On July 4th, 1776, the thirteen colonies officially separated from the British Empire, 442 days after the first shots of the American Revolution were fired in Lexington and Concord. Several events and conflicts led up to the United States’ independence from Britain, specifically the harsh taxes imposed by the British crown the slow but steady erosion of British control over the American colonies and, which caused American rebellion and Thomas Paine’s publication of Common Sense in 1776. These three topics contribute to and prove the colonists’ strong desire for independence and belief that their only option was to separate themselves from Britain’s iron first.
On April 5, 1764, Parliament passed a modified version of the Sugar and Molasses Act, which was originally put into action in 1733 and was about to expire. This required merchants to pay a tax on molasses, sugar, wine and other goods that were imported. The British hoped that this would provide them more money to help better secure the colonies. They believed that this would force the American colonists to sell their goods to England instead of to other countries. This upset the colonists because they would not be able to make as much money if they only traded with Britain. In protest, many colonists boycotted products listed in the Sugar Act, rebelling against the British Empire (C&G 99).
Perhaps the first major opposition to British policy was in 1765, when Parliament passed the Stamp Act, a taxation measure that was designed to raise revenues for a standing British army in America. Americans were infuriated and some called for another boycott of British goods, while others organized attacks on the tax collectors. Americans protested for months and in March of 1766, Parliament finally repealed the Stamp Act (C&G 101). However, in 1773, Parliament passed the Tea Act, a tax on tea that was designed to reduce the surplus of tea being held in London warehouses by the British East India Company, which, at this point, was struggling to survive because of financial issues. This tax allowed the company to undercut any tea that was brought into America, and many colonists saw it as another British attempt of taxation tyranny (C&G 107).
Therefore, the Boston Tea Party was organized. During this protest, £18,000 worth of tea was dumped into the Boston Harbor by angry Massachusetts militant colonists (C&G 108). Finally fed up with the continuous rebellion of the American colonists, British Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts, known as the Intolerable Acts to colonists, in 1774. This act established formal British rule in Massachusetts, closed Boston to merchant shipping, require colonists to quarter troops and made it illegal to prosecute British officials in America (C&G 108).
The British Empire was tightening its control on the thirteen colonies quickly and the colonists called the first Continental Congress to order to discuss united American resistance to the British (C&G 109). The colonists formed their own group of militias to resist the British military, which was growing rapidly. On April 19, 1775, gunshots were fired when British regulars encountered American militiamen in Lexington after Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to a Patriot arsenal in Concord. This marked the beginning of the American Revolution (C&G 113).
The British officials and King George III saw the battle between Britain and America as a colonial rebellion, but Americans saw it as a struggle for their rights. Parliament refused to negotiate with the colonists and tightened their restraints even more, hiring German mercenaries to fight alongside with the British army to defeat the American rebels, but the Continental Congress continued in their attempts to modify the British authority (C&G 115).
In January 1776, Thomas Paine published an influential pamphlet that strongly argued for American’s rights, called Common Sense. The pamphlet attacked the idea of a monarchy, as well as King George, referring to him as “the hardened sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England” (C&G 117). It sold over 500,000 copies in just a few months and by the spring, support for American independence was booming from the colonies. Seeing this overwhelming sense of nationalism, the Continental Congress instructed the states to each form their own government and a five-man committee was assigned to draft a declaration. This declaration became what we know today as The Declaration of Independence. The declaration stated that all men are created equal and are subject to equal rights, and it explained the rationale behind their rebellion against the British crown. On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve a motion calling for separation from Britain and two days later, the declaration was formerly adopted by twelve colonies. The thirteenth colony, New York, approved of the declaration two weeks later on July 19th, and on August 2nd, the Declaration of Independence was signed into action (C&G 118).
However, the American’s fight for independence would last another five years. It was not until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that the United States formerly became a free and independent nation. After realizing how much the British Empire was tightening its control of the colonies, Americans rebelled against British authority after the imposition of unfair taxes and boosted their sense of nationalism after the publication of Common Sense. Because of America’s dedication and pride, they were eventually able to earn freedom and separation from the powerful British Empire.
Carnes, Mark C., and John A. Garraty. American Destiny: Narrative of a Nation.Harlow: Pearson Education, 2011. Print.