As you read Unit 3, you will learn that the purpose of the Declaration of Independence was to justify the American Revolution and to explain the founding principles of the new nation. You will also learn that the Constitution established a republic, in which power is held by voting citizens through their representatives.
Primary Sources Library
See pages 596-597 for primary source readings to accompany Unit 3.
Use the American History Primary Source Document Library CD-ROM to find additional primary sources about the American move toward independence.
"Give me liberty, or give me death!"
—Patrick Henry, 1775
Road to Independence
Why It Matters
A spirit of independence became evident early in the history of the American people. Far from the established rules and restrictions they had faced in their home countries, the new settlers began to make their own laws and develop heir own ways of doing things.
The Impact Today
The ideals of revolutionary America still play a major role in shaping the society we live in. For example:
• Americans still exercise their right to protest laws they view as unfair.
• Citizens have the right to present their views freely.
The American Republic to 1877 Video The chapter 5 video, NW "Loyalists and Tories," portrays events leading up to the Revolutionary War from a Loyalist's point of view, as well as a Patriot's.
1762 • Rousseau publishes The Social Contract
1763 • Treaty of Paris
1764 • Mozart (aged eight) writes first symphony
1765 • Stamp Act protests
1769 • Watt patents steam engine
1770 • Boston Massacre
1770 • Russians destroy Ottoman fleet
1772 • Poland partitioned among Russia, Prussia, and Austria
Huron and Ottawa warriors silently peered from the woods. They watched about 100 British soldiers camped on Lake Erie's shore. The soldiers—sent by the British Crown—had just stopped to rest on their way to Fort Detroit. They were worried about rumors of Native Americans planning war.
Suddenly the warriors rushed from the forest. The British managed to escape in two boats. War raged on the frontier—and the British were in the thick of it!
Relations with Britain
After winning the French and Indian War, Great Britain controlled a vast territory in North America. To limit settlement of this territory, Britain issued the Proclamation of 1763. Parts of the land acquired through the Treaty of Paris became the provinces of Quebec, East Florida, West Florida, and Grenada (a combination of several Caribbean islands). Most importantly, the Proclamation prohibited colonists from moving west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Stopping western settlement provided several advantages for Britain. It allowed the British government, not the colonists, to control westward movement. In this way, westward expansion would go on in an orderly way, and conflict with Native Americans might be avoided. Slower western settlement would also slow colonists moving away from the colonies on the coast—where Britain's important markets and investments were. Finally, closing western settlement protected the interests of British officials who wanted to control the lucrative fur trade. The British planned to keep 10,000 troops in America to protect their interests.
These plans alarmed the colonists. Many feared that the large number of British troops in North America might be used to interfere with their liberties. They saw the Proclamation of 1763 as a limit on their freedom. These two measures contributed to the feeling of distrust that was growing between Great Britain and its colonies.
The financial problems of Great Britain complicated the situation. The French and Indian War left Britain with a huge public debt. Desperate for new revenue, or incoming money, the king and Parliament felt it was only fair that the colonists pay part of the cost. They began plans to tax them. This decision set off a chain of events that enraged the American colonists and surprised British authorities.
Britain's Trade Laws
In 1763 George Grenville became prime minister of Britain. He was determined to reduce Britain's debt. He decided to take action against smuggling in the colonies. When the colonists smuggled goods to avoid taxes, Britain lost revenue that could be used to pay debts.
Grenville knew that American juries often found smugglers innocent. In 1763 he convinced Parliament to pass a law allowing smugglers to be sent to vice-admiralty courts. Vice-admiralty courts were run by officers and did not have juries. In 1767 Parliament decided to authorize writs of assistance. These legal documents allowed customs officers to enter any location to search for smuggled goods.
With a new law in place to stop smuggling, Grenville tried to increase tax revenue. In 1764 Parliament passed the Sugar Act. The act lowered the tax on molasses imported by the colonists. Grenville hoped the lower tax would convince the colonists to pay the tax instead of smuggling. The act also let officers seize goods from smugglers without going to court.
