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Unit Overview

In the aftermath of the French and Indian War, Britain emerged as the world superpower, but that power came at a very high price. In order to bring the massive national debt under control, the British government imposed a series of new taxes in the colonies. Many colonists viewed these tax changes as an alarming threat to their rights and liberties. As colonial resistance to the new tax policies arose, the British increased tax enforcement. By 1775 a serious rift had developed between Great Britain and her colonies. All of this tension would spark the flames of war at Lexington Green.

As Great Britain sent additional soldiers to the colonies to quell the rebellion, colonial delegates in Philadelphia created a Continental Army to defend America. In June 1776, a committee was appointed to begin drafting the Articles of Confederation, the document that would define the role and the limits of a new government. Less than a month later, the colonies officially declared independence from Great Britain. The struggle that followed lasted eight years. The conflict became a world war when France and Spain came to the aid of America in 1778. When the smoke finally cleared, an independent United States emerged. However, it was only the start of the long struggle to forge a new and viable nation.

Salutary Neglect

By the early eighteenth century, colonial governments enjoyed a great deal of local autonomy. Most governors were appointed either by the king, in the case of a royal colony, or by the proprietor, in the case of a corporate colony. Colonial assemblies, for the most part, were comprised of elected representatives. Like Parliament, assemblies controlled the purse strings of the colony. In fact, the governor’s salary was paid by the assembly. Colonial leaders used this financial leverage to gain more power. By the mid-1700s, assemblies were passing laws, approving appointments, and imposing taxes. 

The colonists’ political autonomy was, for the most part, unchallenged by Parliament, especially under Prime Minister Robert Walpole (who served from 1721 to 1742). Parliament had neither the time nor the will to exert greater political control. After all, Britain was making money from the colonies and did not want to change the status-quo. Instead, British officials focused on defense and trade. 

By the middle of the seventeenth century, most laws concerning the colonies were enacted solely for the purpose of building and protecting the mercantile system. The Navigation Acts passed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries demonstrate the primacy with which Parliament treated trade. Though colonists complained about aspects of the acts, and some groups were negatively affected by them, for the most part colonial merchants benefitted as much from mercantilism as did the mother country. Since the restrictions were not strictly enforced until 1763, colonial merchants could easily skirt duties and trade restrictions through bribery and smuggling. Ironically, the system created a network of wealthy colonial merchants, many of whom would become the earliest proponents of independence

The phrase “salutary neglect” was coined by political philosopher Edmund Burke to describe Britain’s lax colonial policy during the reigns of George I and George II. The colonies came to regard political autonomy as a right. So, when the British began to assert their authority after the French and Indian War, the colonists resisted, pointing to their history of self-rule.

The French and Indian War (1754-1763)

As a result of the French and Indian War, Britain became a world superpower. This power came at a very high price. Between 1754 and 1763, Britain’s national debt doubled, and so did the size of their empire in North America. With more territory to defend, the cost of governing the colonies threatened to sink the nation deeper into debt. To make matters worse, disillusioned American Indians led by Chief Pontiac attacked British forts in the West. In the wake of both the debt crisis and Pontiac’s Rebellion, the British Government began to reassess its political and economic policies.

Britain adopted the Proclamation of 1763, which forbade American colonists from crossing the Appalachian Mountains and settling the western lands granted to Britain by the Treaty of Paris. Frontiersman and land speculators protested the proclamation. From the American perspective, access to that territory was the reason they had fought the French in the first place. Thousands of settlers simply poured into the Ohio Valley, ignoring the royal decree altogether.  

At about the same time, British officials reasoned that the American colonists should help pay for the cost of the war. From their point of view, the war had been fought to protect colonists and colonial interests. In addition, colonists had contributed very little tax revenue compared to their British counterparts living in England. For many in England, it was time that the colonists began contributing to their own protection and administration. When George Grenville became Prime Minister in 1763, he set out to solve the debt crisis and rein in the colonies. The British imposed a series of new taxes to help pay for the war and the continued need to provide British troops to protect the colonists from Indian attacks. 

The Rights of Englishmen

Most colonists, who identified themselves as loyal British subjects, viewed the new tax laws as harsh, punitive, and an alarming threat to their rights and liberties. They believed that they were entitled to the freedoms enumerated in both the Magna Carta and English Bill of Rights and protected under English Common Law.

