SS7 Chapter 05 Notes: The Spirit of Independence

Section 1: No Taxation Without Representation (p. 112-115)

Dealing With Great Britain

The French and Indian War was over and the British controlled a lot of land in North America. They had to protect this land. To pay the costs of protecting the land, King George III made the Proclamation of 1763. A proclamation is an important announcement. These are the rules of the Proclamation of 1763.

Colonists could not live on Native American lands that were west of the Appalachian Mountains. This would keep peace between settlers and Native Americans. This also made the colonists live close to the coast. It was easier for the British to control them that way.

King George sent 10,000 soldiers to the colonies to make sure the colonist followed the rules.

The British government needed revenue, or money, to give the soldiers food and supplies. Britain also had to pay back money it had borrowed to pay for the French and Indian War.

The English government thought the colonists should help to pay for these things. So, Britain made new taxes for the colonies.

Colonists did not want to pay taxes to Britain. One way to keep from paying taxes was to smuggle goods. Smuggling means bringing or taking goods in secret. When colonists smuggled goods, Britain did not get as much money from taxes.

There was another way to stop the smuggling. Parliament passed a law allowing writs of assistance, papers that gave officers the right to search for smuggled goods.

In 1764, Parliament passed a law called the Sugar Act. This law lowered the tax on molasses, a kind of sweetener. The British government hoped that colonists would pay a lower tax instead of smuggling. The law also allowed officers to take smuggled goods without getting permission.

Colonists were angry about the Sugar Act. They knew that they were British citizens. They knew that British citizens had certain rights:

  • They had the right to a jury trial.
  • They were innocent until proven guilty.
  • They had the right to feel safe in their homes without soldiers coming in to search for smuggled goods.

New Taxes on the Colonies

In 1765 Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which taxed printed items, such as newspapers. Colonists did not like the Stamp Act at all.

In Virginia, a representative named Patrick Henry did not like the law. He convinced the House of Burgesses to act against the law. They passed a resolution against the Stamp Act. A resolution is an official statement.

The resolution said that only the Virginia assembly had the power to tax Virginia citizens.

In Boston, Samuel Adams worked against the Stamp Act. He helped to start a protest group called the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty burned effigies, or large, stuffed dolls. The dolls were made to look like tax collectors.

Delegates from nine colonies met in New York. The meeting was called the Stamp Act Congress and they wrote a resolution which was then sent to the British Parliament and to King George. Colonial businessmen decided to boycott, or refuse to buy, British goods

People followed the boycott and not enough colonists were buying British goods. As a result, British merchants lost a lot of money and British merchants asked Parliament to repeal, or cancel, the Stamp Act.  Parliament canceled the law and passed another law instead. This law was the Declaratory Act and it said that Parliament had the right to tax the colonists.

English lawmakers passed the Townshend Acts which taxed goods that were imported, or brought into, the colonies. By now, any British taxes made colonists angry do a group of women protested. They told colonists to make cloth at home and wear it. This way, they would not have to buy cloth from Britain. Some of these groups called themselves the Daughters of Liberty.


Section 2: Trouble in Massachusetts (p. 116-119)

Trouble in Massachusetts

Colonists kept on protesting which made British officials nervous. A message was sent to Britain and said the colonies were close to rebellion. Rebellion means to reject the rules and authority of Britain.

Parliament sent soldiers, called “redcoats,” to the city of Boston, Massachusetts.  The colonists decided the British had gone too far.  The redcoats were very disrespectful to the colonists.

A fight broke out between a group of soldiers and citizens of Boston.  Five colonists were killed.  One of the colonists killed was Crispus Attucks (part African and part Native American).  The colonists called the event the “Boston Massacre.” A massacre is when a large number of people are killed. Colonists used the killings as propaganda. Propaganda is using information to make people think or feel a certain way. Samuel Adams put up posters to make people angry at the British. The posters showed soldiers killing the citizens of Boston.

Samuel Adams restarted a group called the committee of correspondence, which wrote their complaints about Britain and the British.  More committees of correspondence started in other colonies. These groups brought protesters together and made them stronger against the British.

Crisis in Boston

There was a British company called the British East India Company which was not doing well and were nearly out of business.  So Parliament passed a law (the Tea Act) to help save the company.  The Tea Act also took away some, but not all, of the taxes on tea but the colonists did not want to pay any taxes on tea so they called for a boycott.  Still, the British East India Company kept on shipping tea to the colonies.

Three tea ships arrived in Boston Harbor.  That night the Sons of Liberty in Boston took action and dressed up as Native Americans and boarded the ships. They threw large boxes of tea overboard. This event became known as the “Boston Tea Party.” When King George III heard about the Boston Tea Party, he knew he was losing control of the colonies.

Britain then passed the Coercive Acts (meaning “for the purpose of forcing someone”) which were laws meant to punish the colonies. One of the laws forced colonists to let British soldiers live among them. Massachusetts was punished the hardest.  Boston Harbor was closed until colonists paid for the tea they had thrown overboard.

With the harbor closed, no other food or supplies could get into Boston. The Coercive Acts united the colonists and they sent food and clothing to Boston.

Colonists said all these laws violated their rights as English citizens. Colonists called these laws the Intolerable Acts. Intolerable means “unbearable.”


