BECK index

American Resistance to British Taxes 1763-75

by Sanderson Beck

Peace Treaty and Sugar Tax 1763-65
Stamp Act Crisis 1765-66
Townshend Acts 1767-70
Tea Tax Resistance 1770-74
Continental Congress 1774-75
Western Frontier 1763-75

Peace Treaty and Sugar Tax 1763-65

In the Treaty of Paris in February 1763 the British chose to insist that the French cede Canada rather than the sugar-rich island of Guadeloupe. Some British pamphleteers argued that this could lead to the English Americans deciding to become independent of England because they would no longer need British protection from the French. However, Benjamin Franklin argued that most Americans would move west and farm, thus not challenging British manufacturing. Franklin assumed that the British would govern the Americans reasonably, and they would have no motive to revolt.

British Prime Minister John Stuart, the Earl of Bute, decided that a permanent force of royal troops should remain in America, and the Parliament accepted this without much debate. Frenchmen were still in Canada; in the west were Indian tribes; and Spaniards remained in Florida which extended west to the Mississippi River. George Grenville became prime minister in the spring of 1763, and he accepted the standing army in America.

The Seven Years War against France and Spain had increased the British debt to £122,603,336 with annual interest of £4,409,797. Grenville and Parliament believed that Americans should pay their share of the war and for the army in America through increased taxes. England was paying most of the £200,000 each year for twenty battalions on the continent of North America and in the West Indies. The colonies had their own war debts that added up to £2,097,000 in 1763, but in the next four years they paid them down to £838,000.

Treasury officials persuaded Grenville that the colonies could pay £77,775 annually by reducing the duty on foreign molasses imported into the colonies from 6 pence per gallon so that they could collect the more reasonable 3 pence per gallon. The Molasses Act had been passed in 1733; but it was not enforced, and smuggling was so common that the merchants were paying only about a one and a half pennies per gallon in 1763. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, and Philadelphia the Americans used molasses in their distilleries to make rum, which was traded for slaves from Africa. In 1756 Governor Robert Hunter Morris had broken into warehouses in Philadelphia to look for contraband. In 1760 the British Navy stopped smuggling by capturing thirty ships with cargoes worth £100,000. Boston merchants formed the Society for Encouraging Trade and Commerce in April 1763, and they argued that molasses would not bear any duty at all.

In July 1763 Grenville ordered Customs Commissioners to move to the colonies or resign. In February 1764 he submitted to Parliament the Revenue Act, and it became law on April 5 and was called the Sugar Act. In addition to lowering the tax on molasses to 3 pence, it imposed taxes on hides, skins, potash, logwood and other goods and prohibited the importation of rum into the colonies. The 3d. rate was set as being slightly higher than the cost of smuggling. Merchants and ship captains had to post a bond before loading their cargoes and were required to have proper manifests listing their cargoes. Violators were prosecuted in the vice admiralty court without a jury at Halifax, Nova Scotia where the British fleet was based. Suspected offenders were presumed guilty and had to prove their innocence. What it took in turned out to be less than the costs of the court. The Currency Act of 1764 prohibited all the colonies from issuing paper money.

Stimulation of the American economy faded with the end of the war, leading to a depression in 1763. In November a member of Parliament informed Franklin that £200,000 a year would be raised from the plantations. Franklin predicted that what England gained from taxes would be lost in trade. Merchants expected to continue bribing Customs officials, but Grenville’s new administrators were different.

Rhode Island’s assembly pointed out that their inhabitants purchased goods worth £120,000 a year from England. The Browns of Providence used false papers, but William Mumford challenged their ships’ papers. In New York the informer George Spencer was arrested for debt, pelted by a mob in the streets, and jailed until he promised to leave the city.

Boston merchants printed Reasons Against the Renewal of the Sugar Act in early 1764 and sent 250 copies to their agent in England. James Otis of Massachusetts led the committee that told Governor Fitch of Connecticut on June 25 that the Sugar Act deprived the colonies of their essential rights such as the right to assess their own taxes. During the summer Otis published The Rights of British Colonies Asserted and Proved. He admitted the colonists must obey the Parliament, which he believed must repeal its offending laws. Otis wrote that Parliament did not have the right to impose internal or external taxes on the colonies without their consent. He argued that the supreme executive and the supreme legislature in Parliament should check and balance each other. After the Massachusetts House of Representatives heard Otis read his long pamphlet twice, they voted to send it to their agent in London. In October they sent a petition to King George III against the Sugar Tax because they should not be deprived of their right to tax themselves. A boycott of British manufactures had been initiated in Philadelphia, and it was reported in Boston newspapers on September 6.

Merchants in New York City met on January 27, 1764 in a tavern, and they urged their colonial legislature to protest. New York sent a long petition to the House of Commons on October 18 asserting that the British had no right to tax them. The North Carolina Assembly sent a message to Governor Dobbs on October 31 that they could not be taxed without their consent, and South Carolina agreed.

Merchants in Rhode Island had met as early as October 1763 to send their remonstrance against the Sugar Act to the legislature. Rhode Island imported more than a million gallons of molasses each year, and the three pence a gallon duty would cost them £14,000 a year. John Robinson arrived as the Customs collector in Newport in early 1764. Rhode Island’s merchants offered him £70,000 to ignore illegal cargoes, but he declined and began enforcing the law. In April conservatives wrote anonymous letters to the Newport Mercury and wanted Parliament to revoke Rhode Island’s charter and appoint a royal governor. In July the Assembly formed a committee to work for repeal of the Sugar Act. Governor Stephen Hopkins read The Rights of Colonies Examined to the Assembly on November 4, arguing that the Sugar Act and the proposed stamp tax violated the colonists’ rights. Hopkins published his pamphlet in December, provoking a pamphlet war with conservatives in which he was supported by Otis. In December several officers of a boarding party from the Cygnet and Jamaica were thrown overboard, and after an attack by an ax a lieutenant ran his sword through a passenger’s belly. After a confrontation between the Royal Navy’s St. John over impressments, stealing pigs and chickens, and smuggling of molasses, batteries at Newport harbor fired on it as it was leaving.

In April 1765 the collector Robinson had the Polly seized in Dighton, Massachusetts for not having declared half its cargo. He brought a crew from Newport; but people persuaded them not to serve, and forty men with blackened faces stripped the ship of everything valuable and scuttled it. The owner Job Smith accused Robinson of the damages, and a sheriff made him walk eight miles to Taunton. Robinson was released from jail and took the Polly case to the court at Halifax. British naval officers began taking small craft in various ports, and merchants retaliated by not making pilots available to royal ships.

The population of the thirteen colonies in 1765 was about 1,750,000, and about 400,000 were Africans.

Stamp Act Crisis 1765-66

On March 9, 1764 British Prime Minister Grenville told Parliament he wanted a stamp tax in 1765, but they needed time to learn what to tax. Grenville met with a few colonial agents on May 17. He hoped the colonies might tax themselves, but he never officially notified the colonies of this nor did he tell them how much was needed. Because of resistance to the sugar tax, he wanted to put the Americans in their place. Jared Ingersoll was one of the agents who met with Grenville in February 1765, and he wrote to Governor Fitch about England’s wanting the colonies to tax themselves; but the Prime Minister used neither the Secretary of State nor the Board of Trade to try to determine how much would be needed from each colony. Then he informed the agents that he had already pledged his word that he would offer the Stamp Bill to the House of Commons. Thus he was only trying to get the colonies to decline to raise the money. Ingersoll was a friend of Thomas Whately in the treasury office and persuaded them to remove marriage licenses, commissions for justices of the peace, and notes of hand from the duty. During the debate on February 6 Col. Isaac Barré responded to the characterizations made by Charles Townshend by saying in his heart-felt speech,

They planted by your care?
No, your oppressions planted them in America.
They fled from your tyranny
to a then i(u)ncultivated and u(i)nhospitable country.…
They nourished by your indulgence?
They grew by your neglect of ‘em:
as soon as you began to care about ‘em,
that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over ‘em….
They protected by your arms?
They have nobly taken up arms in your defence,
have exerted a valor amidst their constant
and laborious industry for the defence of a country
whose frontier was drenched in blood.2

Barré referred to the protesting colonists as “Sons of Liberty,” and they adopted this designation. The Parliament refused to hear any petitions against the Stamp Act, and the House passed its fifty resolutions 245-49. The Stamp Act became law on March 22, 1765. The Quartering Act passed on May 15, requiring the housing of British troops in America with provisions.

The poet Soame-Jenyns was a member of Parliament and wrote “The Objections to the Taxations of Our American Colonies Considered” to defend the Stamp Act, arguing for their right to tax the American colonies to pay for their protection because they had “virtual representation.”

News of the Stamp Act reached Virginia’s House of Burgesses in Williamsburg in May 1765. The new member Patrick Henry introduced resolutions against the Act. Young Thomas Jefferson was one of the witnesses of Henry’s oration on May 30. After referring to Caesar and Brutus and to Charles I and Cromwell, a witness later wrote that Speaker of the House Robinson challenged this statement as treasonous, and Henry backed down; but it was widely reported that Henry said, “If this be treason, make the most of it!” He presented five resolutions; but he went home before the fifth one was rescinded the next day. The five resolutions were opposed by Peyton Randolph, John Robinson, George Wythe, and others. According to Virginia’s Governor Francis Fauquier the fifth resolution was so controversial that the more radical sixth and seventh resolutions were not even presented for debate. The Virginia Gazette’s publisher Joseph Royle refused to print the resolutions. Although the Burgesses only approved four resolutions, on June 24 the Newport Mercury published all seven resolutions including the last one deeming as an enemy anyone who asserts that anyone has the authority to impose any tax on the colonial inhabitants. The Maryland Gazette also included this one in the six resolutions it reported.

Rhode Island’s Assembly met in May and June but did not pass the resolutions until September. Massachusetts sent a circular letter on June 8 inviting all the colonies to send delegates to a congress in New York City in October. Seven other colonies also passed resolutions declaring that Parliament had no right to tax the colonies. Prime Minister Grenville was replaced in July by Charles Watson-Wentworth, the Marquess of Rockingham.

