Origins and Causes of the American Revolution
America’s transition from the 13 Original Colonies to an independent nation has two phases. The first phase, the American Revolution is covered here. It roughly lasted from 1763 to 1774 and saw Britain pass laws and regulations to raise taxes from the colonists.
The laws and regulations were controversial because the individual colonies were not represented in Parliament, the governing body that levied the taxes. This led to the famous slogan, “No Taxation Without Representation.”
Many historians point to the passage of the 1763 Treaty of Paris as the beginning of the American Revolution. However, the roots of the Revolution were growing well before the treaty was signed.
James Otis and the Birth of the American Revolution
The most significant event associated with American resistance to British policies is the 1761 Massachusetts court case of Paxton v. Gray. Following the death of King George II, new Writs of Assistance — search warrants — needed to be issued to British customs officials under the name of King George III.
A group of merchants in Boston believed Writs of Assistance were illegal and filed a lawsuit. They were represented in court by James Otis and Oxenbridge Thacher, who argued the Writs were illegal and infringed on the rights of the merchants.
During the proceedings, Otis delivered a fiery speech that lasted anywhere from four to five hours. One of the key points he made was that homes should be protected from being searched by British customs officials on a whim. He said, “…one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle…”
Otis and Thacher made specific legal arguments against the Writs, which laid the foundation for the ideas that inspired the American Revolution to be grounded in the law and the English Bill of Rights. However, the Revolution was also inspired by the Enlightenment, and the idea of Natural Laws that governed mankind.
Although the court eventually sided with the Crown and upheld the legality of the Writs, the ideas Otis based his argument on became essential tenets to the push for independence, culminating in the Declaration of Independence in July 1776.
A young lawyer, John Adams, was in the room and witnessed Otis deliver his speech. Many years later, Adams recalled the speech and wrote, “Otis was a flame of fire…American Independence was then and there born.”
Growing Tension and Causes of the American Revolution
Although they initially sought to assert their rights as Englishmen, tensions grew due to disputes over key laws, including the Sugar Act (1764), Stamp Act (1765), Townshend Duties (1767), and the Tea Act (1763).
In some cases, Americans took political action in an effort to show their displeasure. The best examples are the Stamp Act Congress (1765) and the formation of permanent Committees of Correspondence (1772).
By the end of 1774, tensions had contributed to bloodshed, including the Battle of Golden Hill (1770), the Boston Massacre (1770), and the Gaspee Affair (1772).
The Boston Tea Party and the Intolerable Acts
Following the passage of the Tea Act, Americans protested by refusing to receive shipments of tea, or by destroying tea. On December 16, 1773, a mob in Boston destroyed more than 340 chests of tea. British officials were outraged and passed a series of laws known as the Intolerable Acts that were intended to punish Boston and Massachusetts for the incident.
The colonies responded by organizing the First Continental Congress for the purpose of developing a unified response to the Intolerable Acts. It was the first intercolonial government body formed in America without the consent of the Crown.
As 1774 came to an end, several key events took place that increased the likelihood of war.
- Royal Governors started removing military supplies from public storehouses, so they could not be used against them by local militia forces.
- King George III issued orders to ban the sale of weapons and ammunition in the colonies.
- Congress established the Continental Association, which was tasked with enforcing a trade boycott against British goods.
The American Revolution Transitions as the Colonies Prepare for War
In some of the colonies, particularly Massachusetts, people started to prepare for war. Massachusetts organized militia units, including the Minutemen. By the start of 1775, the colonies and Britain stood on the brink of war.
The American Revolution in 1763
Treaty of Paris (1763)
- Great Britain gains Canada, Florida, Tobago, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Vincent.
- Spain receives New Orleans, lands west of the Mississippi River, Cuba, and the Philippines.
However, Britain’s ability to govern and maintain control of new territories is challenged by a debt of £130,000,000 that was incurred during the war. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Grenville must find new revenues to cover the cost.
Unrest in the Northwest
April 27 — Native American Indian chiefs from the Ottawa, Ojibway, and Pottawatomie tribes meet near Detroit. Ottawa Chief Pontiac leads the formation of a loose military alliance among these tribes. They plan to launch coordinated attacks on British forts and settlements along the frontier.
May 7 — Chief Pontiac leads an attack against the British-held Detroit on May 7, but fails to seize the fort. This leads to a prolonged and expensive siege until relief troops arrive months later. This event marks the start of what the English later call “Pontiac’s Rebellion” or “Pontiac’s Conspiracy.”
Attack at Fort Michilimackinac
June 2 — A large group of Indians organizes a lacrosse game near Fort Michilimackinac, Michigan. They invite the British garrison to come out and watch. At a predetermined signal, the warriors retrieve concealed weapons, launch an assault on the fort, and brutally attack the garrison.
Fort Pitt and the Battle of Bushy Run
August 4–6 — Pontiac, after defeating a British force attempting to relieve Fort Pitt, launches an attack on another column led by Colonel Henry Bouquet at Bushy Run. The Indians are repelled by a bayonet charge, and the fort is relieved. Pontiac’s Rebellion starts to fall apart.
Proclamation of 1763
October 7 — King George III issues the Proclamation of 1763 to prevent ongoing conflicts with the Indians.
- This proclamation prohibits colonial settlements to the west of a designated boundary running along the Appalachian Mountains.
- It prohibits land grants and surveying activities in that region.
- Existing settlers west of this line are instructed to retreat to British-controlled areas.
- The territory west of the line is reserved for the Indians to use as Hunting Grounds.
