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The Road to a Revolution

Brief Overview of the Major Events Leading Up to the American Revolution and their link to the US Constitution.

Brian Furgione

on 5 November 2013

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Transcript of The Road to a Revolution

French & Indian War
Albany Plan of Union
Proclamation Line of 1763
Sugar Act
Stamp Act
Stamp Act Congress
Townshend Acts
Writs of Assistance
Declaratory Act
Sons / Daughters of Liberty
The Boston Massacre
Committees of Correspondence
The Boston Tea Party
Intolerable Acts
First Continental Congress
Shot Heard 'Round the World
Second Continental Congress
French & Indian War
is the name of the American theater of war within the larger Seven Years' War primarily fought in Europe. The war in America concerned a land dispute between English colonists and the French. Many Native-American tribes sided with the French in the conflict, which lead to this theater being known as the 'French & Indian War.'

Several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had volunteered to be members of colonial militias during the war, but were treated as second-class citizens by the English regulars. Many colonists were even turned down for service due to their colonial citizenship. This slight to the honor of the colonists would not be forgotten by those in the future.

With the British victory, France was forced to give up some of its territory in the New World. It chose to the cede Canada to the British in order to retain its Caribbean island territory. The war greatly changed America and set the stage for conflict between the British colonists in America and their mother country of England.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Article One, Section 8, Clauses 15-16: Providing for raising militias as well as organizing, arming and disciplining the militias.
During the French & Indian War, a meeting was held in Albany, New York concerning the establishment of a union between royal, proprietary and charter colonies in British America. The plan was spearheaded by Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia in 1754.

The meeting included delegates from
of the British-American colonies and representatives from the Six Iroquois Nations. The plan called for the creation of a continental assembly which would deal with common issues such as Indian relations, commerce, and finance. The primary issue was common defense of the colonies against the the French as well as the Indians on the frontier.

The plan was rejected by England as well as by several of the colonies. England feared that the unification of the colonies would make them too powerful to control. Several of the colonies rejected the idea believing that it would not be in their self-interest to help other colonies with 'their' problems. The plan was ultimately a failure, but many of the ideas within the plan would come into existence with the creation of the Articles of Confederation in 1781.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Preamble of the United States: 'common defense.' The creation of a legislative branch representing the colonies (today states) as is outlined in Article One of the US Constitution.
King George III of England issued a Royal
Proclamation in 1763
establishing a dividing line between the British colonists and the western lands recently acquired by England from France. The line was roughly drawn along the
Appalachian Mountains

The purpose of the line was to improve relations between the colonists and the Indians by preventing war, regulating trade, restricting settlement, and creating a new system of acquiring new lands to the west by England.

Many of the colonists objected to this new line because it limited their trade and settlement in the west. It forced colonists to stay to the east of the Appalachian Mountains, hurting their businesses and acquisition of land.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Privileges and Immunities Clause (Article Four, Section 2, Clause 1). This allows for the free movement and migration of citizens within the United States and prevents states from barring such actions.
When the Seven Years' War ended, England found itself with financial problems. In order to help pay off the war debt, it renewed a tax previously enacted in 1733 on Molasses. The
Molasses tax
was set to expire in 1763, so England renewed the tax with added enforcement powers of its collection.

The tax was on the importation of molasses from Dutch, Spanish and French territories in the Caribbean. Molasses was a major economic product which was used in the production of rum. The indirect tax on rum came during an economic depression in the colonies that followed the war. Rum exportation decreased and the economy was hurt.

Massachusetts leaders such as Samuel Adams and James Otis spoke out against the tax, calling it an infringement of their rights and liberties. Many colonists resorted to smuggling in the molasses from the Caribbean rather than pay the importation tax.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Article One, Section 8, Clause 1: Allows the elected representatives to impose and collect taxes, which differed from this tax imposed on the colonists without their consent.
Revenue from the Sugar Act was greatly reduced due to the smuggling practices of the colonists. In order to raise more revenue, England imposed a direct tax known as the
Stamp Act

Many of the colonists in America were outraged at this tax. James Otis coined his phrase "Taxation without Representation is Tyranny" in response to the Sugar and Stamp Acts. Wtih its implementation, no legal documents would be considered valid without it being printed on this stamped paper. Gambling, which was a big industry in America, was now having its playing cards and dice taxed from the Stamp Act.

There were major protests to this tax throughout the colonies. Violence broke out in many cities and tax collectors had their homes burned, bodies beaten, and images hung in effigy.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Article One, Section 8, Clause 1: Allows the elected representatives to impose and collect taxes, which differed from this tax imposed on the colonists without their consent.
In 1765, after the passage of the Stamp Act by England, 27 delegates representing
colonies, met in New York City to discuss and formulate a response to England. This meeting is today known as the Stamp Act Congress.