In Boston the Loyal Nine organized and were later known as the Sons of Liberty. These ruffians were apparently guided by the well-to-do such as Otis, Samuel Adams, and John Adams. Samuel had worked as a reluctant tax collector and was responsible for a shortfall of £2,200 in 1761. The Nine included the Harvard graduate John Avery, Jr. and Gazette printer Benjamin Edes, who printed articles urging resistance. On August 14, 1765 they hanged in effigy the anticipated distributor of the stamps, Andrew Oliver. Governor Bernard summoned the Council which did nothing, and the Sheriff reported his men could not remove the effigy without risking their lives. The shoemaker Ebenezer McIntosh led a mob that demolished the building Oliver had constructed for distributing the stamps. They threatened Oliver’s house, and he with his family fled to a neighbor’s house and then to Castle William, where Governor Bernard joined him. Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson and the Sheriff tried to disperse the crowd from Oliver’s house, but they were stoned and fled. Bernard said the mob was so general that the civil power had no authority.

The next day gentlemen asked Oliver to resign, and he promised to write home and not execute the Act. On the evening of August 26 the Loyal Nine looted and damaged two houses of those whom they believed supported the Act. The Governor and Council issued a warrant and offered a reward of £100, and Sheriff Greenleaf arrested McIntosh. Fearing a mob was going to pull down the customs house, the Sheriff released his prisoner. The intimidated Governor notified the newspapers that he would not authorize the distribution of the stamps.

News of the actions in Boston spread to other colonies. On August 27 a mob in Newport marched with effigies of Stamp Distributor Augustus Johnston, Martin Howard, and Thomas Moffatt, and they attacked and looted their houses. Governor Samuel Ward left town until the rioting ended. He refused to take the oath to enforce the Act, and Johnston resigned.

New York’s Stamp Distributor James McEvers resigned on August 26 before he was pressured. New Jersey’s stamp distributor William Coxe could not rent a house until he resigned on September 2. On that day Zachariah Hood in Maryland refused to resign, and a mob pulled down his warehouse. He fled to New York where a mob forced him to quit on November 28. New Hampshire’s stamp distributor George Meserve arrived at Boston harbor on September 9, remained on the ship, and was forced to resign two day’s later. Jared Ingersoll of Connecticut held out until a lynch mob persuaded him on September 15. On the 19th the New Jersey bar resolved not to use the stamps. On September 23 Virginians hung up effigies of Grenville and distributor George Mercer and put them on trial. Then the effigies were paraded with signs accusing Grenville of enslaving Americans and Mercer of believing “Money is my God.”

Governor Francis Bernard called the Massachusetts Assembly on September 25 and said the Stamp Act should be obeyed. The members replied that they had a right to be represented in the body exercising the power of taxation. On June 8 the Massachusetts representatives had sent a circular letter to the assemblies of North America suggesting a congress at New York in October, and nine colonies participated. Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia were prevented by their governors from assembling to choose delegates. New Hampshire declined to attend the congress but approved after it ended. Delaware and New Jersey were not allowed to meet either, but they informally elected delegates anyway. Massachusetts sent the conservatives Timothy Ruggles and Oliver Partridge and the changeable James Otis who was said to have called the Virginia Resolves treasonable.

      On September 10 the Pennsylvania Assembly voted 15-14 to send a delegation to the Stamp Act Congress in New York. On September 16 Galloway organized more than 700 men to protect the threatened house of John Hughes. On October 5 the stamps arrived with Hughes’s commission. After two days of negotiation Hughes promised he would not enforce the Act in Pennsylvania or Delaware. Also in 1765 the physicians John Morgan and William Shippen founded the College of Philadelphia, the first medical school in North America.

The Stamp Act Congress met in New York from October 7 to 25. The 27 delegates included ten lawyers, ten merchants, and seven landowners, and they produced thirteen declarations that included the following:

III. That it is inseparably essential to the Freedom of a People, and the undoubted Right of Englishmen,
that no Taxes be imposed on them,
but with their own Consent,
given personally, or by their Representatives.
IV. That the People of these Colonies are not,
and from their local Circumstances cannot be,
Represented in the House of Commons in Great-Britain….
VII. That Trial by jury, is the inherent and invaluable Right
of every British Subject in these Colonies.1

The document concluded with an appeal to the colonies to petition the King and Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act. After the congress met, Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina wrote that they should not be known as New England men or New Yorkers, etc. but as Americans. Ruggles and Robert Ogden of New Jersey refused to sign the proceedings of the congress because it had not explicitly acknowledged Parliament’s authority.

The Maryland lawyer Daniel Dulany answered those arguments in his pamphlet Considerations on the Propriety of imposing Taxes in the British Colonies, for the Purpose of Raising a Revenue, which was published in early October. He called the idea that the Americans had “virtual representation” a trap to catch the unwary and entangle the weak. He noted that no part of America was represented in the Parliament while every part of England was. He recognized the authority and power of Parliament in making laws for the British empire but believed that its right to tax colonies was limited. This would be the first internal tax imposed on the colonists by Parliament “for the single purpose of revenue” without their consent. He advocated boycotting British goods and replacing them with American industry. Dulany’s pamphlet was widely circulated, and all the thirteen colonies from New Hampshire to Georgia agreed with him.

Stamps arrived in New York harbor on October 22, but a crowd prevented their unloading until night. The Congress appointed three committees to petition the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, and on its last day it decided to send the proceedings to the thirteen colonies and to England. On October 31 two hundred merchants in New York agreed to boycott English merchandise. That day the undaunted Lieutenant-Governor Cadwallader Colden took an oath to uphold the Act and appointed his son the new stamp distributor. Colden had already angered people by arming Fort George which had a British garrison, and 2,000 people attacked his house and paraded with his effigy, burning his luxurious sleighs and coach in a bonfire.

The Rhode Island Assembly resolved that its government should carry on business as if the Stamp Act had never been passed. Ingersoll agreed to be the Stamp Distributor and with the party of Old Lights he advised passive resistance rather than intimidation so that Connecticut would not lose its precious charter. Like the other Distributors he was eventually forced to resign, and the more fanatical New Lights party took control of Rhode Island’s government. The Stamp Act was scheduled to go into effect on November 1, requiring a stamp on every document to make it legal. Violations were to be tried in courts without juries by judges appointed by the British government, and the fine was to be £10 for using a document without the proper stamp. Officials who were sued could recover triple damages, and colonies had no authority over how the funds were to be spent. Duties varied from a halfpenny on newspapers to £2 on college diplomas and £10 for professional licenses.

The Massachusetts House had met on September 25; but the radicals won over so many farmers that Governor Bernard adjourned them. John Adams drafted resolutions for his town of Braintree on October 14, arguing that the Stamp Tax was burdensome and unconstitutional, complaining especially that it extended the power of the Admiralty Courts. Bernard and the Council summoned the militia on October 31, but they could not be raised. The first drummer sent out had his drum broken, and others were bribed. On November 1 order in Boston was kept by the Sons of Liberty as effigies of Grenville and the reputed Stamp Act author John Huske were hung on the Liberty Tree. The Sons of Liberty acted as if the Stamp Act had never been passed. The Assembly rejected a resolution to do business without the unavailable stamps because they did not recognize Parliament’s right to levy the Stamp Tax.

On December 6 some 200 merchants in Boston agreed to stop importing British goods. The House in Massachusetts voted to compensate the victims of damages in the riots while pardoning those charged, and the Governor signed it in December. The Sons of Liberty prepared to storm the Customshouse in Boston, but on December 17 at noon Oliver was marched through the streets in the rain and then read his resignation. That afternoon the Customshouse and the ports opened. The Sons of Liberty wanted the courts opened too, and the Governor and Council decided to let the judges decide. Criminal cases did not require stamps, and Bernard appointed a probate judge without stamped paper. On January 24, 1766 the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 81-5 that the courts should be opened.

On November 14 four hundred merchants in Philadelphia agreed to stop ordering British goods until the Stamp Act was repealed. In Pennsylvania the proprietary Penn family owned all the public land and was entitled to quitrent on all private land. The Penns refused to pay any taxes on their land and were no longer Quakers but had joined the Church of England. Quakers still dominated the Assembly because of greater representation in the east; but the Presbyterians were growing in strength, and their leader, Chief Justice William Allen, was the wealthiest man in Pennsylvania. During the war the pacifist Quakers had yielded political leadership to John Hughes, Joseph Galloway, and Benjamin Franklin. In February 1764 Franklin managed to get the Paxton boys who opposed the Indians to return home. He also persuaded the Assembly to petition George III for royal government in Pennsylvania. The Presbyterians on the frontier opposed this and elected more representatives, defeating Galloway and Franklin in the summer election. Hughes persuaded the Assembly to send Franklin to England, where he opposed the Stamp Act but suggested that Grenville appoint Hughes as Distributor.

George Mercer returned from England to Williamsburg, Virginia on October 30, and he took the Governor’s advice and resigned. The people of Charleston, South Carolina pressured Caleb Lloyd and Inspector of Stamps George Saxby of North Carolina to flee to Fort Jamison, where after two days in late October they agreed to suspend their duties. Dr. William Houston was appointed in North Carolina and arrived on November 16. He was visited by three or four hundred men who persuaded him to resign. The ports in Georgia closed on November 30. George Angus arrived from England on January 4, 1766 and took the oath to distribute stamps, but within two weeks he fled. However, Georgia’s Governor James Wright and his Council enforced the Stamp Act, the only one of the thirteen colonies that did not refuse to pay the Stamp Tax. The Act also went into effect in the two Floridas, Nova Scotia, and Quebec.

The Rhode Island Assembly ordered officers to ignore the Act. Johnston’s life was threatened in October if he distributed stamps, and by November 25 John Robinson was doing customs business without stamps. Most newspapers had stopped publishing on November 1, but on the 25th the New York Gazette resumed publishing without using stamps, and other newspapers eventually followed. Ships were delayed in many colonies in November 1765 because stamps were not available, and merchants were afraid of being taken by the British navy. Rhode Island and Virginia opened their ports without using stamps in late November, and in December they were followed by Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The ships in Maryland and the Carolinas were cleared without stamps in January 1766. Smuggling increased, and the British Navy did not enforce the Stamp Act. Every colony was shipping without using stamps before the Act was repealed. However, Quebec, Nova Scotia, the Floridas, Barbados, Grenada, and Jamaica were using the stamps. English merchants who could not collect their debts wanted the Act repealed. Farmers in the Hudson Valley stopped paying their rents. When the courts reopened that spring, evictions led to riots requiring troops.

