Noteworthy Accounts of our Nation’s Independence
“No taxation without representation”
British Parliament provokes the people of Boston
In 1765, Great Britain’s Parliament, the United Kingdom’s highest legislature, enforced The Stamp Act, one of many tolls on the British colonies in America. This levy made it legally required for many printed materials to be made on stamped paper produced solely in London, rendering it impossible for colonists to pass messages without commissioned stamp distributors collecting monies firsthand.
Most colonists weren’t initially concerned about the tedious taxations. But as time carried on and conflict continued, colonists began to rebel, protesting that the Parliament did not have the right to tax them without colonial government representation.
The struggle between Great Britain and colonists escalated in 1770 when British troops killed five colonists in the Boston Massacre.
Colonists also opposed the Parliament during The Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773, when the British government sanctioned a monopoly on tea through the Tea Act. Here, colonists objected to the act by disguising as Mohawk Indians in the Boston Harbor. Residents of Massachusetts then boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into its waters.
The Intolerable Acts further the prospect for independence
To punish Massachusetts colonists for their defiance among Boston harbor’s docks, Britain then retaliated against colonists, passing a series of acts, now known as the Intolerable Acts, that denied residents many of their accustomed rights.
In 1774, British reactive restrictions on the rights of Massachusetts colonists accelerated when Parliament closed the port of Boston through the Boston Port Act.
Additional acts of vengeance enforced by the British included the Massachusetts Government Act, which set Massachusetts under the British government’s control, assembling all governmental positions to be appointed by the Parliament. This act also limited town meetings to one per year.
Among other vengeful actions in effect by the British was the Administration of Justice Act, which allowed the trials of accused court officials to take place in the UK if not deemed a fair trial in Massachusetts. The act specified that witnesses in the trail would be reimbursed for travel to the United Kingdom. Still, the law omitted reimbursement for lost earnings, leaving little colonists the option to testify. George Washington coined this constraint the “Murder Act” because he believed it allowed British officials to hassle and harass Americans and escape justice across the Atlantic.
Moreover, the first Quartering Act required local American colonies to provide British soldiers with shelter and food; if they didn’t, punishment could lawfully prevail. When colonial legislatures persistently proved uncooperative in the act’s implementation, the revised Quartering Act permitting soldiers to receive housing elsewhere.
In defense of the unlawful acts placed upon the colonists, a convention of delegates from various British American colonies formed the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774, condemning the monarchy’s movements and British bullying tactics.
The words that changed the world
When the beginning battles of the Revolutionary War took place in April 1775, few colonists wanted complete liberty from Great Britain. However, with hostility from Parliament cultivating quickly, and with British armed forces bringing death and destruction in masses, considerations of a revolution seemed like the only real answer for colonists.
In January 1776, a man by the name of Thomas Paine took his contemplations of rebellion and created a published a 50-page pamphlet called “Common Sense.” In this work, though prose and persuasive measures, Paine projected his passion for patriotism and advocated independence from Great Britain with allure. In the text, Thomas Paine encouraged equality of the 13 colonies, and through his carefully constructed call to action, ignited inspiration for our nation’s independence.
Our country’s Continental Congress continued
On June 7, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House, where Virginian representative Richard Henry Lee introduced a proper motion for the 13 colonies’ freedom. After much delegate debate, the Congress postponed Lee’s proposal.
Nevertheless, with growing support of the separation from the kingdom, on July 2, 1776, Congress officially voted in favor of independence from Great Britain.
On July 4, Congress appointed a five-person committee (Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert R. Livingston of New York) to draft a formal statement inclusive of all reasoning tied to the desire for a life of liberty. Written by Thomas Jefferson, we would later come to know this document as the Declaration of Independence.
Once the committee had the go-ahead to air their apprehensions on the aristocratic rule, they listed 27 grievances against King George III in the declaration. Accusing King George III, in detail, for his actions of “absolute tyranny over the states.”
A few illustrations of specific grievances against King George III in the Declaration of Independence include:
- Grievance #2: “He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance.”
- Grievance #5: “Invasions on the rights of people.”
- Grievance #8: “Obstruction of justice.”
- Grievance #9: “Made judges dependent on his Will alone for their offices’ tenure and the amount and payment of their salaries.”
- Grievance #16: “For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world,” after acts were passed restricting trade with Spanish and French colonies, ultimately cutting off goods and revenue for colonists.
- Grievance #17: In addition to the Stamp Act and taxation on tea, duties were also placed on paper, painter’s colors, glass, and various other goods.
- Grievance #18: “Depriving [citizens] in many cases, the benefit of trial by jury.”
- Grievance #24: Several naval assaults were made on colonies, and Lord Dunmore was ordered the seizure of American merchant vessels. “He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coast, burnt our towns, and destroyed our people’s lives.”
After making 86 small edits to Thomas Jefferson’s first draft, Congress approved the Declaration of Independence.
Contrary to popularized depictions, most delegates were not in the room at once, and many representatives did not even sign the Declaration of Independence until August 2.
Emancipation from an empire, a revolutionary event to remember
Before the American Revolutionary War, residents of the 13 original colonies would hold an array of annual celebrations for the king of Great Britain’s birthday. Amusements included bonfires, the ringing of bells, parades, and various public speakers.
But starting in the summer of 1776, after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, new traditions began to take way. To celebrate America’s independence, colonists created customs of holding mock memorials for King George III, services that symbolized America’s freedom from the United Kingdom and the launch of a new nation founded on liberty.
Fourth of July festivities to follow comprised of concerts, the firing of cannons and muskets, and public readings of the Declaration of Independence.
On July 8, 1776, four days after the document’s implementation, the Declaration of Independence was read aloud in front of local militia troops in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Igniting fireworks on Independence Day
The foundation of Independence Day firework displays began in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777, during the first organized occasion observing Independence Day. On the state’s community Commons, cannons fired a 13-gun salute to start and end the event, honoring America’s 13 colonies.
An elegant dinner was also served to Independence Day supporters, along with entertainment that encompassed military demonstrations and merriment music to compliment the momentous festivities.
The same night, a secret revolutionary organization called the “Sons of Liberty,” founded by Samuel Adams, simultaneously set off another firework display over the Boston Common, both cities beautifully illuminated by the bountiful patriotic possibilities to come.
On June 28, 1870, Congress established Independence Day as an official federal holiday.
Fourth of July gem: The 13 colonies
Did you know?
The original 13 colonies, by region, were:
New England: New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island
Middle: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware
Southern: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia
History.com Editors . (2020, June 29). Fourth of July – Independence Day. History.Com. https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th
Pruitt, S. (2018, October 19). Why Was the Declaration of Independence Written? History.Com. https://www.history.com/news/how-the-declaration-of-independence-came-to-be
Pruitt, S. (2019, July 3). Why Do We Celebrate July 4 With Fireworks? History.Com. https://www.history.com/news/july-4-fireworks-independence-day-john-adams
Wikipedia. (2020a, June 21). Thirteen Colonies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteen_Colonies
Wikipedia. (2020b, June 25). Intolerable Acts. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intolerable_Acts
Wikipedia. (2020, June 30). Common Sense. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense
Wikipedia. (2020d, June 30). Grievances of the United States Declaration of Independence. https://bit.ly/2VQjHy8
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