Stirrings of Revolution: 1730–1774



During the period of 1730–74 life in the American colonies was anything but calm. France and Britain battled for dominance over North America during the French and Indian War, which was immediately followed by a rebellion of Native Americans. Britain was victorious in both conflicts, but at great cost. Laws passed to recoup expenses and pay for defense of the Indian border infuriated the colonists. Blood was shed at the Boston Massacre in 1770, and three years later radical patriots held a destructive tea party in Massachusetts Bay. The colonists—once proud members of the British Empire—no longer felt bound by its laws.

At A Glance

  • Religion heavily influenced the creation of the American colonies, and many of their laws were written with Anglican or Puritan values and practices in mind. The reasoned thinking of the Enlightenment and Deism also influenced some colonists.
  • The Great Awakening served as a counterpoint to rising interest in Enlightenment thought. A divide between religious leaders challenged established religious practices.
  • The French and Indian War was caused by a territorial dispute between France and Britain over the Ohio River Valley.
  • The Albany Congress and the Plan of Union that came out of it set the stage for the colonial central government established during the Revolutionary War. Colonists gained military experience in the French and Indian War that would assist them in the conflict of the Revolutionary War.
  • The 1763 Treaty of Paris stripped France of its political power in North America while giving Britain control of everything east of the Mississippi River.
  • The Proclamation of 1763 officially recognized Native American land titles and forbade settlers' incursion on tribal lands. Despite the proclamation British American settlers intruded on Native American territory, leading to conflicts known as Pontiac's Rebellion.
  • During the period of 1764–73 British Parliament passed a series of laws—such as the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act—meant to bolster the British economy by forcing American colonists to purchase British goods.
  • Following the French and Indian War, British Parliament sought to reestablish authority over the colonies by passing acts establishing the right to levy taxes and regulate currency.
  • Secret organizations called the Sons and Daughters of Liberty emerged after passage of the Stamp Act. Using boycotts and political propaganda, they opposed Parliamentary laws and encouraged rebellion against Britain.
  • On March 5 1770, a skirmish between British soldiers and angry colonists—known as the Boston Massacre—resulted in the deaths of five civilians.
  • Individual Committees of Correspondence formed to facilitate communication about colonial rights between towns and entire colonies. They distributed literature protesting Parliamentary rule, thus strengthening patriots' awareness and resolve.
  • The Boston Tea Party was a patriot protest against taxation without representation in the colonies. Britain retaliated by passing a punitive set of laws called the Coercive Acts.
  • To punish Bostonians for the Boston Tea Party, Britain's Parliament passed the Coercive Acts in 1774—a move that would push the colonists further toward war.