A few thieves took advantage of the situation by calling themselves Sons of Liberty, but in every colony the “true” Sons of Liberty began enforcing the law themselves. They seized mail and did whatever they felt was necessary to prevent the collection of the Stamp Tax. Meetings in various cities announced their intention to resist the Stamp Act, and agreements were made to assist neighboring colonies. In December 1765 John Dickinson wrote to William Pitt that if Parliament did not repeal the Stamp Act, the colonies would unite and become independent of the British.

On December 4 in London merchants organized a committee of 28 to petition Parliament for repeal of the Stamp Act, and 250 merchants in Boston signed a non-importation agreement on December 9 until May 1, 1766. The London merchants submitted their petition for repeal to Parliament on January 17, 1766. In the House of Commons on January 14 William Pitt had given his famous speech in which he rejoiced that Americans had resisted the Stamp Act, and he called for it to be “repealed absolutely, totally, and immediately.” He acknowledged they could bind the trade of the colonies and limit their manufactures, but they should not take their money without their consent. Edmund Burke had just been elected to Parliament, and he also believed the Act should be repealed.

Prime Minister Rockingham introduced a resolution for the Declaratory Act on February 3, affirming England’s right to make laws that bind the colonies, and for repeal of the Stamp Act on the 21st. The Parliament listened to petitions from the American agents from Virginia and Georgia as well as from English merchants and manufacturers. Moffat and Howard from Rhode Island and George Mercer from Virginia described the riots, and others also testified that the Stamp Act could not be enforced. Rockingham did not allow the petitions from the Stamp Act Congress to be read.

In his Commentaries on the Laws of England Oxford University’s law professor William Blackstone argued that every polity must have one supreme legislative authority. However, in early 1766 Virginia’s Richard Bland in An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies observed that the colonies had established their own governments and legislative authority within the British empire, and he argued that they are independent governments with the right to govern by their own laws under the principles of British liberty. Mankind has the right to government by the consent of the governed.

On February 13 Benjamin Franklin was asked many questions, and he published an account of his testimony. He said there was not enough gold and silver in the colonies to pay the stamp duty for one year, and he complained that the money would be spent in the conquered colonies where the British soldiers are, not in the colonies paying it. He said America provided nearly 25,000 men in the last war and spent millions. He described how the attitude of Americans toward the British had changed very much since 1763, and their respect for Parliament decreased because of restraints on trade, prohibiting the use of paper money, and demanding the heavy tax by stamps. He noted that Americans would never submit to it because they definitely opposed internal taxes imposed by England. He concluded that arguments were being made that might convince them in time that external taxes should also be resisted. He believed that Americans were capable of defending themselves and did not need British troops. He said they could not force people to use the stamps. The British would find no rebellion, but they might make one.

By the end of February when North Carolinians seized the ports of Wilmington and Brunswick, every port south of Canada was open and not using stamps. On February 22 the House of Commons voted 275-167 for repeal of the Stamp Act, and the news reached America in early April. Only in Canada, Nova Scotia, and the West Indies where British troops enforced the Act, was £3,292 in revenue raised out of an anticipated £60,000 per year, and their initial expenses had been £6,837. On March 27 the House of Commons voted to reduce the duty on molasses entering British colonies to 1d. per gallon, and this became part of the Plantation Duties Act of 1766. Rumors spread in America that the Stamp Act was being repealed, and on May 2 the Virginia Gazette published the repeal and Declaratory acts.

In New York that month General Thomas Gage and Governor Henry Moore asked for bedding and supplies for British troops under the Quartering Act. In Dutchess County angry tenant farmers had been led by William Prendergast since 1764, and he escaped arrest until July 1766. Chief Justice Robert R. Livingston sentenced him to be hanged and quartered, but he was reprieved by Governor Henry Moore, who persuaded General Gage to use British troops to break up the tenant rebellion. In August troops cut down the liberty tree in the common, provoking a brawl with several thousand New Yorkers. The Assembly refused to vote for the supplies in December.

During the spring elections the Boston Gazette published the names of 32 representatives they considered unfit, and 19 of them were defeated. The new House and previous Council elected a new Council, removing four incumbents, and a fifth resigned. In May 1766 James Otis, Sam Adams, and Thomas Cushing were re-elected to the legislature, and John Hancock was elected. That month they urged a town meeting to push the legislature to prohibit the importation and sale of slaves. Governor Bernard vetoed the new members of the Council and Otis as speaker of the House. Connecticut’s Governor Thomas Fitch was defeated along with several members of the Council by the Sons of Liberty.

Townshend Acts 1767-70

King George III asked William Pitt, now the Earl of Chatham, to form a government in July 1766; but he was ill, and the Treasury Minister Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Grafton, chose Charles Townshend to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. Townshend pledged to Parliament in January 1767 that he would get revenue from the colonies, and he formulated his American program by May.  George III approved the Townshend Revenue Act on June 29. First, the New York Assembly could not pass a bill until it agreed to submit to the Quartering Act. Second, import duties were to be collected on lead, glass, paper, paint colors, and tea. Third, an American Board of Customs Commissioners was to have its headquarters in the colonies. The tax on tea was to be 3d. per pound and was expected to raise £20,000 a year. The famous philosopher Voltaire commented that men are opening their eyes in Europe, and he asked for blessing on this revolution that exceeded his hopes.

In July the New York Assembly agreed to provide £3,000 for the Governor to use as he wished but not for rations of spirits. Sam Adams in Boston criticized the Quartering Act as taxation. The annual cost of defending the colonies was estimated to be £405,607. Townshend expected the import duties to bring in £43,420 a year, but he died suddenly on September 4. Parliament suspended the New York Assembly on October 1. On the 28th a Boston town meeting chaired by Otis resolved to block importation of European commodities. Customs commissioners arrived in Boston on November 5 while people were marching in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day and burning their effigies. The Townshend duties took effect on the 20th, and Ben Franklin remained in London to try to get them repealed. He invented a phonetic alphabet by adding a few letters to the Roman alphabet so that each sound would be represented by only one letter, but he did little for the project after 1768. Newport adopted a non-consumption agreement on December 4, and it spread in Rhode Island and to Connecticut.

John Dickinson published his Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies one at a time in 21 of the 25 colonial newspapers from December 2, 1767 to February 18, 1768. His first letter condemned the New York Restraining Act as taxation, and in the second letter he argued that both internal and external taxes on the colonies are unconstitutional. In his third letter he suggested boycotting goods from Britain until the taxes were repealed in order to keep the oppressors from reaping advantages. In the fifth letter he answered the British appeal for revenues in compensation for protecting the colonies by arguing that England was gaining commercial advantages by restricting colonial trade and manufacturing. The sixth letter noted that the sole purpose of the Townshend Revenue Act was to raise revenue. In the eleventh letter Dickinson referred to Ireland as an object lesson of what the colonists could expect from British taxation. On July 4 Dickinson wrote a letter to James Otis about his song for American freedom set to the tune of the popular “Hearts of Oak,” and three days later the words were printed in two Philadelphia newspapers. The first stanza goes as follows:

COME join Hand in Hand, brave AMERICANS all,
And raise your bold Hearts at fair LIBERTY’s Call:
No tyrannous Acts shall suppress your just Claim
Or stain with Dishonour AMERICA’s Name—
In FREEDOM we’re BORN, and in FREEDOM we’ll LIVE,
Our Purses are ready,
Steady, Friends, Steady
Not as SLAVES, but as FREEMEN our money we’ll give.2

In January 1768 the Massachusetts House of Representatives sent letters drafted by Samuel Adams to the Earl of Shelburne, the Marquis of Rockingham, and Lord Camden on constitutional rules. On January 20 the Earl of Hillsborough was appointed Britain’s first Secretary of State for the Colonies. On the same day the Massachusetts legislature authorized a petition to George III opposing Parliament’s taxing of colonies for revenue, and on February 11 they sent a circular letter urging all the colonial assemblies to resist the Townshend taxes. On the 26th the House voted 81-1 to suppress extravagance, idleness, and vice while promoting industry, economy, and good morals, and they resolved to stop using foreign superfluities and encourage manufacturing in their province.

On April 14 Virginia’s House of Burgesses petitioned the King in opposition to the taxes. Hillsborough responded by issuing two letters to colonial officials on April 21 and 22, ordering the governors to dissolve any assemblies that take up the protest. The second letter instructed Governor Bernard to demand that the Massachusetts House rescind the circular letter which he did on June 21. Nine days later that House refused to do so by a vote of 92-17. Paul Revere portrayed the 17 rescinders in hell in a cartoon, and only five of them were re-elected. On May 6 the New Jersey Assembly declared it could only be taxed by its own representatives, and all thirteen colonies made similar responses, though New York did not do so until December.

The British warship Romney was sent from Halifax to Boston in May, and Customs officers seized John Hancock’s ship Liberty on June 10, 1768. A mob of more than two thousand gathered and broke windows in the Controller’s house. Merchants and traders in Boston agreed on August 1 that they would not import any tea, paper, glass, or paint colors until the duties were repealed, and with a few exceptions they promised not to import any goods from Britain during the year 1769. Later in August merchants in New York City made a similar agreement, and New York tradesmen agreed to boycott those who refused to sign the merchants’ agreement. Other American ports followed. Secretary Hillsborough also became President of the Board of Trade in July and decided to send two regiments from Ireland to Boston, and on September 3 Bernard indicated they were coming. He refused to reconvene the House, and on the 13th the Boston town meeting sent a letter calling for a Massachusetts Convention of Towns which met in the last week of September. On the 16th the Rhode Island Assembly sent a petition to the King, protesting the Townshend Acts.

On October 1 two British regiments with about 700 men came to Boston from Halifax, and six weeks later two more regiments began arriving from Ireland with about 500 men; the latter were transferred to Halifax in July 1769. Some British soldiers encamped on the Commons, and others were housed in the Court House and Faneuil Hall. Rum and prostitutes were plentiful in the port of Boston, and the idle soldiers spent their wages on both. Seventy soldiers deserted inland in the first two weeks, and more followed. General Thomas Gage had one deserter condemned and executed by firing squad, and many soldiers were severely whipped for minor offenses.

On December 2, 1768 Virginia’s legislature resolved to protest the Townshend Acts as unconstitutional, and the other southern colonies followed.

