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The Revolutionary War

The Coercive (or Intolerable) Acts sparked the Revolution. Britain had backed down from earlier conflicts caused by its laws, but not this time. Britain was determined to bring America into line.

The colonists responded with the First Continental Congress, in 1774. Every colony except Georgia agreed to disobey the Coercive Acts and to withhold taxes, cut trade, and arm their people. Their agreement is recorded in the Declaration of Rights and Grievances by John Adams. The Congress also gave Massachusetts instructions on resisting the Coercive Acts, called the Suffolk Resolves. Massachusetts, still heavily Puritan, was prepared to defy the British. The Congress composed a set of Declarations and Resolves which established the colonies' position toward Britain. The colonies agreed to end all trade with Britain in a final effort to have her alter her policies. All of these plans were carried out.

Yet the British did not back down. Colonists were prohibited from presenting petitions and declarations and resolutions to Parliament. William Pitt, one of the colonists' few friends in the British Parliament, introduced a resolution to withdraw British troops from the colonies. This was defeated in Parliament by a wide margin: 68 to 18. Parliament officially declared that Massachusetts was in rebellion.

Many Americans were ready to forsake all hope of peace. Patrick Henry was one of these, when he said these words in a famous address, " I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

On April 19, 1775, the British commander in charge of America, General Thomas Gage, responded to orders from England to forcibly stop the rebellion. That and other conflicts brought the colonies together in 1775 for the Second Continental Congress. They realized that hope for peace was foolish now. It was time to prepare for war. The Congress instituted paper money and named George Washington head of Continental Army, which he then led throughout the Revolution.

On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was formally announced. It declares that all men are created equal, having natural inalienable rights. The colonies' many grievances against the crown were listed. It argued that government is a social compact and rebellion is justified when the government breaks its end of the bargain. This logic was borrowed from the philosophy of John Locke. But perhaps the most important part of the Declaration was its frequent invocation of God. Our nation was founded on God's providence and truth.

Still, the colonies had few troops, especially since one-third of the population was loyal to Britain and another significant percentage were pacifist Quakers. Washington's army was composed of just 18,000 men. The British won early battles at Bunker Hill in Boston, in Canada, and in New York. The colonies did not start winning until Christmas Eve in Trenton in 1776, then later at Princeton.

During the winter of 1777 Washington quartered his troops in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. This winter was filled with suffering. The troops lacked supplies and many died of starvation and cold. But the training the troops received during this time was invaluable. Prussian Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben drilled the troops throughout the winter, and his expertise may well have aided in turning the tide against the British.

At Saratoga in upstate New York in October 1777, 6,000 British soldiers surrendered, constituting a huge victory for the colonies. The Saratoga victory was the turning point in the war, because the French then ended its neutrality and entered on our side.

Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in obtaining French backing for the American cause and forging the Franco-American Alliance in 1778. Due to Franklin's efforts as an ambassador to France, and the inspiration of the colonies' victory at Saratoga, France recognized the colonies' independence, entered into a military alliance with the colonies, and renounced its territory east of the Mississippi as well as Bermuda. Franklin, it is worth noting, had other significant achievements that included inventing the Franklin stove for heating, and starting the first library.

In May 1781, the French arrived with two fleets, and trapped the British at Yorktown, Virginia. They were forced to surrender their entire army of 8,000. But the British still held New York, and did not finally sign a peace treaty until February 1783, the Treaty of Paris. In it the British gave up their claim to land east of the Mississippi, from Canada to Florida. The Americans promised to treat fairly the Loyalists (colonists loyal to the King) and English creditors (people owed money by colonists). Some people on both sides refused to abide by the treaty, and loyalty to England continues to run deep to this day in some American families.



Date: 2016-04-22; view: 726

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