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Time Line of Events Leading to the Revolution:   dominos.gif (3062 bytes)

1754 to 1770

July
1754

(New York)

Against the prospect of war between the French and Britain, representative from Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire met in Albany, NY.  Benjamin Franklin (PA) drew up a plan for common defense which was approved by the members of the Albany Congress but subsequently rejected by the individual Colonial legislatures. Though a failure, the plan was the first major attempt by the colonies toward a semblance of union, and later became the basis for the first and second Continental Congresses.  Parts of Franklin's Albany Plan can be found in both the subsequent Articles of Confederation and US Constitution.
Oct 25,
1760
(England)
After the death of King George II (at age 77) the previous day, the twenty-two year old Prince of Wales becomes King George III and ascends to the British throne.
Apr 5,
1764
(London)
Faced with the expenses of defending the American colonies and the cost of the French and Indian War, Parliament approves a revenue generating measure called the American Revenue Act of 1764.   Known in the colonies as the "Sugar Act", it doubles the cost for Colonists on foreign molasses and creates a monopoly on the American sugar market for British planters.  It was the first law ever passed by Parliament specifically aimed at raising money for England in the Colonies, and was defended by the members of Parliament as a measure to raise revenues for the military defense of the Colonies.   Initiated by Lord George Grenville, Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was the first of two "Grenville" acts that would outrage colonists and eventually lead to the American Revolution.
Apr 19,
1764
(London)
Parliament, at the urging of Lord Grenville, passes a Currency Act, prohibiting the American colonies from printing paper money
May 24,
1764
(Boston)
"Taxation without Representation" became the phrase of the day as attorney James Otis stood up at at town meeting to speak out against the new Sugar Act.  By July Mr. Otis published The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved to support his opposition to the Sugar Act.  (In December Governor Stephen Hopkins publishes Mr. Otis' work in the Providence Gazette).
August
1764
(Boston)
Boston merchants unite in protest against the Sugar Act with an organized boycott on imported English luxury goods.  The policy of non-importation quickly spreads, first when the mechanics of Boston join the protest by refusing to purchase their leather work clothes from any source except the manufacturers in Massachusetts.  By September the mechanics in New York join the boycott as well.
1765
Mar 22,
1765
(London)
At the urging of Lord Grenville Parliament passes a Stamp Act in the American colonies.   This measure called for a stamp costing from a halfpenny to 10 pounds to be placed on all sorts of printed documents from newspapers and books to legal documents like deeds and licenses... even a deck of playing cards.  The revenue from these stamps was to be collected by appointed colonial "tax agents" who would be paid 300 pounds a year for their services.  The Stamp Act is scheduled to become effective in the colonies on November 1st.
Mar 24,
1765
(Colonies)
The Quartering Act requested by the commander-in-chief of all British military forces in the Colonies General Thomas Gage becomes effective.  This act required colonists to provide both shelter and food for British soldiers and their horses.
May 29
1765
(Virginia)
In the Virginia House of Burgesses, 29 year old Patrick Henry presented 7 resolutions condemning the attempts of Parliament to tax the American colonies.  At the height of debate he stood and said, "Caesar had his Brutus, Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the Third may profit by their example."  His inflammatory remarks were greeted by several members' by cries of "TREASON!" to which the freshman legislator replied:

"If this be treason, make the most of it."

The following day most Henry's resolutions condemning the crown's taxation policies were adopted by the House of Burgesses.

June 8
1765
(Boston)
At the urging of James Otis the Massachusetts assembly called for all of the American Colonies   to send delegates to New York in October for a meeting on the Stamp Act.
1765
(Colonies)
A group of angered colonists calling themselves the "Sons of Liberty" gains rapid growth throughout the Colonies as they vent a mob violence against Stamp Agents and supporters of the Stamp Act.  The term "Sons of Liberty" was coined in Parliament by Colonel Isaac Barre who had opposed Grenville's Stamp Act with the proclamation that the earlier Molasses and Sugar Acts had "made the blood of those sons of liberty boil within them."

In Boston (August 25) a mob burns the home of Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson, while in New York there is serious rioting.  Stamp agents are tarred and feathered with yet another hung by the seat of his pants from the liberty pole.  In England Lord Grenville falls out of favor with King George III and is forced to resign.   Meanwhile in the Colonies Lord Grenville is hung in effigy and a 43 year old Massachusetts revolutionary named Same Adams becomes a leader in the "Sons of Liberty" movement which gains increasing notice as they publicly defy Parliament and the Crown by burning stamps and scaring stamp agents into resignation.

