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1740: Parliament passes laws permitting citizenship to people
who have lived in the colonies for seven years. It also lets any citizen of
the colonies carry his or her citizenship from colony to colony. A sense of
togetherness in the colonies is created.
1760: George III becomes England’s king after the death of his
grandfather, King George II, courtesy of hereditary succession.
1754–1763: French and Indian War (or in Europe,
the Seven Years’ War). A land disagreement between the
French in North America and the colonists brings British
Regular Troops to the colonies. Colonial militias fight
alongside the troops. Although Britain and its American
colonies win the war, colonists are put off by the obvious arrogance
exhibited by British commanders toward them. Colonists also learn
firsthand how little the “titled elite” of England think of them. Many in
Britain consider Americans to be second class English citizens and of
peasant class, incapable of defending themselves.
1763: The Royal Proclamation of 1763 gives the western lands
(west of the Appalachians) back to the Indians and bans colonial
settlement there. This is a big deal because a war was just fought to claim
this land. The future growth of the colonies is again in doubt. Although
this law is soon changed, colonists grow suspicious of England.
1764 (April): The “Sugar Act”: A tax on sugar and other items
that has a big impact by negatively affecting several markets with which
the colonies trade.
1764: The “Currency Act” prohibits the American colonies from
issuing their own paper money in any form.
1765 (March): “Stamp Act.” Colonists are angry because they
are not part of Parliament and have no vote or say in such things as the
passage of the Sugar Act. This is also seen as an attempt to
restrict the many newspapers in the colony, as well as other
freedoms Americans enjoy. “No Taxation without
Representation!” begins to be heard.
1765 (March): “Quartering Act.” Parliament requires colonists
to allow British troops to stay in their homes, if needed. (See the text of
the Quartering Act on page 71.) If this happens, the colonists must supply
the troops with food (“victuals & cider”).
1765 (October): Representatives from nine colonies gather and
draft a petition to King George III stating that only colonial legislatures
have the power to tax the colonists.
1766 (March): “Declaratory Act.” Parliament says it can make
laws for the colonies as needed, and the colonies must follow them.
1766 (August): The New York Legislature is suspended by
English authorities after it refuses to enforce the Quartering Act.
1767 (June): “Townsend Acts.” The Stamp Act is a complete
failure and is canceled. But paint, paper, glass, lead, and tea are now
taxed as they arrive in the colonies. The decision angers the colonists.
1768 (February): “Massachusetts Circular Letter.”
Samuel Adams writes a statement attacking Parliament’s
determination to continue taxing the colonies, while the
colonies have no voice in Parliament. Adams calls for
unification of the colonies. Many colonies accept the idea and write their
own letter saying much the same thing.
1768 (September): English warships sail into Boston Harbor and
English Infantry move into Boston to “keep order.”
1769 (March): After defying recent parliamentary acts, the
Virginia House of Burgesses is dissolved by the Royal Governor. The
House of Burgesses was the first legislature in the English colonies. It
first met in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619.
1770 (March 5): “The Boston Massacre.” British
troops stationed in Boston are paid little and many spend
their evenings looking for part-time work. Tensions have
been high since they arrived in Boston, and the colonists
are incensed by their attempts to take local jobs. Fights
break out that eventually lead to the “massacre.”
1772 (November): Samuel Adams creates the “Committees of
Correspondence” to communicate what is happening in Boston to other
towns, provinces, and colonies. Similar committees are created in other
colonies. Information is now shared faster than ever before.
1773 (May): The British East India Tea Company is almost
bankrupt and Parliament gives it a near-monopoly to sell tea in the
colonies, which undersells or bypasses American merchants altogether.
This obvious favoritism astonishes—and infuriates—the colonists.
1773 (December 16): “Boston Tea Party.” British law states that
tea must be off-loaded from ships and the tax on the tea paid by a certain
date. If that date passes, troops will unload it—triggering the tax bill.
Colonists decide to destroy the tea by dumping it overboard into the
harbor. Hundreds of local citizens stand on the docks cheering them on.
1774 (March): Parliament is furious after learning about the
dumped tea. It retaliates by passing what became known as the
“Intolerable Acts.” England closes Boston Harbor. (See the Boston Port
Act, page 75.) Many rights of self-government are taken away from
Massachusetts. British soldiers who commit crimes get to go back to
England for trial, and some Canadian boundaries are changed, which
affects New England colonial borders. In addition to all this, the
Quartering Act is expanded. (See Quartering Act on page 71.)
1774 (May): General Thomas Gage is appointed as martial law
governor (civil laws, rights, and liberties are canceled and the military
has direct rule) of Massachusetts. It becomes his job to enforce the
closing of Boston Harbor.
1774 (May): Several colonies propose the idea of a Congress to
discuss united resistance against the “Intolerable Acts.”
1774 (September 5): The First Continental Congress meets. This
is considered an act of treason by England.
1774 (September): “Powder Alarms.” British General Gage
hopes to avoid war by seizing gunpowder and other military supplies
being gathered by colonists. Gage sends troops to raid Charlestown and
seize weapons stored there. Many are alarmed that war might have started
and they were caught unprepared for it. Colonists become more careful
and keep a closer eye on British Regular Troops housed in Boston.
1775 (February): “New England Restraining Act.” The New
England colonies are now required to trade with England only, banning
trade with other countries. Fishing in the North Atlantic is banned as
well. (See Mercantilism, page 65.)
1775 (April 19): Lexington & Concord. General
Gage again attempts to send soldiers to seize colonial
military supplies. Paul Revere, William Dawes, and many
others ride off to warn the local population. The “Shot Heard
Around the World” (symbolically considered the first shot
fired in the American Revolution) is fired on Lexington
Green. After a sharp fight at Concord, several hundred American and
British troops are killed and wounded as the Crown’s soldiers retreat in
disorder back to Boston. The “unthinkable” has to be reported to King
George III: Americans have fired on His Majesty’s troops. American
militia groups begin to gather outside Boston and surround the British
camped within the city. Eventually, there will be as many as 16,000
citizen soldiers from several colonies gathered together.
1775 (May 10): The Second Continental Congress meets.
1775 (June 15): Congress creates the “Continental Army” from
citizen soldiers around Boston and name George Washington as its commander.
1775 (October 18): English ships attack Falmouth, Maine (Portland waterfront) and burn it to the ground. Maine was still part of Massachusetts at this time.
1776 (January 10): Common Sense is published just as news
arrives that King George III had declared the colonies to be in rebellion.
This means thousands of additional British Regular troops will arrive at
the end of winter to “put down” the rebels. As the weeks pass, Common
Sense becomes the largest selling pamphlet in American history.
It is still 176 days until the Declaration of Independence!
Colonial America was a continent with multiple cultures and customs spanning vast geographic distances. Tom Paine's amazing persuasive essay Common Sense unified these seemingly conflicting characteristics into an extraordinary vision.
Read the documents that set the world in motion.
Mr. Wilensky is a fifth-grade teacher in Jefferson County Colorado, where he has been accused of teaching his Colonial America and Revolutionary War classes with enthusiastic zeal. Read More...