- To accommodate future expansion of the colonies, new colonies are established, including Quebec, East Florida, and West Florida.
Many colonists view the Proclamation as blocking westward expansion ambitions and resent the interference from the British government.
Siege of Detroit Ends
October 30 — Pontiac, left without support from his Pottawatomie, Ojibway, and Wyandot allies, ends the siege of Detroit and leads his Ottawa forces to the Miami River.
Thomas Gage Appointed Commander in Chief
November 16 — General Thomas Gage, a veteran of the French and Indian War, is appointed as Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America, establishing his headquarters in New York.
December 2 — The British government makes a significant change to colonial policy, requiring colonial governors to obtain prior approval before granting land in or near areas inhabited by Indians.
The American Revolution in 1764
End of Salutary Neglect
While Parliament and Grenville search for new ways to raise revenue, Grenville instructs customs officials and the Royal Navy to start enforcing the Navigation Acts. In effect, this ends the unwritten policy of Salutary Neglect.
April 5 — Parliament passes the American Revenue Act, also known as the “Sugar Act.” It marks the first time Parliament has tried to explicitly generate revenue from the colonies through taxation. The act extends the old Molasses Act of 1733 and includes duties on imported commodities such as sugar, wine, coffee, and textiles.
The Sugar Act is expected to bring in £200,000 per year. By the time the Sugar Act is passed, Parliament has decided to keep a standing army in North America. The purpose of the army is to garrison the forts on the Western Frontier.
However, Americans are uneasy over the idea of a standing army. Although it is intended to defend them, they also fear it can be used against them. Grenville intends to use the revenue from the Sugar Act to help fund the new army.
To enhance the enforcement of the Navigation Acts and combat widespread smuggling, the Sugar Act explicitly requires customs agents and collectors to perform their jobs, or they will be subject to fines. Further, anyone accused of violating the Sugar Act will have their case tried in the Vice-Admiralty Court in Halifax, Nova Scotia, which does not use a jury.
Taxation Without Representation and the Sugar Crisis
May 24 — Some accounts indicate James Otis introduces the idea of “taxation without representation” during a protest at a Boston town meeting. He calls for a united response from the colonies against the concept.
June 12 — The Massachusetts General Court establishes a Committee of Correspondence to coordinate communication with other colonies regarding the Sugar Act.
July 23 — James Otis publishes “The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved,” a pamphlet in which he lays out the argument against taxation without representation. He also encourages merchants to initiate boycotts of English goods.
September 1 — Parliament approves the Currency Act and prohibits all colonies from issuing paper currency. The purpose of the act is to manage the risks associated with paper money, including inflation. It also addresses the concerns of British creditors who are worried about receiving worthless currency as payment. The act requires debts to be paid with specie — hard money — that is often in short supply in the American Colonies.
Pontiac’s Rebellion Ends
November 17 — Chief Pontiac ends his rebellion by surrendering to British forces near the Muskingum River in Ohio.
The American Revolution in 1765
February 5 — Benjamin Franklin and other colonial agents meet with Prime Minister George Grenville in London. The agents voice their opposition to the forthcoming stamp tax. According to some accounts, Grenville asks for alternatives, but the agents fail to provide their own solutions.
March 22 — King George III authorizes the Stamp Act, which is set to become law on November 1. It levies taxes on a wide range of printed items, including legal documents, newspapers, almanacs, playing cards, and dice. Each item must bear an official stamp indicating that the tax has been paid. The revenue generated from these taxes is intended to cover up to one-third of the expenses associated with garrisoning and protecting the colonies.
- It is the first time Parliament has imposed a “direct tax” on its North American Colonies for the purpose of raising revenue.
- Furthermore, the revenues collected will not be sent to local legislatures but will go directly to the English treasury.
- Additionally, the Stamp Act allows those who violate its provisions to be tried in Vice-Admiralty courts without a jury.
Stamp Act Crisis
The provisions of the Stamp Act lead to unprecedented resistance from a wide range of individuals and groups, including merchants, lawyers, publishers, landowners, and shipbuilders throughout the colonies. The resistance, known as the Stamp Act Crisis, also leads to the formation of groups who are known as the Sons of Liberty.
Quartering Act of 1765
March 24 — Parliament approves the Quartering Act, a request made by General Thomas Gage to aid in the accommodation and provisioning of British troops. This law dictates that in cases where there are no barracks available, the colonial legislatures are obligated to financially support the provision of shelter and sustenance for British soldiers for a duration of two years. Additionally, specific prices are outlined for the supplies and services furnished to the troops.
Patrick Henry Speech and the Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions
May 29 — Patrick Henry delivers a passionate speech condemning British tax policies and introduces a set of seven resolutions to the Virginia House of Burgesses. The fifth resolve argues that only colonial legislatures, not Parliament, possess the authority to levy taxes on their own citizens. In response to cries of “treason,” Henry says, “if this be treason, make the most of it.”
May 30 — The House of Burgesses adopts most of Henry’s resolutions, but then remove the controversial fifth resolve. However, all the resolves, including the fifth, are printed and distributed throughout the colonies. The Virginia Resolves protest against the Stamp Act and its implicit endorsement of taxation without representation.
June 6 — The General Court of Massachusetts, acting on the proposal of James Otis, sends a circular letter to the other colonies, suggesting an intercolonial congress to formally protest the Stamp Act.
July 10 — George Grenville resigns as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister. He is succeeded by Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham, who is sympathetic to the concerns of the American Colonies.
