WHY THE REVOLUTION HAPPENED
The American Revolution didn't just happen for no good reason. First, the British had to get the colonists very angry. If you remember much from US History, you'll remember that the colonists still considered themselves British prior to the revolution. A great amount of them (known as Tories, approximately 20%) still considered themselves British all the way through the revolution. But why did the revolution occur? Whose fault was it? Well, we might not know whose fault it was, but the following are a list of events (in chronological order) that led to the American Revolution.
THE RIGHTS OF BRITISH COLONIES ASSERTED AND PROVED
In the year 1764, James Otis published The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved. In the pamphlet, Otis argued about how government is "founded on the necessities of nature", and therefore, the larger American colonies could not revolve around England, the smaller country. The pamphlet was also one of the very few that was written by someone who truly believed that all men were created equal. In an appendix entitled "Of the Natural Rights of Colonists", Otis wrote about how all colonists deserved freedom, whether they be white, or black, or something other.
THE SENTIMENTS OF A BRITISH AMERICAN
In the year 1764, Oxenbridge Thacher's pamphlet, The Sentiments of a British American was published. Since James Otis was a friend of Thacher's, Thacher's work contained many of the same ideas as Otis' The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved. Thacher argued that people should be free from taxation without representation, an idea that was prominent in many works of the time. Thacher also asserted his loyalty to England, as did others. At this point in time, very few radicals thought about breaking away from England, and the majority of colonists would not have supported a cause for independence in 1764. Due to this, people remained loyal to the king. Thacher's work did not contain many new ideas, but made current ideas comprehensible so that the majority of colonists would understand them.
In the year 1764, the British Parliament passed the Currency Act. The Currency Act outlawed the printing of money in America, beginning on the first of September. The act was especially powerful and hated due to the fact that it proclaimed "every clause or provision which shall hereafter be inserted in any act, order, resolution, or vote of assembly, contrary to this act, shall be null and void." It was not up for discussion. And not only did the act outlaw future printing of money in America, but it made all existing American-printed money "null and void." Parliament was trying to seize control of America's economy, but the American people were not going to let it happen without a fight.
On the fifth of April, in the year 1764, the Sugar Act went into effect. The Sugar Act caused colonists to be taxed for imported sugar, coffee, indigo, and wine. The Sugar Act was put into effect to raise revenue for the English government, which had many debts to pay after the French-and-Indian War. The Sugar Act actually lowered the tax on sugar, but the colonists still had a problem with it. First of all, the merchants disliked it due to the fact that it allowed heavy searches to be conducted on ships, and further allowed for the cargo of a ship to be confiscated. Then there were the rest of the colonists, who were unhappy about the Sugar Act due to the fact that England was taxing them without representation.
THE RIGHTS OF COLONIES EXAMINED
In the year 1764, Stephen Hopkins' work, The Rights of Colonies Examined, was published. In it, Hopkins attacked the "colony is to country as child is to parent" analogy. He claimed that the colonies were in no way being treated like children. They were being treated as slaves. This made colonists angry with the British, since they believed that they should receive all the rights that a citizen of England living in England would receive. The pamphlet also detailed the unjustness of the Sugar Act and other acts. The pamphlet was actually published by vote of general assembly.
"JOIN, OR DIE" SNAKE APPEARS
On May 9th of 1764, Benjamin Franklin's newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, included something that made it more famous than it already was. This one little thing was a cartoon, political in nature, as were most of America's early cartoons. This cartoon, which would be reproduced in many other newspapers, was a picture of snake cut into eight pieces, with a caption reading "Join, or Die." Each section represented one colony, the colonies represented being, in order from tail to neck, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, with the head representing New England as a whole. At the time, there was a popular superstition that, if a snake was split in two and then the pieces were reassembled before sunset of the same day, the snake would come back to life. Perhaps this was a metaphor to signify that if the colonies joined together quickly, only then would they be able to escape the British.
