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American Revolution

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on February 13, 2007 at 7:08:23 pm

Causes of the Revolution

  • The British government sought to tax its American possessions, primarily to help pay for its defense of North America from the French in the Seven Years' War. The phrase "no taxation without representation" became popular within many American circles. London argued that the Americans were represented "virtually"; but most Americans rejected the theory that men in London, who knew nothing about their needs and conditions, could represent them.
  • In theory, Great Britain already regulated the economies of the colonies through the Navigation Acts according to the doctrines of mercantilism, which said that anything that benefited the Empire (and hurt other empires) was good policy. Widespread evasion of these laws had long been tolerated. Now, through the use of open-ended search warrants (Writs of Assistance), strict enforcement became the practice.
  • In 1761, Massachusetts lawyer James Otis argued that the writs violated the constitutional rights of the colonists. He lost the case, but John Adams later wrote, "American independence was then and there born."
  • In 1762, Patrick Henry argued the Parson's Cause case. Clerical pay had been tied to the price of tobacco by Virginia legislation.
  • When the price of tobacco skyrocketed after a bad crop in 1758, the Virginia legislature passed the Two-Penny Act to stop clerical salaries from inflating as well but in 1763, King George III vetoed the Two-Penny Act.
  • In 1764, Parliament enacted the Sugar Act and the Currency Act, further vexing the colonists.
  • John Locke's liberal ideas were very influential; his theory of the "social contract" implied the natural right of the people to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the historic rights of Englishmen.
  • The motivating force was the American embrace of a political ideology called "republicanism", which was dominant in the colonies by 1775. It was influenced greatly by the "country party" in Britain, whose critique of British government emphasized that corruption was to be feared. The colonists associated the "court" with luxury and inherited aristocracy, which Americans increasingly condemned.
  • The "Founding Fathers" were strong advocates of republicanism, especially Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams.
  • The Proclamation of 1763 restricted American movement across the Appalachian Mountains. Regardless, groups of settlers continued to move west. The proclamation was soon modified and was no longer a hindrance to settlement, but its promulgation and the fact that it had ever been written without consulting Americans angered the colonists. The Quebec Act of 1774 extended Quebec's boundaries to the Ohio River, shutting out the claims of the 13 colonies.
  • In June 1772, in what became known as the Gaspée Affair, a British warship that had been vigorously enforcing unpopular trade regulations was burned by American patriots.
  • In late 1772, Samuel Adams set about creating new Committees of Correspondence that would link together patriots in all thirteen colonies and eventually provide the framework for a rebel government. In early 1773, Virginia, the largest colony, set up its Committee of Correspondence, including Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson.
  • The Intolerable Acts included four acts. The first was the Massachusetts Government Act, which altered the Massachusetts charter and restricted town meetings. The second act was the Administration of Justice Act, which ordered that all British soldiers to be tried were to be arraigned in Britain, not the colonies. The third act referred to was the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the British had been compensated for the tea lost in the Boston Tea Party (the British never received such a payment). The fourth act was the Quartering Act of 1774, which compelled the residents of Boston to house British regulars sent in to control the vicinity.
  • The First Continental Congress endorsed the Suffolk Resolves, which declared the Intolerable Acts to be unconstitutional, called for the people to form militias, and called for Massachusetts to form a Patriot government.
  • In response, primarily to the Massachusetts Government Act, the people of Worcester set up an armed picket line in front of the local courthouse and refused to allow the British magistrates to enter. Similar events occurred, soon after, all across the colony. British troops were sent from England, but by the time they arrived, the entire colony of Massachusetts, with the exception of the heavily garrisoned city of Boston, had thrown off British control of local affairs.

The American Revolutionary War

  • Factions
    • Patriots- included people such as George Washington, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Patrick Henry. These were the Revolutionaries. Also called Whigs, Congress-men or, simply, Americans.
    • Loyalists- Also known as ‘Tories and King’s Men, remained loyal to Britain and included up to 25% of the population. Also, many of the Native Americans went against the Revolutionaries wishes to stay neutral and most sided with Britain.
  •  The Battle of Lexington and Concord took place April 19, 1775, when the British sent a regiment to confiscate arms and arrest revolutionaries in Concord. It was the first fighting of the American Revolutionary War, and immediately the news aroused the 13 colonies to call out their militias and send troops to besiege Boston.
  • The Battle of Bunker Hill followed on June 17, 1775. By late spring 1776, with George Washington as commander, the Americans forced the British to evacuate Boston.
  • The British returned in force in August 1776, engaging the fledgling Continental Army for the first time in the largest action of the Revolution in the Battle of Long Island. They eventually seized New York City and made the city their main political and military base, holding it until 1783.
  • They also held New Jersey, but in a surprise attack, Washington crossed the Delaware into New Jersey and defeated British armies at Trenton and Princeton, thereby reviving the Patriot cause and regaining New Jersey.
  • In 1777, the British launched two uncoordinated attacks. The army based in New York City defeated Washington and captured the national capital at Philadelphia. Simultaneously a second army invaded from Canada with the goal of cutting off New England. It was trapped and captured at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777. The victory encouraged the French to officially enter the war, as Benjamin Franklin negotiated a permanent military alliance in early 1778. Later Spain (in 1779) and the Dutch became allies of the French, leaving Britain to fight a major war alone without major allies. The American theatre thus became only one front in Britain's war.
  • In late December 1778, the British captured Savannah and started moving north into South Carolina. Northern Georgia was spared occupation during this time period, due to the Patriots victory at the Battle of Kettle Creek in Wilkes County, Georgia.
  • The British moved on to capture Charleston and set up a network of forts inland, believing the Loyalists would rally to the flag. Not enough Loyalists turned out, however, and the British had to fight their way north into North Carolina and Virginia, where they expected to be rescued by the British fleet.
  • That fleet was defeated by a French fleet, however. Trapped at Yorktown, Virginia, the British surrendered their main combat army to Washington in October 1781. Although King George III wanted to fight on, his supporters lost control of Parliament, and the war effectively ended for America.

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