In Philadelphia three hundred merchants formed the Non-Importation Association. Philadelphia imported 175,000 pounds of tea in 1768 and only 128 pounds in 1772. In the same period New York’s imports of tea dropped from 320,000 pounds to 530. In Pennsylvania the Philosophical Society was dominated by the Proprietary party while Quakers made up most of the American Society. Yet on January 2, 1769 they merged to become the American Philosophical Society and elected Franklin their president as Governor Penn withdrew. They began publishing Transactions in 1771 and became America’s best source for scientific information.

On May 17, 1769 Virginia’s House of Burgesses passed George Mason’s resolutions declaring taxation without representation unconstitutional, and Governor Botetourt dissolved the House. The next day George Washington and other members met in a private place and made a non-importation agreement which was followed by Maryland in June, South Carolina in July, by Georgia in September, and by North Carolina in November. Sons of Liberty groups reorganized. In November the Virginia legislature repealed the 1748 act that had imposed unequal taxes on the wives and female children of free Africans. However, young Thomas Jefferson’s first bill to allow unrestricted emancipation of slaves was defeated because the legislature believed that the slave trade must be abrogated first. In December the Commons House of South Carolina sent £1,500 sterling for the defense of the reformer John Wilkes in England and for the defense of American liberty. South Carolina was the only colony still using its own currency, and it defied a ministerial mandate on September 4, 1770. No tax bill passed in South Carolina after 1769 and no legislation at all after February 1771.

On September 5, 1769 the Customs Commissioner John Robinson quarreled with James Otis in the British Coffee House and beat him severely with the help of others.

Alexander MacDougall in New York aroused patriotic furor with his broadside calling for a siege of the Assembly to make them reverse their vote and defend liberty. The broadsides were widely displayed in December 1769, and conservative Assemblymen accused him of libel and had him arrested. His trial was delayed, and MacDougall was released. On January 16, 1770 British soldiers chopped down the liberty pole, and in the next two days some 3,000 supporters of the Sons of Liberty put up another liberty pole and fought the soldiers who had distributed handbills calling the Sons of Liberty “murderers, robbers, and traitors.” At Golden Hill one New Yorker was killed, and three were wounded by swords and bayonets. On the next day soldiers killed a sailor with a bayonet. Although these events did not get as much attention as those in Boston, they were the first fatalities in the revolution. On January 31 in Boston 426 women signed a pledge not to serve or drink any tea until the tea tax was repealed.

Also in 1770 John Murray brought Universalism to New England. Universalists broke off from Unitarianism and believe that all souls will be saved and that there is no everlasting hell. Murray gave his first sermon in New Jersey and established a congregation in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1774. He led the Universalist society of Boston from 1793 to 1809.

On January 23, 1770 some merchants in Boston took action against eight who had refused to sign the extension of the non-importation agreement until the Townshend Act was repealed. Theophilus Lillie published a letter that his liberty to do business was being curtailed, and on February 22 some boys put a sign in front of his store. Ebenezer Richardson had informed the Custom’s office about merchants in Boston, and he pulled down the insulting sign. A mob ordered him to come out of his house and broke windows. Richardson fired a gun at the mob, mortally wounding eleven-year-old Christopher Seider. The Superior Court convicted Richardson, but after two years in prison Governor Hutchinson pardoned him.

On March 3 in Boston the rope-maker Samuel Gray insulted a British officer, and soldiers then assaulted Gray and his co-workers. Other fights broke out two nights later. Captain Thomas Preston led six privates to defend the harassed sentry at the Customs House, and the mulatto Crispus Attucks led a mob that pelted them with snowballs, oyster shells, and sticks. The soldiers loaded their guns as some attacked them with clubs and a cutlass. The soldiers fired, killing Attucks, Gray, and James Caldwell and wounding six others of whom two died later. Preston prevented them from firing a second time, and Preston and the soldiers were arrested. In the late October trial Preston was accused of giving the order to fire and was defended by Robert Auchmuty, John Adams, and Josiah Quincy Jr. The prosecuting attorneys were Samuel Quincy and Robert Treat Paine. The witnesses did not agree, and the jury acquitted him of murder and manslaughter. Eight soldiers were tried a month later, and two of them were found guilty of manslaughter and were branded on the hand. All but one regiment was withdrawn from Boston. Each year on March 5 patriots remembered the “Boston Massacre” by listening to an oration against British tyranny. John Adams declined to speak in 1773 because with the soldiers having been acquitted he could have been accused of hypocrisy.

While the colonists were fighting for their rights against the British, people began questioning the injustice of slavery. In 1767 Arthur Lee had published his “Address on Slavery” in the Virginia Gazette, arguing that freedom is the birthright of all mankind, including Africans. In 1769 Thomas Jefferson defended the right of the indentured servant Thomas Howell to be free but lost the case. He wrote a bill that that would allow owners to free their slaves without the legislature’s approval. His older cousin Richard Bland introduced the bill, and he was denounced for his trouble. In 1771 the Quaker Robert Pleasants announced in Virginia that he and his father had decided to free all their slaves, and he founded an abolition society.

John Adams was hired to defend a slave’s suit for freedom, and he later commented that juries always found slaves free. Ben Franklin had five slaves, but he began opposing slavery publicly in 1770. The Spanish method of coartacion allowed slaves the right to buy their freedom, and this practice spread in New England. Most northern colonies ended the importation of slaves, and they were followed by Virginia and Maryland; but South Carolina went back to slave trafficking in 1773 by importing 8,000 in Charleston. That year the Congregational minister Samuel Hopkins and Ezra Stiles sent a circular to hundreds of churches in New England urging a ban on the slave trade.

In 1761 a seven-year-old African girl was delivered to Boston and named Phillis Wheatley by her new owners who educated her with their children. In September 1773 her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral were published in London, and after the death of her master she was emancipated. She naturally condemned slavery and oppression but was grateful she had been brought to America. She appealed to powerful men in England, including Lord Dartmouth with these lines:

No more, America, in mournful strain
Of wrongs, and grievance unredress’d complain,
No longer shalt thou dread the iron chain,
Which wanton Tyranny with lawless hand
Had made, and with it meant t’ enslave the land.
Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song,
Wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung,
Whence flow these wishes for the common good,
By feeling, fears alone best understood,
I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
Was snatched from Africa’s fancy’d happy seat:
What pangs excruciating must molest,
What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast?
Steel’d was that soul and by no misery mov’d
That from a father seiz’d his babe belov’d:
Such, such is my case. And can I but pray
Others may never feel tyrannic sway.3

Tea Tax Resistance 1770-74

Parliament enacted a partial repeal of the Townshend duties in April 1770 except on tea, and on June 2 New York merchants sent a circular letter proposing a relaxation of the non-importation agreements; but the other colonies blamed New York for deserting the cause, and New York merchants were opposed by Sons of Liberty. Some merchants revised their agreements in the fall. On July 6 George III in council ordered martial law in the Massachusetts colony. The unpopular John Mein published in the conservative Boston Chronicle in August the cargoes and owners who had violated the non-importation agreement. On October 28 a crowd attacked Mein on King Street, and he escaped in a disguise and sailed for England on a British warship. That month Massachusetts elected Ben Franklin to be their agent in London with Arthur Lee as his substitute. Imports from England, which were £2,378,000 in 1768 fell to £1,634,000 in 1769. New York’s boycott was most effective with a drop from £483,000 to £73,500. The Townshend duties raised decreased from £13,302 in 1768 to only £2,727 in 1770.

Philip Freneau and Hugh Henry Brackenridge studied at Princeton and composed the poem “The Rising Glory of America” which was read at the graduation ceremony in 1771. They also collaborated on the satire, Father Bombo's Pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabia, one of the first works of fictional prose written in America.

In New York a land case went against Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. Governor Tryon declared them outlaws and in March 1774 increased the reward for Allen to £100. Allen argued that possession and cultivation of land should outweigh titles, and he believed that those who improved the land with their labor had the right to resist a government that tried to take away that land. They defied New York laws by organizing their own courts in the area west of New Hampshire.

Lieutenant William Dudingston commanded the Gaspee which was trying to stop smuggling in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. On June 9, 1772 while chasing an American ship, the Gaspee was stranded on a sandbar a few miles from Providence. More than a hundred Sons of Liberty armed and boarded the ship at night. Sheriff Abraham Whipple of Kent County tried to arrest Dudingston, who was wounded and agreed to surrender if the crew were to be put ashore unhurt. Governor Joseph Wanton was notified, and King George offered a reward of £500 per person for those who attacked the Gaspee. The British were determined to put the Americans on trial in England, but Wanton and the Rhode Island Assembly decided in December to appoint commissioners at Newport. In 1772 British merchants began demanding payment of colonial debts, and bankruptcies had a ripple effect along the seaboard.

In 1771 the Connecticut legislature prohibited the slave trade. Slavery had been banned in England, and on June 22, 1772 a Negro slave from Massachusetts was liberated when he set foot on English ground. Franklin, though he owned slaves himself, criticized the hypocrisy when hundreds of thousands were still being dragged into slavery for their lives and their posterity. In a letter to a friend in January 1773 Patrick Henry honored the Quakers for their noble efforts to abolish slavery while admitting he could not justify the convenience of his owning of slaves. He hoped there would be an opportunity in the future to abolish slavery, and he encouraged his friend to persevere in that moral and political good. George Mason addressed the Virginia legislature on slavery, noting that the gentlemen there were petty tyrants who practiced despotism and cruelty and were habituated from infancy to trample on the rights of human nature.

On July 26, 1772 Hillsborough ordered the British Treasury to start paying the salaries of Superior Court judges in Massachusetts from the duties on tea imported into America. The British had taken over from the assembly paying the stipend of Governor Hutchinson and increased it from £1,000 to £1,500. He took control of Castle William and stationed warships in Boston harbor. On September 28 the Boston Gazette reported that the Crown was going to be paying the salaries of the judges on the Superior Court. Hutchinson refused to meet with a group led by Sam Adams in late October and would not convene the legislature. At a town meeting on November 2 Adams proposed forming Committees of Correspondence so that “the love of liberty and a zeal to support it may enkindle in every town.” On the 20th he presented a declaration of rights to life, liberty, and property with the right to defend them, and on that day they sent a circular letter to the towns and colonies.

