Events: Revolution / Declaration of Independence
The Stamp Act Congress met in New York City in October 1765, to voice colonists’ concerns about British taxes being imposed on the colonies. Nine of the colonies sent delegates to the Congress which drew up a petition to the King protesting the Stamp Act. They argued that taxation could only be carried out by colonial assemblies, and not by the British Parliament in which the colonists had no representation (“No taxation without representation!”). This marked the first time the colonies united to discuss growing tensions between Britain and her colonies.
On March 5, 1770, a group of young colonial dock workers and British soldiers faced off outside a customs house. A British soldier had stones, ice, and coal chunks thrown at him. More British soldiers arrived. The colonial mob taunted the soldiers. A fight broke out, and the soldiers began firing. Crispus Attucks, a former slave, and four other colonists were killed. The shooting was referred to as a “massacre,” and Patriots used the incident as anti-British propaganda in newspaper articles, posters, and pamphlets. The colonists were outraged by the incident. Paul Revere’s famous “Bloody Massacre” engraving appeared in many colonial publications which stirred stronger feelings against the British.
The Tea Act passed by Parliament in 1773 was unpopular in the colonies. It gave the English East India Company a monopoly on importing tea into the colonies. This led to many protests, including the famous Boston Tea Party. The Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams, disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded three tea ships docked in the Boston Harbor. They dumped 342 chests of East India Company tea into Boston Harbor in protest of the Tea Act. They believed that by destroying the tea Britain would see how strongly the colonists disagreed with the law. The British responded by passing the Intolerable Acts which imposed strong penalties against Boston for the event and eventually led to the colonists calling the First Continental Congress to discuss the growing tensions with Great Britain.
In September 1774, fifty-five delegates from twelve of the colonies met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to discuss rising concerns over the Intolerable Acts and the colonists’ continuing frustration over “taxation without representation.” This meeting was called the First Continental Congress. This Congress did not advocate independence. The delegates decided to boycott all trade with Great Britain if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed.
Delegates from the colonies met in May 1775, after the first shots had already been fired at Lexington and Concord. This meeting was called the Second Continental Congress. The delegates adopted the Olive Branch Petition expressing their loyalty to the king, but disapproving Parliament’s actions. The Congress elected George Washington Commander of the Continental Army. A year later the Congress organized a committee to write the Declaration of Independence since the problems with Great Britain could not be resolved. Eventually, delegates adopted and signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The American Revolution (1775-1783) was a war for independence between the American colonies and Great Britain. The colonists were unhappy with Great Britain’s mercantilist policies and being taxed without representation. The colonists had become accustomed to governing themselves during their early history due to Britain’s “salutary neglect.” After the French and Indian War, the sudden increase in taxation and unwanted attention from Great Britain (such as the Proclamation of 1763, the Stamp Act, and the Intolerable Acts) surprised and angered the colonists. This war ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and resulted in American independence from Great Britain.
In April 1775, British soldiers marched out of Boston to seize a stockpile of colonial weapons and arrest members of the Sons of Liberty. Warned by Paul Revere and William Dawes that “The Redcoats are coming!” about seventy Minutemen stood in Lexington ready to face about 250 British soldiers. No one knows who fired first, but seven Americans were killed before British soldiers moved past Lexington to Concord. In Concord, they were met with more Minutemen who fought back until the British retreated. Americans regrouped and continued firing on the British throughout their twenty-mile march back to Boston. Lexington and Concord are considered the first battles of the American Revolution. American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson described this event as “the shot heard round the world” because the battles eventually led to independence for the colonies.
The Battle of Saratoga was a major battle of the American Revolution. British General John Burgoyne led a series of attacks, in the summer of 1777, to cut off the New England colonies from the rest of the English colonies by taking control of the Hudson River, His troops were defeated in a two-part battle at Saratoga which marked the turning point of the Revolutionary War. After the victory at Saratoga, France and Spain pledged their aid to the United States in America’s fight for independence.
In the winter of 1777, during the American Revolution, Washington’s army of 10,000 exhausted troops set up camp at Valley Forge, a frozen field about 25 miles outside of Philadelphia. Nearly one in four of his men died during this time due to disease, starvation, and the harsh, freezing conditions. However, Washington was also able to use the winter to train his men with military drills so that they would be ready to fight like a professional army when fighting resumed in the spring.
The Battle of Yorktown was the last major battle of the American Revolution. British General Charles Cornwallis marched his troops through Virginia to the coast and controlled much of the coast during the war. However, just before Cornwallis’ arrival at Yorktown, a French fleet of ships defeated the Royal Navy, which left Cornwallis in trouble. Washington’s troops quickly blocked Cornwallis in from the North as French troops landed to the South. Surrounded on every side, Cornwallis and his men held out for weeks but finally surrendered on October 19, 1781, effectively ending the war.