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Click on the image to view the video (3 min). "Rebels with a Cause" - The History Channel
Causes of the Revolutionary War
1. The American people were strongly independent. They had built a place for themselves in the wilderness with their own two hands. They wanted to do things for themselves. Great Britain was a long way away. The American people didn't want people an ocean away telling them how to live their lives.

2. The British government decided to make the American colonies pay a large share of the war debt from the French and Indian War. The British government believed that the colonists should pay the debt, since they lived on the land for which the British fought the French. The French and Indian War lasted a long time and the debt was enormous. Click here to review the French & Indian War.

3. As a result, the British issued a series of taxes, including the Sugar Act and Stamp Act. The colonists considered these taxes harsh and unfair. See timeline below.

4. The colonists also thought that they should be able to send their own people to Britain's Parliament or at least vote for Britain's lawmakers. They viewed themselves as British citizens with full rights of representation. The British viewed themselves as superior to the colonists.

5. The combination of the harsh taxes and the lack of an American voice in Parliament gave rise to the famous phrase "taxation without representation."

6. Patrick Henry, Thomas Paine, and others called for an independent America, colonies that were free from British rule and interference.

7. The colonists started stockpiling guns and ammunition in violation of British laws. They purchased, gathered and hid guns, lead, gunpowder and equipment in secret hiding places. The British learned of this violation and marched forth to take the weapons away. The colonists defended the stockpile, which led to the shots fired at Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the Revolutionary War.

Thomas Jefferson Writes the Declaration of Independence

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List of Complaints Against the King of EnglandFrom The Declaration of Independence
Good Reason
Not a Good Reason

He won’t let us pass laws we need for everybody’s good.

Even when we do pass laws, he won’t sign them so they can go into effect.

He tried to force men to give up their right to make laws.

He calls men together to make laws in the most inconvenient times and places, so that they won’t be able to go discuss the new laws.

He won’t let new settlers come to America, and he won’t let the settlers take over new land from the Native Americans.

He won’t let us choose our own judges, and instead he chooses them all himself, so they’re all on his side.

He sends lots of new government officials that we don’t want, and he makes us pay for them.

He sends lots of English soldiers here when there isn’t even a war, and makes us let them live in our own homes.

He tells us these soldiers can do whatever they want and don’t have to obey the law.


The Intolerable Acts

1764 - Sugar Act
  • put a three-cent tax on foreign refined sugar
  • increased taxes on coffee, indigo, and certain kinds of wine
  • banned importation of rum and French wines
  • affected only a certain part of the population, but the affected merchants were very vocal
  • taxes were enacted (or raised) without the consent of the colonists
  • one of the first instances in which colonists wanted a say in how much they were taxed.

1765 - Stamp Act
  • First direct British tax on American colonists
  • Instituted in November, 1765
  • Every newspaper, pamphlet, and other public and legal document had to have a Stamp, or British seal, on it
  • The Stamp cost money
  • The colonists didn't think they should have to pay for something they had been doing for free for many years
  • They responded in force, with demonstrations
  • Set up a diplomatic body called the Stamp Act Congress, which delivered its answer to the Crown
  • Seeing the hostile reaction in the colonies, the British government repealed the Stamp Act in March 1766.
  • But at the same time, it passed the Declaratory Act, which said that Great Britain was superior of the American colonies "in all cases whatsoever."
  • The Stamp Act gave the colonists a target for their rage.
  • The Sons of Liberty was formed in response to this Act
  • The Stamp Act Congress also gave the colonists a model for the Continental Congress.

1765 - Quartering Act
  • required colonial assemblies to provide housing, food and drink to British troops stationed in their towns
  • to improve living conditions for British soldiers
  • decrease the cost of the soldiers to the British government.
  • Soldiers were to be housed in barracks or empty public buildings and not in private residences.
  • It was the duty of local legislatures to fund the expenses.

1766 - New York Assembly Refusal
  • They refused to raise the money for the Quartering Act
  • New York was the main port of arrival and departure of soldiers and the burden to finance housing was heavier on them than on any other assembly.

1767 - New York Suspending Act.
  • The British Parliament suspended the New York Assembly until it agreed to comply with the new law.
  • The New York Assembly decided to provide some money to house and feed the British soldiers.

1767 - Townsend Act
  • Put taxes on paper (Stamp Act), sugar (Sugar Act), lead, glass and tea, all products that were imported from England.
  • Colonists refused to buy the products that were taxed.
  • British merchants complained that the Act hurt their businesses.
  • British Parliament repealed the Townsend Act, removing taxes on all products EXCEPT tea.

1768 - Massachusetts Assembly Dissolved
  • The Massachusetts Assembly decided to dissolve just as New York had done, because it did not want to collect the taxes on the Townsend Act
  • Boston colonists attacked British tax collectors who were sent to collect duties on the Townsend products.
  • Britain sent 2,000 additional British soldiers and warships to Boston to protect government officials against mob attacks, restore order and reinforce collection of taxes.
  • Soldiers were permitted to take on part time jobs in their off-duty hours, mostly in warehouses.
  • Colonists grew angry when they lost these jobs.
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Click on the image to view the video "Colonists Protest British Policies". (4 min)
1770 - The Boston Massacre
  • The people of Boston were upset about the Intolerable Acts.
  • Many people had lost their jobs when British soldiers arrived.
  • A large group of more than 100 people had gathered on King Street.
  • The colonists were unarmed.
  • They faced a small group of British soldiers who had been ordered not to fire.
  • An argument broke out. A man was injured. A shot was fired.
  • Five colonists were killed, including Crispus Attucks, a free African American slave, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Paul Revere created an engraving called "The Bloody Massacre", blaming the British soldiers for killing innocent men and urging the people of Boston to revolt against the King.
  • This is the spark that ignited the American Revolution.
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"The Boston Massacre Sparks A Revolution" 2 min.
1775 - The Battle of Lexington & Concord
  • The British refused to allow the colonists to have guns and ammunition.
  • The colonists began to stockpile their weapons in secret.
  • The British learned about the gun stockpiles and decided to seize them.
  • The colonist leaders, Samuel Adams and John Hancock, knew the British would attack but didn't know when or which route they would take from Boston to Lexington.
  • A spy amongst the British learned that the British would march by land and gave this information to the colonist leaders.
  • Paul Revere and two other riders, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, were sent out to warn the people in the outlying towns that the British would attack.
  • Paul Revere and the two other riders were captured before they could warn anyone.
  • One rider, Dr. Samuel Prescott, was able to escape the British, made it through to Lexington and told the leaders to prepare.
  • When the 700 British troops reached Lexington and Concord, the colonists were waiting for them.
  • This was the first major defeat for the British Army in the American Revolutionary War. A ragtag militia of 78 farmers beat the well-trained, professional 700 British soldiers. This gave the colonists the confidence to begin the Revolution.

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First Revolutionary Battle at Lexington and Concord 2 min


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