Anthony Benezet became a Quaker after moving to Pennsylvania. He founded a girls school in 1755 and started teaching at the Friends School for Black People in 1770. Like Benjamin Lay he refused to eat food or wear clothing produced by slave labor. Benezet persuaded Quakers at the 1772 Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to disavow slavery. He wrote several books on the African slave trade and estimated that at least 100,000 Africans were annually bought and shipped through London and Bristol. Benezet criticized slavery and drinking alcohol in his 1774 book The Potent Enemies of America Laid Open. In 1776 in the short pamphlet “Thoughts on the Nature of War” Benezet argued that the worst consequence of war is the damage it does to the souls who participate.

On March 1773 Dabney Carr of Charlotte proposed in Virginia’s House of Burgesses a system of intercolonial committees of correspondence and a union of councils in the colonies. They voted to form a Committee of Correspondence that included Carr, Speaker Peyton Randolph, Richard Bland, Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson, and their resolves were commended by the Massachusetts Great and General Court which made their committee official in May. That month committees were also organized in Connecticut and New Hampshire followed by South Carolina in July, Georgia in September, Maryland and Delaware in October, North Carolina in December, New York in January 1774, and New Jersey in February. In Boston on April 20, 1773 four slaves on behalf of others petitioned the Massachusetts legislature for their freedom so that they could return to Africa. Another petition for freedom was sent to Governor Gage on May 25, 1774.

Parliament passed the Tea Act on May 10, 1773 so that the East India Company could sell its surplus stock of 17 million pounds of tea. On October 16 the city of Philadelphia adopted eight resolutions calling the tea duty taxation without representation. Dickinson wrote letters criticizing the tea tax and the East India Company’s monopoly on October 30 and November 27. The colonists were using mostly smuggled Dutch tea.

On December 2, 1772 Ben Franklin had sent to Speaker Thomas Cushing in Boston letters that Governor Hutchinson and his deputy Andrew Oliver had written to Thomas Whately, a member of Parliament. Franklin kept his role secret until a duel occurred between William Whately and John Temple over who was to blame for exposing them. In the letters Hutchinson argued that British liberties in the colonies should be abridged and restrained to prevent the connection with the parent state from being broken. In June 1773 the letters were read to the Massachusetts House, and by a vote of 101-5 they condemned them as a design to overthrow the constitution and replace it with arbitrary power. Franklin was vilified in the British press. In September he published in the London Public Advertiser his satire, “Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One.” A mass meeting in Philadelphia on October 16 declared that anyone importing tea from the East India Company was “an enemy of his country.”

In Boston on November 3 Will Molineux and Dr. Joseph Warren led about 400 Sons of Liberty to urge merchants to return the tea. Two days later a Boston town meeting passed the same resolutions adopted by Philadelphia. The Dartmouth reached Boston on November 28, and 5,000 people met the next day. Sam Adams and his friends had the ship tied up at Griffin’s Wharf with a guard on board. A mass meeting on December 14 asked the owner of the tea, Francis Rotch, to request clearance for a return voyage. By then the Eleanor and Beaver were tied up next to the Dartmouth.

Seven thousand Bostonians met at the Old South Meeting House on December 16, and they agreed to prevent the importation of the detested tea. Francis Rotch told them that sending back his cargo of tea would ruin him; but he would not land the cargo because no one would accept it. The people voted unanimously that the tea should not be landed. Rotch returned after dark and reported that Governor Hutchison would not clear his ship to depart. In a discussion one person suggested burning the tea and the three ships, and another proposed breaking into the boxes and throwing the tea in the harbor. The latter suggestion was cheered, but the meeting made no specific plan. Those planning on doing this were already getting into their disguises as Mohawk Indians. Runners took them the news that Rotch would not send his tea back to London.

A crowd of one thousand people moved to the wharf and protected about 150 men who were destroying the tea. When they discovered that customs officers were present, they ordered them to leave. On board the Beaver two men tried to steal some tea. Charles Conner was stripped of his clothes and covered with mud before he ran away. The 342 chests of tea on the three ships weighed 46 tons, and it was all thrown into the sea by 9 p.m. Later the East India Company claimed £9,659 in losses; but no one was ever caught, and they never collected anything.

News of what fifty years later was called the “Boston Tea Party” was spread quickly by Paul Revere. In New York on November 29 the Sons of Liberty had resolved that whoever aided the introduction of tea was to be deemed an enemy of the people, and the Governor confirmed the people’s decision not to let any tea be landed. On December 27 patriots in the town of Worcester formed the American Political Society. On the same day in Philadelphia 8,000 people met and persuaded Captain Samuel Ayres to take the 698 chests of tea on the Polly back to London. The Nancy was delayed by a storm on the way to New York, but it returned in April with its cargo of tea. Another ship in New York had its tea seized by Sons of Liberty and thrown in the sea. In Charleston, South Carolina tea that had been landed on December 2 was unloaded, but it was never sold and rotted in the warehouse. Boston began the boycott of tea, and many women joined. The radicals argued that Governor Hutchison was responsible for the loss of tea because he refused to permit the Dartmouth to leave the harbor. They also believed that the destroyers of the tea prevented violence which would have occurred if an attempt had been made to land the tea. The Peggy Stewart was the last ship with East India Company tea, and it was seized and destroyed at Annapolis, Maryland in October 1774.

Ben Franklin in addition to representing Pennsylvania became the agent in London for Georgia in 1768, for New Jersey in 1769, and for Massachusetts in 1770. He had submitted to Secretary of State Dartmouth on December 3, 1773 a petition by Massachusetts to remove Governor Hutchison and Lt. Governor Oliver. A committee of 35 heard their grievances on January 29, 1774, but Franklin had to stand in the cockpit and listen silently to their abuse. The great German philosopher Immanuel Kant called Franklin “the modern Prometheus.” On February 7 the King accepted the committee’s recommendation and dismissed the petition. The next day Franklin lost his office of Joint Deputy Postmaster in the British colonies north of North Carolina. He advised his clients to pay for the tea in order to prevent punitive measures being imposed on Boston. Franklin asked the English to withdraw their troops and customs commissioners, repeal all duties, and restore Castle William and the governor’s salary to the General Court. John Adams recorded in his diary that another ship arrived at Boston on March 6 and that the 28 chests of tea were thrown into the sea two nights later.

The House of Commons began debating the Boston Port Bill on March 14, 1774 and George III approved it on the last day of the month, closing the port. In the Massachusetts Government Act the Crown rather than the House was to nominate the Council. The governor could act alone in a crisis and now could appoint and remove any judge except the five on the Superior Court. Sheriffs were to appoint jurors. Town meetings and their agendas required the governor’s approval. The Administration of Justice Act was to be effective for three years and allowed the governor to transfer the trial of any official to England or another colony. The new Quartering Bill authorized the governor to billet soldiers in taverns and in private houses. They were called the Coercive Acts but became known in America as the Intolerable Acts. Four regiments in England and Ireland were ordered to go to Boston on April 2, and five days later General Gage was appointed governor of Massachusetts with extraordinary powers.

News of the Boston Port Act reached Boston on May 10, 1774 and was being resisted when General Thomas Gage arrived three days later to be the next governor. On that day the Boston Town Meeting resolved to stop all importation from Britain and exports to Britain and the West Indies until the Act was repealed. The next morning Paul Revere left to carry the resolutions to New York and Philadelphia. On May 17 a public meeting in Providence, Rhode Island instructed their delegates in the General Assembly to propose a congress with representatives from all the colonies to establish a union. On May 25 the Massachusetts General Court elected the Governor’s Council, but Governor Hutchinson vetoed twelve of them before sailing for London. The new Governor Gage adjourned the Assembly to Salem, but the Council met on June 10 and elected delegates to the Continental Congress. Gage dissolved the General Court and wrote Dartmouth about the “General Congress.”

On May 26 a meeting at Annapolis, Maryland called for stopping importation and exportation immediately. Jefferson persuaded the House of Burgesses to call for a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer on June 1, the day the Boston Port Act was to take effect. After Governor Dunmore dissolved them, they decided to meet on May 28 at Raleigh’s Tavern where they recommended an annual congress to unite the interests of America.

Organized groups began forcing the councilors appointed by Gage to resign. Of the 36 men the Crown appointed to the Council, only sixteen who were residing in Boston agreed to serve. On June 17 the Boston town meeting voted against paying for the destroyed tea, and the next day a meeting at the City Tavern in Philadelphia declared the Boston Port Act unconstitutional and selected a Committee of Correspondence with John Dickinson as chairman. Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Delaware, and North Carolina elected provincial assemblies. Nine colonies endorsed the continental congress by the end of June, and by August 25 the twelve colonies from New Hampshire to South Carolina had elected delegates to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Georgia was afraid they might need British arms to fight an uprising by Creek Indians. The colonies sent aid to occupied Boston. Connecticut sent 400 sheep and some cattle, and Baltimore shipped a thousand bushels of corn. South Carolina and Georgia sent more than two hundred barrels of rice, and other southern colonies contributed provisions and money.

In July the Virginia convention, presided over by George Washington, declared that they were entitled to be governed only by laws to which they had given their consent. The Virginia Association was adopted on August 1 and was used as the model for the Continental Association adopted by the Congress in October. Washington wrote that they did not want to be made as abject as the black slaves they ruled over “with such arbitrary sway.”

Governor Gage received his instructions from King George III on August 6. Of the 36 men on the new Council only three had been elected to the dissolved Council. Gage found no quarters prepared for his troops who camped on the Common. Merchants refused to sell supplies, and artisans declined to work for the British. Gage summoned regiments from New York City, Halifax, New Jersey, and Quebec and companies from Philadelphia and New Foundland. The Committee of Correspondence and newspapers recorded rapes, robberies, and other crimes by British soldiers. A meeting was held on August 24 at Salem, and Gage sent two companies of soldiers; but they were met by so many farmers that they turned back. When Gage tried to arrest members of the committee the 3,000 men assembled caused him to change his mind. However, on September 1 he sent 250 troops who took 125 barrels of gunpowder from Cambridge and brought it back to Boston. Two days later Gage fortified the city.

