American Revolution (Part 1)
|Original 13 British Colonies in America|
- The American Revolution, that took place between 1765 and 1783, was was a political upheaval during which colonists in the Thirteen North American Colonies of Great Britain rejected the British monarchy, overthrew the authority of Great Britain, won political independence and went on to form the United States of America. The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in American society, government and ways of thinking.
Series of Events Leading to American Revolution
Background upto 1763
Political Structures in Colonies
- The colonies that were established along the coast were governed by charters granted by the King of Britain and each colonies were permitted a substantial amount of self-governance.
- Colonies (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) imitated the “mixed monarchy” constitutional structure of Great Britain. Each had an elected assembly which constituted the lower house of the legislature, a council appointed (except in Massachusetts) by the crown constituting the upper house, and an appointed governor with executive powers representing the King.
- All laws had to be submitted to the home government for approval, but otherwise there was little interference.
- Proprietary colonies (Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland) also had elected legislatures but the proprietors, not the crown, appointed the governors.
- Charter colonies (Connecticut and Rhode island) elected both legislatures and governors and did not have to submit their laws for approval.
- In practice, British Parliament usually only legislated regarding matters of an imperial concern.
- The Navigation Acts of the late 17th century restricted colonial trade in accordance with mercantilist theory.
1763, 10 February: Signing of the Treaty of Paris
- It was signed after the end of the Seven Year’s War (known in the colonies as the French and Indian War) in North America.
- War ended in 1763 with the conquest of French Canada and the expulsion of France from mainland North America by British and American forces. France ceded 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.
- Seven years war drained a good part of England’s treasury, which led the English to increase taxes in the colonies.
- British wished to maintain a standing army in the colonies, impose taxes to pay pensions to retired officers, and terminate colonial claims to the trans-Appalachian west.
(You can go through the following question after the end of the chapter)
Q. What was the impact of Seven Years War on American Revolution?
The North American version of the Seven Years’ War was called the French and Indian War. It did set the stage for the American Revolution the following reasons:
- The French and Indian War cost a lot of money, which the British tried to recoup by taxing the “Americans” of the Thirteen Colonies. The result was a battle cry of “no taxation without representation” by colonies.
- The Americans got a taste of fighting (and victory), and decided to test their wings against the mother country i.e Britain. The war also helped train a number of highly capable American officers, including William Prescott, Daniel Morgan, and above all, George Washington. A number of foreign officers schooled in the Seven Years’ War, such as Friedrich von Steuben, Baron Jean deKalb, and John Peter Muhlenburg also officered the American armies.
- The danger from France was one of reason for Americans to take help from their mother country, Britain. Once French were defeated, Americans no longer needed British for the protection against France
- It set the stage for a favorable “reversal of alliances.” The French and Indian War had pitted them against the British and the Americans. The American Revolution pitted the British, (and some Indians), against the Americans, French, and some French allies such as Spain and the Netherlands.
1763, 7 October: Proclamation of 1763
- Wary of the cost of defending the colonies, King George III prohibited all settlement west of the Appalachian mountains without guarantees of security from local Native American nations.
- The intervention in colonial affairs offended the thirteen colonies’ claim to the exclusive right to govern lands to their west.
1764–1766: Taxes imposed and withdrawn
1764: The Currency Act
- In 1764 Parliament passed the Currency Act to restrain the use of paper money that British merchants saw as a means to evade debt payments.
- It prohibited the colonists from designating paper currency for use as payment for any debts, public or private. Parliament did not, however, prohibit the colonists from issuing paper money.
- This tight money policy created financial difficulties in the colonies, where gold and silver were in short supply.
1764, 5 April: Sugar Act
- This Act was aimed at ending the smuggling trade in sugar and molasses from the French and Dutch West Indies and at providing increased revenues to fund enlarged British Empire responsibilities following the French and Indian War.
- Actually a reinvigoration of the largely ineffective Molasses Act of 1733, the Sugar Act provided for strong customs enforcement of the duties on refined sugar and molasses imported into the colonies from non-British Caribbean sources.
