The American Revolution encompasses a series of political, economic, military, organizational and legislative events in the second half of the 18th century, specifically between 1763 and 1791, which culminated in the emergence of an independent and sovereign state in North America, the United States of America.
The American Revolution was one of the major events of the modern era, which unfolded as a series of revolts and transformations in the way of thinking of the colonists, then as a war, called the American War of Independence, which took place between the 13 British colonies in North America and their homeland, Great Britain, followed by unique and innovative economic, structural, political, state and legislative organizations in modern history.
The American Revolution had three important consequences: the conquest of the 13 colonies” independence from Great Britain, officially recognised by the Treaty of Versailles (1783), the formation of a continuous federal state open to expansion, and the formation of a system of government for this country based on the United States Constitution of 1787, which laid the foundations for a federal republic called the United States of America, in which government is based on the sovereignty of the people and the tripartite separation of powers in the state (legislative, executive and judicial).
The revolutionary era began in 1763, when the military threat from France had ended and Britain introduced a series of taxes without representation in Parliament that were deemed illegal by the colonists. After a series of protests, the most prominent of which were in Boston, the British sent in military intervention troops. As a result, the American colonists mobilized their militia troops to the critical point where fighting broke out (1775). Although the Loyalists accounted for about 15-20% of the colonies” entire population of 2.2 million, and the Patriots controlled about 80-90% of the territory of the 13 colonies, the British were unable to control more than a few of the Atlantic coast towns. The highlight of the American Revolution was undoubtedly the Declaration of Independence, which led to the creation of the United States of America by the 13 colonies. Subsequently, the Americans created an alliance with France in 1778, which led to a balancing of land and naval forces. Two major British armies were captured at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781, leading to the peace concluded in 1783 in Paris recognizing the United States of America as an independent and sovereign nation bordered to the north by British Canada, to the south by Spanish Florida, and to the west by the Mississippi River.
The era of the American Revolution ended in 1791, after the consolidation of the United States, the adoption of its Constitution in 1787, the accession of all thirteen states to the newly created state entity (1787 – 1790), the creation of the presidential institution, the election of George Washington as the country”s first president in 1789, the beginning of the growth of the Union by the accession of the Republic of Vermont as its fourteenth state on March 4, 1791, and the amendment of the
The Revolution encompassed a number of distinctive ideational, intellectual, political, conceptual, and legislative movements that had occurred in early American society, such as the modern idea of republicanism, which was widely embraced by the people of the colonies. In some of the future states, heated political discussions about democracy reinforced ideas that were later applied in legislation and practice to create what became the United States. The massive “move” toward republicanism and the continuing growth of the role of democracy created a gradual transition to a different kind of social hierarchical ordering and formed the solid foundations of later American political ethics and values.
The American Revolution was chronologically the second great revolution of the modern era, after the English Revolution and followed by the French Revolution.
The road to revolution has been built slowly over time. Many events fuelled the growing desire of the thirteen colonies for independence.
The Seven Years” War between Britain and France ended in victory for the deeply indebted British. They had to resort to raising revenue from the colonies. After the French defeat, the colonies became less and less dependent on Britain.
The British Customs needed the money. Britain”s annual budget deficit had risen from £77 million in 1755 to £129 million in 1764. Maintenance of the military corps in the colonies amounted to £220,000 a year. George Grenville, William Pitt”s brother-in-law, took on the task of balancing the British budget after being appointed prime minister in 1763. He researched ways to raise revenue from America, finding the activities of American smugglers effective, with customs duties collected down to £1,800 a year.
On his proposal, the British Parliament passed the American Revenue Act (also known as the Sugar Act) in April 1764, with colonial merchants required to pay a tax of sixpence per gallon on the importation of foreign molasses. Because of corruption, they largely cancelled the taxes and undercut the tax to make the English product cheaper than the French. They favoured the importation of sugar from the British West Indies and prohibited the importation of sugar from the French West Indies. New duties were imposed on foreign textiles, coffee, indigo, imported Madeira wines, and customs duties were increased on all foreign goods reloaded in England. The importation of rum and French wines into the colonies was banned. The Act was expected to bring £45,000 a year to the budget and new benefits to British merchants and manufacturers. The Sugar Act was supplemented by a number of provisions: the establishment of a Vice Admiralty Court in Halifax, with jurisdiction extending to all the American colonies. It abolished the right of emperors to prosecute a case of wrongful and unjustified seizure of ship or goods, the introduction of writs of assistance, the registration of all ships and customs documents, and the right of British frigate commanders to act as customs officers. The colonies opposed this with documented protests. The Currency Act banned the issue of paper currency with the right of circulation because of the danger of inflation, which led to economic depression and the collapse of some businesses, ruining thousands of small creditors.
