Crises Points, 1763-1774

Lexington, Mass.

Lexington, Mass.

“Crises Points, Leading to Revolution, 1763-1774”

Opening to Crisis, 1763-1765

  • Parliament passed the Sugar Act of 1764.  Taxed molasses and sugar at half the rate of the Navigation Acts.  Parliament pleased with itself—after all, they saw it as a tax cut.  But, in reality, that tax had never been enforced!  So, this tax was huge to the settlers.
  • In 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act.  Every single legal transaction had to have a stamp on it (meaning it had been taxed).  Pervasive and intensely bureaucratic.
  • In 1765, Parliament also passed the Quartering Act (another tax), forcing average citizens to pay for soldiers who needed housing.  Especially hit New York, the headquarters of British forces in America.

American Responses, 1765

  • Pamphlet war begins.
  • Protests. mass meetings, parades, bonfires.  Groups began to call themselves the Sons of Liberty.  Would meet under “Liberty Trees” and erect liberty poles, often with effigies hanging from them.  Sons of Liberty led a mob against the Massachusetts home of Lt. Governor Thomas Hutchinson.  Tore the house down and drank his wine.
  • Under the leadership of Patrick Henry, the Virginia House of Burgesses (in minority) passed a series of Resolves against the Stamp Act.  Henry even spoke of regicide, the assassination of King George III.  When told that was treason, he replied “If this be treason, make the most of it.”
  • John Adams is the first American to call for Independence in the Braintree Resolves.
  • Edmund Burke makes inaugural “maiden” speech, January 1766.  Pro-American, throughout the entire conflict.

British response to American Protests

July 1765, Rockingham, pro-American, made Prime Minister.  Rockingham Whigs chose Edmund Burke as their main advisor.

  • Repealed the Stamp Act in 1766 and reduced the Sugar Tax to one penny (less than the cost of a bribe)
  • But to pacify the opposition, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act–stated that Parliament had control of the colonies in all matters.

New Parliament, 1767

In the spring and early summer of 1767, the Parliament passed the Townsend Acts which

  • Suspended the New York Assembly for refusing to supply homes and assistance to British Troops
  • Placed a tax on colonial imports—glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea
  • Set up an office in Boston to monitor smuggling
  • John Dickinson offered first serious response in twelve “Letters of a Pennsyvania Farmer”

Boston Massacre, 1770

On March 5, 1770, a crowd gathered and began throwing snowballs at the soldiers, protesting the standing army as tyranny.  Soldiers opened fire on the crowd.  Americans began calling the army the “corrupt arm of British despotism.”  The soldier were tried, defended by John Adams.  All were acquitted but two who received light punishments.


  • Off of Rhode Island, a British ship looking for smugglers (the Gaspee) ran aground.  Colonists stormed the ship, kicked the sailors off, and burned it.  Parliament established an independent commission to investigate–had power to try out of normal courts.  Colonists viewed this as a violation of rights as it denied a jury of one’s peers.
  • In November 1772, Sam Adams formed the first of the Committees of Correspondence.  They soon developed throughout the colonies—information distribution; relay stations.


In Spring of 1773, the East India Company experienced a real drop in business.  Had 17 million pounds of tea rotting in British warehouses.  Parliament granted the company a monopoly on tea—even allowed to sell it cheaper than the colonists could get it from the Dutch.  Thought the colonists were motivated by material considerations.  All the colonists could see was the monopoly granted to the East Indian Co.

  • Under the leadership of Sam Adams, a group of men dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded a British ship and dumped its tea into the harbor.  Meanwhile, large crowds on the docks cheered.  With the exception of one destroyed padlock, the tea party made sure to violate no property rights beyond the tea.

Coercive Acts, March 1774

  • Closed the Boston Port
  • Set up martial law under the Governor
  • Close the courts in trials of British
  • Soldiers could lodge anywhere—including private homes

Quebec Act, Summer 1774 (considered fifth “Intolerable Act”

  • First Continental Congress called, September 1774
  • Independence from Parliament declared, September 1774

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