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A set of policies that regulated colonial commerce and manufacturing for the benefit of the mother country. Mercantilist policies resulted in the American colonies in the mid-seventeenth century producing agricultural goods and raw materials that were shipped to Britain, where they increased the wealth of Britain through reexportation or manufacture into finished goods that were sold to the colonies or other countries.
Navigation Acts, 1650-1773
British acts of 1650, 1651, 1660, that along with the Staple Act of 1663 created three primary regulations to govern colonial trade.
• all colonial goods imported into England had to be transported on English ships using largely English crews.
• specific colonial goods, enumerated goods (tobacco, sugar, etc.), could only be shipped to England or another English colony.
• the Staple Act stated all goods imported into the colonies had to pass through England.
The Navigation Act of 1660 also explicitly taxed colonial tobacco two pence on every pound and these tobacco taxes made up about 25% of all English customs revenues in the 1660's. The Navigation Acts created tension between the colonies and monarchy in the decades leading up to the Revolutionary War.
Radical Whigs, 1700s
Eighteenth-century opposition party in the British Parliament that challenged the cost of the growing British empire and the subsequent increase in tax collector positions that were used for patronage. They demanded that the British government include more representatives of the propertied classes. The political opinions of the radical Whigs were welcomed by American colonists who resented the heavy taxes imposed upon them.
Land claims and squabbles in North America
The British controlled the colonies on the east coast, and the French held the land around the Mississippi and west of it. Both the British and the French laid claim to Canada and the Ohio Valley region.
• The last of the Franco-British wars (the French and Indian War) began in the colonies in 1754 over rival British and French claims in the Ohio River Valley.
Differences between French and British colonization
The British settled mainly along the coast, where they started farms, towns, and governments. As a general rule, whole families emigrated. The British colonies had little interaction with the local Indians (aside from occasional fighting).
• The French colonized the interior, where they controlled the fur trade.
• Most of the French immigrants were single men, and there were few towns and only loose governmental authority.
• The French lived closely with the Indians, trading with them for furs and sometimes taking Indian wives.
A state without a monarch and with a representative system of govt. Revolutionary leaders in eighteenth century America sought to found a republic as an antidote to the corruption they saw in the British monarchy.
A form of govt. in which supreme power resides in the hands of voting citizens and is exercised by a representative govt. answerable to this group of voters.
• In Revolutionary-era America, republicanism became a social philosophy that reacted against European-style monarchy, embodied a sense of community, and called individuals to act for the public good.
Citizens trained as soldiers who did not serve in the regular army but were called upon to assist the government during emergencies. Each of the thirteen American colonies required its citizens to enroll and train in the militia.
• During the Revolutionary War, nearly half of the colonial army was comprised of militiamen.
Franco-British Wars, 1689-1763
In a span of nearly eighty years, Great Britain and France fought four major wars with one another as they tried to achieve world dominance. Each of the four European wars had a colonial counterpart.
• King William's War, 1689-1697
• Queen Anne's War, 1702-1713
• King George's War, 1744-1748
• French and Indian War, 1754-1763
King William's War, 1689-1697
Only a few battles occurred in northern New England, and none were decisive. The major issue at stake in the colonies was control of the fur trade.
Treaty of Ryswick, 1697
Ended King William's war. It returned territorial gains back to the original owners, effectively reestablishing the prewar status quo.
Queen Anne's War, 1702-1713
Began out of issues left unresolved by King Williams' War. The French and their Algonquin allies staged raids in western New England. The British captured Port Royal in French Acadia (Nova Scotia) and St. Augustine in Florida (Spain was a French ally).
Peace of Utrecht, 1713
Treaty that ended Queen Anne's War. It undermined France's power in North America since it gave Britain the Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia.
King George's War, 1744-1748
Land squabble between France and Britain. France tried to retake Nova Scotia (which it had lost to Britain in Queen Anne's War). The war ended with a treaty restoring the status quo, so that Britain kept Nova Scotia).
Iroquois Confederation, 1750s-1760s
The Iroquois, along with the English and the French, were the three primary powers in northeastern North America. A fragile balance of power existed among the three groups for over a century. In the 1750's all three wanted control over the Ohio Valley.
• This rivalry over the Ohio Valley sparks the French and Indian War.