First Boston Stamp Act Riot
August 13 — The Boston office of Andrew Oliver, the Stamp Agent is vandalized by a mob, likely under the direction of the Sons of Liberty.
The mob hangs an effigy of Oliver on a tree at the intersection of Essex and Washington Streets, which becomes known as the “Liberty Tree.”
When Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson tries to calm the mob, the people throw stones at him and he is forced to retreat. Royal Governor Francis Bernard takes refuge at Castle William in Boston Harbor.
August 15 — Andrew Oliver resigns from his position as stamp master.
Second Boston Stamp Act Riot
August 26 — A mob attacks the home of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson and the offices of the Vice-Admiralty Court.
September 16 to 17 — More acts of violence against Stamp Agents take place, extending as far as Philadelphia.
Stamp Act Congress
October 7 to 25 — 28 delegates from 9 colonies meet at City Hall in New York to determine a unified response to the Stamp Act. Because the proceedings of the Stamp Act Congress are not authorized by the Crown, they are considered illegal.
During the deliberations, the delegates engage in debates and pass 13 resolutions, asserting their rights as English citizens, particularly their entitlement to trial by jury.
The Stamp Act Congress issues a Declaration of Rights and Grievances, and sends petitions to the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The documents support their belief that only local legislatures have the authority to impose taxes, and issue a threat of nonimportation of British goods in retaliation.
This congress sets an important precedent for united action among the colonies, which has never taken place before.
The Massachusetts General Court passes its own resolutions reaffirming the rights of colonists.
October 28 — Merchants in New York City initiate a Non-Importation Agreement, pledging to boycott British goods until the Stamp Act is revoked. The articles of the agreement appear in newspapers on October 31.
New York Stamp Act Riot
November 1 — The Stamp Act officially takes effect, accompanied by outbreaks of violence where mobs attack colonial courts and tax officials in New York. The violence coincides with Guy Fawkes Day celebrations, commemorating the foiling of the 1605 plot to destroy Parliament with gunpowder.
Boston Non-Importation Agreement
December 9 — Around 250 Boston merchants join the non-importation movement, leading to significant reductions in exports from Great Britain. In response, a merchant’s committee is established in Parliament to advocate for the repeal of the Stamp Act.
December 13 — General Thomas Gage formally requests the New York Assembly to raise the required funds mandated by the Quartering Act.
The American Revolution in 1766
January 17 — London merchants, who have been hurt by colonial non-importation, petition Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act. They are joined by William Pitt and other leading Whigs who argue against Taxation Without Representation.
February 13 — Benjamin Franklin, serving as the Colonial Agent for Pennsylvania, testifies before Parliament about the hardships caused by the Stamp Act. Franklin warns that using the British military to enforce the tax could provoke armed resistance.
Stamp Act Repeal
February 22 — The House of Commons votes to repeal the Stamp Act. William Pitt praises the colonies for resisting taxes imposed by a body in which they have no representation.
March 17 — The House of Lords votes to repeal the Stamp Act. The repeal is influenced by petitions from British merchants who have suffered due to non-importation.
March 18 — Parliament, at the request of Prime Minister Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham, reaffirms its authority over the colonies through the Declaratory Act.
It extends the Parliament’s influence over colonial matters “in all cases whatsoever” and declares colonial legislation that challenges parliamentary prerogatives as “utterly null and void.”
The law does not directly mention taxation but is used to justify the use of military force and changes to existing trade laws that are made through the American Board of Customs Commissioners.
April 7 — General Guy Carleton is appointed Lieutenant Governor-General of Canada.
April 26 — News of the repeal of the Stamp Act leads to celebrations throughout the colonies, particularly in Boston and New York. The boycott of English goods comes to an end.
July 24 — Chief Pontiac meets with British officials at Oswego, New York, and eventually reaches a peace treaty with Indian superintendent Sir William Johnson.
November 1 — Parliament ends the tax on the import of foreign molasses. However, colonial products destined for northern Europe now need to be cleared through British ports in advance.
December 6 to 19 — The Massachusetts Assembly compensates victims of Stamp Act violence, but pardons participants in the riots. The New York Assembly refuses to provide revenues for the Quartering Act and is suspended by Governor Henry Moore.
The American Revolution in 1767
June 6 — Governor Henry Moore reconvenes the New York Assembly after a six-month hiatus. Moore has received assurances that the Quartering Act will be approved and funding for its provisions will be provided.
Townshend Revenue Act
June 29 — Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend convinces Parliament to pass the Revenue Act, more commonly known as the Townshend Duties Act.
- It levies taxes on various imported goods such as glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea in the colonies.
- To enforce compliance, four new Vice-Admiralty Courts are established, which do not include juries.
- The funds generated from these Townshend Duties are intended to cover the salaries of colonial officials, thereby making them financially independent of colonial legislatures.
- A Board of Customs Commissioners is established in Boston to deal with the issue of smuggling.
Battle of the Liberty Poles Begins in New York
August 10 — As the New York assembly debates whether to provide funding for the Quartering Act as requested by General Thomas Gage, the Sons of Liberty initiate protests in the streets. This marks the beginning of a series of violent clashes between British troops and the Sons of Liberty over the erection of a “Liberty Pole.”
Lord North Succeeds Townshend
September 4 — Lord Frederick North succeeds Charles Townshend as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
October 1 — Parliament passes the Suspending Act, which dissolves the New York Assembly due to its refusal to comply with the provisions of the Quartering Act.
October 28 — A town meeting in Boston protests against the Townshend Duties by compiling a list of British goods to be boycotted. This resumption of non-importation is adopted by merchants in Providence and Newport, Rhode Island, as well as in New York.
