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1754-1783: Law and Justice: Chronology

1754-1783: Law and Justice: Chronology




  • June The Albany Congress proposes a plan of colonial union, but not one provincial assembly approves it.


  • 30 Nov. Acadian refugees expelled from Nova Scotia by the British begin to arrive in Maryland.


  • Peter Oliver receives an appointment as a justice of the superior court in Massachusetts.



  • Virginia passes the Twopenny Act, a temporary measure meant to regulate tobacco prices.


  • Peter Oliver becomes a member of the governors council in Massachusetts.



  • Feb. James Otis argues in a Massachusetts court against the issuance of writs of assistance.



  • Dec. In the Parsons Cause, Patrick Henry argues that the King had no legal right to disallow the Twopenny Act.


  • Parliament passes the Sugar Act.


  • Riots erupt in Boston and elsewhere following Parliaments passage of the Stamp Act and Mutiny or Quartering Act.
  • 7-25 Oct. Twenty-eight delegates from nine colonies attend the Stamp Act Congress held at City Hall in New York City. The congress adopts the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, a series of resolutions that protest the duties imposed by the Stamp Act and implement a policy of nonimportation of British goods until the statute is repealed.


  • Mar. Parliament repeals the Stamp Act but at the same time passes the Declaratory Act, asserting its power to tax the colonies.


  • Parliament passes the Townshend duties, imposing taxes on a wide range of imports including tea.
  • Thomas Jefferson is admitted to the bar in Virginia.
  • Dec. Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer begin to appear in colonial newspapers.


  • June Customs officials impound John Hancocks ship Liberty, and sell its cargo.
  • Oct. At the request of the Massachusetts royal governor, British troops arrive in Boston in order to quell civil disturbances.


  • Mar. Three hundred Philadelphia merchants agree to boycott all British goods until the Townshend duties are repealed.


  • 5 Mar. In what becomes known as the Boston Massacre, British troops fire on a crowd, killing five colonists.
  • Oct. The Boston Massacre trials occur; all but two British soldiers are acquitted of manslaughter.


  • Parliament decides to pay the salaries of Massachusetts judges with royal and not colonial funds.


  • William Cushing joins the Massachusetts Supreme Court and fills the vacancy left by his father.


  • 27 Apr. Parliament passes the Tea Act, giving the near-bankrupt East India Company a monopoly on the tea trade to America.
  • 16 Dec In the Boston Tea Party colonists disguised as Indians board three merchant vessels and dump 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.


  • May Parliament passes the Coercive Acts, four punitive measures against Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party. Meanwhile the Virginia assembly calls for a continental congress to consult upon the present unpleasant state of the colonies.
  • Sept. The First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia.


  • 23 Mar. In an address to the second Virginia convention in Richmond, Patrick Henry condemns arbitrary British rule and closes with Give me liberty or give me death.




  • 6 Feb. France recognizes American independence and signs a treaty of alliance and commerce with the United States.
  • 4 May Congress ratifies the treaty with France.
  • June Congress rejects British peace offers.



  • Massachusetts adopts a constitution and a bill of rights.
  • 1 Mar. Pennsylvania becomes the first state to gradually abolish slavery by declaring that any black child born after 1780 is free once he or she reaches the age of twenty-eight.



  • At the urging of Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia legislature passes an emancipation bill, making it lawful for any man by last will and testament or other instrument in writing sealed and witnessed, to emancipate and set free his slaves.


  • The Massachusetts supreme court finds that the state constitution of 1780 legally nullified slavery by declaring all men born free and equal.
  • The slave trade is outlawed in Maryland.

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