• The Iroquois ally with the British during this war.
William Pitt, 1754-1763
British secretary of state during the French and Indian War. He brought the British/colonial army under tight control and started drafting colonists, which led to riots. Pitt then made the decision to relax British control and this lessened tensions and generated more colonial cooperation.
French and Indian War, 1754-1763
Part of the Seven Years' War in Europe. Britain and France fought for control of the Ohio Valley and Canada. The Algonquians, who feared British expansion into the Ohio Valley, allied with the French. The Mohawks also fought for the French while the rest of the Iroquois Nation allied with the British. The colonies fought under British commanders.
• Britain eventually won, and gained control of all of the remaining French possessions in Canada, as well as India. Spain, which had allied with France, ceded Florida to Britain, but received Louisiana in return. Following the end of the war, the British ended their earlier policy of salutary neglect toward the American colonies.
Fort Pitt, Fort Duquesne
Fort Duquesne became one of the principal French outposts in the northern Ohio Valley, and, in 1754 the French troops in Fort Duquesne destroyed nearby British Fort Necessity, after Washington and the colonial army surrendered it to them. The British rebuilt Fort Necessity as Fort Pitt in 1758.
Wolfe, Montcalm, Quebec, 1759
British general James Wolfe led an attack on Quebec. The French, under Marquis de Montcalm, fought off the initial attack, but the British recovered and took Quebec in a surprise night attack in September, 1759.
Treaty of Paris, 1763
Treaty between Britain, France, and Spain, which ended the Seven Years War (and the French and Indian War).
• France lost Canada, the land east of the Mississippi, some Caribbean islands and India to Britain.
• France also gave New Orleans and the land west of the Mississippi to Spain, to compensate it for ceding Florida to the British.
War of Jenkins's Ear, 1739-1743
Land squabble between Britain and Spain over Georgia and trading rights. Battles took place in the Caribbean and on the Florida/Georgia border. The name comes from a British captain named Jenkin, whose ear was cut off by the Spanish.
Albany Plan of Union, Benjamin Franklin, 1754
Faced with a threat from the French and France's Indian allies, Franklin wrote this proposal for a unified colonial government, which would handle relations with the Indians, and operate under the authority of the British government.
• None of the colonial assemblies approved it due to taxation issue.
"Join or Die" cartoon, 1754
This was one of the first American political cartoons. It depicted a snake cut into 8 pieces that represented various colonies with the caption "Join or Die."
• Its purpose was to generate support for colonial unity and especially, for Franklin's Albany Plan (it was published in his paper the Pennsylvania Gazette).
Paxton Boys Uprising, 1763
A mob of western Pennsylvania frontiersmen who came to Philadelphia to demand cuts in colonial (not British) taxes and financial aid to fight Indian attacks. The Pennsylvania govt. did make some concessions to the Paxton Boys to avoid bloodshed.
• The incident illustrates the tension between eastern establishment and western frontier ("backcountry") in the colonies.
Carolina Regulators, 1768
Western frontiersmen who rebelled in protest against the high taxes imposed by the Eastern colonial government of North Carolina, and whose organization was crushed by military force by Governor Tryon in 1771. In South Carolina, Regulators were groups of vigilantes who organized to fight outlaw bands along the Western frontier in 1767-1769, and who disbanded when regular courts were established in those areas.
• The Regulator movement again illustrated the tension between the eastern establishment and the western frontier.
Battle of the Alamance, 1771
An army recruited by the North Carolina government put down the rebellion of the Carolina Regulators at Alamance Creek. The leaders of the Regulators were executed.
Salutary neglect, 1714-1763
British colonial policy during the reigns of George I (r. 1714 -1727) and George II (r. 1727-1760) that relaxed supervision of internal colonial affairs, and contributed significantly to the rise of American self-government.
Pontiac's Rebellion, 1763
An Indian uprising after the French and Indian War, led by an Ottawa chief named Pontiac. They opposed British expansion into the western Ohio Valley and began destroying British forts in the area. The attacks ended when Pontiac was killed.
• The Rebellion was influential in the British decision to issue the Proclamation of 1763 forbidding colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Proclamation of 1763
A proclamation from the British government which forbade British colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains, and which required any settlers already living west of the mountains to move back east.
• Created great resentment among the colonists and thousands ignored it and settled there anyway.
