Government in England and in the Thirteen Colonies



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Road to the American Revolution

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In 1760, Americans in the 13 colonies were proud to be ruled by Great Britain. After all, Great Britain was the world’s most powerful nation. As you read this chapter, think about why the colonies were at war with Great Britain only 15 years later.
Government in England and in the Thirteen Colonies
In order to understand why Americans fought against England, it is necessary to know how representative government (form of government where elected individuals represent the people) developed in England. In the year 1215, a group of nobles forced King John to sign a paper called the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta was important because it was the first set of laws in England to limit the king’s power. It did this by allowing nobles to help write the nation’s laws. This was the beginning of the lawmaking group called Parliament. Members of Parliament worked together to make laws for England. Men who had the right to vote voted for leaders to represent them in Parliament. England had a representative government because of its Parliament.
In 1688 Parliament forced its king, James II, to leave England during the Glorious Revolution. No one was killed during this revolution and Parliament asked William and Mary to become the new monarchs. In 1689, William and Mary signed a group of laws called the English Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights said that only Parliament had the power to raise an army or collect taxes. The Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights were important because they made Parliament more powerful than the king.
England had been an independent country for hundreds of years. In 1536, Henry VIII united the kingdoms of England and Wales. In 1707 the Kingdom of England and Wales was united with the Kingdom of Scotland to form one nation. The new nation was called Great Britain. The people who lived in Great Britain were called the British.
In 1760 King George III became the ruler of Great Britain. Before 1760 Parliament made few laws for its American colonies. Each colonial government made its own laws. Each colony had an assembly with two houses, a lower house and an upper house. Colonists voted for representatives to make laws for them in the lower house. The lower house passed tax laws and controlled the colony’s money. The upper house had men who were chosen by the governor of the colony. By 1750 most white men who owned property could vote in the colonies. When he became king, George III decided to take stronger control of the colonies. The major reason for this change was the cost of fighting wars against France.

The French and Indian War
We learned that French and English came to the New World and settled in America. The French built a large empire called New France. Canada and Louisiana were parts of New France. Both England and France wanted to rule the land around the Ohio Valley. French fur traders were the first people from Europe to reach the Ohio Valley. They built forts in the Valley, but few French people settled there.
British settlers began to move west across the Appalachian Mountains into the Ohio Valley. They called the area the frontier because it had no cities or towns. Settlers in the frontier cleared the land of trees to start farms. The trees were used to build log cabins and fences. Life on the frontier was difficult. Many settlers died from hunger, disease, and wars with Indians.
The French and the Indians united to attack British settlers in the Ohio Valley. In 1754 the French and Indian War began between the FRENCH and the BRITISH. Many Indian nations fought alongside the French. They hoped that if the French won, British settlers would no longer be allowed in the Ohio Valley. Only the powerful Iroquois nations fought alongside the British. The Iroquois and the French had been enemies since 1609.
At the start of the war, the British asked George Washington, a 21 year old soldier from Virginia, to help them fight the French. They told Washington to force the French to leave a fort they had built in western Pennsylvania. Washington and his soldiers were defeated in their early battles with the French. Although Washington lost these battles, he learned how to fight on the frontier. Because Washington showed great courage, he became a war hero in the colonies.
The British captured the French city of Quebec, in 1759. The next year the British captured Montreal and the French surrendered. While the French and the British fought in America, they also fought each other in Europe during the Seven Years War. The French lost that war, too.
In 1763, the French and the British signed a peace treaty called the Treaty of Paris. The treaty said that France lost all of its land in North America EXCEPT for four small islands. Spain, France’s ally, in the war, gave Florida to Great Britain. The land west of the river was given to Spain. Great Britain gained more than just the Ohio Valley. It also ruled Canada and all the land along the Atlantic Ocean.
Problems after the French and Indian War
After the French and Indian War, King George III and the leaders of Parliament angered the people in the American colonies. King George first angered the colonists by writing a proclamation, a type of law, which said colonists could not settle in the Ohio Valley. The colonists thought the new law was very unfair. After all, they had fought and died to win the Ohio Valley during the French and Indian War.


Events Leading to War

Proclamation of 1763

British said colonists would not settle in the Ohio Valley

Sugar Act (1764)

Taxes on sugar & molasses

Stamp Act (1765)

Colonists MUST buy stamps for all printed materials.

Quartering Act (1765)

British soldiers must be given food and housing in the colonies

Declaratory Tax (1767)

Parliament ended the Stamp & Sugar Act but said it had the right to tax the colonies

Townshend Acts (1767)

Taxes on paint, glass, lead, paper and tea

Boston Massacre (1770)

A snowball fight leads to British soldiers shooting 5 Americans

Tea Act (1773)

Tax on tea

Boston Tea Party (1773)

Colonists dump tea into Boston Harbor

Intolerable Acts (1774)

The British passed laws to punish Boston for the Boston Tea Party. They closed Boston Harbor.

First Continental Congress (1774)

Lexington & Concord (April 1775)



Delegates from 12 colonies meet and send a letter to King George.

The American Revolution begins.



