The American Revolution ended two centuries of British rule for most of the North American colonies and created the modern United States of America. The Revolutionary era was both exhilarating and disturbing---a time of progress for some, dislocation for others. In the wake of the Revolution came events as varied as the drafting and ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America and the rebellions of slaves who saw the contrast between slavery and proclamations of liberty.
1763 10, February
Signing of the Treaty of Paris
Signing The Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Year’s War, also known as the French and Indian War in North America. France lost all mainland North American territories, except New Orleans, in order to retain her Caribbean sugar islands. Britain gained all territory east of the Mississippi River; Spain kept territory west of the Mississippi, but exchanged East and West Florida for Cuba.
1763 7, October
Proclamation of 1763
Wary of the cost of defending the colonies, George III prohibited all settlement west of the Appalachian mountains without guarantees of security from local Native American nations, creating The Proclamation of 1763. The intervention in colonial affairs offended the thirteen colonies' claim to the exclusive right to govern lands to their west.
King George III
King George III is most well known for being the King of England during the American Revolutionary War. Throughout his life he suffered from a disease called Porphyria which caused him to have temporary lapses in judgment and episodes of insanity. He had a very loving and devoted wife who would stand by his side through it all. However, the constant warring began to grate on him, and finally, after losing the American Colonies and the respect of not only the foreign nations but also his own, even his wonderful wife was not enough to keep him from going insane before his death.
On April 5, 1764,Parliament passed the Sugar Act, with the goal of raising 100,000 pounds, an amount equal to one-fifth of the military expenses in North America. The Sugar Act signaled the end of colonial exemption from revenue-raising taxation. Previous acts, such as the long-standing Navigation Acts, had been passed as protectionist measures, regulating trade to boost the economy of the British Empire as a whole. Under the Navigation Acts, taxes were paid by British importers alone, rather than the colonists, and brought in just 1,800 pounds in 1763, compared with a cost of 8,000 pounds just to enforce the acts.
On February 6th, 1765, despite the revenue raised by the Sugar Act, Britain's financial situation continued to spiral out of control. That year, the average taxpayer in England paid 26 shillings per year in taxes, while the average colonist paid only one- half to one and a half shillings. Prime Minister Grenville thought that the American colonists should bear a heavier tax load. To this end, Parliament passed the Stamp Act in March 1765. The act required Americans to buy special watermarked paper for newspapers and all legal documents. Violators faced juryless trials in vice-admiralty courts, just as under the Sugar Act. Grenville optimistically predicted revenues of between 60,000 and 100,000 pounds.In late summer 1765, a group of Boston artisans, shopkeepers, and businessmen formed a group known as the Loyal Nine to oppose the Stamp Act.
The Boston Massacre was a street fight that occurred on March 5, 1770, between a "patriot" mob, throwing snowballs, stones, and sticks, and a squad of British soldiers. Several colonists were killed and this led to a campaign by speech-writers to rouse the ire of the citizenry.The presence of British troops in the city of Boston was increasingly unwelcome. The riot began when about 50 citizens attacked a British sentinel. A British officer, Captain Thomas Preston, called in additional soldiers, and these too were attacked, so the soldiers fired into the mob, killing 3 on the spot (a black sailor named Crispus Attucks, ropemaker Samuel Gray, and a mariner named James Caldwell), and wounding 8 others, two of whom died later (Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr).
The Tea Act, passed by Parliament on May 10, 1773, would launch the final spark to the revolutionary movement in Boston. The act was not intended to raise revenue in the American colonies, and in fact imposed no new taxes. It was designed to prop up the East India Company which was floundering financially and burdened with eighteen million pounds of unsold tea. This tea was to be shipped directly to the colonies, and sold at a bargain price. The Townshend Duties were still in place, however, and the radical leaders in America found reason to believe that this act was a maneuver to buy popular support for the taxes already in force. The direct sale of tea, via British agents, would also have undercut the business of local merchants.