Massachusetts addressed Parliament, arguing that British industry and trade had its outlet in the American market, and an impoverished America would no longer be able to buy British goods. In the end, British products were boycotted. Boston merchants decided to stop using British cuffs and lace, and craftsmen stopped wearing English leather clothing.
By the end of 1765, the boycott movement had spread to all cities. Tighter controls caused inconvenience in supplying the colonies, as ships carrying goods were required to have papers issued by the customs office. This meant that customs officers were no longer liable for damages. James Otis notes that the Sugar Act gave people in the colonies serious pause for thought, and a public meeting in Boston anticipated that the Sugar Act would lead to the colonies being stripped of all rights. The Massachusetts legislature adopted James Otis” proposal and authorized the establishment of a Committee of Correspondence to contact the other colonies about protest actions in June 1764. Otis publishes “Defending and Demonstrating the Rights of the British Colonies,” inspired by John Locke. He was talking about the contract between rulers and governed. The second important point made by the protesters was that laws could not be passed in London without representatives of the colonies in the British Parliament.
The Stamp Act and the Law of Cartage
On 22 March 1765, the Stamp Act was passed which provided for periodical taxes on every page of pamphlets and almanacs, legal documents, insurance policies, playing cards, and stamps were to be paid in pounds. The revenue from stamps was to bring Britain £60,000. A protest against the British stamp law was held in New York to criticise Metropolis policy.
On 24 March 1765, the British Parliament passed the Quartering Act, which obliged the colonial civil authorities to provide cantonments and provisions for British troops. Anger poured out in a torrent of words, verbal and printed. Numerous pamphlets appeared in England and the colonies about Grenville”s thesis.
In the summer of 1765, the Sons of Liberty was formed in Boston, which included nine loyalists: John Avery, Thomas Crafts, John Smith, Henry Welles, Thomas Chase, Stephen Cleverly, Henry Bass, Benjamin Edes and George Trott, who were artisans and merchants by profession. John Adams, Samuel Adams and John Otis, the radical leaders of the Legislative Assembly, contacted them in secret. On August 14, two thousand men, gathered together, hanged two effigies on a tree in Newbury Street that was to be called the Liberty Tree, representing the merchant Andrew Oliver, the Massachusetts stamp dealer, and Lord John Stuart Bute . The mob, led by Ebenezar Mackintosh, a shoemaker by trade, made their way to Oliver”s home and ransacked it. Andrew Oliver escaped with his life because he was notified and promised to resign as stamp dealer. The Sons of Liberty also had a fight with Thomas Hutchinson, deputy governor and brother-in-law of Andrew Oliver. Hutchinson ordered the hanging effigies removed from the tree. On the evening of August 26, the crowd, led by Mackintosh, split into two columns, one towards the courthouse, the other towards the customs inspector”s residence. Reunited, they swarmed on Hutchinson”s house, devastating it. In November, General Thomas Gage, commander-in-chief of British forces in America, provided regular troops to maintain order. The colony”s governor, Francis Bernard, refused, arguing that the presence of troops might arouse anger. Later, the effigies of George Grenville and John Huske were hung from the same Liberty Tree. In the end, Andrew Oliver refused to take the stamps sent from England, and the governor, council and supreme court, as well as the chief inspector of customs refused to order the distribution and application of the stamp. On 18 December, the town”s residents resumed their protests and began to ransack buildings.
Within weeks, the people of Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia were up in arms. In all the colonies, organized Sons of Liberty groups sprang up. Stamp dealers were forced to leave their towns. In New York, the rioting masses besieged the artillery battery garrison, burned the Lieutenant Governor”s official carriage and destroyed the Major”s house. In the other colonies, trade continues, ignoring the Stamp Act. Parliament began its session, and topics about the American wars channelled the discussion.