The Proclamation of 1763 was written after Pontiac’s Rebellion, which occurred earlier that same year. Pontiac, an Ottawa leader, led attacks by a number of Indian nations against British settlements and forts in the Ohio Valley. They destroyed most of

the British forts in the area and killed about 2,000 settlers. The fighting stopped at the end of the French and Indian War. The king wrote the proclamation because the British thought it would be expensive and difficult to protect colonists from more Indian attacks.
The colonists were also angry when Parliament began to pass tax laws for the colonies. Money from the colonies would be sent to Great Britain to help pay the debts from the French and Indian War. The chart shows the laws passed by Parliament to tax and control the colonies.

The tax laws angered the colonists. They said that Parliament could not tax the colonists because they did not have representation in Parliament. “No taxation without representation” were the words said throughout the colonies. Representatives from the colonies were not allowed in Parliament. The law makers in Parliament believed they had every right to tax the colonies and make laws from them because the colonies belonged to Great Britain.


The American Colonists Begin to Unite
Rage toward the British began to unite the colonists. They began to work together against Great Britain. Many colonists stopped seeing themselves as British citizens. Instead they began to think of themselves as Americans. Colonists started protest groups called the Sons of Liberty and the Daughters of Liberty. To end unfair tax laws, the colonists started a boycott against products from Great Britain. When the boycott hurt Britain’s trade, Parliament ended some of the tax laws.


Some colonists in Boston used violence to protest. So the British sent soldiers to Boston. On March 5, 1770, a group of American men and boys began throwing rocks and snowballs at a small group of British soldiers. To stop Americans from throwing rocks, British soldiers fired their guns. Five colonists were killed. Crispus Attucks, an African American, was among those killed. The colonists called this the Boston Massacre.


Sam Adams became one of the famous protest leaders in Boston. He started a group called the Committee of Correspondence. More committees were started in the other colonies. These committees sent information to each other about the Boston Massacre, bitter feelings towards King George grew stronger.


After the British passed the Tea Act in 1773, the Sons of Liberty took action. In New York City, and in Philadelphia, they quietly sent tea ships back to Great Britain. But in Boston, Sam Adams planned the Boston Tea Party. One dark night, members of the Sons of Liberty put on Indian clothes and boarded the tea ships. They broke open tea chests and threw thousands of pounds of tea into the water.


Back in Great Britain, King George was furious. Parliament passed new laws to punish the people of Boston. The new laws took away self-government from Massachusetts. Boston Harbor was closed until the colonists paid for tea. More British soldiers were sent to Boston to carry out the laws. The colonists hated these laws so much that they called these laws the Intolerable Acts.

The Colonies Prepare for War
To solve their problems with King George, protest leaders from 12 colonies met in Philadelphia. George did not send its leaders to the meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774, but that colony agreed to follow the decisions made by the Congress. The best leaders of the colonies were in the Congress. Sam Adams and John Adams came from Massachusetts. Patrick Henry and George Washington were there from Virginia.
The members of the Continental Congress wrote a letter to King George. It said that the colonies were loyal to the king, but laws for the colonies must be made by their own elected representatives. The letter included a list of problems the colonists wanted corrected. The leaders decided that the colonists would boycott British goods until the problems were solved. Each colony would start its own militia so the colonies would be prepared if they had to fight the British. Finally they agreed to meet again in May 1775.
The Shot Heard Round the World
In the months that followed, colonists formed militias. Each colony had militia soldiers who called themselves Minutemen because they needed only a minute to be ready to fight the British. The colonists in Massachusetts began to store weapons in the town of Concord near Boston.
In April 1775 more British soldiers were sent to Massachusetts. The Sons of Liberty learned that soldiers planned to attack Concord and capture the colonists’ weapons. On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere and two other members of the Sons of Liberty rode through the night and warned the people of Concord and Lexington that British soldiers were coming. The next day the Minutemen were ready to fight.
The first battle between the colonists and the British began in Lexington. Eight Minutemen died in that battle. Then the British marched on to Concord where they fought the Minutemen again. The British were forced back to Boston.
The fighting at Lexington and Concord has been called “the shot heard round the word.” People around the world learned about these famous battles for freedom and representative government. It gave people in other lands the hope that someday they could fight for better governments, too.
Lexington and Concord were the first battles in the American Revolution. When the war began in 1775, Americans were fighting to have the same rights as all British citizens. They wanted self-government in the colonies and representation in Parliament.

Review & Apply:


  • In 1215, England’s King John signed the Magna Carta, which limited the king’s power, and it allowed nobles to start Parliament.

  • After the French and Indian War, France lost most of its empire in North America. Great Britain gained Canada and Ohio Valley.

  • After the French and Indian War, the British Parliament passed tax laws for the colonies to help pay for the British war debts. The colonists protested these taxes because the colonists were not represented in the British Parliament.

  • The American Revolution started in 1775 with the battles of Lexington and Concord.


Comprehension Check:
1. What were the results of the French and Indian War? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. What changes did King George make in the way the colonists were ruled after the French and Indian War? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________
3. What was ONE way the colonists protested against British taxes? __________________________________
4. What happened at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775? ____________________________________________________________________

Mrs. Anci/Ms. Krempasky Social Studies 7 Page



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