November 5 — The first American Board of Customs Commissioners arrive in Boston.
November 20 — The Townshend Duties take effect.
John Dickinson’s Letters From a Farmer
December 2 — John Dickinson anonymously writes a series of 12 “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies.” They are printed in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. The letters are written as a protest against the Townshend Duties.
In these letters, Dickinson acknowledges Parliament’s authority to regulate commerce but argues that imposing external taxes is unconstitutional. He also raises concerns about the suspension of the New York Assembly, viewing the move as a threat to all colonial liberties.
The American Revolution in 1768
February 11 — In London, Benjamin Franklin is appointed as the Colonial Agent for Georgia.
Massachusetts Circular Letter
February 11 — Samuel Adams and James Otis collaborate and write a circular letter addressed to the colonial assemblies. The letter informs the recipients of Massachusetts’s opposition to the Townshend Duties and renews the call for a unified colonial response.
It acknowledges Parliament’s authority over the colonies but reiterates the dissent over Taxation Without Representation.
The letter also raises concerns about the growing independence of governors and judges from local legislatures.
April 22 — Lord Hillsborough, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, issues orders to colonial governors to prevent their own assemblies from drafting circular letters. He specifically instructs Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard to dissolve the general court if it refuses to retract its circular letter.
May 8 — In London, Benjamin Franklin, publishes a British edition of John Dickinson’s “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania.” It is popular and is even translated into French.
May 16 — The Virginia House of Burgesses composes a circular letter calling for unified action with other colonies in the event of any British attempts to “enslave” them. It also calls for a “hearty union” between the colonies.
May 17 — The 50-gun warship HMS Romney arrives in Boston Harbor. Its presence serves as a symbol of Britain’s determination to protect customs officials and enforce parliamentary directives.
June 6 — The New York assembly complies with the provisions of the Quartering Act and approves £3,000 to support the British Army under General Thomas Gage.
June 10 — John Hancock’s sloop Liberty is confiscated by Comptroller Benjamin Hallowell and Collector Joseph Harrison after Hancock refuses to allow the ship to be inspected.
Customs officials suspect the ship is smuggling wine. The vessel is towed from the wharf and anchored in the harbor next to the HMS Romney.
In response, a mob, likely organized by the Sons of Liberty, attacks customs officials at the dock. After considerable legal disputes, the Liberty is eventually returned to Hancock on March 25, 1769.
The “Liberty Affair” is viewed by some as the first instance of open resistance to British authority during the American Revolution.
Massachusetts Refuses to Rescind the Circular Letter
June 21 — Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard follows Lord Hillsborough’s instructions, and demands that the Massachusetts General Court rescind its circular letter.
June 30 — The Massachusetts General Court refuses to rescind the circular letter, by a vote of 92 to 17. In response, an infuriated Governor Francis Bernard dissolves the legislature.
Boston Non-Importation Agreement
August 1 — Boston merchants institute a new Non-Importation Agreement against British goods.
August 15 — Samuel Adams and James Otis also coordinate celebrations on the anniversary of riots against Andrew Oliver and the Stamp Act.
August 27 — New York merchants agree to a strict non-importation of British goods, contingent on the cancellation of the Townshend Duties.
September 13 — 26 Massachusetts towns appoint delegates to attend a convention to protest of the suspension of the General Assembly and the Townshend Duties. Governor Francis Bernard refuses to engage in discussions regarding the impending arrival of more British troops in Boston.
September 23 to 29 — The provincial convention convenes in Boston — illegally. The convention is made up of 70 representatives from 66 towns and districts. The convention petitions Governor Francis Bernard to reinstate the legislature.
Occupation of Boston
October 1 — Two British infantry regiments, the 14th West Yorks and the 29th Worcesters, transfer from the garrison at Halifax, Nova Scotia, to help assist customs officials in enforcing the law.
British officials also hope the increased military presence with convince compliance with the Townshend Acts.
The troops camp on Boston Common but later find accommodations in privately owned warehouses and facilities rented from citizens.
October 26 — General Guy Carleton arrives in Canada and takes over as Governor-General of Canada.
The American Revolution in 1769
March 10 — Philadelphia merchants reach an agreement to support the non-importation movement until the Townshend Duties are repealed. They also agree to ban all British imports starting on April 1.
March 30 — Baltimore merchants agree to non-importation of British goods until the Townshend Duties are revoked.
May 7 — A series of nonimportation resolutions known as the Virginia Resolves is drafted by George Mason and introduced into the House of Burgesses by George Washington.
These resolutions reaffirm that the colony’s legislature is the sole authority in regard to taxes. The resolves are unanimously adopted.
Subsequently, a petition to the King, articulating these same principles, is written by Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee.
May 17 — The Virginia House of Burgesses is dissolved after rejecting Parliament’s authority to tax the colonies without representation.
The members respond by meeting at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg as an extralegal body and establishing the Virginia Association to enforce the boycott of British goods, luxury items, and other “goods,” including slaves.
Other colonies follow Virgina with similar resolutions.
June 22 — The non-importation movement gains further momentum as a convention held in Annapolis, Maryland, lends its support to the cause.
June 27 — The Massachusetts House of Representatives petitions King George III to remove Governor Francis Bernard.
July 31 — Chief Justice Thomas Hutchinson is chosen to replace Francis Bernard Governor of Massachusetts. Bernard departs from Boston to England amidst celebrations.