The Rockingham government had to pacify a riot caused by the policies of its opponents. Parliament was inundated with complaints from merchants. All trade was halted with the colonies, and thousands of merchants, manufacturers, sailors and workers were in desperate straits. In the American colonies, the movement to boycott British goods swept the masses. British exports to the colonies fell by 15%. Courts and vice-admiralty courts were temporarily closed, dealing a heavy blow to the British, and in October, 200 New York merchants signed a covenant not to import any more British goods until the Stamp Act was withdrawn. During debates in the House of Commons, William Pitt called for the law to be repealed.
In January 1766, Benjamin Franklin explained to the British Parliament that the tax imposed would be seen by Americans as unconstitutional and unjust. Rockingham submitted to the House of Commons the Declaratory Act, giving Parliament full authority to make laws concerning the American colonies, and the resolution to repeal the Stamp Act in February 1766, both of which were passed. News of the repeal reached America in April and was greeted with victory. But the repeal of the Stamp Act made no sense when the colonies were losing other privileges.
In March 1766, the parliament ordered compensation for those who had suffered from the violence, and the culprits were to be brought to justice. As the land tax was reduced in Britain, in June 1767, the Townshend Acts (named after Charles Townshend who was appointed finance minister) were passed in Parliament, imposing import duty on glass, corn, paint, lead, paper and tea. Smugglers increased their activities to avoid paying the duty. Only tea was brought in in large quantities. The duty was expected to raise £35,000-40,000 for the British budget. The laws came into force in November 1767. Protests and opposition began to take increasingly organised forms. The colonists adopt a form of resistance by instituting boycotts of British products and, in some colonies, colonial assemblies call for the repeal of the laws. A number of articles appear in the American press under pseudonyms, one of the authors being John Dickinson who wrote Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania and The Liberty Song.
Boston again boycotted British products, and in 1768, it was decided that no more English products should be imported into New England. Workers, artisans, merchants and farmers formed associations to boycott British products. Violence ensued in New York and Boston. A bloody brawl with injuries on both sides took place at Golden Hill in New York.
George III played a major role in escalating the crisis. He tried to put pressure on the colonies by promoting Lord North as Prime Minister in 1770. On 5 March 1770, a fight between American citizens and British soldiers on one of Boston”s streets turned into a massacre, with a detachment of soldiers intervening and firing into the crowd. Five citizens were killed, including a black worker, and several others were wounded. Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson, at the request of the masses, withdrew the troops from the town to Castle William Island. The boycott was temporarily suspended as the volume of British trade increased from 1770 to 1771.
On 21 August 1770, the equestrian statue of King George III was knocked off its pedestal. But towards the end of 1771, the violence continued, with a tax ship being seized at the entrance to the Delaware by a group of several masked men who boarded the ship and tied up the crew, and set off in an unknown direction. In July 1772, the Gaspee was attacked by hundreds of men in eight boats, the captain was wounded, and the ship was subsequently burned. Another form of vigilant resistance appeared: a first committee of correspondence (in Boston) that was to oversee the conduct of the Metropolis and establish relations with other committees in other states.
In May 1773, the British Parliament passed the Tea Act, under which the West India Company acquired the right to export tea duty-free, with tea being sold in America through its own agents. As a blow to colonial smugglers and merchants, mail committees went on alert, and selected volunteer riders carried mail to the colonies, and popular demonstrations were held in New York and Philadelphia forcing tea ship masters to return to England with their goods. In Charleston, crates of tea were stored under lock and key in a storehouse, remaining there for three years until they were requisitioned for revolutionary use. At the end of November, three ships loaded with tea arrived at the port. On the night of December 16, 1773, a group of men disguised as natives, supported by a massive cordon of citizens boarded the three ships, smashed the crates and dumped the tea into the waters of the bay, the event going down in history as the “Boston Tea Party” that spread along the Atlantic coast. On December 25, the ship Polly met a crowd of 8,000 people who persuaded the captain to return with the cargo. Failing to negotiate, the mob boarded the ship and threw the crates of tea into the water. The tea-laden ships were burned at Annapolis and Greenwich, If the Company was not to be compensated for the value of the destroyed tea-15,000 pounds-Parliament had to admit that it had lost control of the colonies.