The Sugar Act and the new laws to control smuggling angered the colonists. They believed their rights as Englishmen were being violated. Writs of assistance violated their right to be secure in their home. Vice-admiralty courts violated their right to a jury trial. Furthermore, in trials at vice-admiralty courts, the burden of
---Refer to NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Proclamation of 1763 image on page 133 in your textbook
1. Place. What natural feature marked the western boundary of British territory?
2. Analyzing Information. Who controlled the Louisiana Territory in 1763?
proof was on defendants to prove their innocence. This contradicted British law, which states that the accused is "innocent until proved guilty."
These measures alarmed the colonists. James Otis, a young lawyer in Boston, argued that
“no parts of [England's colonies] can be taxed without their consent ... every part has a right to be represented.”
In his speeches and pamphlets, Otis defined and defended colonial rights.
Reading Check Analyzing Why did Parliament pass the Sugar Act?
The Stamp Act
In 1765 Parliament passed another law in an effort to raise money. This law, the Stamp Act, placed a tax on almost all printed material in the colonies—everything from newspapers and pamphlets to wills and playing cards. All printed material had to have a stamp, which was applied by British officials. Because so many items were taxed, it affected almost everyone in the colonial cities. The Stamp Act convinced many colonists of the need for action.
Opposition to the Stamp Act centered on two points. Parliament had interfered in colonial affairs by taxing the colonies directly. In addition, it taxed the colonists without their consent. In passing the Stamp Act without consulting the colonial legislatures, Parliament ignored the colonial tradition of self-government.
Protesting the Stamp Act
A young member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, Patrick Henry, persuaded the burgesses to take action against the Stamp Act. According to tradition, when he was accused of treason, Henry replied,
“if this be treason, make the most of it!”
The Virginia assembly passed a resolution—a formal expression of opinion—declaring it had "the only and sole exclusive right and power to lay taxes" on its citizens.
In Boston Samuel Adams helped start an organization called the Sons of Liberty. Members took to the streets to protest the Stamp Act. People in other cities also organized Sons of Liberty groups.
Throughout the summer of 1765, protesters burned effigies—rag figures—representing unpopular tax collectors. They also raided and destroyed houses belonging to royal officials and marched through the streets shouting that only Americans had the right to tax Americans.
The Stamp Act Congress
In October delegates from nine colonies met in New York at the Stamp Act Congress. They drafted a petition to the king and Parliament declaring that the colonies could not be taxed except by their own assemblies.
In the colonial cities, people refused to use the stamps. They urged merchants to boycott—refuse to buy—British and European goods in protest. Thousands of merchants, artisans, and farmers signed nonimportation agreements. In these agreements they pledged not to buy or use goods imported from Great Britain. As the boycott spread, British merchants lost so much business that they begged Parliament to repeal, or cancel, the Stamp Act.
The Act Is Repealed
In March 1766, Parliament gave in to the colonists' demands and repealed the Stamp Act. Yet the colonists' trust in the king and Parliament was never fully restored.
While the colonists celebrated their victory over the Stamp Act, Parliament passed another act on the same day it repealed the Stamp Act. The Declaratory Act of 1766 stated that Parliament had the right to tax and make decisions for the British colonies "in all cases." The colonists might have won one battle, but the war over making decisions for the colonies had just begun.
Reading Check Evaluating What role did Samuel Adams play in colonial protests?
History Through Art
Patrick Henry Before the Virginia House of Burgesses by Peter F. Rothermel Patrick Henry gave a fiery speech before the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1765. Why did Henry deliver the speech?
Soon after the Stamp Act crisis, Parliament passed a set of laws in 1767 that came to be known as the Townshend Acts. In these acts the British leaders tried to avoid some of the problems the Stamp Act caused. They understood that the colonists would not tolerate internal taxes—those levied or paid inside the colonies. As a result the new taxes applied only to imported goods, with the tax being paid at the port of entry. The goods taxed, however, included basic items—such as glass, tea, paper, and lead—that the colonists had to import because they did not produce them.
By this time the colonists were outraged by any taxes Parliament passed. They believed that only their own representatives had the right to levy taxes on them. The colonists responded by bringing back the boycott that had worked so well against the Stamp Act. The boycott proved to be even more widespread this time.