In the wake of the Scientific Revolution, a new political philosophy was beginning to take hold in Europe. The ideas espoused during this period, known as the Enlightenment, soon spread to the New World, where Americans were exposed to the writings of English natural rights philosophers such as Algernon Sidney and John Locke. Locke wrote that people were born with rights such as life, liberty, and property. According to Locke, the role of the government should be to protect these rights. Inspired by the Glorious Revolution, he went on to argue that the people had a right to overthrow any government that failed in its obligation to protect natural rights. Locke’s terminology would be used by Thomas Paine in his pamphlet, Common Sense, by the American framers of new state constitutions, and by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

The First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s also helped to change the political and social views of the colonists before the American Revolution. During this period, impassioned sermons encouraged people to challenge accepted authority and to think for themselves. Although these sermons were centered on the spiritual realm, the movement fostered a democratic spirit in the political arena.

The Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765)

The Molasses Act of 1733, which placed a 6¢ per gallon tariff on foreign molasses, had been intended by Parliament to encourage the sale of sugar from the British West Indies to the American colonies. However, colonial merchants avoided the tax simply by smuggling molasses from the French West Indies by bribing customs officials. The result was that Parliament did not raise the revenue it has anticipated.

In an attempt to rectify this situation, Parliament passed the Sugar Act in 1764. This law lowered the tax on foreign molasses but increased enforcement in an effort to reduce smuggling and raise revenue. The provisions of the act included:

  • Cutting the tariff on molasses in half.
  • Expanding the list of taxable items to include coffee, certain wines, cloth, and dyes.
  • Expanding the jurisdiction of the vice-admiralty to include all customs violations. This meant that cases would be heard by a British-appointed judge with no jury present.
  • Enacting strict port regulations and adding customs officers to enable close supervision of American exports.


While most colonists conceded that Parliament had the right to regulate trade, the Sugar Act was viewed as an attempt to raise revenue. Many American spokesmen protested that Parliament had no right to levy taxes for the purpose of raising revenue. Benjamin Franklin suggested that the colonies be represented in Parliament. Merchants presented economic arguments against the new law, stating that the tariff would hurt American industry, particularly lumber and iron. New England merchants organized boycotts of British goods but met with mixed support. Colonial lawyers objected to the use of vice-admiralty courts. They argued that their clients had the right as Englishmen to have their cases heard by a jury. In the end, colonial merchants simply continued smuggling goods. They knew that they could still bribe customs officials at a lower rate than the three cents per gallon tariff

For the most part, the British dismissed colonial objections to the Sugar Act as trivial and irrelevant. The colonies, in their view, were “virtually” represented in Parliament, as were the millions of other British citizens who did not meet voting qualifications. Some in the British government held that the rights of Englishmen were reserved for the inhabitants of Great Britain only.  

The Stamp Act placed a tax on most printed materials produced and sold throughout the colonies. To prove the tax was paid, a special stamp had to be purchased and affixed to any newspaper, pamphlet, or legal document. It was the first time colonists faced a direct tax from Parliament on something made and sold within a single colony. Opposition to this act ranged from formal petitions to violent riots.

In the fall of 1765, representatives from nine of the thirteen colonies met in New York. The delegates, known collectively as the Stamp Act Congress, petitioned the king to repeal the legislation. Pennsylvania delegate John Dickinson was chosen to draft The Declaration of Rights of the Stamp Act Congress. This document’s fourteen points once again raised the issue of “taxation without representation” as well as the right of the accused to have his case heard by a jury.

Some merchants simply refused to use the stamps. Others signed non-importation agreements. The economic boycott of all British goods garnered enough popular support that British industry soon felt the effects. British merchants joined their colonial counterparts in the call for repeal

Protests turned violent when a group of colonial activists known as the Sons of Liberty called for the resignation of all tax collectors. In Boston, they hung an effigy of tax collector Andrew Oliver from a tree. The local sheriff assured Oliver it would be removed. However, when the sheriff arrived at the scene, he found a large and unfriendly mob with the hanging dummy. He prudently withdrew without taking it down. Later, the crowd took the effigy to Oliver’s house. The crowd stopped on Kirby Street, where Oliver had a business property, and burned his business. When the mob reached Oliver’s house, they beheaded the effigy of Oliver, went to a nearby hill, and burned it. A short time later, some of the mob returned and spent the rest of the night looting and ransacking Oliver’s home. Oliver and his family fled. When the lieutenant-governor and the sheriff arrived, a rock-throwing mob drove them away. Oliver withdrew his name as a collector of the stamp tax. Similar riots soon occurred in New York and other port cities.