The Act established a Vice-Admiralty Court in, Nova Scotia to hear smuggling cases without jury. These measures led to widespread protest.That same year Prime Minister George Grenville proposed to impose direct taxes on the colonies to raise revenue, but delayed action to see if the colonies would propose some way to raise the revenue themselves.
The colonists objected chiefly on the grounds not that the taxes were high (they were low), but because they had no representation in the Parliament. Benjamin Franklin testified in Parliament in 1766 that Americans already contributed heavily to the defence of the Empire. He said local governments had raised, outfitted and paid 25,000 soldiers to fight France—as many as Britain itself sent—and spent many millions from American treasuries doing so in the French and Indian War alone.
- More objectionable to the colonists were the stricter bonding regulations for shipmasters, whose cargoes were subject to seizure and confiscation by British customs commissioners and who were placed under the authority of the Vice-Admiralty Court in distant Nova Scotia if they violated the trade rules or failed to pay duties. As a result of the Sugar Act, the earlier clandestine trade in foreign sugar and, thus, much colonial maritime commerce were severely hampered. (Though the protected price of British sugar actually benefited New England distillers)
1765, 22 March: Stamp Act:
British Parliament passed the Stamp Act which imposed direct taxes on the colonies for the first time. All official documents, newspapers, almanacs and pamphlets—even decks of playing cards—were required to have ‘stamped’ paper on which a levy was placed.
- The enormous new defense burdens resulting from and Pontiac’s War and the French and Indian War forced British chancellor of the Exchequer, George Grenville to raise taxes by the the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act, a common revenue device in England.
- Completely unexpected was the avalanche of protest from the colonists, who effectively nullified the Stamp Act by outright refusal to use the stamps as well as by riots, stamp burning, and intimidation of colonial stamp distributors. Colonists passionately upheld their rights as Englishmen to be taxed only by their own consent through their own representative assemblies, as had been the practice for a century and a half.
- In addition to nonimportation agreements among colonial merchants, the Stamp Act Congress was convened in New York (October 1765) by moderate representatives of nine colonies to frame resolutions of “rights and grievances” and to petition the king and Parliament for repeal of the objectionable measures. Bowing chiefly to pressure (in the form of a flood of petitions to repeal) from British merchants and manufacturers whose colonial exports had been curtailed, Parliament, largely against the wishes of the House of Lords, repealed the act in early 1766. Simultaneously, however, Parliament issued the Declaratory Act, which reasserted its right of direct taxation anywhere within the empire, “in all cases whatsoever.”
- The protest throughout the colonies against the Stamp Act contributed much to the spirit and organization of unity that was a necessary prelude to the struggle for independence a decade later. (This will be explained in detail in the subsequent topics)
1765: Sons of Liberty:
- The Sons of Liberty were a secret, underground organization that was founded in Boston by Samuel Adams and John Hancock in July 1765. The Sons of Liberty were opposed to the Stamp Act and their membership spread to a number of colonial towns.
- The objective and purpose of the Sons of Liberty was to force all of the British stamp agents to resign and also stop many American merchants from ordering British trade goods. Its members were American patriots, many of whom were hot-headed and were not adverse to the use of violence and intimidation.
This secret society was formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to fight the abuses of taxation by the British government. They are best known for undertaking the Boston Tea Party in 1773 in reaction to new taxes.
In Boston, the Sons of Liberty burned the records of the vice-admiralty court and looted the home of the chief justice, Thomas Hutchinson.
1765, 15 May: Quartering Act
This Act had the British parliamentary provision requiring colonial authorities to provide food, drink, quarters, fuel, and transportation to British forces stationed in their towns or villages. (Resentment over this practice is reflected in the Third Amendment to the present U.S. Constitution, which forbids it in peacetime.)
