History of the United States
Independence (1754-1783)

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

The 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.

King 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.

Colonial reaction.
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."

To 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 In 1766, Parliament repealed the offensive Stamp Act.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

Renewed conflict.
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.

The 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.

In 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.

The Intolerable Acts.
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.

The 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.

The 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.

King 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.

The 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 American Revolution.