At a time when participation in politics was reserved exclusively for men, groups of women actively supported the economic boycott of British tea and textiles. Throughout the colonies, women vowed to abstain from buying luxury imports such as silk and tea and urged others to do the same. Some groups organized gatherings at which patriot women would spin yarn and weave cloth for local use. Local newspapers lauded these female patriots, dubbing them the Daughters of Liberty.

The Declaratory Act (1766) and the Townshend Acts (1767)

Parliament passed the Declaratory Act in response to the riots and protests. With this act, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, but reasserted the fact that Parliament had the sole power to pass laws and collect taxes in the American colonies. The Declaratory Act was meant to be a friendly gesture toward the colonists and was a British effort to ease tensions. It did not the effect that Parliament intended, however, for American objections to the revenue acts were based on principle.

In 1767, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, became the acting Prime Minister. Townshend reasoned that colonial outrage over the Stamp Act centered on the fact that the tax was direct and internal. Faced with the continued need to decrease the national deficit and administer the colonies, Townshend introduced a series of taxes that were obviously external and indirect. The Townshend Acts, however, were not just a series of taxes on lead, glass, paint, and tea. They also included a provision for the issuing of Writs of Assistance that allowed British officials to search homes for smuggled goods and outlawed the New York Assembly. New vice-admirality courts were established in Boston, Philadelphia and Charleston. In addition, a Board of Customs Commissioners was created with headquarters in Boston. Additional troops were stationed in and around port cities to ensure that duties were collected.

Colonists responded with a boycott of all British goods. Once again, merchants signed nonimportation agreements. Those who did not faced public criticism and intimidation. Women also joined the effort by pledging to refrain from luxury purchases and producing yarn and cloth to be consumed locally. Once again, protests sometimes turned violent as angry mobs harassed customs officials.

At first, colonial resistance only strengthened Parliament’s resolve. General Thomas Gage, along with four thousand British troops, was sent to Boston to keep the rebels in line. By 1769, the economic boycott was taking a toll on Britain’s already strained economy. The new Prime Minister, Lord North, devised a compromise that would repeal all of the Townshend duties except the tax on tea.

The Boston Massacre (1770)

On March 5, 1770 the events of the last three years came to a head in the city of Boston. Competition for jobs was high in this port city, partly due to the influx of British soldiers, many of whom were looking for part-time work to occupy their off-duty hours. There had been sporadic fights and arguments between off-duty British enlisted men and Boston workers for some time. On this night, a 19-year-old British sentry outside the Boston Customs House was being taunted by a small group of snowball-wielding “youths.” An argument ensued, which drew the attention of a group of local men coming out of a nearby tavern. The dispute escalated and soon a noisy crowd confronted the sentry outside of the customs house and a squad of British soldiers was dispatched to disperse the crowd. The Bostonians resisted and began to try and push the soldiers out. The crowd began to pelt the soldiers with snowballs and rocks. At some point, a musket discharged, possibly by accident. Other soldiers, believing there had been an order to fire, or out of confusion in the melee, also fired, killing and wounding several colonists.

The incident became a major issue in Massachusetts immediately. Paul Revere was commissioned by the Sons of Liberty to produce a broadside illustrating and explaining what had happened. Depicting the British mercilessly and purposely gunning down unarmed and innocent Bostonians, the broadside was all over town by the next day. It was a masterpiece of propaganda; it cast the British in a negative light and inflamed public opinion against British military policy.

The British soldiers involved were arrested and tried for the shooting and their defense attorney in court was none other than the esteemed John Adams, who was cousin of one of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, Samuel Adams. Adams won the case for all the defendants except one, who was found guilty on lesser charges.

After the repeal of the Townshend Acts, only the tax on tea remained. There was a lull in active resistance to British policies, though they remained unpopular. Even the Boston Massacre in 1770, which stirred a strong reaction for a short time, did not generate much ongoing opposition to the British. Activists in the Patriot cause, such as Samuel Adams, thought it was necessary to fan the embers of discontent against blatant abuses of the colonists’ rights as Englishmen. Committees were established to create a communication network to keep the thirteen colonies informed about British activities. The committees were created to write letters to one another. The sole purpose of this network was to discuss and to spread information throughout the colonies, especially events that demonstrated British abuse of the colonists.

Some events, such as the Boston Tea Party, were known in all the colonies. Others, such as the British seizure of the militia’s powder magazine in Williamsburg, Virginia, might not have been well known outside Virginia without the Committees of Correspondence. Private riders delivered the letters from town to town and city to city from New England to Georgia. The riders often traveled at night to avoid British interception. Members of the Committees of Correspondence relayed the information they received to people in their areas.