- The Quartering Act was passed primarily in response to greatly increased empire defense costs in America following the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s War. Like the Stamp Act of the same year, it also was an assertion of British authority over the colonies, in disregard of the fact that troop financing had been exercised for 150 years by representative provincial assemblies rather than by the Parliament in London.
- The act was particularly resented in New York, where the largest number of reserves were quartered, and outward defiance led directly to the Suspending Act as part of the Townshend Acts of 1767 (to be explained later). After considerable tumult, the Quartering Act was allowed to expire in 1770.
1765, 30 May: Virginian Resolution
- The Virginian assembly refused to comply with the Stamp Act.
1765, 7-25 October: Stamp Act Congress
- Representatives from nine of the thirteen colonies declare the Stamp Act unconstitutional as it was a tax levied without their consent. Several legislatures called for united action, and nine colonies sent delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York City. Moderates led by John Dickinson drew up a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances” stating that taxes passed without representation violated their rights as Englishmen. At the same time, however, they rejected the idea of being provided with representation in Parliament, declaring it impossible due to the distance involved. Colonists emphasized their determination by boycotting imports of British merchandise.
- The British Parliament at Westminster saw itself as the supreme lawmaking authority throughout all British possessions and thus entitled to levy any tax without colonial approval.
1766, 18 March: Declaratory Act
- In London, the Rockingham government came to power (July 1765) and Parliament debated whether to repeal the stamp tax or to send an army to enforce it. Benjamin Franklin made the case for repeal. Parliament agreed and repealed the tax (February 21, 1766), but in the Declaratory Act of March 1766 insisted that parliament retained full power to make laws for the colonies “in all cases whatsoever”. The repeal nonetheless caused widespread celebrations in the colonies.
1767–1773: Townshend Acts and the Tea Act
1767, 29 June: Townshend Acts
- Townshend Acts were a series of four acts passed by the British Parliament in an attempt to assert what it considered to be its historic right to exert authority over the colonies through suspension of a recalcitrant representative assembly and through strict provisions for the collection of revenue duties. The British American colonists named the acts after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, who sponsored them.
- The Suspending Act prohibited the New York Assembly from conducting any further business until it complied with the financial requirements of the Quartering Act (1765) for the expenses of British troops stationed there.
- The second act, often called the Townshend duties, imposed direct revenue duties—that is, duties aimed not merely at regulating trade but at putting money into the British treasury. These were payable upon their arrival in colonial ports and fell on lead, glass, paper, paint, and tea.
- The third act established strict and often arbitrary machinery of customs collection in the American colonies, including additional officers, searchers, spies, coast guard vessels, search warrants, writs of assistance, and a Board of Customs Commissioners at Boston, all to be financed out of customs revenues.
- The fourth Townshend Act lifted commercial duties on tea, allowing it to be exported to the colonies free of all British taxes.
- The acts posed an immediate threat to established traditions of colonial self-government, especially the practice of taxation through representative provincial assemblies. They were resisted everywhere with verbal agitation and physical violence, deliberate evasion of duties, renewed nonimportation agreements among merchants, and overt acts of hostility toward British enforcement agents, especially in Boston. Colonial assemblies condemn taxation without representation.Colonists organized boycotts of British goods.
- In February 1768 the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay issued a circular letter to the other colonies urging them to coordinate resistance. The governor dissolved the assembly when it refused to rescind the letter.
- Parliament answered British colonial authorities’ request for protection by dispatching the British army to Boston, where they arrived in October 1768. The presence of those troops, however, heightened the tension in an already anxious environment.
- In January 1769 Parliament reactivated a statute which permitted subjects outside the realm to face trials in England for treason. The governor of Massachusetts was instructed to collect evidence of said treason, and although this threat was not carried out it caused widespread outrage.
1770, 5 March: Boston Massacre
- British troops had been stationed in Boston since 1768 following events prompted by the Townshend Acts of 1767. The posting of the soldiers to Boston had been ordered due to civil unrest in the city.