Quebec Law and Repressive Laws
In 1774, Parliament enacted the Repressive Acts, closing Boston Harbor and instituting the blockade. People charged with offences and dissent could be tried in America. The Massachusetts Colony Patent was cancelled. Members of the Council, hitherto elected by the Legislative Assembly, were to be appointed only by the King. Finally, the Quebec Act was passed, providing special privileges for the Catholic Church and the French-Canadian population and for the annexation of Canada with the territory of the colonies. Having these rights, Quebecers would not join the American Revolution. It will take a position of relative neutrality. The Quebec Act also established the border between British Canada and the other colonies.
The British government appointed General Gage governor of Massachusetts, replacing Thomas Hutchinson . But the wave of solidarity with Boston swept across America, with Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Connecticut shipping to Boston quantities of grain, rice and food.
In May 1774, in Newport, Rhode Island, the “Join, or Die” manifesto created by Benjamin Franklin in 1754 appeared. Even though the Virginia Legislative Assembly had been dissolved by the governor, members met in the Apollo Hall of the Raleigh Inn on June 18, 1774, to invite the colonies to send their representatives to a Continental Congress. Committees of Correspondence in Philadelphia and New York responded to Boston”s proposal, calling for an Intercontinental Congress. In Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, delegates were elected by legislative assemblies, in New Hampshire, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina by called conventions and town meetings, in Connecticut by the Committee of Correspondence, in South Carolina by a Charleston rally, in New York by the Sons of Liberty committees and other organizations.
Between November 1774 and August 1775, a resolution was drafted to ban the import of English goods and tobacco. Thomas Jefferson drew up a draft to present to the Convention, and his friends printed it in the form of a pamphlet: A Summary Look at the Rights of British America. Thomas Jefferson denounced Parliament”s laws on trade and navigation.
In August 1775, the pamphlet by James Wilson, a militant radical from Philadelphia, appeared: Considerations on the Nature and Extension of the Legislative Authority of the British Parliament.
Fifty-five men, representing 13 colonies, went to Philadelphia in September 1774, half of them lawyers, planters, merchants, clerks, millers, butchers and carpenters. Congress opened its proceedings on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters Hall.
The Congressmen were divided into two parties: radicals who wanted independence and moderate-conservatives who prevailed and wanted conciliation with Britain. The proceedings were influenced by the Suffolk Resolutions, passed at illegal rallies in Milton and Suffolk counties, drafted by Dr. Joseph Warren, Samuel Adams” collaborator, which declared that America should not submit to repressive British laws, break trade relations with England, and call the people to fight. Paul Revere presented information about British troops in Boston and British plans. Patrick Henry argued that “New England” no longer existed, advocating the concept of “American citizenship.” John Adams of Massachusetts and the group of Virginia planters who were conservative were hostile to London. Joseph Galloway, a Tory speaker of the Pennsylvania legislature, proposed a Plan of Union between Britain and the Colonies to guarantee the colonies their own laws within the empire. It envisaged the creation of a unicameral parliament of all the colonies, headed by a president-general appointed by the king, with deputies elected by the colonial legislative assemblies. The plan was hotly debated and rejected by radicals.
On October 14, 1774, Congress adopted the “Declaration of the Rights and Needs of the Colonies” which embodied the constitutional theories espoused in the pamphlets of Thomas Jefferson and James Wilson. The colonists had the right to life, liberty and property under the law of nature, the British Constitution and the colonial patents, and were not and could not be represented in Parliament. It was considered a right to legislate through their own legislative assemblies, voluntarily accepting Parliament”s laws regulating foreign trade and not entertaining the idea of any internal or external taxes. The declaration calls for the repeal of repressive laws. Congress adopted a memorial to the King and appeals to the people of Great Britain and the English colonies. A series of practical measures for organizing resistance were approved and implemented by the Continental Association, marking the beginning of the American Revolution. The Association constituted a solemn pledge made by delegates that every colony from 1 December 1774 would cease all imports of goods from Britain and Ireland. If the repressive laws were not withdrawn, as of October 1, 1775, the export of American goods to Great Britain ceased. The Association provided for the creation of an apparatus to put the rulings into practice. Congress adjourned on 26 October. Another congress was to meet in May 1775 if the colonists” complaints were not heard. The colonies had a choice between submission and independence. The long decline of the British Empire had begun.
Congressional decisions were adopted and popularized at town meetings and colonial conventions. Village and fair assemblies were organized, and committees were set up, whose elected members went to each house to expound the aims of the Continental Association, asking the people to join them, arousing the anger and contempt of the mob.