Oct 7-25
1765
(New York)
Nine American Colonies send delegates to the Stamp Act Congress, a group united in opposition to the Stamp Act but divided in their reaction to it.  While James Otis supported all the resolutions drafted against the Act, he called for "dutiful and loyal addresses to His Majesty" and rejected what he called the "treason" of the radical Virginian Patrick Henry.

John Dickinson (PA) wrote the draft for a formal "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" which stated "no taxes ever have been or can be constitutionally imposed on them (the Colonies), except by their respective legislatures."  The argument was buttressed by the claim that without colonial representation in Parliament, that legislative body was without right to tax the Colonies.  The approved declaration further enumerated the Colonial belief that those living in the Colonies were equal to all other British citizens, and deplored the violation of Common Law wherein Stamp Act violators could be tried in non-jury vice admiralty courts.

A more subtle result of the Stamp Act Congress was a more unified non-importation agreement to boycott British goods...an effective measure that dramatically reduced income for British export firms and caused them to begin pressuring Parliament to realize that the Stamp Act was a mistake and repeal it.

1766
March 4
1766
(London)
After months of testimony, Parliament repeals the Stamp Act.  The debate was led by Lord Grenville who stated his belief that the act could be enforced in the Colonies by military force.   William Pitt argued against the Act, and was supported by the testimony of many British merchants who had suffered the effects of the Colonial non-importation policies.   Even Pennsylvanian Benjamin Franklin testified before Parliament, explaining that the colonists were not opposed to ALL taxes, but that the Stamp Act itself presented a hardship that could possibly lead to a revolution.

The recommendation to repeal the Stamp Act passed the Parliament by a vote of 250-122, but was accompanied by a Declaratory Act asserting that Parliament had the power and right to pass laws binding on the Colonies "in all cases whatsoever."

Aug 10,
1766
(New York)
A new hero emerged in New York as the Sons of Liberty defied British soldiers as they attempted to tear down a liberty pole.  The soldiers were upset at the continued refusal of the New York Assembly to comply with last year's Quartering Act and provide them with housing and shelter.  In the melee that followed, local resistance leader Isaac Sears was injured.  While General Gage and his soldiers consider Mr. Sears a rebel and mob leader, his injury made him a martyr and hero to many Colonists, especially in New York.
August
1766
(London)
Charles Townshend becomes the chancellor of the Exchequer in the British cabinet.  Mr. Townshend has been described as a man of "great cleverness, great eloquence and no principles."
Dec 19,
1766
(New York)
General Thomas Gage orders the closure of the New York Assembly.  As the site of considerable riot in opposition to the Stamp Act recently repealed, General Gage had ordered many of his soldiers to maintain order in New York.  Governor Henry Moore had invoked the Quartering Act to require the New York Assembly to provide food and shelter for Gage's New York based soldiers, a request the Assembly had refused on the basis of lacking funds.  
1767
January
1767
(London)
When William Pitt becomes ill, Charles Townshend becomes the acting head of the British cabinet.   He concerns himself with two basic Colonial issues:
  • Raising Taxes in the American Colonies
  • Enforcing the Quartering Act on the Defiant New York Assembly

The result over the following months were the passage of several acts that would become known as the Townshend Acts.

June 6,
1767
(New York)
In hopes of appealing to Parliament to reverse the closure of the New York Assembly, (which had really not yet been enforced), the Assembly offers to pay 3,000 pounds to provide food and shelter for British Troops under the Quartering Act.
June 15,
1767
(London)
The first of the Townshend Acts is approved, a measure suspending the New York Assembly until such time as it complies with the Quartering Act.
June 29,
1767
(London)
The SECOND and THIRD of the Townshend Acts are passed.  These revenue acts levy new duties on lead, painters' colors, glass, paper and tea...small items that Townshend felt could be taxed with little notice or concern in the Colonies.
June
1767
(London)
The FOURTH and final Townshend Act is passed repealing duties on tea in England and allowing tea to be exported free of taxation. 

Also a part of the Townshend Acts was the establishment of a Board of Customs Commissioners in Boston with broad powers to collect the new taxes.  This Board had the power to use WRITS OF ASSISTANCE allowing them authority to search warehouses and private homes to seize smuggled goods.  The number of vice admiralty courts, a non-jury trial procedure used against violators of the Acts, were increased. 

A final insult was laid upon the Colonial Assemblies when the Townshend Acts provided for using the taxes raised by the acts to pay the salaries of Colonial governors and judges.  Previously the compensation provided to royal officials and employees was controlled by the individual assemblies, but this provision of the Acts eliminated all control the assembly may have otherwise had over those officials.

