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During the late 1600s and first half of the 1700s, France and Britain both established themselves in America. It seemed that over the last century, Britain and France were always fighting for power. This fight for power was expensive and Britain decided to make the colonists pay their share of the costs, through taxes, so that it could afford to find expensive wars with France.
France began settling the area of New France in 1605 when they established settlements along the Canadian Atlantic coast. Growth was slow because France would allow only Catholics to settle in North America. By the mid 1700s, New France had only 5% of the people Britain had, and they were spread from Canada down the west side of the Appalachian Mountains down to New Orleans.
The French learned to assimilate into the Native Americans lifestyle which made them allies later on when the British and French began having disagreements over land boundaries. The Native Americans learned that they could probably live happier with French settlers than British settlers.
The British Colonial System
The British colonial system was much more organized than the French system. British colonies were usually led by a governor appointed by the king. The governor would appoint various people to help him run the colony and establish rules or laws that would govern the colony. Some colonies created a legislature or law making government body. This would ensure that colonists had some voice in local laws and customs. Because the colonies were 2000 miles away from the king in Britain, and the king was often very busy with business involving European matters, sometimes the colonies were sort of forgotten about and allowed to do as they pleased. Eventually this would evolve into an American culture, different from that in Britain.
One way the British king tried to control the colonists was through mercantilism. Mercantilism is an economic system where all goods made in the colonies were to benefit the parent country (Britain) and anyone who was seen as highly skillful in a certain trade could only work for the parent country (Britain). The king had sole control over the overall economic system of the colony, whose duty it was to benefit the parent country.
-Used by the king to make trading with any other nation in the New World (mainly the Dutch in New York).
-Smuggle - means to sneak in or out. Colonists would smuggle goods to sell to the Dutch.
-The Navigation Acts also said certain goods like tobacco could not be sold anywhere else but to Britain.
-Colonists began to get angry about the strict nature of the Navigation Acts.
A Train of Thought Change
During this period a new idea emerged after King James II of Britain was removed and replaced with someone more sympathetic to citizens. English philosopher John Locke preached the idea that no monarch (another name for king) did NOT have a divine right to lead and have absolute power. He said that when rulers failed to protect the property and lives of their subjects, the people had the right to overthrow the monarch and change the government. Locke also said that people had the right to life, liberty, and property, called natural rights. Natural rights are those that can be taken away.
The French & Indian War
The French and Indian War was fought as a result of France and England (Britain, same thing) having disputes over their border west of the Appalachian Mountains. The British believed they owned the Ohio River valley, while the French said they owned it. The Indians were sort of caught in the Middle, but most of them chose to side with the French. The war began in 1756 when a small detachment of French soldiers and small detachment of British and colonial soldiers ran into each other near Great Meadows. George Washington, a young and unheard of colonel led the British troops to Great Meadows. The British killed most of the French soldiers and several months later, war was declared by France toward Britain. The war waged for roughly seven years (Europeans called it the 7 yrs war).
The French and Indian War ended in 1763 after the French signed the Treaty of Paris. Years of fighting had taken a toll on the French treasury and it simply could not afford to continue fighting. With the Treaty of Paris, England now owned all of the land from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River.
As soon as the war was over, colonists began moving further west to the land recently won in the F and I war. The problem was that they forgot about the thousands of Native Americans that still lived there and were not going to move without a fight. This led to increased incidents of Native American and colonial fighting. Native Americans began attacking colonial settlements all along the frontier in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, and Virginia. These attacks were often well organized by an Ottawa chief named, Pontiac. Pontiac's Rebellion struck fear into the colonists. Afraid of another costly war, King George III of England announced the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which created an imaginary line along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains, Canada, and Georgia. He ordered that colonists could not move beyond this boundary. The colonists replied with anger and vowed to not recognize the King's order.
Angered over the Proclamation of 1763, the colonists reminded the British law making body, Parliament, that were supposed to be treated just like regular British citizens, which would mean they were allowed to send representatives from the colonies to Parliament, but Parliament did not listen.
Regulating the Colonies
British Prime Minister, George Grenville, had to find a way to pay the large debt that Britain had built up fighting and "protecting" its American colonies during the French and Indian War. Grenville looked to the colonists whom he was bitter against because he believed they were the "least taxed" people in the world. He knew that colonists smuggled to get around the Navigation Acts and wanted to find a way to tax the colonists effectively.
In 1764, Dodge pushed through the Sugar Act which added taxes on sugar, coffee, and spices. For the first time the British Parliament created a policy to raise revenue, or money, directly from the colonies. Before they had only tried to regulate their trade. The colonists were outraged because they said they did not have a representative in Parliament to represent their view point.
In February 1765, Dodge pushed another unfavorable tax through Parliament when he created the Stamp Act. This put a tax on every single form of paper products used in the colonies. Pamphlets, newspapers, licenses, deeds, bonds, and many more had to have the official British stamp in order to be sent or used. This tax was opposed by every single colony, the colonists began to get very angry. Colonists began to chant, "No taxation without representation!" Protesters began to gather and organize. They called themselves, the Sons of Liberty, and their goal was to disrupt British efforts to collect taxes. They were formed and led by Samuel Adams.
In 1767, Charles Townshed, the treasury chief for Britain, put forth a plan to raise money from the colonists (called the Townshed Acts). The main aspect that angered colonists was the idea that money raised from taxes would be used to pay for colonial governors. This angered colonists because before these acts, colonial legislatures raised the money to pay salaries, which made the governor sympathetic to colonists, or he wouldn't get paid. Sam Adams and the Sons of Liberty began to kick up their protesting and problem making further frustrating the British government.
