History of the United States
Relations between the American Colonies and Great Britain began to
break down during the mid-1700's. Friction mounted, and, on April 19,
1775, the American Revolution broke out between the Americans and the
British. During the war--on July 4, 1776--the colonists boldly
declared their independence from their British rulers. In 1783, they
defeated the British and established their claim to independence.
Background to the revolution
Seven Years' War. Great Britain and France had struggled for control of
eastern North America throughout the colonial period. As their
settlements moved inland, both nations claimed the vast territory
between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River. The
struggle led to the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in 1754. The
British won the war, and as a result they controlled all of North
America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. The war
triggered a series of British policy changes that eventually led to the
colonial independence movement.
British policy changes. he Seven Years' War created problems for the
British. After the war, Britain had to find ways to strengthen its
control over its enlarged American territory. George III, who had become
king of Great Britain in 1760, instructed the British Parliament to
establish policies to solve these problems.
George and Parliament believed the time had come for the colonists to
start obeying trade regulations and paying their share of the cost of
maintaining the British Empire. In 1764, Parliament passed the Sugar
Act. This law provided for the efficient collection of taxes on
molasses brought into the colonies. The Stamp Act of 1765 extended to
the colonies the traditional English tax on newspapers, legal documents,
and other printed matter.
The colonists bitterly opposed the new British
policies. The colonists were not represented in Parliament. Therefore,
they argued, Britain had no right to tax them. The colonists expressed
this belief in the slogan, "Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny."
protest against the new laws, colonists organized a widespread boycott
of British goods. The colonial boycott and resistance alarmed Britain's
leaders. In 1766, Parliament repealed the offensive Stamp Act.
The road to independence
The relaxation of tensions between the Americans and
the British proved to be short-lived. In 1767, Parliament passed the
Townshend Acts, which taxed lead, paint, paper, and tea imported into
the colonies. These and other laws renewed discontent among the
colonists. As tensions between the Americans and British grew, Britain
reacted by sending troops into Boston and New York City.
sight of British troops in the city streets aroused colonial anger. On
March 5, 1770, Boston civilians taunted a group of troops. The troops
fired on the civilians, killing three people and wounding eight others,
two of whom died later. This incident, called the Boston Massacre,
shocked Americans and unnerved the British government.
1770, Parliament repealed all provisions of the Townshend Acts with one
exception--the tax on tea. Furious Americans vowed not to use tea and
colonial merchants refused to sell it. On Dec. 16, 1773, a group of
American colonists staged the Boston Tea Party to dramatize their
opposition. Dressed as Indians, they boarded East India Company ships
and threw their cargo of tea into Boston Harbor.
Angered by the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed
laws to punish the colonists early in 1774. Called the Intolerable Acts
by the Americans, the laws included provisions that closed the port of
Boston, gave increased power to the British governor of Massachusetts
colony, and required the colonists to house and feed British soldiers.
First Continental Congress.
The Intolerable Acts stirred colonial anger
more than ever before. On Sept. 5, 1774, delegates from 12 colonies met
in the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The delegates called
for an end to all trade with Britain until Parliament repealed the
Intolerable Acts. King George insisted that the colonies either submit
to British rule or be crushed.
American Revolution begins.
On April 19, 1775, British troops tried to
seize the military supplies of the Massachusetts militia. This action
led to the start of the American Revolution. Colonial leaders met in the
Second Continental Congress on May 10, 1775. The Congress faced the task
of preparing the colonies for war. It organized the Continental Army,
which colonists from all walks of life joined.
George officially declared the colonies in rebellion on Aug. 23, 1775.
Some people--called Loyalists--favoured submission to British rule, but
a growing number supported the fight for independence.
Declaration of Independence.
On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental
Congress officially declared independence and formed the United States
of America by adopting the Declaration of Independence. It stated that
all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with rights
to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To protect those rights,
men organized governments, and the governments derived their powers from
the consent of the governed. But when a government ceased to preserve
the rights, it was the duty of the people to change the government, or
abolish it and form a new one.
Victory over a great empire.
The Americans were challenging the world's
most powerful empire in the American Revolution. The war raged on
through the 1770's. Then, on Oct. 19, 1781, the Americans won a decisive
victory at the Battle of Yorktown in Virginia. Thousands of British
soldiers surrendered there. Within months, the British government
decided to seek peace. Finally, on Sept. 3, 1783, the Americans and the
British signed the Treaty of Paris of 1783, officially ending the