- Angered by the presence of troops in Boston and Britain’s colonial policy, a radical crowd began harassing a group of soldiers guarding the customs house; a soldier was knocked down by a snowball and discharged his musket. There was no order to fire but the soldiers fired which killed five civilians. The event quickly came to be called the Boston Massacre.
- The guilty soldiers of the Boston Massacre were tried. However, according to English common law, felons convicted of some crimes, not affecting the king, were entitled to the ‘benefit of clergy’ for the first offence. The benefit of clergy was originally a provision by which clergymen could claim that they were outside the jurisdiction of the secular courts and be tried instead in an ecclesiastical court under canon law. Eventually, it was extended to first-time offenders who could receive a more lenient sentence. So, the soldiers entered a claim and were granted ‘benefit of clergy’ to avoid the death sentence for their part in the Boston Massacre and they were released.
- Although the soldiers were tried and acquitted, the widespread descriptions soon became propaganda to turn colonial sentiment against the British.
- The Boston Massacre arose from the resentment of Boston colonists towards the British which had been fuelled by protest activities of the Sons of Liberty patriots.
- The term ‘Boston Massacre’ was coined by the patriot Samuel Adams and used in propaganda campaigns against the British.
Q. What were the effects of Boston Massacre?
- The effects of the Boston Massacre were far reaching and led to the creation of the Committee of Correspondence (explained later).
- The Sons of Liberty and patriots such as Samuel Adams and Paul Revere used the Boston Massacre as a calculated piece of political propaganda, designed to rouse antagonism in all of the colonies toward the Crown. The events of the Boston Massacre were widely publicized, it contributed to the unpopularity of the British regime in America and played a major part in the events that led to the American Revolution including the 1773 Tea Act which led to the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1774.
- The Boston Massacre was a signal event leading to the Revolutionary War. It led directly to the Royal Governor evacuating the occupying army from the town of Boston. It would soon bring the revolution to armed rebellion throughout the colonies.
1770, 12 April
- Repeal of the Townshend Revenue Act.
- Responding to protests, in 1770 Parliament withdrew all taxes except the tax on tea, giving up its efforts to raise revenue. This temporarily resolved the crisis and the boycott of British goods largely ceased, with only the more radical patriots such as Samuel Adams continuing to agitate.
Committees of Correspondence:
- A Committee of Correspondence consisted of a group of leading patriots providing leadership and communication networks amongst the colonists at town and colony level. Their objectives were to warn each other about British actions and future plans that were detrimental to colonial America and to plan colonial resistance and counter measures. The Committees of Correspondence were at first temporary but they evolved into permanent features of colonial America.
- The first type were temporary Committees of Correspondence appointed by towns. These were invented by Samuel Adams in 1764 when a committee was first appointed in Boston Massachusetts.
- A total of about 7000 to 8000 Patriots served on “Committees of Correspondence” at the colonial and local levels— Loyalists of Britain were excluded.
- In early 1773 Virginia, the largest colony, set up permanent Committee of Correspondence, on which Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson served.
- The committees became the leaders of the American resistance to British actions, and largely determined the war effort at the state and local level. When the First Continental Congress decided to boycott British products, the colonial and local Committees took charge, examining merchant records.
1772, 10 June: Burning of the Gaspee:
- The Gaspee Affair occurred on June 9, 1772. The HMS Gaspee, a British customs ship, ran aground in Rhode Island and a Sons of Liberty group attacked and set fire to the ship. The British Government threatened to send the American perpetrators for trial in England, but no arrests were made. However their threat to send Americans to trial in England sparked alarmed protests in the colonies who were informed of the affair via the Committees of Correspondence.