John Dickinson, a delegate from Pennsylvania and future member of the Second Continental Congress, drafted a "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" to King George III of England. In the Declaration, the Congress reaffirmed the colonists' loyalty to the King and England. However, it also asked the king for equal rights as English citizens and an end to taxation without representation in Parliament.

The second action was to promote a "non-importation agreement" among the colonies. Colonies began boycotting British goods. The economic strain was felt in England and many merchants and other business owners petitioned Parliament to repeal the taxes on the colonies.

In 1766, Parliament voted to repel the Stamp Act. When news reached American, there was rejoicing in the streets, parades, fireworks and celebrations. For the first time in American Colonial history, the colonies united together in a common cause with a positive outcome. The taxes were repealed.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Article One of the US Constitution. Representation of the people is ensured by the Constitution and that taxation can only be implemented by a vote of the representatives of the people.
After the repeal of the Stamp Act, England was still desperate for revenue. War debts still existed after the French & Indian War. England felt it necessary to pass another tax on the colonists. Therefore, Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, spearheaded a series of acts that are today known as the Townshend Acts.

There were five acts in their group of
Townshend Acts
, but the most controversial of these were the importation taxes on common items and enforcement of these new taxes. Common items such as glass, lead, paint, tea and paper were subject to this tax. Yet again, England passed a tax without the colonists having representation in the Parliament. Protests sprang up across America.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Article One of the US Constitution. Representation of the people is ensured by the Constitution and that taxation can only be implemented by a vote of the representatives of the people.
One of the most brutal of the enforcement policies by the British government on the colonist was tax collection. In order to ensure compliance, Britain implemented
Writs of Assistance
on the colonists. The Writ allowed British customs officers to search and seize property from the colonists without a legal warrant. If anyone was suspected of not paying taxes or smuggling items to avoid taxes, the custom's officer could seize property for the amount they deemed that was owed.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution: Protection from unwarranted search and seizure. Officials must have probable cause in order to conduct a search.
Declaratory Act
was passed soon after the repeal of the Stamp Act. This stated that the Parliament's laws were supreme in America just as it was in England. Any laws passed by colonial legislatures could be declared null and void by Parliament. This did not, however, change the fact that the American colonists had no representation in the Parliament.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause (English citizens in the colonies were not treated equally with citizen in Britain. The colonist also did not have representation in Parliament, a fact that has been remedied in Article One, Section 2 of the Constitution (House of Representatives) and by the 17th Amendment (popular election of Senators by the people).
Throughout the American colonies, organizations sprang up to protest and defy British taxation and subjugation. One of these was known as the
Sons of Liberty
. Every colony and every major city had a Sons of Liberty group. To fulfill their purpose, they arranged secret meetings to organize, spread information, and recruit new members. These men organized protests, handed out literature, spread pamphlets, and organized boycotts. In some cases, the Sons of Liberty resorted to more violent measures such as vandalism, tarring-and-feathering, hanging government officials in effigy, intimidation and more.

Concurrently, the women of the colonies formed the
Daughters of Liberty
. They, too, helped to enforce the boycott on British good. However, the approach of this organization was different. Women did participate in debates, protests and spreading information. However, their most powerful contribution to the cause was the making of homemade items that replaced the boycotted goods from England. These items included cloth (known as homespun), candles, a basil or sassafras tea. This helped strengthen the power of the boycott and create a sense of self-reliance among the colonists.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - The First Amendment freedoms of assembly and petition (although this does not apply to unlawful assemblies that violate the rights of life, liberty and property of other citizens).
On March 5, 1770, outside the Custom House on King Street in Boston, an incident occurred when a British sentry got into an altercation with a young apprentice. The dispute grew into a mob of between 250 and 300 civilians and a contingent of redcoats of the 29th Regiment of Foot. The crowd started throwing snowballs at the soldiers along with other items such as seashells, clubs and stones.

After one of the British soldiers was knocked down, a musket discharged and a volley was launched into the crowd. In all, five people died in the incident.

John Adams, attorney and future President of the United States, defended the soldiers in court. He was asked to do so by the British government because they wanted a fair trial. All but two of the British soldiers were acquitted of manslaughter. The two that were found guilty were branded on their thumbs with the letter 'M'.