Women took an active role in the protest against the Townshend Acts. In towns throughout the colonies, women organized groups to support the boycott of British goods, sometimes calling themselves the Daughters of Liberty. They urged Americans to wear homemade fabrics and produce other goods that were available only from Britain before. They believed this would help the American colonies become economically independent.
Reading Check Comparing How did the Townshend Acts differ from the Stamp Act?
SECTION 1 ASSESSMENT
Checking for Understanding
1. Key Terms Write sentences or short paragraphs in which you use the following groups of terms correctly: (1) revenue and writs of assistance; (2) resolution, effigy, boycott, nonimportation, and repeal.
2. Reviewing Facts State two reasons for the deterioration of relations between the British and the colonists.
3. Civic Rights and Responsibilities Why did the colonists think the writs of assistance violated their rights?
4. Identifying Central Issues Why did British policies following the French and Indian War lead to increased tensions with American colonists?
5. Determining Cause and Effect Re-create the diagram below and describe the effects of these British actions.
6. Geography Skills Review the map on page 133. The Proclamation of 1763 banned colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. Why did the British government want to halt western movement?
Persuasive Writing Write a letter to the editor of a colonial newspaper in which you attempt to persuade fellow colonists to boycott British goods. Use standard grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation.
Building Colonial Unity
Guide to Reading
As tensions between colonists and the British government increased, protests grew stronger.
Organizing Information As you read the section, re-create the diagram below and describe how the Intolerable Acts changed life for colonists.
Read to Learn
• why Boston colonists and British soldiers clashed, resulting in the Boston Massacre.
• how the British government tried to maintain its control over the colonies.
Groups and Institutions Colonists banded together to protest British laws.
Preview of Events
1770 Boston Massacre takes place
1772 Samuel Adams sets up a committee of correspondence
1773 Boston Tea Party occurs
1774 Parliament passes the Intolerable Acts
AN American Story
In the spring of 1768, British customs officials in Boston seized the Liberty, a ship belonging to John Hancock, a merchant and protest leader. The ship had docked in Boston Harbor to unload a shipment of wine and take on new supplies. The customs officials, however, charged that Hancock was using the ship for smuggling. As news of the ship's seizure spread through Boston, angry townspeople filled the streets. They shouted against Parliament and the taxes it had imposed on them. The Liberty affair became one of the events that united the colonists against British policies.
Trouble in Boston
Protests like the Liberty affair made British colonial officials nervous. In the summer of 1768, worried customs officers sent word back to Britain that the colonies were on the brink of rebellion. Parliament responded by sending two regiments of troops to Boston. As angry Bostonians jeered, the newly arrived "redcoats" set up camp right in the center of the city
Many colonists, especially those living in Boston, felt that the British had pushed them too far. First the British had passed a series of laws that violated colonial rights. Now they had sent an army to occupy colonial cities.
To make matters worse, the soldiers stationed in Boston acted rudely and sometimes even violently toward the colonists. Mostly poor men, the redcoats earned little pay. Some of them stole goods from local shops or scuffled with boys who taunted them in the streets. The soldiers competed off-hours for jobs that Bostonians wanted. The townspeople's hatred for the soldiers grew stronger every day.
Relations between the redcoats and the Boston colonists grew more tense. Then on March 5, 1770, the tension finally reached a peak. That day a fight broke out between townspeople and soldiers. While some British officers tried to calm the crowd, one man shouted,
“We did not send for you. We will not have you here. We'll get rid of you, we'll drive you away!”
The angry townspeople moved through the streets, picking up any weapon they could find—sticks, stones, shovels, and clubs. They pushed forward toward the customshouse on King Street.
As the crowd approached, the sentry on duty panicked and called for help. The crowd responded by throwing stones, snowballs, oyster shells, and pieces of wood at the soldiers. "Fire, you bloodybacks, you lobsters," the crowd screamed. "You dare not fire."
After one of the soldiers was knocked down, the nervous and confused redcoats did fire. Several shots rang out, killing five colonists. One Bostonian cried out:
“Are the inhabitants to be knocked down in the streets? Are they to be murdered in this manner?”
Among the dead was Crispus Attucks, a dockworker who was part African, part Native American. The colonists called the tragic encounter the Boston Massacre.
