Essential Question – Following the French and Indian War, how did the British government anger the American colonists?
The French and Indian War left Britain with a huge debt. The king and Parliament believed the colonists should pay part of the cost so they issued new taxes and began to enforce existing taxes more strictly.
In order to stop colonists smuggling goods, George Grenville, prime minister of Britain, and Parliament authorized writs of assistance, or legal documents allowing customs officers to enter any location to search for smuggled goods.
In 1764, Parliament passed the Sugar Act which lowered the tax on imported molasses, hoping it would convince colonists to pay the tax instead of smuggling. The Sugar Act let officers seize goods from smugglers without going to court. Colonists believed the writs of assistance and the Sugar Act violated their rights. Colonists such as James Otis and Samuel Adams used to slogan “No Taxation Without Representation.”
In 1765, Parliament passed Stamp Act, a tax on almost all printed materials. Opposition to the Stamp Act centered on two points:
Parliament had interfered in colonial affairs by taxing the colonies directly
Parliament taxed the colonists without their consent
There were protests to the Stamp Act occurred in many different colonies. In Virginia, Patrick Henry, took action by helping pass a resolution declaring on the colonists has the right to tax its own citizens. In Boston, Samuel Adams started the Sons of Liberty who burned effigies of tax collectors and destroyed homes belonging to royal officials. Women formed groups called the Daughters of Liberty and urged Americans to wear homemade fabrics. In New York, delegates from nine colonies formed the Stamp Act Congress and drafted a petition to the king and Parliament declaring that the colonies could be taxed except by their own assemblies. In many cities, people urged merchants to boycott British goods. Merchants signed nonimportation agreements, pledges to not buy or use goods imported from Britain. In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act. On the same day, it passed the Declaratory Act stating that Parliament had the right to tax and make decisions for the British colonies “in all cases.”
In 1767, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts that placed new taxes applied only to imported goods such as glass, tea, and paper, with the tax being paid at the port of entry. By this time, any British taxes angered the colonists.
5.2 Notes – “Building Colonial Unity”
Essential Question – How did colonists react to British policies?
By 1768, protests by the colonists were making Great Britain nervous. They felt the colonies were on the brink of rebellion. Parliament sent troops to Boston which only made the colonists angrier. To make matters worse, the British “redcoats” acted rudely and sometimes violently toward the colonists.
On March 5, 1770, a fight broke out between Bostonians and the soldiers. The angry townspeople moved toward the customhouse, where British taxes were collected. The redcoats fired into the crowd, killing five colonists, including an African dockworker, Crispus Attucks. Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty called the event the “Boston Massacre” and used it as propaganda. An engraving by Paul Revere showed British troops firing into an orderly crowd. The Boston Massacre led to more boycotts on British goods which led to Parliament repealing all the Townshend Acts except the one on tea. Samuel Adams organized the committee of correspondence, an organization that spread political ideas throughout the colonies.
In 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, a law that allowed the British East India Company a monopoly of the trade for tea in America. The act let the company sell tea directly to shopkeepers and bypass colonial merchants who normally distributed the tea. Merchants called for a new boycott and colonists vowed to stop the ships from unloading the tea. In New York and Philadelphia, colonists forced ships to turn back to England. In Boston, the royal governor ordered tea ships to be unloaded. The Sons of Liberty responded on December 16, 1773. A group of men disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded the ships at midnight and threw 342 chests of tea overboard in an event known as the Boston Tea Party.
King George III responded to the Boston Tea Party by passing the Coercive Acts in 1774. These laws were intended to punish the people of Massachusetts and were called the Intolerable Acts by colonists. The Intolerable Acts did the following:
Closed Boston Harbor until colonists paid for the ruined tea
Town meeting in New England were banned
Forced Bostonians to quarter troops in their homes
Parliament also passed the Quebec Act which gave the area west of the Appalachians and north of the Ohio River to Quebec and ignored colonial claims in those areas.