The Hutchinson Affair (1773)

In 1764, as the relationship between England and America became contentious, Benjamin Franklin travelled to England to petition the king. His mission was to make Pennsylvania a royal colony instead of a proprietary province. This would give the Assembly control of the colony. The implementation of the Stamp Act in America disrupted this mission. Objecting to taxation without representation, Franklin argued against the tax. In 1766, he testified to the British government, answering more than one hundred and seventy questions.

As the colonies became more restless, Franklin changed his political beliefs. Franklin always had been a contented Englishman, primarily concerned with Pennsylvania politics. During the Stamp Act crisis, however, Franklin evolved into a celebrated spokesman in London for American rights. Though he believed that a division between Britain and the colonies to be inevitable, he never stopped working toward reconciliation. Yet the frankness with which he attempted to communicate with the king and Parliament made many judge him to be undermining royal authority in America.

In 1773, Franklin’s relationship with the English changed because of the "Hutchinson Affair." Thomas Hutchinson, the Crown-appointed governor of Massachusetts, feigned support for the people of Massachusetts, while actually supporting the enforcement of the king’s authority in the colony. Hutchinson had written letters calling for the suspension of the people’s liberties and the use of force against the colonists to suppress dissent. These fell into Franklin’s hands. Franklin made his friends and colleagues in Boston aware of the contents of the letters, though he emphasized they not be copied or published. Nonetheless, the letters were published in the Boston Gazette, and the colonists forced Hutchinson to flee to England.

Franklin, without revealing to whom he had sent the letters, bore full responsibility. Franklin was ordered to Whitehall, the English Foreign Ministry, where he was condemned in public. He was removed  from the office of deputy postmaster general and his salary was suspended. Despite this, for the next two years Franklin continued to work for reconciliation between the colonists and mother country.

When he returned to Philadelphia in 1775, the American Revolution already had begun, and Franklin started working actively for Independence. During this time, Loyalists in America provided secret information to the Crown. Even Franklin's son, William, reported his father’s activities to the British authorities. The Second Continental Congress created the Committee of Secret Correspondence in 1775, which was charged with gathering intelligence that would be helpful to the American cause and to forge alliances with foreign countries. Franklin was one of this committee’s earliest members.

The Tea Act and the Boston Tea Party (1773)

In 1773, the British East India Company had a surplus of tea it needed to sell, lest eighteen million dollars’ worth of tea be wasted. Parliament thus passed the Tea Act, which reduced tariffs on British tea sold to the American colonies. The law made British tea cheaper than the tea smuggled by Americans like John Hancock. It was for this reason that Hancock himself became one of the leaders of the protest against the Tea Act.

The Boston Tea Party was a protest against the lowering of the tariff on British tea. The Sons of Liberty, a secret group, boarded several ships, including the Dartmouth and dumped three hundred and forty-two chests of tea into Boston Harbor.

The British passed as series of laws in response to the Boston Tea Party. The Coercive Acts were intended to punish the people of Boston. These acts closed the port of Boston until the cost of the sunken tea was reimbursed. In addition, Massachusetts’ original colonial charter was revoked, thereby eliminating the Massachusetts legislature, which was replaced with appointees of the king. The legislation also restored the Quartering Act that had expired in 1767. Once again, colonists were forced to house and feed (quarter) British soldiers. Colonists accused for a crime could be taken to England for trial

The Quebec Act also was passed in 1774. This act granted land west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the Ohio River to Quebec (or Canada). The act was designed to gain the allegiance of the French settlers in Quebec and to prevent them from joining with rebels in the American colonies. This act angered colonists in Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania because they claimed that territory. In Protestant New England, colonists were outraged because the act guaranteed tolerance toward the practice of Catholicism. Though not technically one of the Coercive Acts, the Quebec Act was often lumped in with what colonists referred to as the “Intolerable Acts.”

From Resistance to Revolution

Most Americans had no desire for independence in the late 1760s and early 1770s. Many simply wanted to protest Parliamentary intrusion on their perceived rights as Englishmen and to restore the relationship they had had with the King before the French and Indian War. Those who favored independence were a radical few at that point. However, the passage of the Coercive Acts marked a critical juncture in the relationship between Britain and the colonies.

In September 1774, delegates from every colony, except Georgia, met in Philadelphia to discuss a colonial response to the Intolerable Acts. Before ending their meeting, the First Continental Congress assigned John Dickinson to draft a petition to King George III, asserting the delegates’ loyalty to the crown. Soon groups of disgruntled colonists were gathering weapons as well as protesting and petitioning the government.