Worried that things were beginning to get out control, the royal governor of Massachusetts ordered 4,000 British troops to occupy Boston. Sides began to emerge with colonists that sided with the king, also known as loyalists or tories, and those against the king called patriots. British soldiers stationed in the colonies were red uniforms and patriots began calling them lobster backs or redcoats.
The Boston Massacre
On March 5, 1770, a large crowd of colonists surrounded a group of nine British soldiers in the streets of Boston. The situation became very confusing as items from the crowd were thrown at the soldiers. Someone knocked a soldier down, he rose up and fired his musket, the others began to fire as well, when the smoke cleared, five people were dead and eight were wounded. The soldiers were arrested and jailed. The soldiers were put on trial, two soldiers were convicted of manslaughter and branded on the thumb, the rest were ordered back to Britain. This became known as the Boston Massacre. The event sent shock waves throughout the colonies, and started a mass boycott (a refusal to buy goods from a particular place) of British goods. Crippled by the loss of money and fear that the violence of the Boston Massacre might spread, Parliament repealed (took back), all of the taxes created by the Townshend Acts except for one on tea.
Samuel Adams organized the Committee of Correspondence, which issued a statement of American rights and grievances (things they believed that were wrongly done to them), and he invited other towns to do the same.
The Boston Tea Party
The Tea Act of 1773 was an effort made by the king in order to save large tea companies that were about to go bankrupt. The Tea Act said that British Tea brought to the American colonies would not be taxed. Tea made in America was taxed, this made British tea cheaper to buy than American tea and obviously angered colonists who were already not happy with Britain. On December 16, 1773 members of the Sons of Liberty dressed up like Native Americans and boarded ships in Boston that had tea on them. They dumped 342 chests of tea overboard (millions of dollars in today's money worth of tea). The Boston Tea Party as it became known as, pushed the king to the limit, now he believed only force would get the colonists to get back in line and obey the king's laws.
The Coercive Acts (also known as the Intolerable Acts) were designed by the British Parliament as punishment for Boston and its actions. It closed the port at Boston until the tea was repaid, a new Quartering Act was created to make it a law to have to house and feed British soldiers in Boston. Americans in Boson were stripped of their representative colonial governments, and it moved the court for colonists tried for major crimes, to Britain. Colonists were getting to the point they were thinking of war as the only way to settle their differences with Britain.
On September 5, 1774, fifty-five delegates from twelve colonies met to form the First Continental Congress. This was the first time that the colonies had met to form a group that was officially against the actions of Britain. The colonies began to mobilize toward war, militias were formed. Militias are small groups of citizens that gather for the purpose of learning military manners and protecting what they believed was theirs.
Many believed that Britain would back down, but Patrick Henry of Virginia claimed that even should the British government backdown, the American colonies should seek independence. Henry told the First Continental Congress that, "we must fight," and "Give me liberty, or give me death." Henry's speech emboldened and excited the colonists, especially those in Boston and the surrounding countryside, which began to gather all of the weapons and ammunition they could find. On April 14, 1775, the British armory in Boston was ordered to go to Lexington and Concord in order to get weapons they knew were there in the arsenal (an arsenal is a building used to store weapons). Information gained from spies allowed the Americans to prepare for the British soldiers. Paul Revere rode through the countryside delivering the news that the British army was coming. At Lexington on April 19, 238 British redcoats fought 70 colonial militiamen. The colonists were no match for the professional soldiers of Britain, they retreated to Concord, where British forces routed the colonists. The battles of Lexington and Concord ignited the first shots fired in anger between the colonists and British forces. The American Revolution began when those shots were fired.
Even the though the colonists had lost the battles of Lexington and Concord, they continued to assault British forces whenever possible. The the two battles gave the colonists time to gather more men and weapons. Knowing that British forces would take only one road back to Boston, they set up ambushes all along the route. On their forty mile retreat back to Boston, the British suffered three times more casualties than the Americans had at Lexington and Concord.
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place about two months after the Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775), by which time more than 15,000 colonial troops had assembled in the vicinity of Boston to confront the British army of 5,000 or more stationed there. Hearing that the British general Thomas Gage was about to occupy Dorchester Heights—one of two obvious points from which Boston was vulnerable to artillery fire—the colonists decided to fortify Bunker's Hill and Breed's Hill, which constituted the other exposed area. The colonists completed a redoubt atop Breed's Hill before being met with about 2,300 incoming British troops sent by Gage. At first the British were stopped by heavy fire from colonial troops, but on the second or third advance, the attackers carried the redoubt and forced the surviving defenders to flee. Casualties numbered more than 1,000 British and about 450 American soldiers.
The Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place on June 17, 1775, was the first major battle of the American Revolution. Although the British attackers eventually forced the American defenders to flee, the victory was tempered by heavy losses on the British side, and the battle lent significant encouragement to the revolutionary cause.
In June of 1776, momentum for independence was building in the Continental Congress for an official separation from Britain. Colonies authorized delegates in the Continental Congress to make the final steps. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, was assigned the task of writing an official document that declared American independence from Britain. Jefferson wrote a document that criticized King George and accused him of allowing Parliament to unjustly take away the colonists freedoms. On July 4, 1776, Jefferson's finished document, the Declaration of Independence was adopted in the colonies.