• The Proclamation was the first policy to signal the change in British colonial policy from salutary neglect to stricter regulation.
Molasses Act, 1733
British legislation which taxed all molasses, rum, and sugar which the colonies imported from countries other than Britain and her colonies. The act angered the New England colonies since they imported a great amount of molasses from the Caribbean as part of the Triangular Trade. The British had difficulty enforcing the tax; most colonial merchants did not pay it.
Grenville's Program, 1764-1765
As Prime Minister, he passed the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765 to help finance the cost of maintaining a standing force of British troops in the colonies. He believed in reducing the financial burden on the British by enacting new taxes in the colonies.
Sugar Act, 1764
Part of Prime Minister Grenville's revenue program, the act replaced the Molasses Act of 1733, and actually lowered the tax on sugar and molasses (which the New England colonies imported to make rum as part of the triangular trade) from 6 cents to 3 cents a barrel, but for the first time adopted provisions that would insure that the tax was strictly enforced; created the vice-admiralty courts; and made it illegal for the colonies to buy goods from non-British Caribbean colonies.
Currency Act, 1764
British legislation which banned the production of paper money in the colonies in an effort to combat the inflation caused by Virginia's decision to get itself out of debt by issuing more paper money. A shortage of currency was a chronic problem in the colonies and the colonists resented this act.
Vice-Admiralty Courts, 1764-1775
Military tribunals composed only of a judge with no local jury. The Sugar Act of 1764 required that offenders be tried before this tribunal rather than in local courts, provoking opposition from smugglers accustomed to acquittal before sympathetic local juries.
Committees of Correspondence, 1764-1775
These started as groups of private citizens in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York who, in 1763, began circulating information about opposition to British trade measures.
• The first government-organized committee appeared in Massachusetts in 1764.
• Other colonies created their own committees in order to exchange information and organize protests to British trade regulations.
• The Committees became particularly active following the Gaspee Incident.
Stamp Act, 1765
The British law of 1765 that taxed all paper used for colonial documents, such as wills, newspapers, and pamphlets. The Stamp Act was designed simply to raise money for the king and affected nearly everyone, falling hardest on businesses and lawyers. It required that a special stamp be affixed to colonial documents to prove the tax had been paid.
• Many colonists objected strenuously to the Stamp Act, and protest erupted through the colonies.
• Parliament rescinded the Stamp Act in 1766 due to economic considerations but followed it with the Declaratory Act, which asserted that Parliament had a right to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever."
Sons of Liberty, 1765-1775
A secret group which carefully directed groups of protesters that sought to channel popular discontent against British rule.
• They terrorized local British officials and other symbols of colonial authority in the decade of hostilities leading up to the American Revolution.
• They fought acts that imposed unfair taxes on colonists and were the primary participants in the Boston Tea Party.
Mutiny Act, 1765
Colonists were required to help supply and maintain the British army in the colonies. The Massachusetts and New York assemblies refused to vote the required supplies to the troops.
Virginia Resolves, 1765
Patrick Henry's speech which condemned the British government for its taxes and other policies. He proposed 7 "resolves" to show Virginia's resistance to the British policies, 5 of which were adopted by the Virginia legislature. Eight other colonies followed suit and had adopted similar resolves by the end of 1765.
Stamp Act Congress, 1765
27 delegates from 9 colonies met from October 7-24, 1765, and drew up a list of declarations and petitions against the new taxes imposed on the colonies. The Stamp Act taxed all paper used for colonial documents, such as wills, newspapers, and pamphlets.
• The Congress argued colonies could only be taxed through their colonial assemblies.
Declaratory Act, 1766
Passed at the same time that the Stamp Act was repealed, the Act declared that Parliament had the power to tax the colonies both internally and externally, and had absolute power over the colonial legislatures.
• The colonists paid little attention to the passage of the Declaratory Act since, in their view, the more vital fact was Parliament had repealed the hated Stamp Act.
A movement under which the colonies agreed to stop importing goods from Britain in order to protest the Stamp Act.
• This tactic was used throughout the period of escalating tension between Britain and the colonies which culminated in the American Revolution.
