The Timeline of Colonial Resistance
It has come to my attention that quite a few have forgotten the timelines regarding American history – at least in regard to colonial resistance. There are also some forgotten steps regarding why the colonists were so angry. I want to convey to you today that there was a build-up of anger that spanned roughly 10 to 11 years before things got terrible, maybe a little longer if you consider the stirs that occurred before 1763.
This is important for us to understand, primarily because today’s society is all about instant gratification. What I am trying to convey here is that sometimes things take considerable time. It takes learning, understanding, and a little frustration or pain to grasp why, how, and if things are so bad. Because as they said, “all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.“
What follows is a listing of events as provided by both the Library of Congress and Learn NC. You will note that I have added a “Very Important” next to a few of the headings, along with a suggestion for further research. This is not to suggest that any of the following is more important than the next, but rather that the specific heading is something that I feel deserves some added attention or, at the very least, an attempt to correlate our time with theirs.
Proclamation of 1763
- Royal Proclamation sets aside lands west of the Appalachians for American Indians, angering colonists who wanted the land for themselves.
- Parliament, desiring revenue from its North American colonies, passed the first law specifically aimed at raising colonial money for the Crown. The act increased duties on non-British goods shipped to the colonies.
Currency Act <- Very important. (Think Central Bank, Interest, etc)
- This act prohibited American colonies from issuing their own currency, angering many American colonists.
Beginnings of colonial opposition
- American colonists responded to the Sugar Act and the Currency Act with protest. In Massachusetts, participants in a town meeting cried out against taxation without proper representation in Parliament, and suggested some form of united protest throughout the colonies. By the end of the year, many colonies were practicing nonimportation, a refusal to use imported English goods.
- The British further angered American colonists with the Quartering Act, which required the colonies to provide barracks and supplies to British troops.
Stamp Act <- Very important. (Taxation on everything)
- Parliament’s first direct tax on the American colonies, this act, like those passed in 1764, was enacted to raise money for Britain. It taxed newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, broadsides, legal documents, dice, and playing cards. Issued by Britain, the stamps were affixed to documents or packages to show that the tax had been paid.
Organized colonial protest
- American colonists responded to Parliament’s acts with organized protest. Throughout the colonies, a network of secret organizations known as the Sons of Liberty was created, aimed at intimidating the stamp agents who collected Parliament’s taxes. Before the Stamp Act could even take effect, all the appointed stamp agents in the colonies had resigned. The Massachusetts Assembly suggested a meeting of all the colonies to work for the repeal of the Stamp Act. All but four colonies were represented. The Stamp Act Congress passed a “Declaration of Rights and Grievances,” which claimed that American colonists were equal to all other British citizens, protested taxation without representation, and stated that, without colonial representation in Parliament, Parliament could not tax colonists. In addition, the colonists increased their nonimportation efforts.
Repeal of the Stamp Act
- Although some in Parliament thought the army should be used to enforce the Stamp Act (1765), others commended the colonists for resisting a tax passed by a legislative body in which they were not represented. The act was repealed, and the colonies abandoned their ban on imported British goods.
Declaratory Act <- Very important. (Think Federal Laws superseding State)
- The repeal of the Stamp Act did not mean that Great Britain was surrendering any control over its colonies. The Declaratory Act, passed by Parliament on the same day the Stamp Act was repealed, stated that Parliament could make laws binding the American colonies “in all cases whatsoever.“
Resistance to the Quartering Act in New York
- New York served as headquarters for British troops in America, so the Quartering Act (1765) had a great impact on New York City. When the New York Assembly refused to assist in quartering troops, a skirmish occurred in which one colonist was wounded. Parliament suspended the Assembly’s powers but never carried out the suspension, since the Assembly soon agreed to contribute money toward the quartering of troops.
Townshend Acts <- Very important. (Creative way of taxing people for expanding gov.)
- To help pay the expenses involved in governing the American colonies, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which initiated taxes on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea.
- In response to new taxes, the colonies again decided to discourage the purchase of British imports.
“Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies”
- Originally published in a newspaper, this widely reproduced pamphlet by John Dickinson declared that Parliament could not tax the colonies, called the Townshend Acts unconstitutional, and denounced the suspension of the New York Assembly as a threat to colonial liberties.
