Before Independence

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The American colonists welcomed the British troops sent to them to fight the French and Indian War (1754-1763), but they didn’t know British Parliament would later tax them to help pay for the costs of the war, and still not allow any American representatives in Parliament.

"Life, liberty and property" was a reference to Adam and Eve being given life, free will, and dominion over the Earth by their Creator first published by Englishman John Locke in 1690, and upheld by the colonists.

Man subject only to the laws of his Maker
In 1761 patriot James Otis spoke for five hours "Against the Writs of Assistance" which allowed the British to search anyone or anything for suspected smuggled goods. This was contrary to British common law. Young John Adams made the following note of his speech: "He asserted that every man, merely natural, was an independent sovereign, subject to no law but the law written on his heart and revealed to him by his Maker, in the constitution of his nature and the inspiration of his understanding and his conscience. His right to his life, his liberty, no created being could rightfully contest. Nor was his right to his property less incontestable...When general councils and deliberations commenced, the objects could be no other than the mutual defense and security of every individual for his life, his liberty, and his property."

To keep the peace with the Indians, Britain’s Royal Proclamation of 1763 stated, "that no private person do presume to make any purchase from the said Indians of any lands reserved to the said Indians within those parts of our colonies where we have thought proper to allow settlement; but that if at any time any of the said Indians should be inclined to dispose of the said lands, the same shall be purchased only for us, in our name, at some public meeting or assembly of the said Indians..."

"Sons of Liberty" (1765)
In England, British Colonel Barre used the phrase "Sons of Liberty" while protesting the Quartering Act and Stamp Act in Parliament, and American patriots took up the name.

Quartering Act and Stamp Act
In 1765 Parliament passed the Quartering Act, requiring colonists to provide food and shelter for soldiers; and the Stamp Act, a tax requiring costly official stamps on all legal documents and paper goods.

No taxation without representation
The slogan of the Sons of Liberty was "No taxation without representation."

Acts of rebellion led to repeal of the Stamp Act
The Sons of Liberty tarred and feathered British customs officials, boycotted British goods, and committed other acts of rebellion. This, along with the printing of protests, eventually let to the Stamp Act’s repeal.

Parliament passed Townshend Acts (1766) and American militia prepared for battle
Parliament suspended New York's assembly, and they taxed glass, lead, paper, paint, and tea (Townshend Acts). In response, the colonies began to establish their own "committees of safety" to supply their militia and prepare for battle.

Britain pressured Boston by sending 4,000 troops in hopes the other colonies would submit to the taxes.

Boston Massacre (1770)
In 1770 a riot occurred when a British soldier hit a youth with his rifle butt, ending in the deaths of 5 Americans. This became known as the Boston Massacre. As a result, the British soldiers withdrew from Boston.

Most Townshend taxes lifted (1770)
About a month after the massacre, all of the Townshend taxes were lifted except the tea tax.

Parliament’s Tea Act and Boston Tea Party (1773)
In 1773 Parliament passed the Tea Act, which placed a lower price on tea, but gave Britain a monopoly. Several months after the Tea Act, Sons of Liberty boarded tea laden British East India ships and dumped it into Boston Harbor.

Intolerable Acts (1774)
British King George III punished Massachusetts for the Boston tea party by passing the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts, which closed the port of Boston, bringing business to a halt.

Colonies united and formed the First Continental Congress
The colonies united to protest the Intolerable Acts, and sent representatives to the First Continental Congress.

In 1774 the Continental Congress wrote a declaration to the King George, which demanded reopening Boston Harbor and recognition of ten rights including "life, liberty and property."

The first battles of the War of Independence at Lexington and Concord (1775)
The colonists' demands in their 1774 declaration were met with British attacks at Lexington and Concord during the spring of 1775. Thus began the War of Independence (Revolutionary War).

Second declaration of Second Continental Congress (1775)
After Lexington and Concord the Second Continental Congress appointed George Washington commander-in-chief of the militia. They wrote a declaration to take up arms, yet still hoped for reconciliation with Britain.

Third declaration was Declaration of Independence (1776)
The first two continental congresses hoped for reconciliation with England, but the Third Continental Congress wrote The Declaration of Independence declaring America to be independent from Britain.


Term Definition
boycott refuse to purchase something in order to make a point
Continental Congress a meeting of the American leaders before and during the War of Independence
import to buy goods from outside the country
militia regular folks with weapons who defend their homes
monopoly the exclusive right to sell a product or service
protest show disagreement
reconciliation forgive and be friends again
Sons of Liberty A name given to radical American patriots
Stamp Act A tax where paper goods, especially legal documents, required a stamp from British officials
Townshend Acts Import taxes on glass, lead, paper, paint, and tea