The Birth and Government

of the

United States of America

Before the American Revolution

Ancient Times to 1775

Page 7


On March 5, 1770 a mob in Boston harassed British soldiers who responded by firing into the crowd. Three people were killed instantly, two others later died of wounds, and six were injured. This is known as the Boston Massacre. Resentment against the British spread throughout the colonies like wildfire. At the insistence of Sam Adams, the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Hutchinson withdrew British troops out of Boston to nearby islands. Thomas Preston, the captain of the British soldiers, was arrested with eight of his men and charged with murder. The trial later that year acquitted Captain Preston and six other men. Two are found guilty of manslaughter. They are branded and released. Serving as attorneys for the British soldiers were colonial lawyers John Adams (a future President) and Josiah Quincy.

A month after the massacre, the British repealed the Townsend Acts eliminating taxes on imports into the colonies except for tea. Also of good news to the colonists, Britain chose not to renew the Quartering Act which had forced colonists to open their homes to British soldiers.

In 1770 the population of the colonies reached 2,210,000 persons.

In June of 1772, the Gaspee, a British customs ship, ran aground near Providence, Rhode Island. Colonists rowed out, set the crew ashore, and burned the ship. The king of England offered a 500 hundred pound reward for the capture of the attacking colonists and declared his intent to ship those arrested to England for trial. The idea of deporting colonists to another country for trial also angered the colonists.

In November of 1772 Sam Adams organized a town meeting where 21 members were appointed to a committee of correspondence. The committee established communications with other towns and colonies to coordinate colonial-wide discussion of issues regarding colonial relationship to Britain. Other towns and colonies organized their own committees of correspondence.


Britain instituted the Tea Act on May 10, 1773. It maintained a longstanding threepenny per pound import tax on tea arriving in the colonies. It further gave the British East India Company a near monopoly on tea imports to the colonies. In October that year colonists in Philadelphia held a meeting in opposition to the tea tax and monopoly. A committee forced British tea agents to resign. This action was supported at a town meeting in Boston.

On November 29th and 30th two mass meetings were held in Boston to discuss the fate of tea aboard three ships in Boston Harbor. The idea to return the tea to England aboard the ship Dartmouth without the import tax failed when the Royal Governor of Massachusetts ordered harbor officials to prevent the ship from leaving unless the tax was paid.

On December 16, 1773 over 8,000 Bostonians heard Sam Adams decry the Royal Governorís intervention. That night, the Boston Tea Party occurred when colonial activists disguise themselves as Mohawk Indians and boarded the three ships and dumped all 342 containers of tea into the harbor.

The English Parliament reacted with anger toward the dumping of the tea and passed the first of the Coercive Acts in March of 1774. The American colonists referred to the these acts as the Intolerable Acts. The Boston Port Bill shut down all commercial shipping in Boston harbor until Massachusetts agreed to pay the taxes on the dumped tea and reimburse the East India Company for the loss of all the tea. In turn, on May 12, 1774, Bostonians called for a boycott of British imports. The next day, General Thomas Gage, commander of all British military forces in the colonies, arrived in Boston to replace Hutchinson as Royal Governor. This placed Massachusetts under military rule as four regiments of British troops arrived in the colony.

The next week from May 17 to May 23, colonists in Philadelphia, New York City and Providence called for an inter-colonial congress to tackle the Coercive Acts and develop an unified action plan in dealing with the British.

Also during the same week, on May 20, 1774, the English Parliament announced the next series of Coercive Acts with included the Government Act and Massachusetts Act - practically ending any self-rule by the colonists there. The English Crown and the Royal governor assumed political power that was once exercised by the colonists. Also imposed was the Administration of Justice Act which protected royal officials in Massachusetts from being sued in colonial courts. Further upsetting to the colonists, the Quebec Act extended the southern boundary of Canada into territories claimed by Virginia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

In June of 1774, the English Parliament presented an update to the 1765 Quartering Act requiring all American colonists to provide housing for British troops in unoccupied houses, taverns and in unoccupied buildings.

NEXT PAGE - First Continental Congress



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