The King of England commissioned General Thomas Gage to defuse tensions and to keep the peace in Boston. The militia had weapons cached at Concord, about twelve miles from Boston. Gage believed that if a force of his best troops could quickly march to Concord in the middle of the night, they could seize the weapons before the colonists had time to gather and respond militarily. Gage also hoped to capture Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who reportedly were staying at a minister’s house in Lexington, a small town the British would pass on their march to Concord.

The plan failed. Americans were alerted to the British plans, and Paul Revere and William Dawes were dispatched by the Sons of Liberty to raise the alarm that “the British are coming.” British regulars and colonial militia clashed at the towns of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The battles were a propaganda victory for the Americans. The Americans had lost ninety-five men, whereas the British suffered 273 casualties. Gage’s forces retreated to Boston while a hastily gathered colonial force of about 5,000 surrounded Boston. The American Revolution had begun.

 “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death”

In 1774, Lord Dunmore, the Royal Governor, had dissolved the Virginia House of Burgesses for its grumbling about British imperial policy. As a result, Patrick Henry organized a meeting of members of the House of Burgesses at a local tavern in Williamsburg. They drafted and sent letters calling for delegates from each colony to join the First Continental Congress, to be held in Philadelphia in 1774.

Soon after, Henry returned to Virginia in response to Lord Dunmore’s actions. Lord Dunmore ordered his British troops to take munitions from the Virginia armory and to load them onto a British ship. Henry was elected commander-in-chief of the Virginia troops and quickly organized the defense of Virginia’s gunpowder stores. On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry called his fellow Virginians to arms against the tyranny of the British. It was then, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, that he delivered his famous speech “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.”

This speech initiated the Virginia militia attack on Lord Dunmore and the British troops at Williamsburg in early May, 1775. This was the start of the Revolutionary War in Virginia, occurring only hours after the first shot at the Battle of Concord in Massachusetts.


The outbreak of violence propelled the American colonists along the road to independence. In the early days of 1776, Thomas Paine, a recent immigrant from England, anonymously published a pamphlet, titled Common Sense. Arguing that separation from the mother country was inevitable, Paine argued that independence should be immediately declared. The radical Paine also denounced monarchy and custom and argued that “government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.” Paine also called for a continental government for America, which he believed would preclude civil wars among the colonies. Common Sense was wildly popular; some half-a-million copies were sold in the American colonies, which contained only two million inhabitants.

In May 1776, Virginia declared its independence from Great Britain and instructed Richard Henry Lee to introduce a proposal to the Continental Congress for the other colonies to join Virginia’s secession.

By the spring, the Second Continental Congress moved to draft a Declaration of Independence from Britain. A committee comprised of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston was assigned to produce the statement. An elegant writer, Jefferson was chosen to draft the document. After some editing by Franklin and Adams, the Declaration was presented to Congress on June 28, 1776.

Positing that “all men are created equal,” the Congress provided a list of reasons why the American colonies were declaring their independence. “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism,” the Declaration declared, “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government.” The Declaration used the contract and rights language of the seventeenth-century theorists John Locke and Algernon Sidney, but it also listed traditional English rights that the king was guilty of violating. The Declaration followed in a long line of English documents describing the rights of Englishmen and the relationship between government and the governed, including: Magna Carta, The English Bill of Rights, and The Mayflower Compact.

Even Jefferson, perhaps the most radical of the Founders, later said that the purpose of the Declaration was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject.”

It should also be noted that the Declaration of Independence was not the pronouncement of a unified nation but a shared statement by thirteen political entities acting in unison. Thus the Declaration averred that the colonies were henceforth “free and independent states” and referred to the “united States” using a small “u.” The Congress approved the committee’s draft on July 2, 1776, and the Declaration was adopted officially and sent for printing on July 4, 1776.

The Course of War

At the start of the American Revolution, Great Britain seemed to have the decided advantage. The British Navy was the best in the world. Despite staggering national debt, the British Empire generated huge sums of money. British soldiers were disciplined, experienced, and armed with the most advanced weaponry of the day. But the American colonists were fighting for their homes and knew the country better than the British commanders did. Britain also did not devote its full resources to subduing the Americans, as it has to maintain control of its world empire at the same time.