Assault of James Otis
September 5 — An altercation takes place between James Otis and Customs Commissioner John Robinson, resulting in a head injury that effectively ends Otis’s public career.
October 12 —The New Jersey Assembly adopts Non-Iimportation Agreements previously endorsed by merchants in New York and Pennsylvania.
October 28 — Boston printers John Mein and John Fleeming, whose advertisements had criticized Samuel Adams and listed the names of merchants continuing to import British goods, are attacked by the Sons of Liberty on King Street.
December 16 — Alexander McDougall, a key leader of the New York Sons of Liberty, anonymously publishes “A Son of Liberty to the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York.” A reward is offered for information on the author of the incendiary pamphlet.
The American Revolution in 1770
January 16 — British soldiers dismantle the Liberty Pole in New York City and place its remains in front of a tavern known to be frequented by the Sons of Liberty.
January 19–20 — The Battle of Golden Hill takes place. It erupts between British soldiers and the citizens of New York, and the Sons of Liberty after the soldiers cut down a new Liberty Pole in the Golden Hill section of Manhattan, New York. British troops inflict wounds on some citizens with bayonets. As a result, the incident is referred to by some as the “First Bloodshed of the Revolution.”
January 22 — In New York, British soldiers are confined to their barracks unless accompanied by an officer.
January 31 — Lord Frederick North assumes the position of Prime Minister and supports the repeal of the Townshend Duties.
January 31 — In Boston, a proposed boycott of tea is supported by 500 women.
February 8 — Alexander McDougall is arrested in New York. McDougall refuses to post bond and remains in custody until his trial.
The Death of Christopher Seider
February 22 — In Boston, Loyalist Ebenezer Richardson is attacked by a mob. In response, he fires a gun into the crowd, killing Christopher Seider, an 11-year-old boy. A Boston jury subsequently finds him guilty of murder.
March 5 — The Boston Massacre takes place during a midnight confrontation. A mob starts throwing stones at a British guard under the command of Captain Thomas Preston. As the situation escalates, the troops fire on the mob. Five people are killed, including Crispus Attucks, and eight others are wounded.
Townshend Duties Repealed
April 12 — Parliament concedes to colonial resistance and complaints from British merchants who have suffered due to non-importation and repeals the Townshend Duties. However, Prime Minister Lord Frederick North retains the existing tax on tea.
The Quartering Act is also allowed to expire without renewal.
July 7 — The New York Assembly votes to suspend non-importation of all British goods except tea.
July 25 — Alexander McDougall leads protests against the suspension of non-importation by the New York Assembly.
Boston Massacre Trials
October 24 to 30 — Captain Thomas Preston, who was charged with the deaths at the Boston Massacre, is successfully defended at his trial by John Adams and Josiah Quincy, Jr.
Despite his acquittal, Preston receives personal threats and seeks refuge in Castle Williams in Boston Harbor.
November 27 to December 5 — The eight British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre are tried. Six are acquitted, and two are found guilty of manslaughter. Privates Matthew Kilroy and Hugh Montgomery are branded on the thumb and released.
December 13 — Alexander McDougall is arrested and imprisoned.
The American Revolution in 1771
January 15 — The North Carolina assembly passes the Johnston Riot Act, which considers riotous behavior as treason. This act is primarily aimed at lawless settlers who support regulator activity on the western frontier.
March 14 — Thomas Hutchinson is appointed Royal Governor of Massachusetts.
The Regulator Movement in North Carolina
March 19 — In North Carolina, Governor William Tryon mobilizes the militia to protect court proceedings held at Hillsboro from potential attacks by backcountry “Regulators.”
May 9 — North Carolina Militia, under command of General Hugh Waddell, start their march from Salisbury to join Governor Tryon at Hillsboro. During the march, Waddell encounters a force of Regulators and decides to fall back, rather than engage them.
On May 11 — Tryon marches from New Bern toward Hillsboro, North Carolina, with 1,200 militia and several cannons. The cannons were sent to him by General Gage.
Battle of Alamance
May 16 — The Battle of Alamance takes place. Tryon and the militiamen crush a force of 2,000 Regulators.
The Regulators, who are poorly armed and undisciplined, engage in internal disputes over whether to fight or disband. Tryon forces the issue by advancing on them and opening fire with artillery.
Tryon arranges his men into two lines and initiates an exchange of volleys.
The Regulators hold out for nearly two hours before fleeing in disarray.
Tryon’s forces suffer 9 killed and 61 wounded, while the Regulators lose 20 killed and 50 injured.
Of the 12 prisoners taken, one is hanged on the battlefield, 6 are executed on June 19, and the rest receive pardons.
Additionally, 6,500 settlers in the region are required to sign Oaths of Allegiance to the Crown.
The American Revolution in 1772
June 9 — The British revenue cutter HMS Gaspée, commanded by Lieutenant William Dudingston, runs aground in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, while pursuing suspected smugglers. That night, a group of armed citizens led by Abraham Whipple captures the vessel and sets it ablaze. Dudingston, who is wounded during the attack, is arrested for illegally seizing several colonial vessels. He remains incarcerated until the Admiralty agrees to pay his fine.
June 13 — Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson decides his salary will be funded from tea tax revenues rather than from funds raised by the Massachusetts General Court. Similar provisions are also applied to Superior Court judges. This increased independence of the executive and judiciary from the legislature is seen as a threat to self-rule.
August 20 — A royal commission is established to investigate the Gaspée Incident. The commission is granted authority to suspend trial by jury. Additionally, the British Crown offers a substantial reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the incident, but no witnesses come forward.
