Introduction to the American Revolution (1775–1783)

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Introduction to the American Revolution (1775–1783)

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) resulted from a conflict between the British government and British subjects living in the thirteen American colonies. Between the years 1764 and 1774, the crown and his majesty’s legislature passed a number of tax measures, which the colonists fiercely opposed. Outspoken American leaders took a principled position against taxes because the government that created the laws offered no representation for those being taxed. At the time, only propertied, upper-class men could vote in England and in most elections within America. But even the American voting class could not express on ballots their views on the actions of Parliament.

“No taxation without representation” became the mantra for colonists. The British government responded unapologetically. The king and members of Parliament held that the colonists were virtually representedlike most British citizens residing throughout the British Isles. That is, fewer than ten percent of men living in the mother country could legally vote. But when Parliament passed laws, Britons contended that it considered the best interests of those without a vote.

Colonists organized opposition to English rule. In Boston, revolutionaries created the Sons of Liberty, an opposition group that began several chapters in cities throughout the colonies. Respected leaders from Philadelphia, like Benjamin Franklin, began to speak for the cause. Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson, both from Virginia, became vocal against the British lawmakers.

These men followed ideas proposed by philosophers from the Enlightenment, including John Locke. One Lockean concept that became synonymous with the American cause was that government may not justly take life, liberty, or property without the consent of the governed. The idea made its way into the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and several state constitutions.

After the Port of Boston was closed to punish the Boston Tea Party protesters, delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies met in September 1774 at the First Continental Congress to respond. By the spring of 1775, the British army was an ever-present force in the colonies. In an attempt to seize American weapons near Boston, British soldiers and colonial minutemen fought at the battles of Lexington and Concord. A Second Continental Congress met in May 1775 and established the Continental Army under George Washington. After the battle of Bunker Hill the following month, colonial leaders offered the Olive Branch Petition for peace to King George. It was rejected.

The fledgling Congress commissioned a committee of five men to draft an official statement of its position. The Declaration of Independence signaled the separation from the monarchy and the creation of a new nation dubbed the United States of America.

The world was surprised when this infant nation of militiamen overpowered one of the finest armies in the world. Most of the fighting ended after the British defeat at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781. The Treaty of Paris officially ended the war in 1783. The United States began operating under the Articles of Confederation before the war was over. In 1789, a stronger union was created with the ratification of the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791, guarantees Americans many of the liberties that Britain had failed to recognize.

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Introduction to the American Revolution (1775–1783)

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Introduction to the American Revolution (1775–1783)