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Timeline for American Independence
1754–1763
French and Indian War. The British won this war, which was part of the European Seven Years’ War. But the war left the Britain in debt, and it started looking at America as a source of money. This led to a series of actions by the king and Parliament that angered Americans.

1763

Oct. 7

Proclamation of 1763. The British government banned colonists from settling west of the Appalachian mountains.

1764

April 5 Sugar Act. Parliament taxes sugar imported into the colonies.

August

Boston businesses start boycotting British luxury goods.

Sept. 1

Currency Act. Parliament orders colonies to stop printing their own money. Americans oppose it because they fear it will upset the economy.

1765

March 22

Stamp Act. The first direct tax on the American colonies, it taxes legal papers, magazines, newspapers, and other documents. The revenue does not go to colonial legislatures but to Britain.

March 24

Quartering Act of 1765. Parliament orders colonial legislatures to pay for British soldiers on their soil.

May 29

Patrick Henry delivers a speech to the Virginia legislature saying that only this legislature, not Parliament, can tax Virginians. He famously concludes: “If this be treason, make the most of it.”

July

Sons of Liberty. Opposed to the Stamp Act, this secret group begins forming in many towns. Its leaders include Sam Adams and James Otis.

1766

March 18

Parliament repeals the Stamp Act, but it also passes the Declaratory Act, which declares Parliament can pass any law concerning the American colonies.

1767

June 29 

Townshend Revenue Act. Parliament imposes taxes on many items imported into the colonies.

1768

February

Circular Letter. Sam Adams writes against taxation without representation and calls for resistance to the Townshend Act.

1769

March

Philadelphia businesses join the boycott against British goods.

October

New Jersey, Rhode Island, North Carolina join the boycott.

1770

March 5

Boston Massacre. When a large crowd assembles around a group of British soldiers, the soldiers open fire, killing five colonists.

March 5

The same day as the Boston Massacre, Parliament repeals all taxes on imports except for tea. Parliament also does not renew the Quartering Act.

1773

May 10

Tea Act. Parliament makes the British East India Company the only company allowed to import tea into the colonies.

Dec. 16

Boston Tea Party. Outraged by the Tea Act, a group of colonists dress as Indians, board British ships in Boston, and dump hundreds of chests of tea into the harbor.

1774

Angered by the Tea Party, in 1774, Parliament passes a series of laws. In Britain, they are known as the Coercive Acts. Americans call them the Intolerable Acts.

March 31

Boston Port Act (Intolerable Act #1). Parliament closes the port of Boston until all the damage caused by the Tea Party is paid back.

May 13

The British put Massachusetts under military rule. More troops arrive.

May 20

Administration of Justice Act (Intolerable Act #2). Parliament protects royal officials from being sued in colonial courts.

May 20

 

Massachusetts Government Act (Intolerable Act #3). Parliament ends democratic government in Massachusetts by allowing the royal governor to appoint the legislature.

June 2

Quartering Act (Intolerable Act #4). Parliament orders colonists to house British troops, even in colonists’ homes.

June 22

Quebec Act (Intolerable Act #5). Parliament gives Canada control of land claimed by Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia.

Sept. 5

First Continental Congress. It meets in Philadelphia with every colony, except Georgia, sending delegates. Among the delegates are Patrick Henry, George Washington, Sam Adams, and John Hancock.

Oct. 14

Declaration and Resolves. Congress demands Parliament repeal the Intolerable Acts and threatens to boycott British goods if Parliament does not.

Oct. 20

Continental Association. Congress creates this system to boycott British goods unless Parliament repeals the Intolerable Acts.

1775

Feb. 9

Because Massachusetts is forming militia units, Parliament declares it to be in a state of rebellion.

March 23

Virginian Patrick Henry delivers a speech favoring independence and says, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

March 30

New England Restraining Act. King George approves this act, which orders New England colonies to trade with Britain only.

April 18

Rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes. That night, the two men ride from Boston to warn colonists that British troops are coming to seize weapons.

April 19

First battle of the Revolutionary War. Americans and British troops open fire at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. “The shot heard ’round the world.”

May 10

Second Continental Congress. It meets in Philadelphia.

June 15

Congress names George Washington commander in chief of the Continental Army.

June 17

Battle of Bunker Hill. The first major battle between British and American troops, it actually takes place on Breed’s Hill in Boston. British troops charge up the hill, and Americans are ordered to hold their fire until they can see “the whites of their eyes.” The British eventually take the hill but suffer heavy losses.