Writs of Assistance, 1767
Search warrants issued by the British government. They allowed officials to search houses and ships for smuggled goods, and to enlist colonials to help them search. The writs could be used anywhere, anytime, as often as desired. The officials did not need to prove that there was reasonable cause to believe that the person subject to the search had committed a crime or might have possession of contraband (such as smuggled French goods) before getting a writ or searching a house. The writs were protested by the colonies.
Townshend Acts, 1767
Another series of revenue measures, passed by Townshend as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1767. The acts taxed quasi-luxury items imported into the colonies, including paper, lead, tea, and paint.
• The colonial reaction was outrage because they contended the real purpose of the Acts was to raise revenue rather than regulate trade and therefore they were invalid.
• In reaction, the colonies instituted another movement to stop importing British goods.
Massachusetts Circular Letter aka M.A. 1768
A letter written in Boston and circulated through the colonies in February, 1768, which urged the colonies not to import goods taxed by the Townshend Acts. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia agreed to non-importation. It was followed by the Virginia Circular Letter in May, 1768.
• Parliament ordered all colonial legislatures which did not rescind the circular letters dissolved.
Repeal of the Townshend Acts, except tax on tea, 1770
1770 - Prime Minister Lord North repealed the Townshend Acts, except for the tax on tea.
Lord North, 1770-1782
Prime Minister of England from 1770 to 1782. Although he repealed the Townshend Acts, he generally went along with King George III's repressive policies towards the colonies even though he personally considered them wrong. He hoped for an early peace during the Revolutionary War and resigned after Cornwallis' surrender in 1781.
Boston Massacre, 1770
Competition over jobs brought frequent clashes between dockworkers ("liberty boys") and British soldiers stationed in Boston. On March 4, 1770, a mob of dockworkers started baiting the soldiers by throwing rocks and snowballs at sentries: the soldiers panicked and fired their muskets, killing a few colonials.
• The incident outraged the colonists and increased anti-British sentiment.
Crispus Attucks (1723-1770)
He was one of the colonials involved in the Boston Massacre, and when the shooting started, Attucks was the first man to die and became a martyr. Attucks was probably the first lack man to die in the struggle for American independence.
Gaspée Incident, 1772
The British customs ship Gaspée ran aground off the colonial coast. When the British went ashore for help, colonials boarded the ship and burned it. They were sent to Britain for trial.
• Colonial outrage led to the widespread formation of Committees of Correspondence.
Committees of Correspondence, 1772
Radical Samuel Adams proposed this be formed in Boston to publicize colonial grievances against England. Other colonies formed their own committees and these organizations became an important unifying factor among the thirteen colonies.
Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts, 1771-1774
A Boston-born merchant who served as the Royal Governor of Massachusetts. Even before becoming Governor, Hutchinson had been a supporter of Parliament's right to tax the colonies, and his home had been burned by a mob during the Stamp Acts riots in 1765. In 1773 his refusal to comply with demands to prohibit an East India Company ship from unloading its cargo precipitated the Boston Tea Party. He fled to England in 1774, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Tea Act, East India Company, 1773
The Tea Act gave the East India Company a monopoly on the trade in tea, made it illegal for the colonies to buy non-British tea, and forced the colonies to pay the tea tax of 3 cents per pound.
• The British believed the colonists would welcome the new act because by removing the middlemen it would actually lower the price of tea.
• Instead, it angered American merchants who were fearful of monopolies and the colonists viewed it as another unconstitutional tax so they responded by boycotting tea.
Boston Tea Party, 1773
British ships carrying tea sailed into Boston Harbor and refused to leave until the colonials took their tea. Boston was boycotting the tea in protest of the Tea Act and would not let the ships bring the tea ashore. Finally, on the night of December 16, 1773, colonials disguised as Indians boarded the ships and threw the tea overboard. They did so because they were afraid that Governor Hutchinson would secretly unload the tea because he owned a share in the cargo.
• The British response to the Tea Party was the passage of the Coercive Acts.
Coercive Acts / Intolerable Acts / Repressive Acts, 1774
All of these names refer to the same acts, passed in response to the Boston Tea Party. The Acts included:
• Boston Port Act - Closed Boston Harbor until the city repaid the East India Company for the tea.
• Massachusetts Government Act - Disbanded the Boston Assembly (but it soon reinstated itself). The Massachusetts assembly would no longer be elected, but instead would be appointed by the king. In response, the colonists elected their own legislature which met in the interior of the colony.