September 2 — Another commission is appointed to investigate and apprehend the individuals behind the Gaspée Incident. The commission includes Governor Joseph Wanton of Rhode Island, the Boston Vice-Admiralty judge, and the chief justices of Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. A significant reward is posted for information, but the threat of sending the suspects to England for trial undermines the concept of trial by jury.
Boston Committee of Correspondence
November 2 — 21-member Committee of Correspondence is established in Boston. It includes James Otis, Samuel Adams, and Dr. Joseph Warren. The committee’s purpose is to communicate with town governments throughout Massachusetts and coordinate resistance to government policies. The proceedings are later published as the “Boston Pamphlet,” which denounces British attempts to impose taxes, deploy troops, and suspend trial by jury as a means of “enslaving” the colonies.
November 20 — Samuel Adams and Dr. Joseph Warren draft a declaration of rights and a list of grievances against the British government. This document is sent to towns across the colony. They appeal to Governor Thomas Hutchinson to reconvene the General Court, but he refuses to comply.
The American Revolution in 1773
January 6 — Governor Hutchinson presides over the new session of the Massachusetts General Court. During this session, he lectures the members, emphasizing the proper roles of Parliament and the Colonies.
However, he also threatens to send suspected felons directly to England for trial, effectively eliminating the traditional trial-by-jury system. This increases concerns among the colonists about their legal rights.
Committees of Correspondence
March 12 — The Virginia House of Burgesses takes a significant step by authorizing a standing Committee of Correspondence. This committee includes Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and Richard Henry Lee, is tasked with communicating directly with other colonial legislatures.
The committee is formed in protest of the Gaspée Affair Commission’s ability to revoke trial by jury and send suspected individuals to England for trial.
May 10 — Parliament passes the Tea Act which is approved by King George III. This act is Lord Frederick North’s attempt to rescue the financially struggling British East India Company, which had been severely affected by colonial boycotts. Under the Tea Act, the company gains a monopoly on the importation of tea to the colonies and sells it at a lower price than smuggled tea, undercutting local merchants.
May 21 — Connecticut forms a Committee of Correspondence.
May 27 — New Hampshire forms a Committee of Correspondence.
Hutchinson Letter Affair
June 2 — Private letters written by Governor Thomas Hutchinson and Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver to British authorities, advocating for severe measures against colonial dissent, are obtained by members of the Massachusetts General Court and read aloud. This revelation further inflames tensions between the colony and the British government.
July 7 — The Massachusetts Assembly, angered by Governor Hutchinson’s letters to British officials, which called for suppressing rebellious colonials, petitions the King for his removal. Hutchinson responds by demanding that Postmaster Benjamin Franklin be prosecuted for treason, as he was involved in the transmission of these letters.
July 8 — South Carolina establishes a Committee of Correspondence.
September 10 — Georgia establishes a Committee of Correspondence.
October 14 — A cargo of British tea is set on fire by a mob in Annapolis, Maryland.
October 15 — Maryland establishes a Committee of Correspondence.
October 16 — Pennsylvania establishes a own committee of correspondence. During a mass meeting, resolutions are adopted, declaring anyone who imports tea as an “enemy to his country.” The local tea agents are also forced to resign from their positions.
October 23 — Delaware establishes a Committee of Correspondence.
November 27 — The Dartmouth, carrying East India tea, arrives in Boston Harbor. The colonial government insists that all duties on the tea must be paid by December 16.
November 29 — A mass meeting is held in Boston, in defiance of Governor Thomas Hutchinson’s orders. The participants decide to send the Dartmouth back to England without paying the required duties. In response, Governor Hutchinson orders harbor officials to prevent all tea ships in Boston Harbor from departing until the taxes have been paid.
December 8 — North Carolina establishes a Committee of Correspondence.
Boston Tea Party
December 16 — A meeting is held at Old South Church, in Boston and is attended by approximately 8,000 people. This gathering culminates in the Boston Tea Party, a significant act of defiance against royal authority. The Sons of Liberty, disguised as Indians, board the tea ships Dartmouth, Eleanor, and Beaver at Griffith’s Wharf and proceed to throw 342 chests of tea, valued at £10,000, into Boston Harbor. The destruction of the tea leads Parliament to consider harsh measures against Massachusetts.
December 25 — The Massachusetts General Court petitions King George III again, asking for the removal of Governor Thomas Hutchinson and Provincial Secretary Andrew Oliver. The petition arrives in London on February 7, 1774, but is ignored.
The American Revolution in 1774
January 20 — New York establishes a Committee of Correspondence.
January 25 — In Boston, customs official John Malcolm is tarred and feathered.
January 27 — News of the Boston Tea Party, as reported by Governor Thomas Hutchinson, reaches the government in London. Soon after, British officials decide more stringent measures are required to maintain the authority of the king and Parliament over the American colonies.
January 30 — Benjamin Franklin is dismissed from his position as Postmaster General by the Privy Council for Plantation Affairs.
February 8 — New Jersey establishes a Committee of Correspondence.
The Boston Port Bill Introduced
March 18 — Lord Frederick North introduces the Boston Port Bill to the House of Commons. It is the first of the Coercive Acts, which are known as the Intolerable Acts in America. It mandates the closure of Boston’s port until the East India Company is reimbursed by Massachusetts for the tea that was destroyed during the Boston Tea Party.
- Parliament passes the bill on March 25.
- King George III gives his Royal Assent on March 31.
- The provisions of the act will go into effect on June 1.
March 30 — Governor Thomas Hutchinson dissolves the Massachusetts General Court.