This incident was dubbed the "
Boston Massacre
" by the Sons of Liberty and propaganda spread throughout the colonies about the details of that night. The Boston Massacre marks the first time British soldiers fire on a crowd of American colonists.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - The 5th Amendment (due process), 6th Amendment (the right of legal council), and the 14th Amendment (Equal Protection Clause).
Throughout the colonies, organizations were formed know as
Committees of Correspondence
. Samuel Adams was instrumental in forming one of the first of these organizations in Boston. Eventually, every colony established its own group of committees. These committees served two primary purposes.

First, each Committee of Correspondence was a shadow government separate from the colonial legislatures and British officials. These committees were set up a the local level to help create political union among those who opposed British rule. They also helped in organizing the eventual Continental Congresses prior to the Revolution.

Second, these committees served as a network among different communities within a colony as well as communications between each of the colonies. Coordinating efforts of opposition were established using this network of information throughout the colonies.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - The First Amendment guarantees the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and petition. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1958 decision 'NAACP v Alabama' that the freedom of association is a right guaranteed under the First Amendment freedom of speech.
On December 16. 1773, the Sons of Liberty staged a political protest to the
Act of 1773 by dumping 342 chests of tea on board three ships in Boston Harbor. The Tea Act created a monopoly of tea exportation to the East India Tea Company. By cutting out the tea merchants from the tea trade, the price of tea was reduced. However, the tax on tea remained in place.

The Sons of Liberty were actively encouraging a boycott of British tea in protest to the tea tax (originally from the Townshend Acts). With the price being reduced through monopoly, the Sons of Liberty ran into difficulty enforcing a boycott on an item whose cost was greatly reduced. Therefore, it was decided that the tea in Boston Harbor was to be dumped by members of the Sons of Liberty dressed like Indians. The estimated value of the destroyed tea in today's money is $1.5 million.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Commerce Clause (Article One, Section 8, Clause 3) allowing for Congress to regulate trade. It has been the practice of the US government, utilizing this clause, to prevent monopolies in order to promote free trade.
In retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, Parliament enacted a series of acts designed to punish Boston and set an example for the rest of colonial America. These acts, however, had the opposite effect in that it strengthen the unity between the colonies in the cause of equal rights and and end to oppressive rule.

Intolerable Acts
closed Boston Harbor
to all trade in or out. Britain then sent an estimated
10,000 soldiers
to Boston as well as the British fleet to close up the harbor. Troops were then allowed to be
quartered in the homes
of the citizens of Boston at their expense. All
assemblies and public meetings
, including the colonial government of Massachusetts, were banned. Anyone
arrested in Boston would be sent to England
to stand trial. The final act was called the
Quebec Act
. It enlarged the boundaries of Quebec and prevented Massachusetts the ability to expand and settle in the western lands.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - The Third Amendment (barring the quartering of soldiers); Article One, Section 9, Clause 6 (banning preference of one port or city over another); First Amendment right to assembly; Sixth Amendment (guarantee that trials shall be held in the district where the crime was committed).
A meeting of delegates was assembled at Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia in 1774 in reaction to the Intolerable Acts imposed on Boston. Twelve colonies sent delegates (except Georgia) selected from their respective legislatures.

had two accomplishments. First, it established an agreement among the colonies to boycott British goods. Second, it sent a letter of grievances to the British government in hopes that stopping the Intolerable Acts. If this petition was unsuccessful, then a second Congress would meet in the future to decide future strategies.

The reaction of Britain was to continue the Intolerable Acts, send more soldiers, and strengthen their presence in the American colonies.
CONSTITUTIONAL LINK - Article One (Legislative Branch - representatives from each state).
On April 19, 1775, shots were fired in the first battle of the Revolutionary War at
Lexington and Concord
, Massachusetts.
The mission of the First Continental Congress had failed, so a
second Congress
convened. By the time they met at Liberty Hall in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, war had already broken out in Massachusetts from the events of Lexington & Concord.

This Congress had three major accomplishments that would forever change American history:

They selected George Washington as the supreme commander of the continental army. He took control of the war effort against Britain.
The delegates unanimously approved the Declaration of Independence. This formally cut political ties with Britain and established the United States as a sovereign power. The document was authored by Thomas Jefferson. The committee to draft the Declaration was made up of Jefferson of Virginia, John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Robert Livingston of New York.
A committee was created at the same time the Declaration was being drafted to create a unifying government of the new thirteen states. It was decided that a confederation be created of the several states and in March of 1781, the Articles of Confederation became the first Constitution of the United States.
It is important to note that there are many historical events that lead to the American Revolution that are not covered in this presentation. In addition, many of the battles of the Revolution prior to the Declaration of Independence are omitted.

The purpose of this presentation is to link major historical events from the colonial period prior to the Revolution to the current Constitution of the United States as well as the Declaration of Independence. In other words, it explores the historical context of why certain items were included in the current Constitution.
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