In addition, George Washington, who was appointed to command the Continental Army, came to understand that he simply needed to keep his army alive and sap the British of the desire to continue the war. Washington looked for opportunities to strike isolated elements of the British Army. Employing this strategy, he won important victories at Trenton and Princeton (in New Jersey) in the early months of the war.

Washington and his army also suffered setbacks. In the fall of 1777, British forces captured the American capital of Philadelphia, and the Continental Army spent a dreary winter encamped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. It was at this time that Thomas Paine published the first essay in his series, The Crisis, in an attempt to rally American spirits. “These are the times that try men's souls,” Paine mused. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” Washington had the essay read to the army at Valley Forge.

American forces in New York had won a crucial victory at Saratoga in the fall of 1777. As a result of this battle, the French entered the war on the American side (Spain and the Netherlands would do so later). The alliance with France tipped the scales in the Americans’ favor. In 1781, the French fleet bottled up British forces at Yorktown, Virginia.

Washington’s forces had marched undetected from New York to Virginia and with French forces on land and sea trapped the British under Lord Cornwallis’ command on the Yorktown peninsula. After twenty-one days of constant bombardment, the British surrendered. As the British marched out of Yorktown, the band played “The World Turned Upside Down.” This defeat convinced the British that the war was a lost cause. With 7,800 French soldiers and the French fleet in the harbor, Washington accepted Cornwallis' surrender; the major fighting had ended.

John Adams, Benjamin Franklin (United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Paris), John Jay (United States Minister to Spain), Henry Laurens (United States Special Minister to France), and Thomas Jefferson developed and signed the final peace treaty settling the differences between the United States and Great Britain. The Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War in 1783.

The Articles of Confederation

On June 12, 1776, a committee was appointed to begin drafting a form of government for the thirteen colonies. After Benjamin Franklin and John Dickinson wrote several drafts, a final draft of the Articles of Confederation was completed in 1777. After its completion, the Articles were sent to the states for ratification. The approval of all thirteen was necessary before the Articles would go into effect. Wary of centralized government power, the states were not willing to ratify the document without deliberations and some concessions.

The issue of who would control lands west of the Appalachian Mountains concerned the states, especially those without western claims. Maryland insisted the West belonged to the United States, and the landless states should be given opportunities in the West as well. Thus, it was not until Virginia and New York yielded their western claims that Maryland ratified, and the Articles of Confederation went into effect in 1781.

The Articles by design gave Congress only very specific and limited powers. There was no executive or judicial branch of government and no taxing power; the new Congress could only request money from the states. Among the accomplishments of the Confederation were the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which set the guidelines for admission of new states into the union. The Northwest Ordinance also banned slavery in what is now the upper Midwest of the United States.

The American Revolution and the Atlantic World

In the next decades, the American Revolution inspired revolutions and independence movements throughout the Atlantic World. The first country to follow the American example of revolution was France. In 1789, French Revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, the ancient prison used by the king, and overthrew the monarchy. However, unlike the American Revolution, which was philosophically and socially conservative in nature, the French revolutionaries violently transformed their society, conducting mass executions of clergy and aristocrats during the Reign of Terror. American leaders, with the notable exception of Thomas Jefferson, roundly condemned the French Revolutionaries.

The next revolution began in the French colony of Haiti in 1791. A former slave, Toussaint L’Ouverture led the uprising, and Haiti won independence in 1804. Two priests, who were executed and became symbols of freedom, sparked revolution in Mexico against Spain in September 1810. Mexico finally achieved independence from Spain in 1821. In Venezuela, a revolt against Spain began in 1806, and independence was won in 1821. Simon Bolivar, a leader of the Venezuelan revolution, also liberated Colombia by defeating Spanish forces in August 1819 and capturing Bogota in the spring of 1820. Bolivar became the first president of Colombia.

Ecuador fought for its freedom from 1809 until 1822. Jose de San Martin, “the Liberator” led Argentina, Chile, and Peru to independence. The fighting lasted from 1810 to 1821. Uruguay and Paraguay also declared independence around this time. San Martin declared Peru free of Spain in 1821, but had to fight the Spanish until 1825. Bolivia declared independence in 1809 but could not achieve victory against the Spanish until 1824.

The result of all this was that within the short span of fifty years, from 1775 to 1825, the Atlantic World had changed from a European empire dominated by three strong monarchies to a network of republics, governed (in varying degrees) by their own people and interacting with other countries. As an indication of how the world had changed, the United States issued the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, demanding the former European masters of the American colonies recognize and respect the independence of those former colonies.