Sep 4,
1767
(London)
Charles Townshend, chancellor of the Exchequer and father of the Townshend Acts, dies in England and is replaced by Lord North.
Fall
1767
(Colonies)
John Dickinson, the lawyer from Pennsylvania who was primary author of the "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" passed by the Stamp Act Congress, (and who is also a Virginia planter) writes a series of "Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies".  Originally published as a newspaper article, it is duplicated in pamphlet form and widely circulated and debated throughout the Colonies.   Among Dickinson's arguments is the premise that the Colonies are at the mercy of the British, an unfair situation.  He denounces the Townshend Acts as "unconstitutional" in the belief that Parliament does not have the right to tax the Colonies and calls the suspension of the New York Assembly a "threat to colonial liberties."  He also speaks out in opposition to the Quartering Act.
Oct 28,
1767
(Boston)
Revolutionary leaders and merchants in this city renew their call for a boycott of British goods and lead the way in reviving the non-importation policies of many throughout the Colonies.
1768
February
1768
(Boston)
Massachusetts continues to be a leader in the rebellion against the policies of the British Parliament and such measures as the Townshend Acts.  Customs agents here have requested military protection.  Meanwhile Samuel Adams has written a statement somewhat similar to Dickinson's "Letters from a Farmer" in which he asserts that Parliament's new laws amount to nothing more than "TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION", and are therefore beyond the scope of Parliament's authority.  In so saying, he becomes the first American leader to deny the authority of the British ruling body.  Adams further points out that, due the distance between the Colonies and England, it is physically impossible for the Colonies to be represented adequately in Parliament, leading some to believe he is espousing Colonial independence and autonomy.  Adam's statement, which also calls for the Colonies to unite in opposition to the Townshend Acts, become known as the Massachusetts Circular Letter.  The Statement is approved by the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  (By April the Colonies of Virginia, Connecticut, New Jersey and New Hampshire also endorse Mr. Adam's letter.)
June 15
1768
(Boston)
Harvard educated local shipper John Hancock today refused to allow royal inspectors aboard his ship the Liberty.  When one customs official did get below he was taken by the crew and literally NAILED to the wall.  When the official reported the incident upon his release, Hancock's ship was seized by the British leading to a riot in Boston.
July 18
1768
(Boston)
John Dickinson, primary author of the Stamp Act Congress' "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" and the widely read (even in England) "Letters from a Farmer In Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies" has a new publication in the local "Gazette".   The first published patriotic song in the American Colonies, it urges:

"Come join hand in hand, brave Americans all, and rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call."

September
1768
(Boston)
The Massachusetts Assembly continues to receive pressure to reverse their support for Samuel Adams "Circular Letter", this time by Lord Hillsborough who is the new crown secretary for the Colonies.  Lord Hillsborough's request was denied in the Assembly by a lop-sided 92-17 vote, followed by celebration and the commissioning of a commemorative punch bowl by silversmith Paul Revere.
Oct 1
1768
(Boston)
General Thomas Gage has personally taken command of the situation in Boston, and today his contingent was reinforced by two regiments at the request of Lord Hillsborough.  The newly arrived troops were welcomed by some loyalists in the city as they marched through Boston with great pomp and circumstance in a visible show of force.  Others are angered at the billeting of these troops in their city and see their presence as a threat to personal liberties.  The troops could have been housed at the nearby fort Castle William, but the British commanders and local leadership decided it best to house the soldiers within the city that has been the scene of so much unrest and rebellion against the crown.  In addition to the ground forces, British war ships are stationed throughout Boston Harbor, making the city almost appear to be under siege.
1769
Spring
1769
(Virginia)
On the heels of last year's endorsement of Samuel Adam's Circular Letter, the Virginia House of Burgesses passes resolutions condemning the recent siege in Massachusetts and espousing the belief that only Virginia's governor and legislature have the right to tax the citizens of the commonwealth.  The legislative membership went one step further, drafting a formal letter of protest to King George III.
May 17
1769
(Virginia)
In response to resolutions condemning British taxation under the Townshend Acts and the military reaction in Massachusetts, Royal Governor of Virginia Botetourt dissolves the Virginia House of Burgesses.
May 18,
1769
(Virginia)
Delegates of the Virginia House of Burgesses, now dissolved by order of the Royal Governor, meet at Raleigh Tavern.  Their plan, proposed by George Washington, has called for a complete boycott of all British imports until Parliament repeals the Townshend Acts.  Their organized resistance is known as the Virginia Association. 

(By November both North and South Carolina adopt the Virginia Association's ban on trade with Britain, and by the end of the year the three Colonies are joined in the effort by Maryland, Delaware, and Connecticut.  The boycott was further extended to include avoiding trade with any local businesses that failed to abide by the non-importation agreement.)