Massachusetts Circular Letter <- Very important. (Taking a REAL stand… officially)
- Samuel Adams wrote a statement, approved by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, which attacked Parliament’s persistence in taxing the colonies without proper representation, and which called for unified resistance by all the colonies. Many colonies issued similar statements. In response, the British governor of Massachusetts dissolved the state’s legislature. British Troops Arrive in Boston. Although the Sons of Liberty threatened armed resistance to arriving British troops, none was offered when the troops stationed themselves in Boston.
Virginia’s resolutions <- Very important. (Unified / Official Resistance)
- The Virginia House of Burgesses passed resolutions condemning Britain’s actions against Massachusetts, and stating that only Virginia’s governor and legislature could tax its citizens. The members also drafted a formal letter to the King, completing it just before the legislature was dissolved by Virginia’s royal governor.
Townshend Acts cut back
- Because of the reduced profits resulting from the colonial boycott of imported British goods, Parliament withdrew all of the Townshend Act (1767) taxes except for the tax on tea.
An end to nonimportation
- In response to Parliament’s relaxation of its taxation laws, the colonies relaxed their boycott of British imported goods (1767).
Conflict between citizens and British troops in New York
- After a leading New York Son of Liberty issued a broadside attacking the New York Assembly for complying with the Quartering Act (1765), a riot erupted between citizens and soldiers, resulting in serious wounds but no fatalities.
Boston Massacre <- Very important. (Militarized Police Actions)
- The arrival of troops in Boston provoked conflict between citizens and soldiers. On March 5, a group of soldiers surrounded by an unfriendly crowd opened fire, killing three Americans and fatally wounding two more. A violent uprising was avoided only with the withdrawal of the troops to islands in the harbor. The soldiers were tried for murder, but convicted only of lesser crimes; noted patriot John Adams was their principal lawyer.
Attack on the Gaspee <- Very important. (Abductions & Subject to Foreign Law)
- After several boatloads of men attacked a grounded British customs schooner near Providence, Rhode Island, the royal governor offered a reward for the discovery of the men, planning to send them to England for trial. The removal of the Gaspee trial to England outraged American colonists.
Committees of Correspondence
- Samuel Adams called for a Boston town meeting to create committees of correspondence to communicate Boston’s position to the other colonies. Similar committees were soon created throughout the colonies.
- By reducing the tax on imported British tea, this act gave British merchants an unfair advantage in selling their tea in America. American colonists condemned the act, and many planned to boycott tea.
Boston Tea Party
- When British tea ships arrived in Boston harbor, many citizens wanted the tea sent back to England without the payment of any taxes. The royal governor insisted on payment of all taxes. On December 16, a group of men disguised as Indians boarded the ships and dumped all the tea in the harbor.
Coercive Acts <- Very important. (Government forcing its will and rendering local gov moot)
- In response to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed several acts to punish Massachusetts. The Boston Port Bill banned the loading or unloading of any ships in Boston harbor. The Administration of Justice Act offered protection to royal officials in Massachusetts, allowing them to transfer to England all court cases against them involving riot suppression or revenue collection. The Massachusetts Government Act put the election of most government officials under the control of the Crown, essentially eliminating the Massachusetts charter of government.
- Parliament broadened its previous Quartering Act (1765). British troops could now be quartered in any occupied dwelling.
The colonies organize a protest
- To protest Britain’s actions, Massachusetts suggested a return to nonimportation, but several states preferred a congress of all the colonies to discuss united resistance. The colonies soon named delegates to a congress — the First Continental Congress — to meet in Philadelphia on September 5.
The First Continental Congress
- Twelve of the thirteen colonies sent a total of fifty-six delegates to the First Continental Congress. Only Georgia was not represented. One accomplishment of the Congress was the Association of 1774, which urged all colonists to avoid using British goods and to form committees to enforce this ban.
New England prepares for war
- British troops began to fortify Boston and seized ammunition belonging to the colony of Massachusetts. Thousands of American militiamen were ready to resist, but no fighting occurred. Massachusetts created a Provincial Congress, and a special Committee of Safety to decide when the militia should be called into action. Special groups of militia, known as Minute Men, were organized to be ready for instant action.
As you can see, resistance built over time. Resistance wasn’t first, and it wasn’t sudden. It’s always a process.
Did you enjoy this article on colonial resistance? Then you might also like “The Leadership of Thomas Jefferson.”