Imports fell vertiginously from £2 million in 1774 to just £200,000 in 1775. Imports from England to New York had fallen from £437,000 in 1774 to £1228 in 1775. Tory loyalists were urging suspicion of the King and the British Parliament. But they were lynched in the street, tarred, flayed and paraded through the main streets. The goods of merchants who broke the decisions of the Continental Association were confiscated and burned in public markets. In Virginia and the Carolinas, the courts were closed at the deadlines set for actions brought by British merchants against debtors. Each county armed a company with the purpose to defend itself. Many moderates continued to recognize the authority of parliament, denouncing congressional action as treason. Some accepted Congress as a de facto government and joined in the action against Parliament.
Volunteer detachments called “minutemen” were formed, volunteer soldiers who were ready to act at a moment”s notice and who procured on their own a rifle, bayonet, cartridge case, gun and bullets. Twice a week, the detachment trained and obeyed orders given by officers chosen by the volunteers. The officer or soldier, if he did not perform his duty, was liable to a fine of two shillings for the benefit of the detachment. Hundreds of men were enlisted to procure weapons and secret stores of arms, ammunition and supplies were organised. The crowds were abuzz with the “liquor of freedom”. New ideas and opinions were spreading fast and taking root in the consciousness of the revolutionaries.
In the fall of 1774, elections for the Massachusetts Legislature were held. The Radicals won all the mandates, most of the members of the Council, appointed by royal decree, resigned their appointments, and the Governor, General Cage, refused to call a new Legislature and ordered it dissolved. The Assembly took the name “Congress of the Province of Massachusetts” and adopted a series of resolutions that became law. The Revolutionary Legislature established a Committee of Safety under the leadership of John Hancock, the committee”s role was to call out the province”s militia, create a network to monitor British troop movements, and organize the defense of the colony.
In the winter of 1774-1775, the Committee of Safety took steps to purchase armies of 15,000 soldiers, setting up a military depot in the town of Concord. Congress appointed five generals to command the army, all former soldiers who had participated in the Battle of Louisbourg in 1745, with Artemas Ward appointed commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts troops. General Cage was determined to maintain the supremacy of the British Parliament, but knowing the weakness of his forces, he avoided open hostilities, waiting for sufficient British reinforcements to arrive.
In early 1775, Virginia counties held elections for the province”s second Convention. The Convention met in March and took over the effective leadership of Virginia. On March 23, Patrick Henry delivered a speech that tipped the scales in favor of the legislature granting troops to the Virginia colony, advocating a war of liberation from British subjugation, calling for immediate mobilization, concluding with “Give me liberty, or give me death!”
Hatred of British rule was spreading, and the British rulers were proving powerless to find a rational yardstick and measure for American citizens. Lord Chatham and Edmund Burke could not bring Parliament to adopt a policy of conciliation. Supported by the majority, the government decided to follow Lord North”s warlike policy.
In January 1775, royal governors were ordered to prevent the election of delegates to the Second Continental Congress. On 27 January, Earl Dartmouth informed General Cage that reinforcements had been sent to him and ordered him to “use force” to restore British authority. Arrests of revolutionary leaders in Massachusetts were made. Preparing for armed intervention, the British government made a conciliatory gesture.
On 27 February, Parliament voted on North”s proposed law, in which the colonies would allocate sufficient money for their own defence and Parliament would refrain from imposing a tax. But a bill was also introduced prohibiting the New England colonies from trading with any country other than England and the English West Indies, as well as fishing in the ”new world”. The bill was enthusiastically passed on March 30.
On April 14, General Gage received Count Darthmouth”s letter offering instructions for the arrest of the rebel leaders. Of the rebel leaders, Dr. Joseph Warren had been in Boston and could be arrested, and Samuel Adams and John Hancock were hiding near Concord at Lexington. General Gage decided to gain control of the Concord warehouse of war materials and supplies, having been informed of spies infiltrating the revolutionary ranks. 700 soldiers, the elite of the Boston garrison, were assigned to the operation on high alert, with the decisive moment set for April 18. The intelligence service organized by the Sons of Liberty functioned with precision.
The next day, guards at the Concord warehouse were alerted. Before the troops had left the barracks, Paul Revere rode into the night to Lexington, a market five miles from Concord to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Having accomplished his mission, Revere, accompanied by William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, set out for Concord. The Redcoats belatedly discovered the secret of the stop, swarming around them a crowd of volunteer minutemen and militiamen.
