The Coercive Acts of 1774 further divided the American colonies and their British rulers. The First Continental Congress, which met in the fall of 1774, tried to reconcile with Great Britain, but Massachusetts colonists had other plans. They eventually faced off against the British army at the Battles of Lexington and Concord and then chased the British back to Boston. The Second Continental Congress, trying to figure out what to do with the thousands of militia members surrounding Boston, formed the Continental Army. Congress's aim was still reconciliation until 1776 when Thomas Paine's Common Sense brought the argument for independence to the masses. Independence was declared on July 2, 1776. The Declaration of Independence, a document to justify independence, followed two days later.
At A Glance
- In 1773–74 tensions rose between American colonists and Britain, sparking acts of civil disobedience by the colonists and punitive actions by the British.
- In April 1775 three members of the Sons of Liberty alerted patriots near Boston about the impending arrival of the British army.
- The first gunshots of the American Revolution were exchanged in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1775.
- Despite the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, neither the British nor the American colonists were ready to sever the ties between Britain and the 13 colonies.
- The Battle of Bunker Hill, which actually took place on Breed's Hill in 1775, was a win for the British army but proved the Continental Army had a chance of winning the war.
- The First Continental Congress met in September 1774 to discuss the colonies' response to Great Britain's Coercive Acts.
- The Second Continental Congress's first job, in May 1775, was figuring out how to turn separate militias into a united army.
- Angry at colonial military victories, King George III refused to negotiate with colonial leaders and instead escalated military action against them.
- Although initially in favor of reconciling with Great Britain, the Second Continental Congress heeded the public's call for independence.
- Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in June 1776. After editing and debate, it was approved on July 4.
The Declaration of Independence aired Americans' grievances against the British government.
- The Declaration of Independence was met with mixed feelings in the colonies and resentment in Britain, yet it sparked revolutionary fervor throughout the world for decades to come.