American Revolution highlights

The American Revolution begins

Between 1775 and 1783, the colonies joined to wage a war of independence against the “mother country” of Great Britain. Many irritants led up to the fighting.

The first century of settlement had been difficult for the English colonists, but they had been largely left to their own devices by Great Britain. When the British government decided to take greater control of the colonies after the French and Indian Wars, it found the colonists unruly and hard to govern. And the colonies were expensive territories far from home.

"We have ... to resolve to conquer or die."

~ General George Washington,

July 2, 1776

Taxation without Representation

In the 1760s, in order to raise money for the support of the colonies, the British passed a series of bills calling for taxes on various goods sent to America from England. Among these bills was the Stamp Act, Which was England’s first real attempt at direct taxation. This outraged the colonists, who labeled it “taxation without representation” for, although they were paying money to Great Britain, they could not vote on how they would be governed.

The colonists began to boycott goods being sent by the British, who responded with yet additional tax measures. Boston became a center of colonial discontent and the place where blood was first spilled during a clash between British soldiers and local dockworkers that left several people dead. As a result of the Boston Massacre some taxes were withdrawn, but it was too late to undo the resentment that had built up. In December 1773, a group of angry colonists – rather that let a London company have a monopoly on tea imports - threw a shipment of much-desired tea into Boston Harbor – the famous Boston Tea Party.

In 1774, the Continental Congress, the governing body of the colonies, sent a formal petition to the king stating their complaints. The petition was denied and, even though not all colonists favored armed revolt, was followed. The fighting erupted on April 19, 1775, with the battles at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Soon after, George Washington was appointed to command the colonial army (to show that he wanted the job, he had come to the Continental Congress in his army uniform from the French and Indian Wars).

Declaration of Independence

When after a number of battles it looked as if victory might actually be theirs, the colonists issued a formal Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The remarkable document, written mostly by Thomas Jefferson, began, “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another …” and continued with the starling ideas that “all Men are created equal and that they are endowed … with unalienable Rights including Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Although the wars lasted until 1783, 1776 is considered the true birth-date of the new nation.

The British troops, used to fighting in precise military formations in European battles, were totally unprepared for the unconventional fighting style of the colonists. The Americans had no real uniforms; they fought from behind enemy lines or from behind trees, and they fought in a new rough-and-tumble way. English training, discipline, and even their large weapons were of little use in the wild American territory.

Tough and determined as they were, it is doubtful that the Americans could have beaten the English without the help of the French. The French, who had their own score to settle with the English, sent over soldiers, sailors, money, arms, and supplies – including most of the gunpowder the Americans needed.

Fighting concludes

After may battles, British General Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington in October 1781. When on September 3, 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed by England with France, Spain, and the Netherlands – countries that had been on the side of the rebel colonists – the new nation was formally recognized and its boundaries set. The United States of America reached from then Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, except for the Florida peninsula and New Orleans, which were returned to Spanish control, and from the Great Lakes in the north to Georgia in the south. No longer a loose confederation of 13 diverse colonies inhabiting an ill-defined territory, America emerged from the fighting as a nation that could begin to compete on a worldwide basis.

Entre 1775 y 1783, las 13 colonias se unieron para emprender una guerra de independencia en contra de Gran Bretaña, la "Madre Patria." Un conjunto de circustancias irritantes llevaron a la lucha. Aunque el primer siglo de la colonización había sido difícil para los colonos ingleses, Gran Bretaña había dejado que se las arreglaron solos. Cuando el gobierno inglés decidió finalmente ejercer más control sobre las colonias despeués de la Guerra Francoindiana, se encontró con que eran indisciplinadas y difíciles de gobernar. Y sus territrios resutaban caros, dado que se encontraban a una gran distancia de la metrópolis.