  • groups that were set up by American colonists to keep each other informed about British actions and to plan ways that the colonies might work together to protest those actions
  • a document that states that Britain no longer rules the American colonies and lists the reasons the colonies were separating with Britain; this statement was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson and was approved by the Second Continental Congress in 1776
  • a form of government in which power is concentrated on a single branch leaving all other local authorities subject to its rule
  • an agreement adopted by the Continental Congress of the founding 13 states that served as the first constitution of the United States; it was a loose federation of states with a weak federal government and strong state governments; it was eventually replaced by the current Consitution due to the need for a stronger federal government
  • the American name for the northern theater of the Seven Years War when the British colonies fought aginst the French and their Native allies
  • a group of colonial women who displayed loyalty to the colonies by participating in the boycott of British goods after the passage of the Townshend acts
  • the study of a person's relationship to society and the application of ethical concepts in politics
  • a convention of delegates called together from the 13 colony-states that became the governing body during the American Revolution and the years following
  • War between American colonists and Great Britain in which the colonists gained their independence.
  • A philosophical movement that included the rejection of traditional ideals in favor of new ideas based on rational thought and reason.
  • army of the United States of America that formed at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War created by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775
  • charter colony; a colony establish by a company that received a charter from the mother country in order to set up a new government
  • a British policy which avoided strict enforcement of parliamentary laws which was believed to cause the colonies to flourish while keeping them obedient to the crown
  • a set of laws passed by the British in 1774 that were meant to punish the Massachusetts colony for the Boston Tea Party of 1773; these laws were known in England as the Coercive Acts
  • a protest against the British Tea Act in which colonists, dressed as American Indians, boarded merchant ships carrying tea and dumped the tea into the Boston Harbor
  • The period of intense religious revival in the American colonies.
  • all of the activities involved in running any type of organization (such as a school or a company); the group of people responsible for running an organization
  • the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution which protect the basic rights and freedoms of all citizens
  • the country from which a person was born; the country where settlers or colonists originated
  • the elected head of a parliamentary democracy; the most senior position of a cabinet in a parliamentary system
  • public consensus on a certain issue; collective views of the people
  • a British law that required the colonial government and individual colonists in America to provide British soldiers with housing, food, and other necessities
  • the process of allowing citizens to shape the planning of legislation and government policies through the election of local representatives
  • a set of laws passed by the British in 1767, including one that placed a tax on goods such as glass, tea, paper, paint, and lead imported into the North American colonies
  • the exchange of information between individuals through a system of shared symbols, signs or behaviors
  • a union of political units for a common purpose that is normally established to deal with critical issues
  • the total financial obligations of a nation; the total amount of money a nation owes
  • a series of laws enacted by the British Parliament in 1774 intended to punish Boston colonists and restore order in Massachusetts following the Boston Tea Party of 1773; also see the Intolerable Acts
  • A position of attitude from which something is observed or considered.
  • member of a conservative political party who adheres to traditional values
  • freedom from the control, influence, or support of another person or group
  • the right, power, or authority to interpret and enforce the law; the extent, territory, or range of authority
  • a political economy that prevailed in Europe after the decline of feudalism which called for the government control of foreign trade in order to establish security at home through trade surpluses
  • an official public announcement; official declaration
  • to give formal approval; confirm; to establish as law
  • a colony governed by the crown through an appointed governor or council
  • a contest between businesses to win the most customers or earn the most money
  • a part of the United States located on the continent of North America
  • totally unacceptable or impossible to bear
  • a law enacted by a governing body; process of lawmaking
  • officially elected body of people who hold the power to make laws for a state or nation
  • a region in the northeastern United States where the first English settlers lived in the 17th century
  • devotion or loyalty to a leader, nation, group, or idea
  • a settlement of differences reached by mutual concessioins
  • a tax that is paid by individuals or companies directly to the government, such as an income tax
  • the system which governs or exercises influence over a state or community
  • method of charting and steering an object
  • the group of people who propose and pass the laws in many countries, including Britain, Russia, France, and Canada
  • the pursuite of knowledge through rational argument; the beliefs held by a person
  • information which may be exaggerated or untrue that is purposely spread in order to influence or persuade people
  • a person who owns property such as a business.
  • a member of one of the Christian groups that broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century
  • a sudden and drastic change; the often violent attempt to end the rule of one government and replace it with a completely new government