Lexington & Concord
In Lexington, the British were greeted by a detachment of 50 volunteers. It is not known who fired first, but what is certain is that eight Americans were killed and ten wounded, and only one British soldier was injured. The British continued to march toward Concord. At the entrance to the fairgrounds were hundreds of people. The British searched every house, most of the arms and ammunition having been carted away the day before and buried in nearby fields. British troops instead found shavings, cannon wheels and barrels which they destroyed. On their return, they were pursued by bullets, the Redcoats retreating in a hurry. Reaching Lexington around noon, where they were met by 1,250 soldiers sent by Gage, they all set off for Concord, harassed by the rebels. Farmers from Sudbury, Bilerica, Reading, Waburn and other fairs, drove towards Concord. 73 British were killed, 53 were reported missing, 174 British were wounded and 49 Americans were killed, 39 were wounded and 5 were reported missing by the end of the day. News of Lexington and Concord spread quickly.
The revolutionary movement included small farmers, squatters, craftsmen and labourers, merchants, shipowners, all unhappy with British laws, the Southern planters also being hit by British policy. The leadership of the movement was in the hands of radical merchants, planters and bourgeois. Only a few of the leaders, a monority, were in favour of immediate separation from England, with most hoping for a settlement. But the war had begun.
On April 22, detachments of New England Patriots surrounded British troops in Boston. The Massachusetts Congress authorized the enlistment of 13,600 troops and called for support from the other colonies on April 23. Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Hampshire decided to send 9500 soldiers to Cambridge, the headquarters of the troops mobilised by Massachusetts on 20 May. In New York, the revolutionaries obtained the city”s arsenal, customs and storehouses. The Sons of Liberty were informed that two British ships with ammunition destined for the Boston troops were in the harbor. They prevented them from sailing and unloaded them. In Virginia, John Harrover, a servant, plantation school teacher, elected captain, supported the crowd of volunteers in a contest to select men, and Lord Dunmore, the last governor of Virginia, placed himself under the protection of British naval forces.
In Savannah, the capital of Georgia, the revolutionary organisation took over the city. Major General John Burgoyne, accompanied by Major Generals William Howe and Henry Clinton, arrived in Boston on May 25, 1775 to reinforce General Thomas Gage”s command. Ten thousand simple farmers surrounded 5,000 British soldiers, and partisan detachments from Massachusetts and New Hampshire captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain, Crowd Point north of Ticonderoga, and Fort St. John near the Canadian border. On the coast, a group of loggers from Maine captured the cutter Margaretta belonging to the British naval forces. Spurred on by the generals, Gage took action. On June 12, he proclaimed martial law and announced that he would pardon all rebels who would obey, except Samuel Adams and John Hancock. But the proclamation, drafted by Byrgoyne, aroused amusement rather than fear, and was full of boomastic phrases and distorted facts. British commanders decided to occupy the Dorchester and Charleston peninsulas, with Boston becoming impregnable. The operation was set for June 18 and planned to place strong units and artillery on Breed”s Hill and Bunker Hill on the Charleston Peninsula. The Massachusetts Committee of Safety and Security learned.
On the evening of June 16, a detachment of 1,200 Patriots occupied Breed”s Hill, closer to Boston and exposed to flanking attacks from the water. All night they worked to fortify the site. British officers, reconsidering the situation, decided to attack, with Gage”s force numbering 6,500. On the morning of 17 June, General Howe, at the head of 2200 troops, attacked head-on. But the British were cut down by volleys of American bullets, and the British were forced to retreat. Howe regrouped his soldiers and resumed the attack, he personally leading the platoons on the right. They were repulsed again with heavy losses. Receiving reinforcements of 600-700 troops from Boston, Howe attacked a third time. Running out of ammunition, the Americans switched to bayonet attacks, retreating to Bunker Hill. Though outnumbered, they defended fiercely, taking heavy losses. They realised that resistance was impossible, and Colonel William Prescott, the American commander, ordered a retreat. They were not pursued, however, the Americans losing 115 soldiers, including Dr Joseph Warren, 305 wounded and 30 prisoners of whom 20 died.
