lexington and then later that day at Concord where armed colonists tried to resist British seizure of an arsenal. Eight Americans and 273 British soldiers were killed. The Revolution began.
The Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775 and they declared themselves the government. They also named George Washington Commander in Chief of the newly organized army.
In June 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill resulted in about 400 American and 1054 British fatalities. The first major battle of the War gave the Americans great confidence. Skirmishes in late 1775 led to the capture of Ft. Ticonderoga in New York and a win at the Battle of Crown Point, under the command of Ethan Allen. However, Benedict Arnold's attempt to capture Canada for the Americans failed.
On July 4th, 1776, Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence. The United States was born
Click on the thumbnail below to see a historical map of the major events of the war.
"the revolution began in the hearts and minds of the people long before the first shot was fired."
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country."
--Thomas Paine, Common Sense
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Events That Led To The American Revolution
Many people have the misconception that the American Revolution occurred because British colonists did not want to be British citizens any longer. This may have been the case for a select few, but many British colonists desired to maintain their status as British colonists and citizens. The foremost reason that the colonists began protests, boycotts, and petitions against the British was because they believed their innate rights as British citizens were being violated. The American Revolution occurred due to a chain of events and a complex set of intertwined reasons.
One of the reasons that the colonists wanted to separate from Britain was that people in the colonies had begun to see themselves as small separate nations such as North Carolinians, Virginians, Pennsylvanians, and on goes the list. This started to give them an identity separate of Britain, but in many ways the colonists still considered themselves to be British. Since the colonists continued to see themselves as British, it made little impact that the people in each colony were developing new identities. Another factor that contributed to the American Revolution would be tax collectors. Many people fled to the colonies because of debt, and tax collectors followed to collect on debts that these people owed them. This reason is given a little more weight than it should because the majority of the population was not first or second generation colonists by the mid eighteenth century. Tax collectors would not be able to collect on individuals if surnames changed or the surname died. Royal governors are another small reason that people would want to be free of British rule as they were a constant reminder of British rule over the colonies. However, this reason does not affect the outcome because the legislature that had the power of the purse was controlled by the colonists. The governor rarely intervened with political affairs that would incense the colonists, because the legislature controlled when and how the governor would be paid. These reasons all supplied the fuel to start the American Revolution, but the spark that began it was the taxation of the colonies.
The biggest reason that colonists were becoming disgruntled with their mother country, Britain, was Britain’s heavy debts that Britain had accumulated while fighting wars with France which needed to be alleviated. As with all governments, Britain had to tax its people to procure the funds needed to pay these debts. Britain saw their colonies as thousands of British citizens that they had not taxed satisfactorily. After realizing this, Britain imposed several new taxes on goods imported and exported to and from the colonies. The colonists were livid over the new taxes. After all, Britain had practiced salutary neglect for almost 100 years. Salutary neglect is the practice of leaving one’s foreign acquisitions to their own devices with little to no interference of their government, social, or economic...
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