July 5

Olive Branch Petition. Congress sends a petition to the king asking him to reach an agreement with the Americans. When it reaches him in August, the king refuses to read the petition.

July 6

Declaration on the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms. Congress explains why Americans are fighting, including their objection to the Intolerable Acts and taxation without representation.

Aug. 23

Proclamation of Rebellion. The king proclaims that the colonies are in “open and avowed rebellion.” He orders Britain to put down the rebellion.

Dec. 22

American Prohibitory Act. Parliament orders a trade embargo and tells the British navy to seize any ships trading with the colonies.

1776

Jan. 5

New Hampshire adopts the first state constitution.

Jan. 15

Common Sense. Thomas Paine publishes this short, highly popular book arguing for independence from Britain.

March 17

British troops leave Boston for Halifax, Canada.

June–July

A huge British fleet and army gather near New York City.

July 4

Declaration of Independence. Congress votes to adopt the declaration.

Aug. 2

Members of Congress sign the Declaration of Independence. The president of Congress, John Hancock, signs first in large letters.

Aug. 27

Battle of Long Island, N.Y. British win the battle. Surrounded, the American army escapes at night in small boats.

Sept. 15

British troops take over New York City.

Sept. 22

Caught spying on the British but never tried, Nathan Hale is hanged. His last words are “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Dec. 19

The Crisis #1. Washington’s army is in retreat. With the army is Thomas Paine, who writes: “These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country: but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Dec. 25–26

Battle of Trenton, N.J. Washington crosses the Delaware River and launches a surprise attack on British troops, who surrender quickly.

1777

June 14

Flag Resolution. Congress adopts the U.S. flag. It has 13 stars and 13 white and red stripes.

July 4

Independence Day celebration. Philadelphia celebrates the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It features 13-gun salutes, speeches, parades, and fireworks.

July 27

Marquis de Lafayette, a 19-year-old Frenchman volunteers in Washington’s army.

Sept. 26

British under Howe occupy Philadelphia.

Oct. 7

Second Battle of Saratoga, N.Y. Americans defeat the British. Ten days later, more than 5,000 British troops surrender.

Nov. 15

Articles of Confederation. Congress adopts this document to set up the new U.S. government. The states must ratify it.

Dec. 19

Valley Forge. Washington’s army begins its long winter stay at Valley Forge.

1778

Feb. 6

French Alliance. U.S. and France sign an agreement. France recognizes the new government. Both sides promise to fight for American independence.

June 18

British troops leave Philadelphia for New York. Americans take over the city.

July 10

France declares war on Britain.

Sept. 14

Congress appoints Ben Franklin as the American diplomat to France.

1779

Sept. 23

In a raid on English coastal towns, Captain John Paul Jones meets a larger British ship. When the British demand that he surrender, he responds, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Jones captures the British ship before his own ship sinks.

Sept. 27

Congress appoints John Adams to negotiate peace with Britain.

1780

May 12

First Battle of Charleston. British capture Charleston.

Sept. 23

Americans learn that American General Benedict Arnold is a traitor.

1781

March 2

Articles of Confederation. The states ratify it, and it goes into effect as the first constitution for the United States.

June 11

Congress appoints a Peace Commission composed of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay, and Henry Laurens.

Oct. 19

Last Major Battle of the Revolutionary War. British General Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, Virginia.

July 4

Massachusetts celebrates Independence Day as the first state to make it an official celebration.

1783

April 11

Congress declares the Revolutionary War over.

Sept. 3

U.S. and Britain sign the Treaty of Paris.

1784

Jan.14

Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris. The Revolutionary War officially ends.

1785

July 4

Bristol, Rhode Island, holds its first Fourth of July Parade. It has held one every year since and is the longest-running Independence Day celebration.

1787

Sept. 17

U.S. Constitution. The Constitutional Convention approves the new U.S. Constitution, which will replace the Articles of Confederation.

1789

April 30

First President. George Washington is inaugurated.

1791 

Dec. 15

Bill of Rights. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are ratified.

1826

July 4

50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Founders Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die. Adams’ last words are, “Thomas Jefferson lives.”

1870 

June 28

Congress makes Independence Day an unpaid holiday for federal workers.

1876

July 4

Centennial of the Declaration of Independence.

1886

Oct. 28

Statue of Liberty. A gift from France, the statue is unveiled. A monument to American freedom and independence, the statue stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.

1916

July 4

First Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. It has been held every year since in Coney Island, N.Y.

1938

June 29

Congress makes Independence Day a paid federal holiday for federal workers.

1976

July 4

Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence.

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