Dec 15,
1769
(New York)
Bowing to the pressures of the Quartering Act, the New York Assembly votes to provide 2000 pounds to provide food and shelter to British troops stationed here.  One local patriot was so infuriated that the following day he decried members of the Assembly in a publication titled "To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York."
1770
Jan 17,
1770
(New York)
British soldiers garrisoned in New York initiate a series of violent events when they cut down a liberty pole erected by local patriots.
Jan 19,
1770
(New York)
Tension in New York between local patriots and British soldiers escalates into violence when the Sons of Liberty lead by Alexander McDougall and armed with swords and clubs, engage British soldiers on Golden Hill.  Several men were seriously wounded in the exchange.
Feb 8,
1770
(New York)
Alexander McDougall, leader of the Sons of Liberty faction that engaged in a violent confrontation with British troops here last month, as been arrested and accused with libel as the author of a pamphlet written last December titled "To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York".  It was upon the testimony of his printer that McDougall was accused, and when McDougall refused to make bail he was sent to prison.   The local merchant's imprisonment galvanized much of the anti-British sentiment locally, and crowds of patriot's gather almost daily outside his cell window to sing anti-British songs.

(McDougall's trial had to be set aside when the principle witness against him died, but when McDougall defied a summons to appear before the Colonial Assembly he was held in prison until the following year, when he was released.)

March 5,
1770
(Boston)
Tensions have remained high in Boston since British soldiers arrived in force a little over a year before.  Local sentiments against "Redcoats" were further increased in the early months of 1770 as off-duty soldiers began earning extra income by replacing striking workers in local industries.  When Boston barber Edward Garrick accused one of the soldiers of hitting him in the head with a rifle, a small group of Redcoats came to the rescue of their comrade.  They were met by an angry mob of Boston citizens who quickly resorted to pelting the soldiers first with insults, then with snowballs, then with rocks and oyster shells.

As the mob continued to taunt and pelt the soldiers, without orders one of them began to fire into the crowd, his actions soon followed by others.  When the musket fire ended Crispus Attucks, one of the leaders in the mob, as well as two others were dead.  Two more citizens later succumbed to wounds received in the attack, and six more survived wounds in what became known as the "Boston Massacre".  Further citizen uprisings were averted when the British soldiers withdrew to islands in the Harbor.

March 6,
1770
(Boston)
Captain Thomas Preston, commander of the British squad involved in yesterday's fatal confrontation between British soldiers and local citizens, was charged with murder.  Eight of his enlisted men have also been charged with him in the incident that left five citizens dead and six more wounded.
April 12,
1770
(London)
Bowing to the pressure of unrest in the American Colonies and amid pleas from British merchants hurt by the Colonies' boycott of British goods in reaction to the Townshend Acts, Parliament repealed most of the acts today.  Only the tax on tea was retained, and this measure was taken primarily as a symbolic statement to the Colonists that Parliament was supreme and did indeed have the right to govern the Colonies.  The measure seems to have been effective as, in subsequent months, the Colonies begin one-by-one to end their boycott of British imported goods.
Dec 12,
1770
(Boston)
The trials of Captain Thomas Preston and eight of his soldiers charged with murder in the March riot now called the "Boston Massacre" finally end.  The defense team of John Adams and Josiah Quincy successfully argued that the soldiers acted reasonably in the face of the provocation, obtained the acquittal of all eight men.  Two of the soldiers were convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter and were punished by being branded on the hand and discharged from the British military.  Otherwise the defense of the soldiers, despite the inflamed passions of many local patriots, was successful.

John Adams, the cousin of revolutionary radical Samuel Adams, defended the soldiers as a matter of principle claiming that even the hated British soldiers were entitled to be properly defended.  The incident has become legendary in patriotic circles, hyped by Paul Revere's portrayal (on a colored engraving) of Captain Preston ordering his men to fire  into a rather peaceably looking group of citizens.   Though the trial, which began in October and took almost three months, finally sets the official record straight on the truth of the incident, it continues to be a rallying point for many anti-British patriots throughout the Colonies.

 

1771 to 1774              1775/1776

 


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Sources:
Chronicle of America. DK Publishing.  New York: 1997
Family Encyclopedia of American History.  Reader's Digest Association.   Pleasantville, NY: 1975.
"Continental Congress."  Funk & Wagnals New Encyclopedia, Volume 7.  1986
The American Nation.  Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.  New York: 1998
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
George Washington, Man and Monument. Cunliffe, Marcus.   Little, Brown & Co.  New York: 1958

 

 

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