5.3 Notes – “A Call to Arms”
Essential Question – What brought about the clash between American colonists and British soldiers at Lexington and Concord?
In September 1774, delegates from all the colonies except Georgia met in Philadelphia called the First Continental Congress. Some the notable leaders who attended were:
Samuel Adams, John Adams (Massachusetts)
John Jay (New York)
Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, George Washington (Virginia)
The delegates called for a repeal of all acts by Parliament, voted to boycott British trade, and endorsed the Suffolk Resolves, calling on the people of Suffolk County, Massachusetts to arm themselves against the British by forming militias.
By April 1775, thousands of British soldiers were in the area of Boston led by British General Thomas Gage, with orders to take away weapons and arrest leaders. Gage learned that the militia was storing arms and ammunition at Concord. On the night of April 18, 1775, Dr. Joseph Warren saw British redcoats marching out of the city of Boston. Warren alerted Paul Revere and William Dawes, members of the Sons of Liberty. Revere and Dawes rode to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock the British were coming. Revere rode across the countryside shouting “The regulars are out!” to warn people along the way.
The next morning, a group of minutemen led by Captain John Parker stood their ground as the redcoats marched closer to Lexington. A shot was fired and eight minutemen were killed. The British troops continued to Concord cut found that the militia’s gunpowder was removed. At Concord’s North Bridge, minutemen turned back the British. As the redcoats marched back to Boston, colonial militias fired at the British from behind trees and stone fences. The Battle of Lexington and Concord became known as the “shot heard ‘round the world” because they were the first shots fired in the American Revolution.
After Lexington and Concord, Benedict Arnold, a captain in the Connecticut militia seized Fort Ticonderoga in New York along with the help of Ethan Allenand his militia, the Green Mountain Boys. Together they captured Fort Ticonderoga and many military supplies, including cannons.
The committees of correspondence called for volunteers to join the militias around Boston. On June 16, 1775, 1,200 militiamen under the command of Colonel William Prescott set up at Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill across the harbor from Boston. The British charged up with bayonets. With his forces low on ammunition, Colonel Prescott shouted, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The British won the Battle of Bunker Hill but suffered heavy losses. It proved that the Americans could hold their own against the redcoats and defeating the Americans on the battlefield would not be easy.
As Americans heard about the first battles, they faced a major decision. Should they join the rebels or remain loyal to Great Britain? Those who supported the war for independence became known as Patriots. Those who chose to stay with Britain were called Loyalists.
5.4 Notes – “Moving Toward Independence”
Essential Question – Why did the American colonies choose to declare independence?
In May 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. The delegates included many of th men who met at the First Continental Congress, plus some notable new members:
Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania)
John Hancock (Massachusetts); president of the Second Continental Congress
Thomas Jefferson (Virginia)
The most important decision made by Congress was to create the Continental Army. On John Adams’s recommendation, George Washington was chosen as the army’s commander.
The delegates at the Congress sent a petition to King George III as one last attempt to avoid war. This was called the Olive Branch Petition. George III refused it and instead hired 30,000 German troops, called Hessians, to fight beside British troops.
Congress learned that British troops in Canada were planning on invading New York. In an attempt to strike first, a Patriot force left Fort Ticonderoga and captured Montreal. An American attack on Quebec, led by Benedict Arnold, failed.
George Washington reached Boston in July 1775, a few weeks after the Battle of Bunker Hill. After months of training, the Continental Army drove the British troops, led by General William Howe, out of Boston.
In January 1776, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet called Common Sense. Paine called for complete independence from Britain and Common Sense influenced opinion in the colonies.
At the Second Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee proposed a resolution to declare independence from Great Britain. Congress debated Lee’s resolution, but chose a committee to draft a Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was chosen to be the primary author. On July 2, 1776, the Congress voted for independence. Twelve colonies voted in favor of independence (New York did not vote). On July 4, 1776, Congress approved Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock was the first to sign. This document symbolizes the birth of the United States.