In Worcester, Massachusetts a mob stopped the Courts of Justice from functioning. On September 6 they formed the Worcester County Convention and made sure the British courts never exercised any power there again. The county of Essex met the same day and let the judges continue as long as they judged as though the Coercive Acts had never been passed. Boston in its Suffolk County Resolves condemned the Coercive Acts and announced the county’s refusal to abide by them. They also opposed “all routs, riots, or licentious attacks upon the property of any persons whatever.”4

In the summer of 1774 the young lawyer James Wilson published his pamphlet Considerations on the Authority of Parliament to show that the British had no authority over the colonies because they were not represented in the Parliament. He drew this conclusion from the following philosophical argument:

All men are, by nature, equal and free:
no one has a right to any authority
over another without his consent:
all lawful government is founded
on the consent of those who are subject to it:
such consent was given with a view to ensure
and to increase the happiness of the governed,
above what they could enjoy
in an independent and unconnected state of nature.
The consequence is, that the happiness of society
is the first law of every government.
This rule is founded on the law of nature:
it must control every political maxim:
it must regulate the legislature itself.
The people have a right to insist that this rule be observed;
and are entitled to demand a moral security
that the legislature will observe it.5

That same summer Thomas Jefferson wrote the pamphlet A Summary View of the Rights of British America to instruct Virginia’s delegates to the Continental Congress. He argued that the colonies are independent governments connected to Britain under the same king. He likewise rejected Parliament’s authority over them, but he also accused George III of exercising wanton power against the colonists. Jefferson warned that the colonists might be driven to separate themselves from the British empire. He also complained that the British blocked all colonial efforts to end the slave trade.

Mother Ann Lee led a group of eight Shakers that emigrated from England to New York in 1774. After five years in the city the Shakers started a community upstate near Albany. They were pacifists and took neither side in the revolution. They were persecuted by a violent mob in Shirley, Massachusetts and in other places. After New Light Baptists had a religious festival at New Lebanon in 1779, many became Shakers, whose numbers increased in the early 1780s. After having lost four children in infancy by 1766, Ann had become celibate and ascetic about sleeping and eating. She taught that confession was the way to a regenerate life. She was only 48 when she died on September 8, 1784. The Shaker community continued and gradually spread in New England. Joseph Meacham led the Shakers from 1787 until his death in 1796, and it was believed that he also had the gift of spiritual revelation.

Continental Congress 1774-75

The First Continental Congress convened with 55 delegates at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia on September 5, 1774 and elected Peyton Randolph chairman. They appointed a committee of 24 to formulate American rights, list grievances, devise redress, or secure Britain’s acquiescence. Because they did not have information on population they decided to let each colony have one vote with decisions made by a majority. When a local minister was asked to begin the session on September 7 with a prayer, the Rutledges from South Carolina objected because of the diverse religious sentiments; but Sam Adams said he was not a bigot and could listen to a man of virtue and piety who was friendly to their country. A Boston Congregationalist suggested the Anglican Jacob Duché give the invocation, and this compromise was accepted. Virginia’s Richard Henry Lee and Patrick Henry proposed preparing a militia and a citizens’ army, but Congress declined to recommend arms.

Paul Revere brought the Suffolk County Resolves drafted by Joseph Warren to Philadelphia on September 17. They resolved not to obey the Coercive Acts and urged non-importation and non-exportation to Britain until they were repealed. After several weeks of debate the delegates approved the Suffolk Resolves. On September 27 the Congress unanimously approved non-importation of British goods which eight colonies had already endorsed. They agreed to stop importation on December 1, 1774, and on September 30 they voted to cease exporting to Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies on September 10, 1775 after Virginia’s tobacco had gone to market. On September 28 Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania proposed a colonial parliament elected by the legislatures. Laws would have to be approved by both parliaments, but this plan was defeated by one vote. On October 6 messengers informed the Congress that General Gage was fortifying the neck of land that connected Boston to the mainland. The next day they sent a letter to Gage in support of Boston.

On October 14 the Congress approved the “Statement of Rights and Grievances” which stated that they were “entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures” and which condemned the stationing of troops in the colonies in peacetime as intolerable. They asserted, “That they are entitled to life, liberty, and property, and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.”6 They demanded their rights to common law and trials by their peers and to peaceably assemble. They resolved that keeping a standing army in the colonies without the consent of their legislature was against the law. They also declared, “The exercise of legislative power in several colonies, by a council appointed during the pleasure by the Crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous, and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.”7 They demanded that eleven Parliamentary statues be repealed, and they authorized an association for non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation, an address to the people of Britain and the American colonies, and a petition to the King.

South Carolina refused to agree to the Continental Association until a compromise allowed them to export rice to Europe, and it was signed on October 20. They all agreed not to import anything from Britain, including slaves after December 1, 1775. The agreement was to be enforced by local committees, but after debating the issue they decided not to prepare for war. The Association also opposed the Quebec Act which took over the Indian territory north of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and annexed it to the province of Quebec. The mostly Protestant colonists were concerned that it allowed the Catholic religion and French laws in that province.

The Congress resolved to resist the transporting of any person beyond the sea for trial. They chose a committee to revise the minutes so that no person who signed the Association could be accused of treason. They wrote a Memorial to send to the colonies and a Petition to George III that was written by the newly elected delegate John Dickinson. They also sent a circular letter to the inhabitants of St. John’s, Nova Scotia, Georgia, and the Floridas. The delegates decided to meet again on May 10, 1775, and before leaving Philadelphia every delegate promised to abide by the Continental Association. Purchases from Britain stopped in every colony except Georgia and occupied Boston, where the British navy was enforcing a boycott under the Port Act.

The Worcester Convention met on September 20 and changed the General Court elections on October 5 to voting for the Provincial Congress. The next day that Congress chose John Hancock as chairman and Benjamin Lincoln as clerk. Gage dissolved the Massachusetts Assembly, and on October 11 the ninety representatives of the General Court at Salem joined 200 delegates at the Concord courthouse to reconvene the Provincial Congress. The next week they moved to Cambridge near Boston, and 209 of the 260 towns and districts in Massachusetts were represented. They were operating independently of Governor Gage and the Coercive Acts. On October 26 they appointed a Committee of Safety to organize the militia and authorized £20,837 for the procurement of armaments including 5,000 arms and bayonets and 1,000 barrels of powder. Except for a few general officers appointed by the Congress the men elected their own officers. “Minute men” were organized for a quick response.

Also in October the British sent three more warships to Boston with 600 marines. On November 11 Governor Gage issued a proclamation prohibiting anyone from complying with the “Provincial Congress.” The next day in Philadelphia a committee of 66 men was chosen to enforce the Association, and eight days later New York formed a committee of 51. Charleston used a committee they had formed the previous July. On December 7 a Boston town meeting elected a committee of 62. The First Provincial Congress chose John Hancock, John Adams, Sam Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine as delegates to the Second Continental Congress.

On December 2 the Baptist Isaac Backus made an appeal before the Massachusetts legislature to end the religious tax that was imposed on all unless they got a certificate of exemption from the state. He complained that the previous June they had passed a law that taxed Baptists annually. When Baptists in Middleboro refused to pay, a larger tax was imposed. Backus claimed “liberty of conscience” as their “charter rights.”

The Rhode Island General Assembly began preparing for war. Several hundred armed men from New Hampshire took over Fort William and Mary with its cannons and powder. A provincial convention met in Maryland on December 12 and advised counties to raise £10,000 to buy military provisions, and in January they began doing so along with Fairfax County in Virginia where George Washington was already in command of six companies. Virginia had a committee in every county. In North Carolina hundreds of men pledged their loyalty to Britain, and North Carolina’s convention declined to make military preparations. Only five of twelve parishes in Georgia sent delegates to a convention. They chose delegates to the Second Continental Congress, but they refused to go to Philadelphia. In the five southern colonies imports from Britain dropped from £906,854 in 1774 to £8,166 in 1775. All thirteen colonies had British imports worth £2,644,000 in 1774 and only £297,000 in 1775. Exports to Britain were £1,398,000 in 1774 and rose to £1,946,000 in 1775 but fell to £197,000 in 1776.

In early December the English Quaker and banker David Barclay asked Ben Franklin to present terms to try to avert a civil war, and as agent for Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia he presented to the ministers the following points:

1. The destroyed tea was to be paid for;
the duty on tea was to be repealed.
2. No money was to be raised in the colonies in time of peace
except by the colonies’ own Legislatures
for the support of their own governments;
the colonies to contribute to war expenses
according to a suggested formula
based on the additional British land tax
levied by Parliament for war purposes.
3. The Boston Port Act and Massachusetts Regulating Act
were to be repealed.
4. Extension of the Treason Act of Henry VIII
to the colonies was to be disclaimed.
5. Admiralty courts in the colonies
were to have no wider powers
than those exercised by such courts in England,
where they had no jurisdiction over alleged violations
of acts of Parliament regulating trade.8

Britain’s Colonial Secretary Dartmouth found some of these points reasonable but considered others “inadmissible or impracticable.” They were eventually rejected in favor of the terms offered by Prime Minister Frederick North.

When the Suffolk Resolves reached England on December 13, 1774, the Attorney General declared them treason. By then Gage was commanding 4,000 men in eleven battalions in Boston. On January 13, 1775 the British Cabinet voted to send two more regiments of infantry and one of light cavalry and 600 marines to New England. George III ordered Gage to be removed from command and replaced by General Jeffery Amherst, but Gage remained as governor. On February 1 William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, made a speech in Parliament proposing reconciliation, but his plan was rejected 61-32. Edmund Burke also spoke for reconciliation, arguing that the use of force made things worse and that England should remain “true to its historic devotion to liberty.” In February and March the Parliament declared Massachusetts in a state of rebellion.

From December 1774 to April 1775 Daniel Leonard published a series of letters in the Massachusetts Gazette arguing for loyalty to the Crown and warning against the dangers of rebellion. After returning from the Congress, John Adams read these letters and answered them in a series of articles from January to April under the pen name Novanglus. In the first part he reviewed the events that led up to the Continental Congress, and in the second part he argued why Massachusetts should resist the authority of Parliament. He argued for the rule of laws made by a representative legislature. Adams estimated that with three million people in America out of twelve million in the British empire, the colonists should have one quarter of the membership in the House of Commons.

