Was a revolution inevitable?
Below is a selection of key events that led to the American Revolution, review them yourself and decide if the American colonies were destined for independence or if a political resolution could have been possible.
1763 Sugar Act
The French and Indian War comes to an end in 1763. Britain has defeated France in North America, but the victory comes with a price. Parliament is left with a huge debt to pay, and the prime minister decides to share this burden with the colonies. In 1764, Parliament passes the Sugar Act, setting off a debate on colonial rights and taxation.
1765 Stamp Act
Despite protests from colonists who believe they should be able to tax themselves, Parliament passes the Stamp Act in March 1765. The act requires that official stamped paper be purchased and used for all legal documents, commercial paper transactions, and newspapers. Colonists respond swiftly—and sometimes violently—to the act, prompting its repeal in 1766.
The Sons of Liberty
In response to the Stamp Act of 1765, local groups calling themselves “Sons of Liberty” spring up in Boston and elsewhere in the American colonies. These groups perform many functions, ranging from organizing protests against the Stamp Act to keeping citizens in line. They continue to influence their communities long after the Stamp Act is repealed in 1766.
1767 Townshend Acts
After the failure of the Sugar and Stamp Acts, Parliament is determined to prove its right to tax the American colonies. In 1767, it passes the Townshend Acts. Colonists continue to argue against taxation without representation, even as troops are sent to protect customs employees in Boston in 1768.
Non-consumption and Non-importation
The colonial economy is in poor shape in 1767. The passage of the Townshend Acts, which levy duties on items including glass, paint, and tea, only makes matters worse. In response, many colonists refuse to consume or purchase British goods, while encouraging merchants to abandon selling British imports. The movement falters, however, when the Acts are partially repealed in 1770.
1768 The Occupation
British troops arrive in the colony and occupy the town of Boston; an event commemorated with Paul Revere’s engraving of the troops’ arrival, and Revere crafts a silver punch bowl for the Sons of Liberty, a symbol of resistance that continues to be a symbol for Boston.
1770 Boston Massacre
Tensions are on the rise in Boston in the winter of 1770. On 5 March, a violent confrontation erupts between soldiers and townspeople, leaving five colonists dead. The propaganda war that follows will consume Bostonians.
The Boston Massacre Trials
The trials at the end of the year become important precedents in confirming the rule of law, even in a time of political turmoil.
1772 Formation of the Committees of Correspondence
The Boston Committee of Correspondence plays a crucial role in the growth of the committee of correspondence movement throughout the colonies. Formed in 1772 to protest a new government policy concerning the payment of the Massachusetts governor and judges, Bostonians seek support in other towns and colonies. In March 1773, the Virginia House of Burgesses proposes that each colony appoint a committee for intercolonial correspondence.
1773 Boston Tea Party
“Felix” Petition to the legislature. On behalf of many enslaved people, “Felix” petitioned the Assembly for freedom, saying that they expected great things from men who had made such a stand for liberty.
Boston Tea Party.
In the spring of 1773 Parliament passed the Tea Act, giving the East India Company a monopoly over the sale of tea in North America. Some Patriots refuse to drink or buy the tea, while others take more drastic steps to prevent the sale of the “pernicious weed.” Bostonians stage a dramatic protest in December 1773; in reaction, Parliament suspended the Massachusetts government and closed the port of Boston—actions which triggered further resistance.
1774 Year of Decision
In the spring of 1774, Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in response to the destruction of the East India’s tea cargo in Boston in December 1773. Massachusetts and Boston are singled out and punished, but the acts do not produce the desired effect. Throughout 1774 and into 1775, the other North American colonies question the wisdom of Parliament’s reaction.
The First Continental Congress
News of the Coercive Acts arrives in the colonies in the spring of 1774. In response, Massachusetts Patriots called for a multi-colony congress to discuss a united course of resistance. The First Continental Congress met in September; in Milton, the Suffolk County Convention met, and Paul Revere carried their plea for resistance to the Congress in Philadelphia.
The Powder Alarm
General Thomas Gage—now the governor of Massachusetts—begins sending his troops on The Powder Alarm In response to the Coercive Acts, Massachusetts farmers take a series of actions—closing courts, meeting in county conventions, forcing royal officials to resign, mobilizing militia units—that culminate in the formation of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in October 1774. This becomes the de facto elected government of the province outside Boston.
The Worcester Declaration.
On October 4, Worcester’s Town Meeting instructed its delegate to the Provincial Congress that Massachusetts was absolved from its relationship to the British crown.
1775 Confrontations in Salem, Concord, and Lexington
In February 1775 the people of Salem block troops from searching the countryside surrounding Boston. One such mission sparks a violent confrontation on 19 April 1775. Both British and American propagandists hasten to explain their side of the story in the months that follow.
The Second Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress adjourns in October 1774, and by the spring of 1775, it is clear that the body must convene once again. War has broken out in Massachusetts, and the colonies must now consider the question of American independence. Their debates lead to decisive action in the spring of 1776.
Battle of Noddle’s Island, or Chelsea Creek.
May 1775, the British sloop Diana attempts to stop colonial militia troops driving livestock off Noddle’s Island and Hog Island; the rebels burn the Diana off the Winnisimett (Chelsea) ferry dock, the first American naval capture.
The Battle of Bunker Hill
The British retreat to Boston after the confrontations at Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775. In June, American troops fortify Breed’s Hill in nearby Charlestown. The two forces clash on 17 June 1775. Although the British are ultimately victorious, both sides suffer devastating casualties.
Washington Takes Command of the Continental Army
Early battles of the Revolution are fought mainly by New England troops. If the colonies are to fight as a united body, then they must have a leader that all will agree on, and George Washington is the Congress’ choice for commander-in-chief. As chief of the Continental Army, Washington arrives in Boston in July 1775 and works tirelessly to expel the British from Boston in the winter and spring of 1776.
1776 Knox’s March
The “noble train” led by General Henry Knox captures Fort Ticonderoga in New York and drags its cannon through Massachusetts, crossing the Berkshires, passing through Westfield, Springfield, and Framingham and onto Cambridge. Placements of the guns were made Lechmere Point and Cobble Hill, Cambridge as well as Lamb’s Dam in Roxbury and Dorchester Heights.
Schooners launched from Plymouth, Beverly, and Marblehead capture weaponry from British ships in March.
Evacuation of Boston by the British Army and their Loyalist followers after realizing their position was untenable. March 17!
Declarations of Independence
The towns of Massachusetts voted on Independence in April of 1776; the Continental Congress in Philadelphia issued the Declaration of Independence on July 4, and on July 18 the Declaration was read from the balcony of the Old State House. Bostonians burned the symbols of royal authority.
For more information, visit http://masshist.org/revolution/sons_of_liberty.php