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American Revolution

“Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”
  - Patrick Henry to the Virginia Convention, 23 March 1775

What was the American Revolution?

The American Revolution, or the Revolutionary War, was a landmark event in the history of the nation, when in 1775, the thirteen colonies of British America rose up in open revolt. The struggle sent shock waves through the continent, and resulted in the formation of the United States of America.

Why did the Revolution take place?

There were many factors that roused the colonies against the British Empire—cultural, economic, religious, and more—but the crux of the problem was that the colonists felt oppressed and exploited at the hands of their ruler: King George III of Great Britain.

The parliament of Great Britain was governing the colonies from overseas, and the colonists were given no representation. The situation went from bad to worse with the introduction of one unfair legislation after the other, which the British Crown used to control its colonies and make them profitable.

These are some of the laws that proved extremely unpopular:

  • Navigation Acts (1712):  Denied the use of foreign shipping for trade in the British Empire, smothering any chance the colonies had of establishing trade relations overseas.

  • Molasses Act (1773): Imposed an extra duty on the import of non-British molasses, intending to monopolize the trade in the colonies by making other imported molasses more expensive.

  • Stamp Act (1765): Employed purely to cover the expenses of military presence in North America, this act required certain documents to be printed on stamped paper, which was taxed, enraging colonists who felt this was a violation of their rights.

  • Tea Act (1773): Heavily reduced the duty on import of the East India Company's tea to the colonies, attempting to overrun the tea production of the colonies and boost the British company.

Fed up with the exploitation, and influenced by the ideals of Enlightenment, the colonies decided the time had come to assert their rights.

What was the course of the War?

In 1772, the colonists started forming Committees of Correspondence with the aim of addressing these issues. They elected their own Provincial Congresses to represent their interests, who enforced a boycott on British products, culminating in 1774, when the First Continental Congress was formed to represent the colonies.

Following this, the British unleashed a crackdown in Boston in 1775, an event known as Siege of Boston. The struggle lasted eleven months. Led by General George Washington, the colonists pushed out the British forces. When the First Continental Congress appealed to King George III to give them justice, he denounced them as rebels.

"Nothing of importance happened today."
          - Diary entry by King George III on July 4, 1776

What followed was inevitable. The Second Continental Congress was formed in 1776, and representatives from each of the thirteen colonies voted for a unanimous Declaration of Independence from the British Crown and parliament. The 4th of July, the date the Declaration was adopted, is now celebrated as Independence Day in the United States.

This set in motion a series of battles, and the balance seesawed between the patriots and the British for years to come. King George III eventually lost the support of his parliament—the struggle was proving to be very unpopular in Britain—and this soon took the winds out of the sails of British forces.

How did the War end?

On September 3, 1783, the King of Great Britain and the Congress of the Confederation signed the Treaty of Paris. This ended the Revolutionary War, as well as British dominion over the thirteen colonies. Among the U.S. signers were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay.

What were the effects of the War?

The Revolution was a death blow to the British supremacy, turning Britain’s politics into an exercise in anxiety over representation and political stability. The popularity of King George III as monarch also took a big hit.

For the American colonies, after the War was a period of joy and caution. Caution, because the war had left the economy in tatters and prices had shot through the roof. On the plus side, the trade restrictions forced by the British no longer applied, which helped the nation quickly get back on track.

In 1787, the Philadelphia Convention was held, which resulted in a new constitution. A system of strong federal government was adopted, and the citizens were granted certain inalienable rights that would protect their individual liberties.