Prologue to Revolution
"Give me liberty or give me death"
Patrick Henry before the Virginia House of Burgesses
by Peter Rothermel
(Red Hill, Patrick Henry National
Memorial Brookneal , Virginia)
I. The New Imperial Policy (1763-1770)
A. French & Indian War altered the relationship between Britain and
American colonies, bringing conflict and increased taxes to pay off
Britain's national debt
1.Strict enforcement of Navigation Acts
2. Peacetime army of 10,000 remains in America, indicating willingness
to use force to retain authority
3. Higher import duties on tobacco and sugar were imposed and excise
taxes were increased
B. Early measures (1763-1766)
1. Grenville taxation program.
a) Reform of custom service
(prosecution of smugglers)
b) Sugar Act threatened
triangular trade by interfering with French molasses imports
i) Some colonists argued that Sugar Act
was illegal, that all taxes needed to arise from the people
ii) Violators would be tried by Admiralty Courts, not juries (which
often resulted in acquittals)
c) Bureaucracy doubled in size to
collect taxes and arrest smugglersd
d) Currency Act forbade the
issue of paper money
2. Western problems
a) Ottawa Indian leader Pontiac led an
uprising against settlers, killing over 2000 amd destroying British
b) Proclamation of 1763 prevented western migration past the
c) Need for defense of frontier
C) Stamp Act (1765) sought to raise funds
for defense of
America by requiring all legal documents, as well as newspapers,
playing cards, etc. to bear a government stamp.
1. Colonial opposition to new program
a) Postwar depression left Americans short on cash
b) Custom reform, Sugar Act, and currency limits cut flow of
currency into the colonies
c) Stamp Act affected lawyers, merchants, editors most
d) Unlike the Sugar Act, this was the first internal tax intended to
e) Stamp Act Congress met to call for boycott of British
goods and state that Parliament had no right to tax colonies without
f) Sons of Liberty used mob violence to force all stamp
agents to resign.
2) Important constitutional issues
i. Were the colonies represented in Parliament
ii. Did Parliament have the right to tax the colonists if
they had the right to regulate trade?
3. Parliament repealed Stamp Act but
asserted its rights (with
Declaratory Act) to regulate colonies "in all ways whatsoever."
D. Townshend Acts (1767-1770)--new
duties placed on a number of goods (paper, paint, glass, and tea)
led to protests against the collection of customs duties.
1. Samuel Adams led radicals in urging
a renewed boycott of British
goods and provided an issue to unify American sentiment
2. Boston Massacre resulted in deaths of four persons (1770)
when soldiers sent to protect agents were attacked by a mob.
3. By 1770 all duties except that on tea were repealed. Tea tax was
seen as symbolic of Parliament's supremacy
II. The Move Toward Independence (1770-1775)
A. Key factors
B. Tea Act (1773)
1. In an attempt to support the East India Tea Company, Parliament
removed the tax on tea and allowed it to be sold in the colonies
through its own agents, not American retailers. British tea was
cheaper, but to buy it was to pay a Townshend duty.
2. Mobs turned back tea ships in several ports and dumped
shiploads into Boston Harbor.
3. Parliament responded with Coercive (Intolerable) Acts which
a) Closed Boston Harbor
b) Removed trials involving royal officials out of New
c) Allowed for quartering of troops in colonists' homes
d) Extended Quebec's boundaries south, convincing colonists
that liberty was threatened.
C. First Continental Congress (1774)
1. Radical delegates favored active resistance while moderates argued
2. Declaration of Rights and Grievances condemned Coercive
Acts, denied Parliament's right to tax colonies, but promised obedience
3. Set up Continental Association to prohibt importation of
English goods and later the export of American goods to England.
D. As British control of Massachusetts dwindled to the area around
Boston, colonists moved to protect military supply depots at Concord
and Worcester. When British attempted to capture Concord, Minutemen
responded with gunfire at Lexington and Concord
1. 73 British soldiers killed, 176
2. Armed conflict between England and the colonists had now begun
Please cite this source when appropriate:
Feldmeth, Greg D. "Prologue to Revolution," U.S. History Resources
24 June 2004).
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