From the Sugar Act to the Shot Heard Round the World: America Before the Revolution, 1764-1775

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Townsmen spent the next twenty days trying without success to get clearances so the ships could go back to sea. Governor Thomas Hutchinson, however, insisted that the tea would not be sent back -- that the law would be enforced. Then, on the night before the tea could be seized by the customs service, a group of men disguised as Indians boarded the ships and emptied chests of tea into the water.

The proceedings were amazingly quiet except for the "ploop, ploop, ploop" of tea dropping into the sea. A young lawyer from the town of Braintree named John Adams, an obscure cousin of the better- known Boston leader, Samuel Adams, and by no means a lover of mobs, found the event "magnificent. The British government proved him right.

American Revolutionary War Time Line of Major Events

For the first time also the King became involved, viewing the actions of the Bostonians as rebellious. Then Britain put Massachusetts under military rule, appointing General Thomas Gage as royal governor and sending troops to enforce his authority. From there on, the crisis got worse without respite.

This measure dropped the boundary of Quebec down to the Ohio River, thus depriving Americans, such as the investors in the Ohio Company, who included George Washington and Ben Franklin, of the opportunity to develop lands that they thought they owned in the Ohio country.

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The Quebec Act also recognized the Catholic Church as the official church in Quebec, and designated French civil law as the law system for the province. French civil law did not provide for a representative assembly and many colonists viewed the Catholic Church and its Pope as the spawn of Satan -- the "whore of Babylon spoken about in the Book of Revelations in the Bible. They viewed the Act as destructive of their Protestant religion and of political liberty because of its failure to provide a representative assembly. They regarded the act as betraying the beliefs, property, and rights of Englishmen.

Many colonists saw the Coercive Acts as proof of a plot to enslave the colonies. In truth, the taxes and duties, laws and regulations of the last decade were part of a deliberate design -- a commonsensical plan to centralize the administration of the British empire. But those efforts by the king's ministers and Parliament to run the colonies more efficiently and profitably were viewed by more and more Americans as a sinister conspiracy against their liberties. For colonials, the study of history confirmed that interpretation, especially their reading of the histories written by those known as the English Opposition, men such as John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon who authored Cato's Letters.

The Opposition's favorite historical subject was the downfall of republics, whether those of ancient Greece and Rome, or more recent republican governments in Venice and Denmark. The lesson of their histories was always the same: power overwhelmed liberty. Those who had the power would always seek more and ambitious politicians would always pursue the same strategies to replace representative government and popular freedom with tyranny.

And, of course, troops had been unloaded in Boston harbor, were quartered in New York, and were making trouble wherever they appeared. And how else could one describe the royal governors, customs collectors, and judges who now received salaries from the revenues of the Townshend Acts?

At the time of the Stamp Act and again during the agitation against the Townshend Acts, most colonials had confined their suspicions to the king's ministers. By in the minds of many colonials, members of Parliament were also implicated in that conspiracy -- and a few radicals were wondering aloud about George III. Stages Events in America from that seemed to confirm each of the stages. The First Continental Congress. Their response was to meet in a Congress. It was called to respond to the Intolerable Acts. Up to this point, there had been 13 separate protest movements against British policies that cooperated at certain times.

They turned to their old economic weapon albeit with more teeth, organizing a Continental Association to enforce non-importation and non-consumption of British goods, and non-exportation of American goods to Britain -- a complete trade embargo. Committees of public safety were formed in communities to enforce the trade ban a nd these began to function as local governments. They reaffirmed loyalty to the king and said that the colonies were tied to Britain through the Monarch.

The members of Congress agreed to meet again in the spring of to see if their measures had been successful. But from to British rule in many colonies collapsed. And, by the time the Second Continental Congress met in , fighting had already begun.

The Colonies Under British Rule

The King decided that the colonies were "in a state of rebellion," and that "blows must decide whether they are to be subject to this country or independent. The Battles of Lexington and Concord. The blows began on April 19, after General Gage sent troops to seize colonial arms stored at the town of Concord, some twenty miles outside Boston. On the way they went through Lexington, where local militiamen on the town green began to disperse once they saw how outnumbered they were. Somewhere, someone fired a gun. Then the regulars emptied their muskets into the fleeing militiamen, killing eight and wounding ten.

Amos Doolittle recalled the scene in an engraving he made seven months later. It is much like Revere's "Boston Massacre. Doolittle also recorded the regulars' march to Concord; an engagement between the provincials and regulars at Concord's North Bridge and, perhaps most interesting of all, the redcoats' retreat back to Boston, burning houses along the way, while militiamen from nearby towns shot at them.

The retreat from Concord almost finished off Gage's army. Once the remaining troops got back to camp in Boston, they pretty much had to stay there. The provincial army that formed across the river in Cambridge saw to that. An ordinary soldier, whose name is unknown, kept a journal of his life in the American army during and He had some trouble deciding just what to call the King's troops. He couldn't call them, as legend has it, "the British," since the colonists were still British. He wrote, of "the regulars," sometimes of "the Gageites.

The Second Continental Congress. It appointed one of its members, an uncommonly tall, dignified Virginian named George Washington, to take charge of the army at Cambridge. Washington had some military experience, none of it especially glorious and some of it disastrous.


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Even so, he had spent more time as a military officer than most any of his countrymen, and so was appalled at the dirty, disorderly men in the American camp. Washington quickly began imposing discipline, trying desperately to transform that collection of patriots and adventure-seekers into a respectable army. Meanwhile, the Congress recruited men and officers and gathered military supplies. It took charge of the post office and Indian affairs. It also borrowed money, and eventually issued its own currency. It had to assume those powers, it seemed, to prevent the British from crushing the Americans and ending their dream of finding a way to live as free men under the British flag.

But reconciliation was becoming increasingly unlikely.

School House Rock Shot Heard Round the World America Rock

The King refused to answer another petition from Congress even though it was written, in a scrupulously respectful way, by our old friend John Dickinson. The colonists' statements of loyalty, the King told Parliament, were meant "only to amuse" while they schemed to found an independent country. Wasn't the Congress seizing one power after another?

Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Then, in the opening weeks of , Common Sense appeared. That pamphlet was the work of Thomas Paine, an Englishman of no particular distinction and little formal education, a man who had been trained as a corset-maker and dismissed from the English customs service before arriving in America less than two years before he wrote Common Sense. With language that spoke to ordinary people, it said what so many native-born colonists were afraid to say. The time had come for America to go her separate way. The problem wasn't the ministers, or the Parliament, or even George III as a person, although Paine did call him "the royal brute of Britain".

It was the "so much boasted constitution of England. Only by governing themselves could Americans secure their freedom and realize the peace that they so deeply desired. Paine also painted a picture of the role that he envisioned for America. Read these short excerpts. Common Sense spread through the colonies like wildfire, opening among the people a debate over independence that was already well underway among congressmen.

American Revolution History

And yet, when they looked back over the previous decade, the colonists wondered at the road they had traveled. How, the freemen of Virginia's Buckingham County asked in the spring of , had Britain and America become so "incensed" with each other? The Road to I ndependence. It took over a year of fighting before the second continental congress declared independence- such was the strong emotional connection to the king.

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