• Quartering Act - Required the colony to provide provisions for British soldiers
• Administration of Justice Act - Removed the power of colonial courts to arrest royal officers and provided for royal officers to be tried in England.
Quebec Act, 1774
The Act, passed by Parliament, alarmed the colonies because it recognized the Roman-Catholic Church in Quebec. Some colonials took it as a sign that Britain was planning to impose Catholicism upon the colonies.
Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1774
General Gage, stationed in Boston, was ordered by King George III to arrest Samuel Adams and John Hancock. The British marched on Lexington, where they believed the colonials had a cache of weapons. The colonial militias, warned beforehand by Paul Revere and William Dawes, attempted to block the progress of the troops and were fired on by the British at Lexington. The British continued to Concord, where they believed Adams and Hancock were hiding, and they were again attacked by the colonial militia. As the British retreated to Boston, the colonials continued to shoot at them from behind cover on the sides of the road.
• This was the start of the Revolutionary War.
First Continental Congress, May 1774
The First Continental Congress met to discuss their concerns over the Intolerable Acts: Parliament's dissolutions of the New York (for refusing to pay to quarter troops), Massachusetts (for the Boston Tea Party), and Virginia Assemblies. They took the following actions:
• Rejected the Galloway Plan which was a proposal to create an American parliament appointed by colonial legislatures.
• Stated grievances against the crown called the Declaration of Rights that demanded all oppressive legislation passed since 1763 be repealed.
• Approved the Suffolk Resolves ( originally passed and adopted by Suffolk county, Massachusetts). The resolves nullified the Coercive Acts, closed royal courts, ordered taxes to be paid to colonial governments instead of the royal government, and prepared local militias.
• Created the Continental Association to enforce a new non-importation agreement through Committees of Vigilance.
• Agreed the Congress would meet again in the spring of 1775
Natural Rights Philosophy / "Social Contract" / John Locke (1632-1704)
Locke was a English political philosopher whose ideas inspired the American revolution. He wrote that all human beings have a right to life, liberty, and property, and that governments exist to protect those rights.
• Locke rejected the Divine Right theory of monarchy and held that government was based upon an unwritten "social contract" that existed between the rulers and their people.
• If the government failed to uphold its end of the contract, the people had a right to rebel and institute a new government.
The notion propounded by the British Parliament in the eighteenth century that the House of Commons represented all British subjects, wherever they lived and regardless of whether they had directly voted for their representatives. Prime Minister George Greenville used this idea to argue that the Stamp Act (1765) and other parliamentary taxes on colonists did not constitute taxation without representation.
American colorists rejected the British argument, and insisted that political representatives derived authority only from explicit citizens' consent indicated by elections, and those members of a distant government body were incapable of adequately representing their interests. This theory was in contrast to that held by the colonists that true representation occurred only when a representative was elected by his constituents. According to the actual representation argument colonists could get adequate and fair representation only through their colonial assemblies.
Internal taxes, 1763-1775
Taxes which arose out of activities that occurred "internally" within the colonies. The Stamp Act was considered an internal tax, because it taxed the colonists on legal transactions they undertook locally. Many colonists and Englishmen felt that Parliament did not have the authority to levy internal taxes on the colonies, and that such tax should only be levied by the colonial assemblies.
• The dispute over this was a fundamental source of contention between Britain and the colonies between 1763-1775.
External taxes, 1763-1775
Taxes based on activities that originated outside of the colonies, such as customs duties. The Sugar Act was considered an external tax, because it only operated on goods imported into the colonies from overseas.
• Many colonists who objected to Parliament's "internal" taxes on the colonies felt that Parliament had the authority to levy external taxes on imported goods.
A Massachusetts attorney and politician who was a strong believer in colonial independence. He argued against the Stamp Act and was a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress.
• At the Second Continental Congress he urged that the colonies declare independence. He helped draft and pass the Declaration of Independence.
• Adams later served as the second President of the United States.
Paul Revere, William Dawes
They rode through the countryside warning local militias of the approach of the British troops prior to the Battles of Lexington and Concord, although Revere was detained by the British shortly after setting out, and never completed his portion of the planned ride.
• Thanks to the advance warning, the militias were able to take the British by surprise.
