Happy Birthday, America!
The United States of America, that is.
On July 4, 1776, the colonies of America declared their independence from Britain, and a new nation was born!
How did this nation come into existence?
The end of the French Indian War in 1763 had an enormous impact on the development of the New World.
The British had acquired all French possessions east of the Mississippi, including some West Indies islands, and Spanish Florida. The Spanish evacuated Florida under their king's orders and resettled in Cuba and Mexico, their descendants became known as Cubans and Mexicans. Some 7,000 French settlers who refused an oath of allegiance to Britain were stripped of their lands and exiled out of Canada. They became known as the Acadians,
a wandering, homeless, impoverished people. They eventually made the long journey to French Louisiana and their descendants became known as the Cajuns. In compensation for the loss of Florida, France gave its ally Spain the Louisiana territory. The loss of Louisiana ended France's hold in North America and left Great Britain the supreme power in the New World. Ironically, the British acquisition of Canada would lead to a loss of the rest of North America in a mere 15 years. The French--plotting revenge while sipping champagne and eating stinky cheese--would strike back!
Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa allied with the other western Ohio Indians in 1763 and wiped the British out of the region, except at Detroit and Fort Dix. Trying to appease the Indians and to stop their attacks, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which called for a border between colonial lands and Indian territory and to stop colonial expansion into the west. Though the American colonists largely ignored this proclamation and steadily headed into the west, the expense of protecting a now vast empire became a great concern to the Crown and his ministers.
To maintain such a vast empire, the British need revenue. To achieve this goal, the various ministers, appointed by King George III, would issue out a number of legislative acts that raised revenues by taxing the colonists and restricting their trade. The more the British tried to control the colonies, the more the Americans resisted. Soon, came the rallying cries of no taxation without representation.
The Boston Massacre of 1770, a confrontation in which a troop of red coats fired into a protesting crowd and killed 5 people, sent shock waves through the colonies. Among the dead was Crispus Attucks, a runaway mulatto slave who had lived freely for a time in Boston, and now the first martyr of resistance. When Lord North tried to bail out the floundering East India Company by trying to create a tea monopoly in the colonies, the result was the Boston Tea Party of 1773.
Colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded 3 ships and threw overboard 342 chests of tea . Parliament responded by passing the Intolerable Acts, aimed at punishing the colonies and stripping them of their rights.
The result was a mobilization of patriots and the First Continental Congress of 1774 was formed. A Declaration of American Rights was issued. A petition to the King for relief was met with rejection. In Virginia, Patrick Henry convinced the assembly to take action to ensure colonial rights, to join in the Revolutionary War, "Give me Liberty or Give me Death".
On the night of April 18, 1775, the British marched out of Boston to capture the patriots. Silversmith Paul Revere went on his famous midnight ride to alert the patriots that the British were coming. The next day, the British opened fired on American minutemen, and the patriots returned fire.
The Second Continental Congress convened in May 1775, and in June, appointed George Washington as the general of the new Continental Army. On 17 June, the Battle of Bunker Hill took place near Boston. The British made three attempts to secure the hill at a cost of 1,054 lives compared to the colonials 400. The result was that the British would become more cautious when dealing with the Continental Army, and a middle ground was no more: Either one was a Patriot to the Colonies
or a Loyalist to the King.
The Olive Branch Petition the Second Continental Congress made to resolve matters with the King in July 1775 was rejected. The King had regarded the colonists as enemies, and hired 30,000 Germans (17,000 were Hessians) to fight the colonists.
As the Patriots closed in on Boston, the British retreated in March of 1776 to Nova Scotia. Thomas Paine, born in England to Quaker parents, wrote Common Sense, the pamphlet that argued that it was not just Parliament that oppressed the colonies, but it was Crown itself. The King, argued Paine, was responsible for all the malevolence towards the colonies: "The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, 'TIS TIME TO PART."
On July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence and asserted that all men are created equal and are endowed with the unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. And thus, the civil war in empire had become the American Revolutionary War. Forging an alliance with France, the colonists fought the war for Independence for the next 8 years. The labor pains of the American Revolution would give birth to a new nation, a democratic, representative republic, the United States of America.