  • something, such as a trait or circumstance, that helps someone achieve a goal, especially over another person who does not have the benefit of that trait or circumstance.
  • a group of people delegated to perform a certain function such as investigating an issue or taking action for a specific cause
  • dealing with matters of money, capital, or credit
  • a person who moves to a new country
  • the ship that transported 102 English Pilgrims to the New World in 1620
  • the Americas; term that represented the Western Hemisphere after European discovery during the 16th century
  • the point on the horizon directly between the north and west
  • chief executive; the highest position of office in a Republican state
  • open defiance of or resistance to authority; a violent uprising against the government
  • to identify; to know that something has been seen or experienced before
  • the materials available that can be drawn upon when needed; supply
  • the act of formally withdrawing from a federation
  • a British law passed in 1765 that placed a tax on most printed items that were produced and sold throughout the American colonies
  • to agree to stop fighting or hiding because it has become clear that you can not win or succeed
  • all of the land and waters that belong to or are controlled by a particular country; an area of land claimed by the United States, but not officially recognized as a state 
  • acceptance of people whose religion, opinions, race, or culture is different from your own
  • two or more people, parties, or nations that agree to help one another achieve a common goal
  • a group of people gathered together for a formal meeting on legislation, worship or entertainment
  • using force or intimidation to make a person or a group of people do something
  • a disagreement; opposition
  • the main lawmaking body in the United States that consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives
  • a person chosen to voice the opinion of or act on behalf of an entire group; a representative
  • an official statement usually dealing with religion, the military or foregin affairs
  • a governing official who exercises influence over an organized body; a person who governs
  • the production and sale of goods, in general; a group of businesses that make a particular good or provide a particular service (the automobile industry, the tourist industry)
  • the violent and cruel murder of a number of people who are usually helpless and have done nothing to provoke the attack
  • a state ruled by a single monarch who holds absolute power
  • a document, signed by many people, asking someone in a position of power to do something for them or to grant something to them
  • to make something uniform or consistent; to standardize
  • producing favorable effects; beneficial
  • a long-term plan for achieving a particular goal
  • the act of placing a tax on income, property, or purchases as a way to raise money for the government
  • one way that a group of people can show that they are unhappy by promising not to buy, use, or participate until a change is made
  • the city that serves as the official seat of government in a state or nation
  • a period of one hundred years
  • written permission given to a person or group to begin a new company, university, or settlement
  • the way people use what they have in order to get what they need or want
  • coming from or related to a place outside of one's own country
  • freedom from the control, coercion, interference, or restriction of others; independence
  • to object or dissent
  • extremely different; straying from the usual or traditional
  • the legal ownership of one person by another; the condition of a person who is legally owned by another
  • an amount that is more than what is needed; extra
  • harsh, cruel, and unfair treatment by an individual or group who has absolute authority over others; the abuse of power
  • a law passed by the British Parliament in 1773 that was intended to help the British East India Company sell more tea but instead, the act angered colonial merchants and inspired protest
  • a place that is ruled by a far away country; a group of people sent by their country to build settlements in such a place
  • a change, event, or condition that is produced by a cause; a result
  • one very large area or many separate areas under the control of one person or government
  • part of a larger body of water, deep enough for ships to anchor, that provides protection from wind, waves and water currents
  • a large caliber, muzzle-loading gun fired from the shoulder used from the late 16th century to the 18th century
  • to take contorl of a region or place through military intervention
  • to take back or cancel
  • a labor strategy in which employees, as a group, refuse to work until the employer agrees to meet their demands or negotiate an agreement that is acceptable to both parties 
  • a tax added by the government to goods produced and shipped in from other countries
  • a formal agreement between two or more nations, usually regarding trade, peace, or alliance
  • a name that refers to all of the states that did not secede from the United States during the American Civil War
  • the area of low land between hills or mountains
  • a principle of entitlement; fundamental rules
  • the thing or person responsible for a specific change or result
  • the person with the highest rank or most power in a group
  • a male monarch who inherits his position by right of birth
  • command; authoritative instruction
  • a particular space with definite or indefinite boundaries that has a specific name
  • an area under someone's influence or power; a kingdom
  • to take suddenly, especially by force
  • a person held in servidtude who is the property of another
  • a legal proceeding that takes place in a court of law in which evidence is presented to a judge or some other competent tribunal who then hands down a decision
  • a proposed law
  • moral obligation; a required task
  • a group of people sworn to determin a verdict in a legal case based on evidence submitted to them in court
  • a rule established by custom or authority
  • to charge or impose by law, such as a tax or a fine
  • an often customary method of achieving an end
  • the point on a compass that is directly opposite from east; the direction of sunset
  • a law