On February 9 the Massachusetts Provincial Congress authorized five members of the Committee of Safety to call out the militia to oppose any use of force to implement the Massachusetts Government Act. British soldiers from Boston went to seize weapons in Salem, but the rebels would not lower the drawbridge. Patrick Henry on March 23 at the Virginia convention in Richmond gave an oration in which he argued the war already had begun, and they must fight. He concluded with these famous words:

Is life so dear or peace so sweet
as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Forbid it, Almighty God—
I know not what course others may take;
but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!9

Virginia had a debt of £150,000 from its war against the Shawnees, but in March they approved the proceedings of the Continental Congress and the Fairfax resolves announced by Washington and presented by Patrick Henry which authorized defense preparations.

On April 5 the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts adopted 53 articles to regulate the army, and eight days later the Committee of Safety formed six companies. By then eleven colonies had elected delegates to the Second Continental Congress, but New York refused in February. Gage had been seizing military stores he could reach by water since December. On January 27, 1775 the Colonial Secretary Dartmouth ordered Gage to arrest anyone abetting the Provincial Congress. On February 24, 1775 Gage took note of the Americans magazine of powder at Concord, and two days later he sent 240 troops by boat to Marblehead and then on land to Salem. He ordered troops to go to Concord on April 19 to confiscate the military stores there.

Mercy Otis Warren was the daughter of James Otis and married James Warren of Plymouth. She wrote two plays satirizing the Tory Governor Hutchison. Her plays were published but not performed. In 1772 The Adulateur had the character Rapatio planning to raise taxes so that he could improve his house, and it foreshadowed the revolution. In 1773 The Defeat ridiculed loyalist prevaricators such as Hutchison, his brother-in-law Andrew Oliver, and the lawyer Jonathan Sewall by showing how the secret letters uncovered by Franklin revealed their treachery. She published The Group in 1775, and it also satirized Tory leaders. Her plays were so popular that anonymous authors put her name on The Blockheads in 1776 and The Motley Assembly in 1779. Mercy Warren became an anti-Federalist and opposed the new constitution in her Observations on the New Constitution in 1788.

Among the Americans in the thirteen colonies in 1775 there were about 575,000 Congregationalists, 500,000 Anglicans, 410,000 Presbyterians, 200,000 in German churches, 75,000 Dutch Reformed, 25,000 Baptists, 25,000 Catholics, 5,000 Methodists, and 2,000 Jews. The estimated number of slaves in 1775 was 629 in New Hampshire, 3,500 in Massachusetts, 4,373 in Rhode Island, 5,000 in Connecticut, 15,000 in New York, 7,600 in New Jersey, 9,000 in Delaware, 10,000 in Pennsylvania, 80,000 in Maryland, 165,000 in Virginia, 75,000 in North Carolina, 110,000 in South Carolina, and 16,000 in Georgia.

American War of Independence

Western Frontier 1763-75

Pontiac's Uprising of 1763

Because of the British victory in the Seven Years War the French were removed from the Indian territory, and the English colonists wanted to settle there. However, General Gage allowed French civil law to continue in the villages of Illinois where 2,000 civilians lived. The uprising led by Chief Pontiac in 1763 had captured all the British forts west of Fort Pitt except Detroit. On October 7 the Proclamation of 1763 decreed that the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River was closed to Europeans while Quebec, East Florida, and West Florida were declared English colonies. Hundreds of Europeans were left in the Indian territory, and British traders violated laws to sell rum to Indians in the woods. Territory west of the Mississippi River was claimed by Spain. French fur trader Pierre Laclede went from New Orleans up the Mississippi River, and with Auguste Chauteau he founded a trading post in 1764 that grew into the city of St. Louis.

Because of Indian rights, governors had to send applications for land to the Board of Trade. George Croghan went to London in February 1764 and persuaded Hillsborough and the Board of Trade in June to form a Plan for the Future Management of Indian Affairs. They appointed William Johnson and John Stuart the two Indian superintendents for the north and south with five deputies including Croghan under Johnson who supervised 42 tribes. On July 10 the Board adopted Croghan’s proposals and imposed a tax on trade which was limited to certain posts.

In the south Stuart held a conference at Pensacola and asked governors to limit permits to a few traders, but the governors of Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia refused to do so. Croghan also proposed a colony in Illinois country. He and Johnson organized a land company to their advantage and that of speculators such as Ben Franklin. Croghan also acquired much land around Fort Pitt. Richard Henderson of North Carolina hired Daniel Boone to explore Kentucky on his hunting trips. “Suffering traders” were represented by wealthy firms in Philadelphia and were given approval by Johnson and General Gage to begin the Illinois Company to secure 1,200,000 acres along the Mississippi as compensation for their losses.

That summer Johnson held a peace conference, but the Shawnee and Delaware declined to attend. The Shawnee were the southern branch of the Algonquians of the Great Lakes region. The Delaware called themselves the Lenape and were also Algonquians, the traditional rivals of the Iroquois nations. An expedition led by Henry Bouquet defeated the Delaware along the Muskingum River, and then Col. John Bradstreet overcame Indian resistance below Lake Erie. Mackinac was rebuilt as a fort in September. Bouquet agreed to a truce with Ohio tribes in November. Croghan got a quarter of a trading scheme worth £20,000 in Indian goods even though Indian agents were not allowed to trade. British troops and Americans continued to fight the Indians sporadically until 1766. Virginians began going back to their farms in the Kanawha Valley along with new settlers. As the British became more involved enforcing their taxes in the colonies, protection of Indian lands was neglected.

In January 1765 Croghan went back to Philadelphia and got £2,000 worth of Indian goods on credit. Early in May he convened an Indian congress at Fort Pitt attended by 500 Mingos, Delawares, and Shawnees. He got all the prisoners back from the Shawnees, and they made peace. That month Johnson insisted the Iroquois and Delawares grant the “suffering traders” land between the Ohio River and the Alleghenies they called Indiana. Croghan went down the Ohio with Shawnee deputies, and on June 8 they were attacked by eighty Kickapoo and Mascouten warriors. Three deputies were killed, and Croghan was tomahawked in the head but survived. Ohio tribes persuaded the Kickapoo they had done wrong, and they were forgiven by Croghan who reconciled the five Wabash tribes. At Detroit on August 17 Croghan held a conference with ten nations and 500 Indians. Pontiac made peace, and the Illinois nations pledged allegiance. Croghan returned to Johnson who was upset because the British were not paying the salaries of the commissaries. Croghan resigned, but General Gage apologized to him.

In 1765 the Pennsylvania Assembly stopped the funding for the Forts Loudoun, Cumberland, Ligonier, and Augusta. Some “Christian Indians” left Philadelphia and started a community patronized by the Moravians in the west called Wyalusing. The Ranger Major Robert Rogers went to England and wrote A Concise Account of North America and a play about Pontiac. He wanted to discover the northwest passage and was appointed royal governor of Fort Michilimackinac. In 1766 his lieutenant Jonathan Carver traveled among the Sioux beyond the forks of the Minnesota River, and two years later he published his Travels in the Interior Parts of North America.

Croghan calmed down the Ohio Indians, and he warned Gage that the illegal settlements in the Indian country could provoke another war. In August the British took over Fort Chartres, but the French still controlled the fur trade. In 1767 Croghan returned to Fort Chartres and made a treaty with the Indians in the region. That year Johnson persuaded Croghan not to retire. Croghan purchased land. Men who had lost £86,000 in 1763 he organized into the Indiana Company.

By 1768 about 2,000 Americans were living south of Fort Pitt, and no threats could make them leave. In October the Southern Indian Superintendent Stuart negotiated the Treaty of Hard Labor in which the Cherokees ceded some of their Kentucky hunting grounds west of the Proclamation line of 1763 to the Ohio and Kanawha rivers. On November 3 Superintendent Johnson and the Indiana Company persuaded the Six Nations of Iroquois to cede 1,800,000 acres south of the Ohio River in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. Because the Shawnee and Delaware disappointed Johnson they received none of the presents that were worth £10,460. Pennsylvania was given the land east of the north branch of the Susquehanna. A land office in Philadelphia opened on April 3, 1769 and received more than 2,700 applications on the first day. The Cherokee, Shawnee and Delaware tribes were angry they had lost their hunting grounds. Most of the Illinois land venture was owned by Croghan, New Jersey’s Governor William Franklin, and the Philadelphia firm of Baynton, Wharton, and Morgan. George Washington worked to help veterans of the French and Indian war to get the land they were promised, and on December 15, 1769 the Virginia Council granted an order that was issued three years later.

In April 1768 the Regulators in North Carolina opposed Governor William Tryon’s proposed poll tax to raise £15,000 for a governor’s palace. A band of about sixty Regulators attacked Edmund Fanning’s house. Tryon called out the militia, but most did not show up. After sheriffs arrested Herman Husband and William Butler, 700 armed Regulators forced their release. The summer was tense, and Tryon summoned the militia in September. For two days armed Regulators took over the court, selected jurors, and brutally beat Sheriff Thomas Hart, court attorney John Williams, and Fanning while others plundered Fanning’s home and terrorized the town. When the Governor said he would consider their grievances, the Regulators shouted, “Agreed.” Those opposed to the Regulators formed the Moderates led by the mercenary Joseph Coffel. The Assembly finally passed a court bill that redressed the Regulators’ grievances, establishing six new judicial and administrative districts in the back country.

In 1770 Herman Husband argued for social and economic justice in An Impartial Relation of the First Rise and Cause of the Recent Differences in Publick Affairs. North Carolina’s Governor Tryon pardoned many Regulators and offered rewards for criminals. Then he led an army of 1,100 recruits west against the Regulators in Rowan County. He still would not remedy their grievances, and on May 16, 1771 they clashed by the Alamance River, killing about twenty Regulators and nine militiamen. Tryon charged twelve men with treason and demanded the death penalty. He commuted the death sentence for six of them, but two men were hanged at Hillsboro on June 19. Tryon then left for his new position as royal governor of New York. His replacement Josiah Martin toured the backcountry and was shocked by the injustices farmers had suffered from attorneys, clerks, and officers. The dissidents moved west into the Tennessee basin and settled in the valley of the Watauga where no government bothered them.

Between 1768 and 1770 Forts Edwards, Bute, Panmure, Prince George, Charlotte, and Augusta were evacuated. In 1770 Johnson sent Croghan to Fort Pitt where he suffered from gout. Croghan learned that the Iroquois had been telling the western tribes that the English had stolen their land. Once again he used his diplomatic skill with the Ohio chiefs. Pennsylvania was extended west to Pittsburgh (Fort Pitt), and Bedford County was created in 1771.