Section 3: A Call to Arms (p. 120-125)

A Meeting in Philadelphia

Fifty-five delegates met in Philadelphia to discuss how the colonies could challenge British control. The meeting was called the Continental Congress. It included John Adams, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and George Washington

The delegates to the Continental Congress:

  • issued a statement asking Parliament to repeal several laws that violated colonists’ rights.
  • voted to boycott trade with Britain. This included all goods coming into and going out of the colonies.
  • decided to approve the Suffolk Resolves. This called for the colonists to arm themselves against the British.

In Massachusetts, the militia began to train and gather weapons. A colonial militia was a group of citizens who served as part-time soldiers to help protect the colony. Some militias claimed they could be ready to fight in just one minute and became known as minutemen.

Fighting Begins

The British also got ready to fight. King George III saw that the New England colonies were rebelling. Thousands of British soldiers were in and around Boston.

King George gave an order to British general Thomas Gage. He told General Gage to get rid of the militia’s weapons. General Gage heard that the militia kept its weapons in a town near Boston called Concord. Gage sent soldiers to Concord to destroy the weapons.

Colonists in Boston saw the soldiers march out of town. Paul Revere and William Dawes rode to Lexington (near Concord). They warned colonists that the British were coming.

Minutemen (colonial soldiers) met the British at Lexington. Someone fired a shot, and then both sides began firing.  One of the most famous lines from this war refers to this event: “The shot heard around the world.”

Word quickly spread that the British were on the move as the battle expanded into Concord.

More Military Action

After what happened at Lexington and Concord, many colonists joined militias. Benedict Arnold was an officer in the Connecticut militia. He got 400 men to join his militia.

Benedict Arnold and his army set out to capture Fort Ticonderoga.

Later, Benedict Arnold turned against the Patriot cause. He sold military information to the British. When he was found out, he fled to New York City. New York City was controlled by the British. Arnold commanded British soldiers. He led attacks against the Americans.  To this day, the name Benedict Arnold means “traitor.”

William Prescott (a colonel for the Continental Army) had his militia set themselves up on Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill. These places were across the harbor from Boston. The British decided to force the colonists from the hills. The next day, British soldiers charged up Breed’s Hill. (However, this battle is called the Battle of Bunker Hill.) The Americans were running out of ammunition, and Prescott is said to have shouted, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” The British won this battle, but more than 1,000 of their soldiers were killed or wounded. The British were learning that it was going to be a hard fight against the Americans.

News about the battles spread. Colonists had to decide whether to join the rebels or stay loyal to Britain. Colonists on the British side were called Loyalists. They did not think that unfair taxes and unfair laws were good reasons to fight. Many believed the British would win and did not want to be on the losing side. Colonists who supported the war for independence were called Patriots. They felt they could no longer live under British rule. The American Revolution was not just a war between the British and the Americans. It was also a war between American Patriots and American Loyalists.


Section 4: Declaring Independence (p. 128-133)

The Second Continental Congress

The Second Continental Congress met and included some of the greatest leaders in America such as John and Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, and George Washington.

Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania was well respected. He had been a leader in the Pennsylvania legislature.

John Hancock of Massachusetts was a wealthy merchant. He used his money to run many Patriot groups. The Sons of Liberty was one of the many Patriot groups.

Thomas Jefferson of Virginia was only 32 years old. He was in the Virginia legislature. He was already famous for his thoughts and his writing. He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress.

The Second Continental Congress began to govern the colonies:

  • It allowed money to be printed.
  • It set up a post office.
  • It set up committees to handle relations with Native Americans and with other countries.
  • It created the Continental Army. This would allow colonists to fight the British in a more organized way.
  • It chose George Washington to command the army.

The Congress gave Britain one more chance to avoid war. It sent a petition, a formal request, to King George III. The request was called the Olive Branch Petition. It said that the colonists wanted peace. It asked King George to protect their rights. King George would not accept the petition. Instead, he got ready for war.

The Americans found out that British soldiers were planning to attack New York from Canada. The Americans decided to attack first. They sent soldiers northward from Fort Ticonderoga and captured Montreal.

George Washington arrived in Boston. He found the militia was not well organized, so he trained them. He brought many cannons from far away.

A year later, Washington decided the soldiers were ready to fight. He moved the soldiers and the cannons to the hills overlooking Boston while the British soldiers slept.  The British were surprised. British General William Howe commanded his soldiers to sail away from Boston. Washington led his soldiers into the city.

Colonist Thomas Paine wrote a booklet called Common Sense. It explained why complete independence from Britain would be a good thing. Paine’s words had a great effect on colonists and how they felt.

Declaring Independence

The delegates at the Second Continental Congress argued back and forth. Some wanted the colonies to declare independence. Others did not. In June 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia came up with a resolution. The resolution stated that the United Colonies should be free and independent states, a new nation.

Congress chose a committee to write a Declaration of Independence. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman were on the committee. Adams asked Thomas Jefferson to write it.

Jefferson was inspired by the ideas of an English philosopher named John Locke.

The delegates discussed Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. They made some changes. Then they approved it on July 4, 1776. John Hancock signed first. He said he wrote his name large enough for King George to read without his glasses. Eventually 56 delegates signed the document announcing the birth of the United States.

Copies were made and sent to the states. George Washington had the Declaration read to his soldiers.

The Declaration of Independence has four main parts.

  • First is a preamble, or introduction. It says that people who wish to form a new country should explain their reasons.
  • The next two parts list the rights that the colonists believed they should have and their complaints against Britain.
  • The last section announces that they have formed a new nation.

John Adams thought July 2, 1776, should be the holiday that celebrated independence. This was the day that the Congress voted for independence. Instead, July 4 is celebrated today as Independence Day. This is the day the Declaration was approved.