1773 July: Publication of Thomas Hutchinson letters
- In these letters, Hutchinson, the Massachusetts governor, advocated a ‘great restraint of natural liberty‘, which convinced many colonists of a planned British clamp-down on their freedoms. The letters, whose contents were used as evidence of a systematic plot against American rights, discredited Hutchinson and the Assembly petitioned for his recall. Benjamin Franklin, post-master general for the colonies, acknowledged that he leaked the letters which led to him fired from his job
1773 10 May: Tea Act
- The Tea Act of 1773 was a British Law, passed by the Parliament of Great Britain on May 10, 1773, that was designed to bail out the British East India Company and expand the company’s monopoly on the tea trade to all British Colonies, selling excess tea at a reduced price.
- Townshend Acts which had set new import duties on British goods including paint, paper, lead, glass and tea. But due to protests from British merchants, whose trade was seriously effected by the American colonists refusing to buy the goods, Parliament repealed all of the duties – except the tax on tea.
- Since of all the Townshend duties only the import duty on tea was left, the American colonists had continued to boycott tea. As a result of the boycotts, the East India Company had literally tons of tea in its warehouses and was on the verge of bankruptcy. By 1772 the East India Company had 18 million pounds of unsold tea in warehouses and 1.3 million pounds of debt. So Tea Act was passed to bail them out.
- Tea Act had following major provisions:
- Tea Act gave a tea monopoly in the American colonies to the British East India Company.
- The Tea Act allowed the East India company to sell its large tea surplus below the prices charged by colonial competitors.
- The provisions in the Tea Act allowed tea to be shipped in East India Company ships directly from China to the American colonies.
- This new import tax of 3 pence was considerably less than the previous one in which 12 pence per pound on tea sent via Britain. The American colonists would therefore get their tea cheaper than the people of Britain.
- The Tea Act would allow the British to undercut the price of tea smuggled into Britain’s North American colonies via the illegal Dutch tea trade.
- The British government led by the Prime Minister, Lord North, hoped to reassert Parliament’s right to impose direct revenue taxes on the American Colonies with the cheap tea.
- British anticipated a good reception to the Tea Act in America, after all, the colonists would get their tea at a cost lower than ever before. Tea would be cheaper in America than Britain.
The effect of the Tea Act on the American colonists would be as follows:
- Merchants who had been acting as the middlemen in legally importing tea stood to lose their business to the the East India Company agents.
- Merchants dealing with the illegal Dutch tea trade would be undercut by the Company’s lowered prices and also stood to lose their business.
- The Tea Act directly impacted shop keepers who would only be allowed to purchase tea from merchants selected by the East India Company and their monopoly.
- Only ships owned by the East India Company could carry tea, the American ships engaging in the tea trade would be redundant.
- Favoritism – Consignees who were to receive the tea and arrange for its local resale were generally favorites of the local governor. The Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson, was a part-owner of the business hired by the East India Company to receive tea shipped to Boston. He was disliked by the Boston patriots with whom he had clashed during the Boston Massacre of 1770.
The reaction of the American colonists to the Tea Act:
- The reaction of the American colonists to the Tea Act came as a shock to the British. Buying the tea would mean that the colonists had accepted paying the British import tax. The American colonists had not forgotten their outrage at the Stamp Act of 1765 and the efforts made to gain the political victory in having the hated act repealed.
- Since the Colonies were not represented in Parliament, they saw the Tea Act as unconstitutional
- Their cry of “No taxation without representation!” had not been forgotten.
- The seeds of revolution had been sewn in the minds of many of the American colonists. The Sons of Liberty, and the Daughters of Liberty, had experienced a relatively calm period since the repeal of the Stamp Act and the Boston Massacre of 1770. The Tea Act stirred up all of the old feelings of resentment towards the British
Actions by Colonists:
- The American colonists in the ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston had time to consider the implications and impact of the Tea Act before the ships laden with tea arrived in their harbors. They had time to plan their responses and what action they could take against the Tea Act:
- The press became more active in its political discussions
- Circulars and handbills were printed and distributed
- The Sons of Liberty organised public demonstration against the British government
- Public meetings were held – everyone got to hear about the Tea Act resulting in strong Anti-British attitude.