In March of 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act required colonists to buy a stamp whenever they wanted to make a printed document. At rates ranging from half-a-pound to 10 pounds, England expected to collect 60,000 pounds a year from the sale of stamps. The colonists rebelled, however, causing the Stamp Act to be repealed with no money collected. The British were enraged, and felt embarrassed that they could not govern their own colonies. They passed the Declaratory Act, which basically said nothing other than that Parliament had total control over the colonies, to show their power. The colonists did not rebel due to the fact the Stamp Act was expensive, but because it was taxation without representation. Parliament could pass worse acts than this if they had the right to tax the colonies as they saw fit.
On the second day of June, in the year 1765, Parliament passed the Quartering Act, which was one of the Intolerable Acts. The Quartering Act required colonists to pay for and supply food, shelter, blankets, candles, transportation, and beer to the British troops. This caused the colonists to become unrestful, due to the fact that their privacy and pocketbooks were being invaded without their consent. The colonists did not like paying taxes, which were supposedly required to pay for the army. The unrest of the colonists increased after Chief Pontiac's Rebellion, due to the fact that the army had not been able to stop the event from occurring at all. The colonists did not wish to pay for, support, and house an incompetent army.
LETTERS FROM A FARMER
Like Thomas Paine's Common Sense, John Dickinson's Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies was originally published anonymously. It first appeared in The Pennsylvania Chronicle on the 3rd day of December in the year 1767. The publication detailed Dickinson's dual personalities: one being an American patriot, the other being a loyalist. The publication was actually, as the title suggests, a collection of letters written by John Dickinson. This publication was the most read and most influential publication in North America from the day it was first printed until the publication of Common Sense. In the publication, Dickinson awakened the colonists, detailing the many ways in which Parliament hurt the colonies.
BRITISH TROOPS LAND IN BOSTON
Sometime in the year 1768, British troops landed in Boston, 4,000 in number. Lord Hillsborough, who was, at the time, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, had sent them to Boston. The troops were present to restore order, though it can be said that they had quite the opposite affect. Since the soldiers and the colonists were constantly in contact, the colonists became irritated and more hateful of Britain and the soldiers, and events such as the Boston Massacre occurred. Yet, it can also be said that the troops' presence was the fault of the colonists; the troops were dispatched because the Sons of Liberty were continually attacking British officials.
CUTTER GASPEE BURNED
It was the 10th of June, in the year 1772. The colonists were enraged about acts such as the Sugar Act. Previously, tariffs and export taxes were not strictly enforced, and it was very easy to smuggle goods without paying due taxes. Now, though, the British were harassing local merchants to make sure no smugglers got through. The Gaspee, a British schooner, was stuck on a sandbar near Rhode Island. Eight boatloads of colonists boarded the ship, and extracted the crew. They then burned the ship! This allowed the colonists to let off a little steam (no pun intended) at the expense of the British. The British, of course, were enraged at the colonists' actions, and became even angrier when they failed in finding the culprits.
BRITISH TEA ACT
In the year 1773, Parliament passed the British Tea Act. The British Tea Act actually lowered the current tax on tea, but it allowed tea to be imported only from Britain, only from the British East India Company. The act was passed to help save the company from bankruptcy. Parliament believed that the colonists would not find the act undesirable, due to the fact that it actually reduced the price of tea. Yet the colonists did find the act undesirable, and with good reason: it barred American merchants from importing tea; tea was only allowed to come to America if it was sold and shipped by British merchants. This act fueled the colonists' argument against taxation without representation, and caused some colonists to dump tea into the sea, causing the Boston Tea Party.
COMMITTEE OF CORRESPONDENCE AND INQUIRY
Dabney Carr, an ambitious, young politician, addressed the Virginia House of Burgesses one day in March of 1773. What Carr suggested was not unheard of, but it had a strange new twist. He suggested that a Committee of Correspondence and Inquiry, a committee to communicate with other colonial legislatures, be formed. The strange new twist was that this committee would be permanent, not like other temporary Committees of Correspondence that had been formed over the years. This action caused other colonies to create Committees of Correspondence, which united and unified the colonies. The original committee was renamed to the Committee of Secret Correspondence, and given lots of money to buy and distribute weapons in secret. Now, if war were to come, England would be fighting against a single, powerful enemy, instead of many weak ones.