The British had 19 officers killed, 62 officers wounded, 207 soldiers killed and 766 soldiers wounded. It was a Victory à la Pirus for the British. In order to avoid paying the price for the loss and more soldiers, Gage was recalled and Howe took command of British troops in North America on October 10, 1775. The Battle of Bunker Hill was bloody, and the British tactical victory decided nothing strategically, capturing only the Charlestown peninsula, and was merely a battle won by the British at the wrong time and in the wrong place, showing Americans everywhere that a mob of armed farmers were able to encircle and repel the twice regular troops of the best infantry in the world.
Amidst dramatic circumstances and clashes, amidst faltering, desertions and stumbles, the Second Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, with delegates from the First Congress also attending.All the colonies, except Georgia which had only one unofficial delegate, were represented.Meanwhile, New England militia captured Fort Ticonderoga. Among the newly elected were Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Franklin had arrived from London where he had served since 1757 as an agent for Pennsylvania and other colonies. Although he valued England and the British people, he strove to persuade British rulers to take a clear view of the British colonies. But he was unsuccessful, and convinced himself that rational arguments were useless. He allied himself with the more radical Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry and other independence campaigners, including the tall, red-haired and freckled 32-year-old ideologue of the small farmers and artisans-Thomas Jefferson. The Conservative leader was John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, while the previous leader, Joseph Galloway, had joined the Loyalists and refused to attend the First Congress. The delegates, eager for work and stability, longed for the days of yesteryear before 1763 and thought America should enjoy more freedom within the empire. Congress oscillated between Samuel Adams and John Dickinson, and the resolutions passed reflected the hesitations, testifying to the confusion in the way of dignity and reason. The resolution of 26 May 1775 called for a part of these colonies to be put in a state of defence, for steps to be taken to open negotiations to settle the unfortunate dispute between Britain and the colonies. New York has asked for advice on how to proceed when British troops arrive.A congressional committee advises it to maintain a defensive posture, but to oppose building forts or invading any private property. Another committee was studying ways to supply the colonies with ammunition and military equipment, and a third was looking into the possibility of setting up a postal service. Congress set up numerous committees and working committees: the committee on the establishment of a gunpowder factory, the committee on the issue of paper money, the secret committee on the importation of gunpowder and armaments, the committee on American trade. On May 16, Massachusetts addressed Congress indicating that the king had cancelled the colony”s patent and the old organs of central government were no longer legal. Congress recommends elections for a Legislative Assembly on June 9, with the Assembly electing from within itself the council and leaders of the colony. On June 14, Congress decides to organize a Continental Army with volunteer units near Boston at its core.
Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania have enlisted six companies of riflemen to be sent to New England. After much discussion, on June 15, Congress appointed George Washington as commander in chief, a tall, taciturn, reserved man in his 40s, known as a great Virginia planter, with an air of sincerity and frankness, whose choice was determined by careful calculation, opposed to the British policy of enclosure and repression, belonging to the wealthiest and most aristocratic circles, distinguished by moderate views which opposed the conservative elements in Congress who feared that the radicals would appeal to the wavering.
Washington”s election symbolized the alliance of the Southern planters with the anti-British merchants of New England, strengthening the unity of all the forces fighting against the British and preventing the British government from further dividing the interests of the South and the North. The next day, Washington accepted the command and offered his services without pay. A general plan for organizing the army was adopted, with Congress appropriating 2 million pounds in paper money to be issued in the 12 Confederate colonies for the first expenditures on June 22. Instructions were sent out on recruiting troops, organizing the militia, and procuring funds. The Battle of Bunker Hill tipped the balance of Congress on the side of the radicals, and the conservative group proposed addressing the King with the “Olive Branch Petition” . Many American merchants and entrepreneurs in the central and southern colonies were closely tied to British capital under pressure from the masses. Although they participated in the revolution, they agitated against breaking off relations with England. Merchants like Joseph Hewes, a delegate from North Carolina, claimed he wanted neither independence nor revolution. John Dickinson, who drafted the Olive Branch Petition, expressed hope for the restoration of peace and understanding. The next day, on June 6, Congress voted on the “Declaration on the Causes and Necessities of the Taking of Arms,” composed by Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson, the leaders of the two major congressional caucuses. They had a choice between fighting or unconditional submission. They chose the “fight” for freedom and rejection of British violence. Congress had to gradually assume their new governmental functions, rejecting Lord North”s policy of conciliation. On July 19, it appointed commissioners to negotiate peace treaties with the Indians, and on July 26, established a Post Office Department headed by Benjamin Franklin. John Adams wrote to James Warren that British rule would return as soon as they heard of the victory at Lexington, of the mood in New York and Philadelphia, of the liveliness of the Union of the Colonies, of the avoidance of dichotomy and lack of unity, advocating the abolition of ministerial tyrannies and customs offices and the establishment of proper government like that of Connecticut in all the colonies, and of uniting as one body for defense and opening ports to all nations. The Radicals were aware that independence was the only solution, and realized that they must patiently prepare for the development and crystallization of public opinion. The people were constrained that war was the only solution, however terrible and terrible.