- Americans decided they would continue to boycott tea from the British. To enforce the Nonimportation Agreements by merchants not to purchase British goods
- A public meeting was held in Philadelphia and there was agreement that anyone who aided in “unloading, receiving, or vending” the tea was an enemy to his country
- The colonists agreed that the Consignees, who were supposed to receive the tea, should “resign their appointment”
- The Sons of Liberty reorganized and owners and occupants of stores were warned against harboring the tea, and all who bought, sold or handled it, were threatened as enemies to the country
- Colonists resolved to prevent the landing and sale of the teas – they wanted the tea to be sent back to England
- The scene was set for confrontations when the ships laden with tea arrived at the ports of Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. The scene was set for the Boston Tea Party.
1773 16 December: Boston Tea Party
- The Boston Tea Party was a direct protest by colonists in Boston against the Tea Tax. More than 180 Boston patriots, dressed as Mohawk Indians, raided three British ships coming from China in Boston harbor and dumped 342 containers of tea (£10,000 worth of tea) into the harbor. The Boston Tea Party arose from the resentment of Boston colonists towards the British which had been fuelled by protest activities by patriots in the Sons of Liberty organization.
- The organizer of the Boston Tea Party was The Sons of Liberty led by Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere
- They had dressed like Mohawk Indian to hide their identity as destroying the tea at the Boston Tea Party was a risky business and would be viewed as an act of treason that was punishable by death.
What were the Effects of the Boston Tea Party? What happened after the Boston Tea Party?
- Many of the Boston Tea Party participants fled Boston immediately after the event to avoid arrest
- Only one participant and patriot of the Sons of Liberty called Francis Akeley, was caught and imprisoned for his participation in the Boston Tea Party. He was the only person ever to be arrested for the Boston Tea Party and he was released because of a lack of evidence
- Hundreds of people had watched the events of the Boston Tea Party, yet no eyewitnesses would cooperate with the authorities
- Ministers decided to punish the town of Boston as a whole
- The British Parliament ordered the Royal Navy to blockade Boston Harbor
- British army regiments were sent to enforce the closure of the harbor
- The blockade prevented supplies from entering the Harbor and prevented Massachusetts merchants from selling their goods
- These measures that followed the Boston Tea Party were implemented under the 1774 Intolerable Acts which consisted of the Boston Port Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of Justice Act, the Quartering Act and the Quebec Act.
- American colonists responded with protests and coordinated resistance by convening the First Continental Congress in September and October of 1774 to petition Britain to repeal the Intolerable Acts.
Significance of Boston Tea Party
- The constant stream of new laws and taxes demanded by the British parliament was like a slow burning fuse to a keg of dynamite that would explode into the American Revolutionary War.
- The Battles of Lexington and Concord followed the Boston Tea Party and were fought on April 19, 1775. They were the first battles of the American Revolutionary War
- In January of 1776, Thomas Paine anonymously published the 50 page pamphlet entitled Common Sense which supported America’s independence from Great Britain and its monarchy
- The National government emerged from the Continental Congress. The Continental Army was created and George Washington was appointed as its commander in chief
1774–1775: Intolerable Acts
1774 May to June: Intolerable Acts:
- The British government responded by passing several Acts which came to be known as the Intolerable Acts, which further darkened colonial opinion towards the British.
- They consisted of five laws enacted by the British parliament:
- The first, the Massachusetts Government Act, altered the Massachusetts charter and restricted town meetings.
- The second, the Administration of Justice Act, ordered that all British soldiers to be tried in Britain, not in the colonies. It put an end to the constitution of Massachusetts
- The third was the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the British had been compensated for the tea lost in the Boston Tea Party.
- The fourth was the Quartering Act, which allowed royal governors to house British troops in the homes of citizens without requiring permission of the owner.
- Quebec Act (explained later)
September 9, 1774: Suffolk Resolves
- The Suffolk Resolves was a declaration made on September 9, 1774 by the patriots leaders of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, of which Boston is the major city. The declaration rejected the Massachusetts Government Act and resolved on a boycott of imported goods from Britain unless the Intolerable Acts were repealed.