BOSTON TEA PARTY
The colonists were very angry with Parliament since they had passed the British Tea Act. A small group of radicals took this to the extreme. On December 16, 1773, Boston's Sons of Liberty, led by Sam Adams, dressed up as Mohawks and raided three ships in the Boston Harbor, the Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver, all containing East India Company tea. In only a few hours, 342 crates of tea had been opened and dumped into the bay. The radicals were extremely cautious, since identification would mean death for treason.
MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNMENT ACT
On the 20th of May, in the year 1774, Parliament passed the Massachusetts Government Act. Previously, Massachusetts had been almost independent due to its unique charter. The Massachusetts Government Act turned this around 180°. The colony's right of self-rule was revoked, and it was placed under the military rule of General Thomas Gage. All town meetings were cancelled. Parliament claimed that this was being done because Massachusetts obstructed the execution and defeated the purpose of other laws they had passed. The colonists were, obviously, very angry at Parliament. Parliament was very angry at the colonists for the Boston Tea Party, and believed that the colonists deserved punishment.
CONTINENTAL CONGRESS BOYCOTTS BRITISH GOODS
Continental Congress met on the 20th of October, in 1774, to discuss how the British ministry was oppressing America, and what actions should be taken in response. The Continental Congress agreed that, from the first of December of 1774, that they would not import East India tea, molasses, syrups, paneles, coffee, or pimento from other British colonies, foreign indigo, or any goods exported from Great Britain or Ireland. They also agreed to discontinue the slave trade from that same date. The Continental Congress also agreed to discontinue trade with merchants who kept importing British or Irish goods after the first of December, or took advantage of the boycott situation and raised prices. Petyon Randolph, President of the Continental Congress, signed this document. The boycott angered the British, but there was nothing that they could do about it.
"GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!"
On the 23rd day of March, in the year 1775, Patrick Henry gave a speech that would be forever engraved in American history. He spoke of how staying part of Britain was equivalent to slavery. He claimed that there was no way to avoid war than to retreat into slavery to the British forever. He cried out that the all the colonists had to start fighting for their rights, now. He pointed out that waiting to see how things turned out would be pointless, asking, "[Will we fight] when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house?" He ended with a statement that would forever mark American history, "but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"
NEW ENGLAND RESTRAINING ACT
On the 30th day of March in the year 1775, the New England Restraining act, officially known as the New England Trade and Fisheries Act, was passed by Parliament. This was probably in response to recent boycotts, and the Boston Tea Party. The acted caused all merchants to trade with no other nation than Britain, beginning on the first day of July. From the 20th of July, fishermen from New England would not be allowed to fish in North Atlantic fisheries. Edmund Burke pleaded to Parliament for reconciliation, but the act was passed anyway. It seemed that now, there would be nowhere to go other than the battlefield.
BOSTON PORT ACT
Parliament passed the Boston Port Act in the year 1774 as a punishment to the colonists. The Bostonians had refused to pay for the tea lost in the Boston Tea Party, so Parliament decided to make them pay. From the first day of June until the Bostonians had paid for the tea, no colonist or ship would be allowed into Boston's harbor. British troops stopped colonists from entering the harbor. The Boston Port Act actually made the colonies more unified, though Parliament thought that other colonies would take advantage of Massachusetts' situation. Other New England colonies helped Boston through the crisis by shipping large amounts of goods by land. The Boston Port Act was part of the Intolerable Acts, which really pushed the colonists over the edge.
Thomas Paine, a radical Philadelphian journalist, published Common Sense in 1776. The pamphlet was originally published anonymously. Common Sense suggested that America immediately became independent from England. It was the first written document that openly and directly suggested independence. The pamphlet also pointed out that America had more than enough natural resources to build a navy. It challenged authority in plain language, and that made some people unhappy. Common Sense was the most read publication of its time, replacing A Summary View of the Rights of British America.
On the Fourth of July in 1776, Continental Congress ratified the Declaration of Independence. America was now separate from England. Yet, much blood was to be shed before England gave up.