A Massachusetts politician who was a radical fighter for colonial independence. Helped organize the Sons of Liberty and the Non-Importation Commission, which protested the Townshend Acts, and is believed to have led the Boston Tea Party. He served in the Continental Congress throughout the Revolution, and served as Governor of Massachusetts from 1794-1797.
John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1767
Drafted a declaration of colonial rights and grievances, and also wrote the series of "Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania" in 1767 to protest the Townshend Acts. Although an outspoken critic of British policies towards the colonies, Dickinson opposed the Revolution, and, as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776, refused to sign the Declaration of Independence.
A colonial lawyer who defended (usually for free) colonial merchants who were accused of smuggling. Argued against the Writs of Assistance and the Stamp Act. Otis and Samuel Adams were two of the early radicals in Massachusetts.
An American orator and member of the Virginia House of Burgesses who gave speeches against the British government and its policies urging the colonies to fight for independence.
• In connection with a petition to declare a "state of defense" in Virginia in 1775, he gave his most famous speech which ends with the words, "Give me liberty or give me death."
• Henry served as Governor of Virginia from 1776-1779 and 1784-1786, and was instrumental in causing the Bill of Rights to be adopted as part of the U.S. Constitution.
Crowned King of England in 1760, and reigned during the American Revolution. For much of the period between 1763-1776 the colonists saw George III as a good monarch who had been misled about the true nature of the colonial grievances by his ministers.
• That attitude shifted by July 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was published and contained a blistering indictment of George III's colonial policies.
He was a delegate from Virginia at the Second Continental Congress and wrote the Declaration of Independence. He later served as the third President of the United States.
He represented the United States in France and worked to convince the French to recognize and ally with the new nation. His popularity in France helps the American cause.
Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston
These men, along with John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, made up the Committee of Five which drafted the Declaration of Independence.
Wife of John Adams. During the Revolutionary War, she wrote letters to her husband describing life on the home front. She urged her husband to remember America's women in the new government he was helping to create.
George Rogers Clark, 1778
American revolutionary general who conquered the Old Northwest. In 1778 Clark took an expedition into Illinois county and took the British-held settlements of Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes. Clark hoped to take Detroit as well but never received adequate supplies to advance on the settlement.
Benedict Arnold, 1780
Arnold was a Colonel in the Connecticut militia at the outbreak of the Revolution and soon became a General in the Continental Army. He won key victories for the colonies in the battles in upstate New York in 1777, and was instrumental in General Gates' victory over the British at Saratoga.
• After becoming Commander of Philadelphia in 1778, he went heavily into debt, and in 1780, he was caught plotting to surrender the key Hudson River fortress of West Point to the British in exchange for a commission in the royal army.
• He was the most famous traitor in American history.
A delegate to the Second Continental Congress. He agreed that Britain had treated the colonies unfairly, but he did not believe that the colonies should dissolve ties with Britain. He argued against the Declaration of Independence.
John Paul Jones
Revolutionary War naval officer. His ship, the Bonhomme Richard, was crippled in a battle with the British ship Serapis, yet when the British captain asked if Jones was ready to surrender, the answer came proudly, "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight." Jones went on to win the battle. He was the most famous of the American naval leaders.
Thomas Paine: Common Sense, 1776
A British citizen, he wrote Common Sense, published on January 1, 1776, to encourage the colonies to seek independence.
• Common Sense spoke out against the unfair treatment of the colonies by the British government and was instrumental in turning public opinion in favor of the Revolution.
Second Continental Congress, 1775
All thirteen colonies with the exception of Georgia sent representatives to this Congress which met three weeks after Lexington and Concord. The Congress took the following actions:
• Members agreed to support the war.
• They approved the Olive Branch Petition which made a final offer of peace to Britain, offering their loyalty to the British govt. if it resolved their grievances (repealed the Coercive Acts, ended the taxation without representation policies).
• They also passed the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms which stated the British govt. had left only two courses of action to the colonists - submission to tyrannical actions by British ministers or resistance by force.
• George Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of a new colonial army.
Olive Branch Petition, 1775
On July 8, 1775, the colonies made a final offer of peace to Britain, agreeing to be loyal to the British government if it addressed their grievances (repealed the Coercive Acts, ended the taxation without representation policies).
