The road to America’s independence was both long and brutal. Americans fled from Britain for a reason: freedom. The colonists did not agree with Britain’s monarchy form of government. In addition to opposing much of the British Parliament’s laws and policies, they also sought religious freedom. A series of burdensome taxes imposed on the colonists coupled with a continuously encroaching government was the tipping point that ultimately led to American independence. Here I will provide a summary of the major events of the American Revolution.
The French and Indian War and Pontiac’s Rebellion:
The battle between Britain and France for colonial dominance in America was known as the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The colonists dutifully fought alongside British soldiers, while the French allied themselves with several Native American tribes. After the British captured most of France’s major cities and forts in Canada and the Ohio Valley, the war came to an end. Worried that the British would take more tribal lands from the Native Americans, the Ottawa chief Pontiac led a series of raids on British forts and American settlements in the Ohio Valley. This Native American uprising is known as Pontiac’s Rebellion. It did not take long for the powerful British forces to squash the rebellion. However, in an effort to make peace with the Native Americans, Parliament issued the Proclamation of 1763, which forbade American colonists to settle on Native American territory unless native rights to the land had first been obtained by purchase or treaty.
The End of Salutary Neglect and Taxation Without Representation:
After the French and Indian War, Parliament moved to end the age of salutary neglect. The British government began to impose numerous burdens and taxes on the American colonists. These included the enforcement of the Navigation Acts, the Sugar Act to tax sugar, the Currency Act to remove paper currencies from circulation, the Stamp Act to tax printed materials, and the Quartering Act requiring Americans to house and feed British troops. Americans throughout the thirteen colonies did not like being taxed without having representation in Parliament, hence the famous phrase “no taxation without representation”. Colonial leaders petitioned Parliament and King George III to repeal the Stamp Act. In response to intense public pressure, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act in 1766. However, it passed the Declaratory Act, which allowed the Parliament to tax the colonies anytime it chose.
The Townshend Acts and the Boston Massacre:
Another series of taxes, this time on lead, paints, and tea, were levied on the colonists through the Townshend Acts of 1767. At the same time, Parliament also passed the Suspension Act, which suspended the New York assembly for not enforcing the Quartering Act. Fearing a violent response from the colonists, Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson requested assistance from the British army. In 1768, four thousand British soldiers landed in the city to help maintain order. Nevertheless, on March 5, 1770, an angry mob of rebels clashed with British troops. The violent and bloody event, in which five colonists were killed, became known as the Boston Massacre. News of the massacre spread like wildfire throughout the colonies.
The Boston Tea Party:
In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, which granted the British East India Company a trade monopoly on the tea exported to the American colonies. Tea merchants in many American cities refused to purchase British tea. In an effort to uphold the law, Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts allowed for ships arriving in Boston harbor to deposit their cargoes and ordered that appropriate payments be made for the tea. On the night of December 16, 1773, sixty men boarded the ships and dumped the entire shipment of tea into the harbor. This famous event, known as the Boston TeaParty, was a turning point in American history.
The Intolerable Acts:
The Intolerable Acts (the Coercive Acts), were passed by Parliament in January 1774. The laws closed Boston Harbor until the British East India Company had been fully reimbursed for the tea destroyed in the Boston Tea Party. People from all over the colonies sent food and supplies to help their fellow Americans survive the brutal northeastern weather.
The First Continental Congress:
Prominent colonials gathered in Philadelphia in 1774 at the First Continental Congress to take action against the Intolerable Acts. They petitioned King George III and the British government to repeal the acts. They also instituted a boycott of all British goods in the colonies.
Lexington, Concord, and the Second Continental Congress:
On April 19, 1775, British forces in Boston marched to the town of Concord, Massachusetts, to seize a colonial militia arsenal. Militiamen of Lexington and Concord intercepted them and attacked. The first shot, famously quoted as the “shot heard round the world” was followed by many more shots that forced the British to retreat back to Boston. Thousands of militiamen from nearby colonies went to Boston to assist.
In the meantime, leaders held the SecondContinental Congress. They drafted the Olive Branch Petition, in which they expressed their loyalty to Britain and asked King George III for peaceful reconciliation. The king rejected the petition and formally declared that the colonies were in a state of rebellion.
The Declaration of Independence:
The Second Continental Congress chose GeorgeWashington, who would later become America’s first president, to command the militiamen defending Boston in the north. They also appropriated money for a small navy and for developing a professional Continental Army. Support began to grow for America’s succession from Britain. A vote was held on July 2, 1776, to declare independence. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. On July 4, 1776 the United States was born.