The Boston Tea Party
Governor Thomas Hutchinson allowed three ships carrying tea to enter Boston Harbor. Before the tax could be collected, Bostonians took action. On a cold December night, radical townspeople stormed the ships and tossed 342 chests of tea into the water. Disguised as Native Americans, the offenders could not be identified. The damage in modern American dollars exceeded three quarters of a million dollars. Not a single British East India Company chest of tea bound for the 13 colonies reached its destination. Not a single American colonist had a cup of that tea. Only the fish in Boston Harbor had that pleasure.
The Intolerable Acts
- Boston Port Act
- Administration of Justice Act
- Massachusetts Government Act
- Quartering Act
- Quebec Act
The government spent immense sums of money on troops and equipment in an attempt to subjugate Massachusetts. British merchants had lost huge sums of money on looted, spoiled, and destroyed goods shipped to the colonies. The revenue generated by the Townshend duties, in 1770, amounted to less than £21,000. On March 5, 1770, Parliament repealed the duties, except for the one on tea. That same day, the Boston massacre set a course that would lead the Royal Governor to evacuate the occupying army from Boston, and would soon bring the revolution to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.
Britain's General Gage had a secret plan. During the wee hours of April 19, 1775, he would send out regiments of British soldiers quartered in Boston. Their destinations were Lexington, where they would capture Colonial leaders Sam Adams and John Hancock, then Concord, where they would seize gunpowder. But spies and friends of the Americans leaked word of Gage's plan. Two lanterns hanging from Boston's North Church informed the countryside that the British were going to attack by sea. A series of horseback riders — men such as Paul Revere, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott — galloped off to warn the countryside that the Regulars (British troops) were coming.
The Second Continental Congress
Times had taken a sharp turn for the worse. Lexington and Concord had changed everything. When the Redcoats fired into the Boston crowd in 1775, the benefit of the doubt was granted. Now the professional imperial army was attempting to arrest patriot leaders, and minutemen had been killed in their defense. In May 1775, with Redcoats once again storming Boston, the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia.
The questions were different this time. First and foremost, how would the colonist meet the military threat of the British. It was agreed that a Continental Army would be created. The Congress commissioned George Washington of Virginia to be the supreme commander, who chose to serve without pay. How would supplies be paid for? The Congress authorized the printing of money. Before the leaves had turned, Congress had even appointed a standing committee to conduct relations with foreign governments, should the need ever arise to ask for help. No longer was the Congress dealing with mere grievances. It was a full-fledged governing body.
Still, in May of 1775 the majority of delegates were not seeking independence from Britain. Only radicals like John Adams were of this mindset. In fact, that July Congress approved the Olive Branch Petition, a direct appeal to the king. The American delegates pleaded with George III to attempt peaceful resolution and declared their loyalty to the Crown. The King refused to receive this petition and instead declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion in August. Insult turned to injury when George ordered the hiring of Hessian mercenaries to bring the colonists under control. Americans now felt less and less like their English brethren. How could their fellow citizens order a band of ruthless, foreign goons? The moderate voice in the Continental Congress was dealt a serious blow.
As the seasons changed and hostilities continued, cries for independence grew stronger. The men in Philadelphia were now wanted for treason. They continued to govern and hope against hope that all would end well. For them, the summer of 1776 brought the point of no return — a formal declaration of independence.
Declaration of Independence Adopted
Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence in the morning of a bright, sunny, but cool Philadelphia day. John Dunlap prints the Declaration of Independence. These prints are now called "Dunlap Broadsides." Twenty-four copies are known to exist, two of which are in the Library of Congress. One of these was Washington's personal copy.
The declaration opens with a preamble describing the document's necessity in explaining why the colonies have overthrown their ruler and chosen to take their place as a separate nation in the world. All men are created equal and there are certain unalienable rights that governments should never violate. These rights include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.