• It was rejected by Parliament, which in August, 1775, passed the American Prohibitory Act forbidding all further trade with the colonies.
Richard Henry Lee's Resolution of June 7, 1776
Stated that the colonies should be independent and sever all political ties with Britain. It was adopted by Congress and was the first step towards independence.
July 4, 1776 and the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was signed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4. It dissolved the colonies' ties with Britain, listed grievances against King George III, and declared the colonies to be an independent nation.
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
A conservative British politician who was generally sympathetic to the colonists' grievances, and who felt that Britain's colonial policies were misguided.
Marquis de Lafayette
Marquis de Lafayette was a French major general who aided the colonies during the Revolutionary War. He and Baron von Steuben (a Prussian general) were the two major foreign military experts who helped train the colonial armies.
Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed's Hill), 1775
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the British troops were based in Boston. The British army had begun to fortify the Dorchester Heights near Boston, and so the Continental Army fortified Breed's Hill, north of Boston, to counter the British plan. British general Gage led two unsuccessful attempts to take this hill, before he finally seized it with the third assault.
• The British suffered heavy losses and lost any hope for a quick victory against the colonies.
• Although the battle centered around Breed's Hill, it was mistakenly named for nearby Bunker Hill.
Battle of Saratoga, 1777
In 1777, British General John Burgoyne attacked southward from Canada along the Hudson Valley in New York, hoping to link up with General Howe in New York City, thereby cutting the colonies in half. Burgoyne was defeated by American General Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777, at the Battle of Saratoga, surrendering the entire British Army of the North.
• The victory convinces the French to make an open alliance with the Patriots.
Conway Cabal, 1777
Intrigue in the Continental Army to replace George Washington as commander of the Continental Army with General Horatio Gates. Washington was being criticized for his recent losses at Brandywine and Germantown and Gates had just won the Battle of Saratoga. Gates publicly supported Washington and the effort to replace him came to an end.
• This incident is a reminder that Washington came in for his share of criticism during the Revolution and did not have the mythical status he is later given in American history.
French Alliance of 1778 / Franco-American Alliance
The colonies needed help from Europe in their war against Britain. France was Britain's rival and hoped to weaken Britain by causing her to lose the American colonies.
• The French were giving secret financial aid to the colonists, but it was the news of the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga that persuaded the French to openly ally with the colonists.
Valley Forge, 1777-1778
Valley Forge was not a battle; it was the site where the Continental Army camped during the winter of 1777- '78, after its defeats at the Battles of the Brandywine and Germantown. The Continental Army suffered further casualties at Valley Forge due to cold and disease. Washington chose the site because it allowed him to defend the Continental Congress if necessary, which was then meeting in York, Pennsylvania after the British capture of Philadelphia.
Yorktown, Lord Cornwallis, 1781
Because of their lack of success in suppressing the Revolution in the northern colonies, in early 1780 the British switched their strategy and undertook a series of campaigns through the southern colonies. This strategy was equally unsuccessful, and the British decided to return to their main headquarters in New York City.
• While marching from Virginia to New York, British commander Lord Cornwallis became trapped in Yorktown on the Chesapeake Bay. His troops fortified the town and waited for reinforcements. The French navy, led by DeGrasse, blocked their escape.
• After a series of battles, Cornwallis surrendered to the Continental Army on October 19, 1781, which ended all major fighting in the Revolutionary War.
Newburgh Conspiracy, Dec. 1782 - March 1783
The officers of the Continental Army had long gone without pay, and they met in Newburgh, New York to address Congress about their pay. Unfortunately, the American government had little money after the Revolutionary War. They also considered staging a coup and seizing control of the new government, but the plotting ceased when George Washington refused to support the plan.
Treaty of Paris, 1783
This treaty ended the Revolutionary War and provided for the following:
• Britain recognized the independence of the United States.
• The Mississippi River would be the western boundary of the United States.
• Americans would have fishing rights off the coast of Canada.
• Americans would pay debts owed to British merchants and pay Loyalist claims for property confiscated
• during the war.
• British would abandon forts on Northwest territories
• The Treaty of Paris set the colonial boundaries as being the southern border of Canada, the northern border of Florida, the Atlantic coast, and the Mississippi River.
