Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A.R. - The American Revolution

What was the American Revolution?

John Adams wrote, “But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people.”

A series of events took place between 1763 and 1776. These brought about a change of heart and attitude within those who were loyal to the King. By the time the Declaration of Independence was signed, America was ready to fight for freedom. British actions resulted in American reactions.

April 5, 1764 – Britain passed the Sugar Act, which was a tax on trade with America.

April 19, 1764 – Britain passed the Currency Act, which restricted the issuance of paper money in the colonies.

May of 1764 – James Otis raised the issue of the colonists being taxed without representation in Parliament.

August of 1764 – Bostonians boycotted British-made luxuries.

March 22, 1765 – Parliament passed the Stamp Act as being the first direct tax on the American colonies.

March 24, 1765 – Parliament passed the Quartering Act which required the colonists to pay the cost of housing British soldiers in America.

May 29-30, 1765 – Patrick Henry made a speech as a brand new delegate to the Virginia House of Burgesses. He discussed that one of the basic liberties of the colonists was the right to be taxed by representatives of one’s own choosing. He added that only colonial assemblies had the right to tax their constituents. On the next day, he spoke again and made a reference to past assassinated leaders of other countries. Others cried out, “Treason”. He then finished with, “If this be treason, make the most of it.”

Summer of 1765 – Massachusetts organizes to oppose the Stamp Act. The Sons of Liberty intimidated those supporting Britain and enforced boycotts in Boston.

October of 1765 – The Stamp Act Congress met in New York City. This was to organize opposition to the Stamp Act in the various colonies.

November 1, 1765 – The Stamp Act took effect in the colonies. This was followed by the Stamp Act Riots in New York City.

February and March of 1766 – Parliament repealed the Stamp Act.
August of 1766 – More riots in New York over the Quartering Act.

Summer of 1767 – Townshend Acts passed. These included a restraining act on New York because they did not want to pay what was demanded for housing British troops. Another act was the Customs Service Reorganization, which created an new Customs Board in Boston, increased the use of “writs of assistance” which were similar to search warrants, and added more British courts in the colonies. It also included the Townshend Duty Act, which added new duties on items such as paint, paper, glass, lead and tea imported into the colonies. The colonists were outraged and resisted. They pressed local merchants to not import any of the duty items.

February 11, 1768 – James Otis and Samual Adams sent letters to the colonies opposing the Townshend Acts.

June 10, 1768 – British seize John Hancock’s ship, the “Liberty”.

October 1, 1768 – British troops occupy Boston.

Throughout 1769, non-importation agreements spread through the colonies. This continued to hurt British trade with America.

January 16-18, 1770 – The Sons of Liberty fight the Redcoats in the Battle of Golden Hill in New York.

March 5, 1770 – The Boston Massacre followed by removal of troops from the city. Bostonians resented the presence of British troops in their city. Tempers flared and an argument broke out between a merchant and a sentry. Other citizens gathered and reinforcements of other soldiers arrived. As things got out of hand, the troops opened fire on those gathered. Three colonists died instantly and two others later. Samuel Adams and Paul Revere helped spread the story of the massacre to gain support for opposing the British.

April 12, 1770 – The Townshend duties were repealed except for the tax on tea.

May 10, 1773 – The Tea Act went into effect. Britain, in an attempt to aid the East India Company, which sold tea, gain business in America, passed an Act which gave this company a monopoly on selling tea to America, but at a lower tax than previously imposed. Local merchants protested the monopoly. In some ports the ships were turned away.

December 16, 1773 – The Boston Tea Party. Three ships loaded with tea arrived in the Boston harbor. Samuel Adams lead a group who vowed that the tea would not be unloaded. When one of the ships attempted to leave, the British refused to let them go and seized the ship for non payment of the tea tax. At this point, a group of men boarded the ships and dumped the tea overboard and into the water.

March 31-June 2, 1774 – Britain passed the Coercive Acts which were referred to as the “Intolerable Acts” in the colonies. These included the Boston Port Act, which closed the Boston port until the East India Company was paid for their losses in the Boston Tea Party. The Quartering Act, which changed the law from requiring the people in the colonies to pay to house the British troops to requiring the people to house the troops in their own residences. Administration of Justice Act, which some referred to as the “Murder Act”. It allowed for British officials who use deadly force to suppress riots and collect taxes in Massachusetts to avoid local courts and be taken to England for any trial. Also, the Massachusetts Government Act, which was to punish this colony after the Boston Tea Party. It replaced elected officials with British appointees and put control of the colony directly in British hands.

September-October, 1774 – First Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia. This gathering was not about independence for the colonies from Britain. Instead, they worked on agreements to present to the King to try to solve the differences. They issued the “Declaration of Rights and Grievances”. Most in the colonies considered this meeting a success. They also agreed to enforce boycotts against trade with Britain. They were concerned that the crackdown by the British in Boston also threatened the rights and liberties in the rest of the colonies. Congress urged resistance to the Coercive Acts and the formation of militias.

February 9, 1775 – Britain declared the colonies in a state of rebellion.

March 23, 1775 – Patrick Henry delivered his famous speech to the Virginia Convention. They were gathered to debate the issue of forming a militia for a possible war with the British. Part of what he said is as follows:

“Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged. Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!
It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace; but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God — I know not what course others may take; but as for me — give me liberty or give me death!”

March 30, 1775 – Britain passed the New England Restraining Act. This was to punish the northern colonies. It imposed restrictions, which were later expanded to other colonies, to limit trade to being only with Britain and the British West Indies. It also prohibited ships from New England from the North Atlantic fisheries.

April 18, 1775 – Paul Revere made his famous ride to warn the patriots about the British troops heading their way.

April 19, 1775 – The Battles of Lexington and Concord took place. This was the opening round in the battle for independence.

May 10, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. They dealt with issues such as appointing George Washington as commander-in-chief of the army, approved Dickinson’s “Olive Branch Petition” which was followed by the “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms”. Richard Henry Lee proposed a resolution (June 1776) promoting independence from Britain. This was followed by the “Declaration of Independence” in July of 1776. During the same month, the “Articles of Confederation” were proposed.

July 5, 1775 – “Olive Branch Petition”. Promoted and authored by John Dickinson, a conservative delegate to the Second Continental Congress, from Pennsylvania; the Olive Branch Petition was a final effort to seek reconciliation with Britain and end the fighting. It appealed to King George III and contained a strong protest against British policies and asked the King to halt the war, repeal the Coercive Acts and bring about reconciliation. It expressed loyalty to the King but was critical of Parliament.

The petition was shipped to England, where it was not well received, to say the least. The King refused to entertain the petition as the war progressed in the colonies. Part of the problem that the King had was the other passed document – “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms”.

July 6, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress passed the “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms”. This document, though expressing loyalty to the King, also included wording that indicated that if the King did not make things right that the colonies would declare independence and go to war.

August 23, 1775 – King George III proclaimed the American colonies to be in rebellion and urged that everything should be done to “suppress such rebellion, and bring the traitors to justice.”

As John Adams discussed, the American Revolution (A.R.) was not the war, was not even the taking up of arms against an enemy, but was the period of time where the transformation of public attitude and allegiance shifted. The A.R. resulted in a unifying of the various interests into a fairly united position. This position had the strength necessary to declare independence from Britain, see the people through the upcoming war and the establishment of a new nation.

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