- They also formed an alternative shadow government known as the “Provincial Congress” which began training militia outside British-occupied Boston.
1774 September: Continental Congress
- First Continental Congress convened, consisting of elected representatives from each of the colonies, to serve as a vehicle for deliberation and collective action. To provide unity, delegates gave one vote to each state regardless of its size. The First Continental Congress included Patrick Henry, George Washington, John and Samuel Adams, John Jay, and John Dickinson. (First Continental Congress: Established September 5, 1774 and disbanded May 10, 1775).
- The Virginia House of Burgesses served as a model for the Continental Congress. Virginians Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Peyton Randolph invited delegations from all of the other colonies to meet in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774 to debate the course of action in response to grievances of colonies against Great Britain. The grievances related to the laws passed by the British Parliament, the ‘last straw’ being their passing of the Intolerable Acts that had punished Boston for the Boston Tea Party.
- Meeting in secret session, the body rejected a plan for reconciling British authority with colonial freedom. Instead, it adopted a declaration of personal rights, including life, liberty, property, assembly, and trial by jury. The declaration also denounced taxation without representation and the maintenance of the British army in the colonies without their consent. Parliamentary regulation of American commerce, however, was willingly accepted.
- (Prior to the Continental Congress some representatives met with delegates from different colonies, but not all 13 colonies were involved.)
The Quebec Act of 1774
- The Quebec Act was passed by the Parliament of Great Britain on June 22, 1774. The Quebec Act was designed to extend the boundaries of Quebec and guaranteed religious freedom to Catholic Canadians.
The purpose of the Quebec Act was to:
- Extend the Province of Quebec to include territory west to the Mississippi, north to Hudson’s Bay territory, and the islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence.
- The law did not allow them to elect a legislative assembly. Quebec was to be governed by a Royal appointed governor and council.
- Passed religious reforms that were highly favorable to the Catholic majority in Quebec and allowed Catholics to hold public offices
- The religious reforms were designed to boost the loyalty of the king’s Canadian subjects in the face of growing resistance in the American colonies
The Quebec Act was perceived as a new model for British colonial administration. As a result of the Quebec Act, the American revolutionaries failed to gain the support of the Canadians during the American Revolution.
- Much of this land was claimed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and other colonial land speculators were furious because the Quebec Act limited opportunities for colonies to expand on their western frontiers and deprived them of their rights to land in that region.
- The recognition of the Roman Catholic religion, was seen to threaten the unity, security, and, not least, the territorial ambitions of British America. Many American colonists viewed the act as a measure of coercion. The act was thus a major cause of the American Revolution and helped provoke an invasion of Quebec by the armies of the revolting colonies in the winter of 1775–76.
- The Quebec Act of 1774 is also considered fifth Intolerable Acts.
October 20, 1774: The Articles of Continental Association
- The Articles of Continental Association was adopted on October 20, 1774 by the First Continental Congress of the American Colonies. The creation of the Continental Association was in response to the Intolerable Acts that had been passed by the British Parliament to restore order in Massachusetts following the Boston Tea Party.
- The Association made a universal prohibition of trade with Great Britain. Though it made a handful of exceptions, it prohibited import, consumption, and export of goods with England. Unlike most of the individual associations, it established citizen committees to enforce the act throughout the colonies.
1774: Galloway’s Plan
- In September 1774, as the First Continental Congress debated various means of coercing Parliament toward accepting colonial sovereignty, Joseph Galloway, a Pennsylvania delegate and prominent supporter of reconciliation with Britain, devised a plan to avert the escalating crisis.
- Galloway rejected claims against Parliament, or independence. He looked instead to written and common law and sought a new imperial constitution to protect the colonies’ best interests.
- Galloway presented his plan to the Congress on 28 September 1774. In it, he called for the establishment of an American legislature that would govern both imperial affairs in America and relations between individual colonies. The legislature would function as a branch of the British Parliament, and legislation passed by the American house would require Parliament’s approval.