Treaty of Paris, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, 1783
They were the American delegates who signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
• They made the decision to start negotiations without the French and sign a preliminary treaty with Britain in 1782 and the final settlement (the Treaty of Paris) in 1783.
Society of the Cincinnati, 1783
A secret society formed by officers of the Continental Army. The purpose of the group was to promote union and national honor, maintain wartime friendships, and look after members in need. George Washington was the first president and many of the Constitution's signers belonged to the group.
Social impact of the war
The Revolutionary War saw the emergence of the first anti-slavery groups, and many of the northern states abolished slavery after the war. Women gained a small status increase for their efforts in the war, but they were primarily valued as mothers of future patriots.
Disestablishment, Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, 1779
Written by Thomas Jefferson, this statute outlawed an established church and called for separation of Church and State.
New state constitutions during the Revolutionary War and after
The first set of constitutions drafted by the individual states placed most of the government's power in the legislature, and almost none in the executive in order to promote democracy and avoid tyranny. However, without the strong leadership of the executive, the state legislatures argued among themselves and couldn't get anything done.
• After the Constitution was written, the states abandoned these old constitutions and wrote new ones that better balanced the power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches.
British fur-trading posts in the Northwest Territory. Their presence in the U.S. led to continued British-American conflicts.
Caused by a post-war decrease in production and increase in unemployment, and also caused by tough interstate commerce rules which decreased trade.
Shay's Rebellion, Winter of 1786-1787
Occurred in the winter of 1786-7 under the Articles of Confederation. Poor, indebted landowners in Massachusetts blocked access to courts and prevented the government from arresting or repossessing the property of those in debt.
• The federal government was too weak to help Boston remove the rebels, a sign that the Articles of Confederation weren't working effectively.
Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)
American painter, most famous for painting the portrait of Washington which was copied for the one dollar bill.
Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827)
An American naturalist painter who was the preeminent painter of his generation. He was known especially for his portraits of George Washington.
Articles of Confederation, 1781-1789
A document adopted in 1777 that articulated the powers of the Second Continental Congress.
• It preserved states' rights while authorizing a limited central govt. - the Congress—with some power to defend the Union and conduct foreign affairs.
• Since it allowed for no taxation, executive (president), or national judiciary, the Articles left the Congress too weak to carry out even its limited duties.
• It was replaced by the Constitution in 1789.
Articles of Confederation: powers, weaknesses, successes
The Articles' weakness was that they gave the federal government so little power that it could not keep the country united. The Articles' only major success was that they settled western land claims with the Northwest Ordinance. The Articles were abandoned for the Constitution.
• Declare war and make peace/foreign relations
• Issue money
• Maintain army and navy
• Could not tax
• Could not regulate trade
• Could not draft troops
• Could not enforce laws
Cession of western land claims
After the Revolutionary War, many states claimed all of the western land between their northernmost and southernmost borders, which meant that many strips of land were claimed by more than one state.
• The Continental Congress was trying to get the states to ratify the Articles of Confederation, but Maryland refused to ratify it until all the states gave their western land claims.
Land Ordinance of 1785
A major success of the Articles of Confederation. Provided for the orderly surveying and distribution of land in the Northwest territory. It provided funding for a public school in every township by setting aside the proceeds from one section. Land was divided into sections and each section consisted of 640 acres at $1.00 per acre. The minimum purchase price of $640 greatly benefited land speculators since the ordinary person could not afford to buy 640 acres.
Northwest Ordinance, 1787
A major success of the Articles of Confederation. This ordinance set up the framework of a government for the Northwest territory. The Ordinance provided that the Territory would be divided into 3 to 5 states, outlawed slavery in the Territory, and set 60,000 as the minimum population for statehood.
• It was one of the few accomplishments of the Articles of Confederation government.
Battle of Fallen Timbers, 1794
General Anthony Wayne gained control of the Ohio Valley when he defeated the Miami Indians in the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
• The victory ended the fighting between the Indians and whites over white settlement west of the Ohio River that had been ongoing since the early 1790s.
Treaty of Greenville, 1795
The Miami Indians signed this treaty with the United States a year after their defeat at Fallen Timbers. The tribe relinquished land in the Northwest Territory in return for the federal government's recognition of their sovereignty over lands that remained under their control.
• This marked the first time the new federal govt. recognized the sovereignty of the tribes over Indian lands.
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