When the American Revolution began in 1775, the American colonists were not yet fighting for independence from Britain. Instead, they were attempting to preserve their rights as British citizens which had been violated by taxation and military oppression. The complex causes of the revolution ultimately led to the colonists issuing a Declaration of Independence and fighting a war for freedom from British rule.
Taxation Without Representation
The French and Indian War, which occurred from 1756 to 1763, was extremely expensive for Britain. To pay off debt that the country had incurred during the war, the British government decided to tax the American colonies. Several tax acts such as the Stamp Act and the Townshend Act were levied -- and subsequently repealed -- in an attempt to pay for the war, the soldiers stationed in the colonies and the goods sent to the colonies from England. The colonists were angry that they were being taxed by a government that was so distant from them and protested against "taxation without representation." Protests, including boycotting goods, escalated, culminating in the Boston Massacre in 1770.
The Boston Tea Party
The Townshend Act of 1767 levied taxes on lead, paper, glass and tea. This act was repealed in 1770 with the exception of the tea tax. In several cities, colonists protested the continued taxation by attempting to prevent East India Company ships from docking to deliver tea; in Boston, a group disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded three vessels in the middle of the night. The group threw 342 chests of tea, worth approximately $800,000 in modern currency, into the Boston Harbor. In response, the British Government passed the Intolerable Acts, laws meant to crush the rebellion and bring the colonists under control.
The Intolerable Acts
The Intolerable Acts directly lead to the formation of the Continental Congress and a unified colonial resistance against Britain. The Quartering Act required colonists to provide barracks for British soldiers, and eventually to house them in private homes. Others bills closed the Boston port to colonists until they repaid the losses from the Boston Tea Party and annulled colonial charters, giving British governors control over town meetings. Colonists were also denied trials in colonial courts; any person accused of a crime was required to take a ship to Britain to stand trial there. In addition, the Quebec Act extended the Canadian border, separating Connecticut, Massachusetts and Virginia from the rest of the colonies.
The Battle of Concord
The first Continental Congress was formed with the intent of communicating grievances with England without severing ties to the country. After deliberating, however, the members of the Congress determined that they were entitled to rule and tax themselves, form their own united leadership and mobilize a militia. In response, King George III declared the colonies to be in open rebellion in 1775 and sent soldiers to capture the rebellion's leaders. During the resulting encounter between Boston and Concord, eight members of the colonial militia died. When the British advanced to Concord, the Americans were waiting and engaged them in a battle with heavy British casualties. This battle swayed public colonial opinion in favor of separation from England.
- Hanover College: The Rights of the Colonists; Samuel Adams
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Department of Military Science - Boston Tea Party
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Department of Military Science - Intolerable or Coercive Acts
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute: Department of Military Science - Battle of Lexington and Concord Abstract