- But the plan failed to address the crux of colonial grievances: excessive parliamentary power. Opponents of the plan, led by Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee, therefore assailed it as a ruse to secure England’s dominance over colonial affairs. Delegates rejected the plan by a margin of one vote. Following his defeat, Galloway became an outspoken critic of the Continental Congress and eventually became a Loyalist during the Revolution.
23 March, 1775: Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech
- “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech was delivered by Patrick Henry in the Virginia Convention in 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia.
- He is credited with having swung the balance in convincing the convention to pass a resolution delivering Virginian troops for the Revolutionary War. Among the delegates to the convention were future U.S. Presidents Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Beginning of the Revolution
- After the Quebec Act, the Americans were drilling militia and organizing for war. The British retaliated by confining all trade of the New England colonies to Britain and excluding them from the Newfoundland fisheries. British PM Lord North advanced a compromise proposal in which Parliament would not tax so long as the colonies made fixed contributions for defence and to support civil government. This would also be rejected.
1775 16 June Continental Congress appoints George Washington commander-in-chief of Continental Army; issued $2 million bills of credit to fund the army.
1775 19 April Battles of Lexington and Concord , first battle between British troops and American militia.The Patriots set siege to Boston, expelled royal officials from all the colonies, and took control through the establishment of Provincial Congresses.
1775 17 June Battle of Bunker Hill: The first major battle of the War of Independence. Sir William Howe dislodged William Prescott’s forces overlooking Boston at a cost of 1054 British casualties to the Americans’ 367.
1775 5 July: Olive-Brach Petition:
The Olive Branch Petition was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 5, 1775, in a final attempt to avoid a full-on war between the Thirteen Colonies, that the Congress represented, and Great Britain. The petition affirmed American loyalty to Great Britain and entreated the king to prevent further conflict.
Congress endorses proposal asking for recognition of American rights, the ending of the Intolerable Acts in exchange for a cease fire.
- But despite the effort to heal the broken relationship between colonists and the English crown, the King of England absolutely refused to even hear the petition. Instead, the king George III proceeded to issue the Proclamation of Rebellion,on 23 August 1775 declared the colonies to be in open rebellion.
Some Other Factors which Led to American Revolution
- America’s Independent Way of Thinking
- Geographic Considerations – The distance of the colonies from Great Britain created an independence that was hard to overcome. Those willing to colonize the new world generally had a strong independent streak desiring new opportunities and more freedom.
- Colonial Legislatures – The existence of colonial legislatures meant that the colonies were in many ways independent of the crown. The legislatures were allowed to levy taxes, muster troops, and pass laws. Over time, these powers became rights in the eyes of many colonists. When they were curtailed by the British, conflict ensued. The future leaders of the United States were born in these legislatures.
- Salutary Neglect – Even though the British believed in mercantilism, Prime Minister Robert Walpole espoused a view of “salutary neglect.” This was a system whereby the actual enforcement of external trade relations was lax. He believed this enhanced freedom would stimulate commerce.
- The Enlightenment: Many of the revolutionary leaders had studied major writings of the Enlightenment including those of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and the Baron de Montesquieu. From these writings, the founders gleaned the concepts of the social contract, limited government, the consent of the governed, and separation of powers
- Trade: The Triangular Trade routes were established. Americans had to trade goods that they had in abundance in exchange for goods which were scarce in their own region. Triangular Trade, coupled with the British policy of Mercantilism, provided a “favorable balance of trade” but only to Great Britain. This ensured that gold and silver, and all domestic money, stayed in England.
- The British Parliament had passed the Wool Act in 1699 which prohibited the export of American made cloth from its colony of origin. In 1732 Parliament passed the Hat Act preventing the trade of American-made hats. The Iron Act was passed in 1750 to suppress the manufacture of iron finished goods in the colonies and to increase the production of iron and its export to Great Britain.