By the latter half of the 18th century, the residents of Britain's American colonies began to grow increasingly disenchanted with life under the rule of their imperial overlords. The colonists were attempting to build a fairer, more egalitarian society than that of their mother country; a land of opportunity where success could be achieved through hard work, rather than through accident of birth.
Furthermore, Britain was imposing heavy-handed taxes and policies upon the colonists and placing unfair restrictions upon colonial manufacturing and trade. Throughout this period, the colonists were given virtually no influence over imperial policy and the slogan Taxation without representation is tyranny became a common rallying cry among those who began to seek greater independence. Typical of the British campaign to assert their power over the American colonies was the establishment in 1763, of a standing army in America, to be paid for by taxes levied upon the colonists.
Aside from the additional financial burden placed upon the colonists, this decision was also regarded as a threat to their dream of a new society. That year, Britain forbade settlement of the lands beyond the Appalachian Mountains to avoid conflict with the native Americans there, and thus, deprived the colonists of new lands for settlement and trade.
The added taxes and restrictions of the Navigation Acts and Revenue Acts of 1764, the Quartering Act and Stamp Tax of 1765, and the duties placed on exports in 1767, all compounded the outrage felt by many colonists. The fermenting tension culminated in the Boston Tea Party of 1773, when colonists boarded British ships and hurled their cargo of tea into Boston Harbor, rather than pay the British duty.
At the First Continental Congress of 1774, the colonists presented their objections to the Crown, demanded independence for the colony of Massachusetts and an end to taxation. Furthermore, they declared a trade embargo upon Britain. Overt war between the colonists and the British broke out in April 1775, with skirmishes at Lexington and Concord, and was followed by the defeat of the colonists at the bloody Battle of Bunker Hill, at Boston.
At the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the Continental Army was organized, with George Washington as its commander, and the colonists adopted the Declaration of Independence. The War of American Independence lasted for eight years, with land and sea battles fought from Quebec to Florida. The professional British soldiers, supplemented by colonial loyalists and German mercenaries, were better financed and initially more experienced, but had difficulties in shipping supplies and reinforcements across the ocean. The colonial militias and volunteers had greater manpower and their early inexperience faded as the war continued.
The surrender of British troops at Saratoga in the early autumn of 1777, convinced the French to throw their influential support behind the colonists. The decisive moment in the war came with the crushing defeat of the British troops under the command of Cornwallis by Washington's forces at the Battle of Yorktown in October, 1781, making the final victory of the colonists clearly inevitable. As the war drew to a close, Britain finally acknowledged American independence at the Treaty of Paris in 1783. British troops withdrew from American soil, and many Loyalists who had remained true to the British cause moved north to the empire's remaining territories in British North America.
The American Revolutionary War and the Declaration of Independence were extremely important since they resulted in the creation of the United States of America and defined the basic values and principles that Americans cherish today.
- ^ Swyrich, Archive materials
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