Dr. Thomas Walker of the Loyal Land Company and colonial authorities forced Stuart to extend the northern Tennessee border to the west and north to the Great Kanawha in the Treaty of Lochaber signed on October 22, 1771. The Cherokee received £2,500 in gifts from Virginia. The surveyor John Donelson persuaded the Cherokee with him to extend the territory by the Kentucky River for £400 more. These treaties opened large territories to land speculators. Washington, Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and many other Virginians rushed to survey and purchase land in the west. Croghan finally resigned as Indian agent on November 2 and went into land speculation.

Samuel Wharton of the Indiana Company tried to get Colonial Secretary Hillsborough to sell to the Grand Ohio Company 20,000,000 acres from the Stanwix cession for the £10,460 price. He and the Board refused, but on August 1, 1772 Hillsborough was forced to resign and was replaced by the Earl of Dartmouth who got the deal approved by the King 13 days later. Wharton also wrote to Croghan to buy land west of the forks of the Ohio, and in the next five years he obtained about 6,000,000 acres for a colony to be called Vandalia where 5,000 families had settled. Croghan was concerned they would provoke another Indian war. The Vandalia colony was not approved, and some of Croghan’s land deals were illegal. He built up large debts, often so that he would have gifts for the Indians.

A Delaware chief sent a request to the Governor of Pennsylvania on December 1, 1771 for an agent to be stationed at Fort Pitt. Johnson informed the Governor that the agent had been withdrawn because of the expenses to the Crown. In 1772 Johnson advised the Seneca to withdraw from south of the Ohio River. Then he incited the Iroquois nations to make war against the Shawnee. A “Patriotic Society” in western Pennsylvania protested the excise tax on liquor. General Gage noted that the Indian country had become a refuge for debtors and people guilty of crimes. Pennsylvania created Westmoreland County in February 1773. This gave the backcountry 14 seats in the legislature, but Philadelphia and the three eastern counties still had 26 seats.

Daniel Boone was born in Exeter, Pennsylvania on October 22, 1734. He began hunting with his first gun at age 13, and in 1751 his family moved to Rowan County, North Carolina, where he hunted for a living. He drove a wagon in Braddock’s army that was defeated in 1755, and the next year he married Rebecca Brian who bore him ten children. He fought the Cherokees in 1761, and he first went to the Big Sandy River in Kentucky in 1767. The Cherokee William Emory Jr. joined the Shawnees, and defying the Stanwix treaty of 1768 he warned Boone to leave their hunting grounds. In December 1769 Boone and the trader John Finley were captured by Shawnees during a raid of their camp. They escaped, but all but Boone and his brother-in-law John Stewart decided to go home. Daniel’s brother Squire Boone brought them supplies. Stewart disappeared while hunting, and Squire went to get more supplies. Daniel explored Kentucky alone until he joined Squire in July 1770. James Knox led a group of forty hunters, and Boone joined them in 1771. In March their cache of 2,300 deerskins was stolen by Cherokees. The Shawnees allied with the Cherokees and Senecas and tried to drive the English out of Kentucky. Captain Thomas Bullitt led a surveying party in the fall of 1772 to the Great Kanawha. In October 1773 Boone and other families with slaves were the first colonists to settle in Kentucky, and six of them including his oldest son James Boone were captured and killed by Shawnees, Delawares, and Cherokees.

The British abandoned Fort de Chartres and Fort Pitt in 1772, and by 1773 the Indian country was being neglected because of England’s conflicts with the colonies. General Gage called the English settlers “lawless bandits.” Many of the French cohabited with the Indians and treated them well, but Gage, Johnson, and the trader Croghan made another treaty with the Indians in November. That month Governor Dunmore and his council granted George Washington 200,000 acres in western lands for the veterans of the French and Indian War.

General Phineas Lyman could not get George III to recognize the colony of Georgiana, but he purchased several thousand acres in West Florida. In the Treaty of Augusta on August 3, 1773 Governor James Wright “purchased” 2,100,000 acres in Georgia, causing resentment among the Cherokee and Creeks. When the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Creeks formed a confederation, Stuart managed to keep the Shawnee out of the alliance, and he held a peace conference without the Shawnee at Savannah in 1774.

Virginia’s Governor Dunmore went to Fort Pitt in 1773, and on October 11 he created the district of West Augusta with Croghan, Connolly and others as judges. On January 1, 1774 he claimed for Virginia all of western Pennsylvania and appointed the Irish John Connolly, who claimed land in Kentucky, captain of the militia at Pittsburgh which he summoned on the 25th. Pennsylvania magistrate Arthur St. Clair had him arrested and released him, but Connolly gathered some men and was commissioned justice of the peace for Augusta County. On March 8 he returned to Pittsburgh with his militia and renamed it Fort Dunmore.

In February 1774 a new plan had been made to sell lands beyond the Proclamation line to settlers, who murdered Indians in the spring. Croghan managed to maintain peace with the Indians, and Connolly cooperated. However, Dunmore declared war on the Shawnees and other tribes on June 10. The Quebec Act had passed in April, and it became effective one year later. This added the country northwest of the Ohio River to the province of Quebec. Because the land was closer to Virginia and Pennsylvania, these colonists believed the British were trying to contain them with French Catholics. Superintendent Johnson died in July, and Croghan gave 50,000 wampum beads to Iroquois chiefs in August. He knew the Seneca chief Kiasutha and the Delaware chief Pipe.

Daniel Boone and Michael Stoner were sent west to warn the surveyors and the Watauga settlers, who were saved by James Robertson’s diplomacy while Boone was building a cabin. Johnson and Croghan had maintained the alliance with the Iroquois and the Delawares, leaving the Shawnees with only the Ottawas and Mingos. On July 24 Dunmore sent 400 men led by Major Angus McDonald to Fort Fincastle and the Muskingum Valley. Dunmore came to Pittsburgh in September and led the Pittsburgh army of 1,100 militiamen down the Ohio River while Col. Andrew Lewis led a thousand Virginians down the Great Kanawha and north of the Ohio. Chief Cornstalk commanded 300 Shawnees and Delawares who attacked Lewis’s troops on October 9. The Virginia army had more than eighty men killed, but the Indians were surrounded and asked for peace. Dunmore marched his forces into Shawnee country and forced the chiefs to give up their hunting rights in Kentucky in the Treaty of Camp Charlotte while promising he would keep colonists south of the Ohio; but other chiefs denounced the treaty.

Henderson of North Carolina formed the Louisa Company in August, changing it to the Transylvania Company in January 1775 as he appealed to Cherokee chiefs. On March 17 they negotiated the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals in which the Cherokees ceded the territory between the Kentucky River and the highlands south of Cumberland for £10,000 in trading goods. Henderson sent Joseph Martin to Powell’s Valley, and on March 30 he assigned Daniel Boone with thirty axmen to make a road to the Kentucky River and named the first settlement Boonesborough.

British Lt. Col. Augustin Prevost and his troops took over Pensacola and West Florida from the Spaniards in August 1763. The new Governor George Johnstone and the colonizer Phineas Lyman persuaded the British government to extend the northern boundary of West Florida in 1764 to 32.5 degrees north from the Chattahoochee River to the Mississippi. That year James Grant began governing East Florida. Grant had burned the homes and crops of Cherokees in the 1760-61 war. The regime in London blocked the Indian Superintendent Stuart from mediating an end to the Creek and Choctaw War which began in 1765 out of fear they would turn against the Europeans. That fall the 31st British Infantry Regiment arrived, but within six months nearly half had died of an epidemic, probably yellow fever. The British maintained four regiments in the Floridas.

In November 1766 West Florida elected a lower house that met at Pensacola, but East Florida had no legislature until 1781. Johnstone left West Florida in January 1767. The next year Dr. Andrew Turnbull led 1,255 colonists to found New Smyrna on the east coast; but they mutinied soon after arriving, and many died in the first three years. The government offered land for a registration fee and surveying expenses. In the early 1770s the population of West Florida was estimated to have 15,760 Creeks, 10,500 Choctaws, 1,600 Chickasaws, 900 African slaves, and 288 Europeans. The British counted only 450 Indians in East Florida. East and West Florida were dependent on the British for protection and obeyed the Stamp Act and other taxes. In early 1774 Rufus Putnam and Phineas Lyman led more than 400 families from Connecticut to West Florida.

Frontier during the Revolutionary War

Notes

1. The Stamp Act Crisis by Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan, p. 106

2. Quoted in Pennsylvania: The Colonial Years 1681-1776 by Joseph J. Kelley, Jr., p. 626.

3. Dartmouth poem by Phillis Wheatley quoted in Demeter’s Daughters by Selma R. Williams, p. 216-217.

4. Quoted in The First American Revolution by Ray Raphael, p. 151.

5. “Considerations on the Authority of Parliament” by James Wilson quoted in Great American Political Thinkers, Volume 1, p. 90-91.

6. “Declaration and Resolves of the Continental Congress” from Journals, I: “Friday, October 14, 1774” quoted in The Annals of America, Volume 2 1755-1783 Resistance and Revolution, p. 271.

7. Ibid., p. 272.

8. “Hints for Conversation upon the Subject of Terms that might probably produce a durable Union between Britain and the Colonies” quoted in Growth of the American Revolution 1766-1775 by Bernhard Knollenberg, p. 254.

9. The Life and Character of Patrick Henry by William Wirt, p. 142.

Copyright © 2011 by Sanderson Beck

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Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Incas
Spanish Conquest 1492-1580
Brazil and Guiana 1500-1744
Spanish Colonies and the West Indies 1580-1744
Northern America to 1642
New France 1663-1744
English, French, and Dutch Colonies 1643-1664
New England 1664-1744
New York to Pennsylvania 1664-1744
Maryland, Virginia, Carolinas, and Georgia 1663-1744
Franklin's Practical Ethics
South America 1744-1817
Mexico and the Caribbean 1744-1817
English and French Conflict 1744-54
English, French, and Indian Wars 1754-63
American Resistance to British Taxes 1763-75
American War of Independence
Confederation and a Constitution 1784-89
Federalist United States 1789-1801
Jeffersonian Democracy 1801-1809
Madison and the War of 1812
Canada under the British 1763-1817
Summary and Evaluation of American Revolutions 1744-1817
Bibliography
Chronology of America to 1817

BECK index