The Word Spreads
Colonial leaders used news of the killings as propaganda—information designed to influence opinion—against the British. Samuel Adams put up posters describing the "Boston Massacre" as a slaughter of innocent Americans by bloodthirsty redcoats. An engraving by Paul Revere showed a British officer giving the order to open fire on an orderly crowd. Revere's powerful image strengthened anti-British feeling.
The Boston Massacre led many colonists to call for stronger boycotts on British goods. Aware of the growing opposition to its policies, Parliament repealed all the Townshend Acts taxes except the one on tea. Many colonists believed they had won another victory. They ended their boycotts, except on the taxed tea, and started to trade with British merchants again.
Some colonial leaders, however, continued to call for resistance to British rule. In 1772 Samuel Adams revived the Boston committee of correspondence, an organization used in earlier protests. The committee circulated writings about colonists' grievances against Britain. Soon other committees of correspondence sprang up throughout the colonies, bringing together protesters opposed to British measures. (See page 596 of the Primary Sources Library for readings about colonial resistance.)
Reading Check Explaining How did the Boston Massacre contribute to the repeal of the Townshend Acts?
Fact Fiction Folklore
The Boston Massacre
The British soldiers never stood trial for the massacre. Eight soldiers and the commanding officer at the Boston Massacre were jailed and tried for murder. Many Patriots thought it was an act of disloyalty to defend the soldiers. The soldiers' hopes for justice rested in the hands of John Adams, who believed that even the enemy should be given a fair trial. Two of the soldiers were found guilty of manslaughter. The others were found not guilty on grounds of self-defense. Some Patriots questioned Adams's loyalty; others argued that the trial showed even the hated redcoats could receive a fair trial.
The Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party is one of the significant events leading ultimately to American independence.
---Most of the Townshend Acts are repealed. The tax on tea remains.
---In November 1773, the citizens of Boston refuse to allow three British ships to unload
342 chests of tea.
---On the evening of December 16, Boston citizens disguised as Native Americans board the ships and empty the tea into Boston Harbor.
---King George III and Parliament respond by closing the city port.
"Fellow countrymen, we cannot afford to give a single inch! If we retreat now, everything we have done becomes useless!"
— Samuel Adams, December 1773
A Crisis Over Tea
In the early 1770s, some Americans considered British colonial policy a "conspiracy against liberty." The British government's actions in 1773 seemed to confirm that view.
The British East India Company faced ruin. To save the East India Company, Parliament passed the Tea Act of 1773. This measure gave the company the right to ship tea to the colonies without paying most of the taxes usually placed on tea. It also allowed the company to bypass colonial merchants and sell its tea directly to shopkeepers at a low price. This meant that East India Company tea was cheaper than any other tea in the colonies. The Tea Act gave the company a very favorable advantage over colonial merchants.
Colonial merchants immediately called for a new boycott of British goods. Samuel Adams and others denounced the British monopoly. The Tea Act, they argued, was just another attempt to crush the colonists' liberty.
At large public meetings in Boston and Philadelphia, colonists vowed to stop the East India Company's ships from unloading. The Daughters of Liberty issued a pamphlet declaring that rather than part with freedom, "we'll part with our tea."
Parliament ignored warnings that another crisis was brewing. The East India Company shipped tea to Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charles Town. The colonists forced the ships sent to New York and Philadelphia to turn back. The tea sent to Charles Town was seized and stored in a warehouse. In Boston, a showdown began.
The Boston Tea Party
Three tea ships arrived in Boston Harbor in late 1773. The royal governor, whose house had been destroyed by Stamp Act protesters, refused
to let the ships turn back. When he ordered the tea unloaded, Adams and the Boston Sons of Liberty acted swiftly. On December 16, a group of men disguised as Mohawks and armed with hatchets marched to the wharves. At midnight they boarded the ships and threw 342 chests of tea overboard, an event that became known as the Boston Tea Party.
Word of this act of defiance spread throughout the colonies. Men and women gathered in the streets to celebrate the bravery of the Boston Sons of Liberty. Yet no one spoke of challenging British rule, and colonial leaders continued to think of themselves as members of the British empire.