April 22 — The New York Sons of Liberty board the ship London, dressed as Indians, and dump tea into New York Harbor.
Yellow Creek Massacre
April 30 — A party of frontiersmen attacks and kills a group of Indians at Logan’s Camp in Virginia, including family members of Chief Logan of the Shawnee. This event marks the beginning Lord Dunmore’s War, and leads to violent attacks against settlers by the Indians.
May 3 — In Boston, effigies of Governor Thomas Hutchinson and Solicitor General Alexander Wedderburn are publicly burned.
May 12 – The Boston Committee of Commerce calls for the reinstatement of non-importation of British goods until the Tea Act and the Boston Port Bill are repealed. A circular letter is written to New York and Philadelphia and sent by express rider — Paul Revere.
Gage Arrives in Boston
May 13 — General Thomas Gage arrives in Boston and assumes the responsibilities of Governor of Massachusetts. He brings four infantry regiments with him. Gage also retains his responsibilities as the Commander-in-Chief of British forces.
May 17 — Citizens of Providence, Rhode Island, make an appeal for the establishment of the first intercolonial body to resist the Intolerable Acts, signaling a growing desire for unified action among the colonies.
More Punishment for Massachusetts
May 20 — King George III signs two more of the Intolerable Acts into law.
The first is the Massachusetts Government Act, which nullifies the colony’s charter and tightens political and legal control over Massachusetts.
The second is the Administration of Justice Act, which mandates that anyone accused of a capital crime in Massachusetts must stand trial in England or in a different colony from where the crime was committed.
Additionally, all colonial officials will now be appointed by the British government, and town meetings are prohibited without prior consent from the Royal Governor.
May 26 — In Virginia, Governor John Murray, Lord Dunmore, dissolves the House of Burgesses due to the assembly’s support for Massachusetts.
May 27 — Members of the House of Burgesses meet at Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg. They continue their support for Massachusetts, support economic sanctions against Britain, and call for an intercolonial congress.
The Port of Boston Closes
June 1 — The Boston Port Bill becomes law, and closes the Port of Boston to most traffic.
Quartering Act of 1774
June 2 — Parliament revises the Quartering Act, expanding its provisions to include all colonies, making it mandatory for each to cover the expenses related to maintaining the garrisons of British troops.
Solemn League and Covenant
June 5 — Dr. Joseph Warren publishes the Solemn League and Covenant, an agreement among Boston merchants to support another round of non-importation, demonstrating their commitment to resistance against British policies.
June 10 — The Massachusetts General Court meets in Salem, and approves a resolution calling for an intercolonial congress.
June 10 — Governor Dunmore also responds to a Shawnee uprising by calling up the North Carolina Militia.
Rhode Island Elects Delegates to the First Continental Congress
June 14 — Rhode Island becomes the first colony to select delegates to the First Continental Congress. Ultimately, 11 other colonies follow suit in selecting their representatives for the upcoming Congress.
June 17 — General Thomas Gage suspends the Massachusetts General Court. The move is seen as an attempt to prevent the colony from choosing delegates to the First Continental Congress.
Samuel Adams responds by holding a Town Meeting. The participants vote against paying for the tea.
June 22 — King George III signs the Quebec Act. It establishes a formal government in Canada and expands the province of Quebec to the Mississippi River and Ohio River.
- The purpose is to end colonial land claims in the West, which directly affects territories granted to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia by their charters.
- The Quebec Act also grants religious freedom to the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec. This raises concerns among the predominantly Protestant colonies, who distrust Catholics after centuries of war and persecution in Europe.
August 6 — The Virginia Convention extends the Virginia Association and its boycott of English goods.
August 10 — Georgia adopts a Declaration of Rights, instead of sending delegates to the First Continental Congress.
James Wilson and Dominion Theory
August 17 — In Philadelphia, lawyer James Wilson publishes “Considerations on the Nature and Extent of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament.” Wilson introduces the “dominion theory,” which asserts allegiance to the King while rejecting Parliamentary supremacy over the colonies.
Massachusetts Powder Alarm
September 1 — General Thomas Gage orders the seizure of the militia arsenal in Somerville, located six miles from Boston. He sends Lieutenant Colonel George Maddison with 260 soldiers to carry out this task. The troops seize 250 barrels of gunpowder and take them to Castle William.
September 4 — News of the removal of the gunpowder spreads, enraging colonists. Rumors spread that the British have bombarded Boston and destroyed the city. In response, thousands of armed citizens travel to Boston and gather at Cambridge.
The First Continental Congress Convenes
September 5 — The First Continental Congress convenes at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia. The 55 delegates engage in discussions about defining their rights and finding means to defend them.
Peyton Randolph of Virginia is elected as the first President of Congress.
September 5 — In Boston, General Thomas Gage responds to the Powder Alarm by ordering the construction of of fortifications at Boston Neck, effectively cutting the city off from the mainland.
September 9 — The Massachusetts county convention in Suffolk adopts the “Suffolk Resolves,” a document written by Dr. Joseph Warren. The resolves denounce the changes in colonial government imposed by the Intolerable Acts. They outline specific measures to counteract these Imperial actions, including:
- Withholding taxes from the government.
- Ignoring the rulings of appointed judges.
- Implementing another round of non-importation.
The Suffolk Resolves also:
- Criticize Lord North.
- Urge citizens to make military preparations to defend the colony by force if necessary.
Express Rider Paul Revere is sent to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia with a copy of the Suffolk Resolves.
Congress Adopts the Suffolk Resolves
September 17 — The Continental Congress adopts the Suffolk Resolves to encourage organized colonial resistance against the Intolerable Acts and approves political resistance. The move marks the emergence of the Continental Congress as a governing body guiding the resistance to the Intolerable Acts.
Galloway’s Plan of Union
September 28 — Pennsylvania delegate Joseph Galloway proposes a union of the colonies with Great Britain to prevent the outbreak of hostilities. Galloway’s Plan of Union involves creating a grand council of the colonies under a Governor-General appointed by the King. The plan is rejected by a vote of 6 to 5 on October 24.
Massachusetts Provincial Congress
October 5 — Governor Thomas Gage dissolves the Massachusetts General Court. The assembly reconvenes in Salem as the extralegal Massachusetts Provincial Congress.
John Hancock assumes the role of President and authorizes the formation of a Committee of Public Safety. The Committee of Safety votes to mobilize the militia and purchase weapons, in preparation for war.
The Provincial Congress also sets up a network of spies in Boston to keep an eye on the British, and a network of Express Riders for the purpose of riding through the countryside to notify the militia of British military action and raise the alarm.
Battle of Point Pleasant
October 10 — In the western region of Virginia, the Battle of Point Pleasant takes place. Virginia militia, led by Colonel Andrew Lewis, and Shawnee warriors, led by Chief Cornstalk, fight at Point Pleasant, near the mouth of the Kanawha River.
The Shawnee warriors are entrenched across the river and repel two militia columns under the command of Colonels Charles Lewis and William Fleming. The battle results in casualties on both sides.
Following this battle, Chief Cornstalk realizes the futility of continued hostilities and decides to sue for peace. This battle marks the conclusion of Dunmore’s War.
Congress Adopts the Declaration and Resolves
October 14 — The Continental Congress takes a significant step by adopting the Declaration and Resolves. The document includes 14 resolutions carefully grounded in the principles of Natural Law.
- Congress condemns the acts and policies imposed by the British government, including the Intolerable Acts, the Quebec Act, and other punitive measures enacted over the preceding decade.
- It reaffirms the belief of the colonists that their rights as English subjects have been violated.
The document does not call for independence but argues that Parliament’s authority over the American Colonies should be limited to regulating commerce and defense.
This Declaration and Resolves is significant because it represents the first collective statement of grievances by a coalition of colonies.
It also reflects the evolving thoughts of moderate figures like John Adams and John Dickinson.
Furthermore, it foreshadows many of the principles that will later be articulated in the Declaration of Independence.
Annapolis Tea Party
October 19 — The tea ship Peggy Stewart is burned by a mob in Annapolis, Maryland.
King George III Bans the Sale of Weapons and Gunpowder
October 19 — King George III issues an order in Council that prohibits the export of weapons and gunpowder to the American Colonies. The order is supposed to be kept confidential, but it leaks to the public.
- The Association intends to enforce non-importation of British goods across the colonies.
- It includes the suspension of the Slave Trade, signaling a significant step in the early efforts to address the issue of slavery in the American Colonies.
- The Association implies that if Parliament does not address American grievances by December 1, 1774, a ban on exports to Great Britain will be implemented the following spring.
Address to the People of Great Britain
October 21 — A congressional address, drafted by John Jay, Robert R. Livingston, and Richard Henry Lee, is issued to the people of Britain. It warns that if tyranny continues unchecked in America, it will eventually find its way to England.
First Continental Congress Adjourns
October 26 — The First Continental Congress adjourns, with plans to reconvene on May 10, 1775, if Great Britain does not address American grievances.
Massachusetts Militia and Minutemen
October 26 — Massachusetts Provincial Congress, meeting at Cambridge, reorganizes the militia, including the establishment of the Minutemen.
Philadelphia Troop of Light Horse
November 17 — The Philadelphia Troop of Light Horse, with 26 members, is established as one of the earliest colonial military units.
December 9 — In Rhode Island, colonists remove the military stores from the facility at Newport.
December 13 — News of the Suffolk Resolves reaches London and is immediately denounced by the British government as an act of treason.
Fort William and Mary
December 14 — In Boston, General Thomas Gage decides to raid another colonial supply depot, this time at Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which was about 50 miles away. However, the colonial spy network finds out and Paul Revere is sent to warn the local militia.
Approximately 400 militiamen, under the command of Major John Sullivan, storm the arsenal at Fort William and Mary. They take six British soldiers prisoner and confiscate 100 barrels of powder. During the raid, the commanding officer at the fort is wounded when the Patriots lower the British flag, and he draws his sword in response.
General Gage’s forces arrive the next day, only to find the fort deserted.
American Revolution Significance
The event known as the American Revolution is important to the nation’s history because it led to the establishment of the independent United States of America.
American Revolution APUSH, Review, Notes, Study Guide
Use the following links and videos to study the American Revolution, the 13 Original Colonies, and British Colonial Policies for the AP US History Exam. Also, be sure to look at our Guide to the AP US History Exam.
American Revolution Definition APUSH
The American Revolution is defined as a crucial prelude to the American Revolutionary War, marked by mounting tensions between the American Colonies and British authorities. It followed the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, a conflict that expanded British control in North America. During this time, various factors, including the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, the Proclamation of 1763, and the Boston Tea Party in 1773, fueled colonial resentment. This decade of escalating disputes ultimately paved the way for the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775, as colonists increasingly sought to assert their rights and independence from British rule.
American Revolution Video for APUSH Notes
This video from Jocz Productions discussed the ideology behind the American Revolution.