The American version of the victory at Lexington and Concord arrived in London on May 29, 1775, 10 days before General Gage”s official report arrived. Government circles, hostile and turned against America, reacted by stepping up repression. George III was determined to destroy rebel resistance in America. Orders were issued in June to bring reinforcements to America: six regiments from Gibraltar and Minorca, units, warships, equipment, ammunition and armaments. But in England, many were militating against war with the English colonies. British merchants and manufacturers were for the war, but there was a large minority who opposed the war as it would cause great losses to trade and debt collection. Many merchants, gentry and craftsmen, especially those in Scotland, regarded George III as a tyrant. Few wanted an independent and friendly America rather than one conquered and subjugated.
In June 1775, John Tooke Horne organised a collection in London for the widows and orphans of American militiamen killed at Lexington by the King”s troops. Tooke was sentenced to a year in prison for this action in 1778. News of Bunker Hill gave impetus, British honor demanding vengeance, the government refusing to consider the Olive Branch petition issued by an illegal Continental Congress, and on August 23, 1775, the Royal Proclamation outlawed the rebels, their subjects in their colonies and plantations in North America. The Proclamation called on all officers and servants of the Crown to put down this rebellion and turn the traitors over to justice, and for loyal subjects to inform the authorities of any action or person who allied themselves with the rebels. The proclamation did not reach America until November 1775. The Continental Congress resumed its work in September, with official delegates from Georgia attending, taking another step toward conciliation. Delegates from Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, and North Carolina were instructed by the legislatures to oppose the rupture and seek ways to restore peace. In the Carolinas and Georgia, Tory members were supported by frontiersmen hostile to the revolution.
On 6 December 1775, in response to the Royal Proclamation, the Congress denied royal sovereignty, rejecting submission to Parliament. Congress adopted war measures and ordered military operations in Canada, moving from defensive to offensive warfare. Congress wanted to gain a 14th state and prevent a British attack from the north. Washington took command of the army at Cambridge on July 2. General Lee wrote to banker Robert Morris that they would have skilled artillerymen on hand. The army consisted of 17,000 soldiers who had no weapons and no uniforms. The artillery was unusable for lack of shells. Officers were chosen at random by the soldiers, many of them unskilled, incorrect, adventurous, demagogues. There was a total lack of discipline. There were hundreds of desertions every day. Some returned to their farms, others thought the war was over. Everyone had volunteered. Washington urged Congress to extend the term of military service and improve the draft system. Of the first four generals appointed by Congress to second him, Artemas Ward was dyspeptic, alcoholic, fat for riding, incompetent, and irrational; Philip Schuyler was talented but bad at communicating with people, and his manner irritated subordinates; Charles Lee was brilliant and experienced but ambitious and later proved a traitor; and Israel Putnam was conceited and rarely made a decision useful to the army.
Washigton noted the enthusiasm of the awkward, rude farmers with unwavering confidence, reporting to Congress that they were a large number of vigorous, active men, zealous for the cause and of undeniable courage. In October, a congressional committee, consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Lynch, and Benjamin Harrison, went to Cambridge to confer with Washington on appropriate measures for strengthening the army. The commission drew up plans for reorganizing the army, revising the regulations of war and drafting instructions for prisoner exchanges and for captures by privateer ships hunting British supply ships. Washington had convictions, advice and promises, but not an army. The hardships and shortages continued until the end of the war. The army endured, always reborn despite defeat. Washington, as the father, the creator of the army, with a measured, daring and prudent nature, undaunted by wavering, believing in the justice of America”s cause, persevering in the work of propaganda in the ranks of the army, on November 10, declared that every soldier, from the first to the last, must be imbued with the meaning of their cause, the deep meaning of the cause for which they were fighting.
Fulfilling congressional orders, he sent Philip Schyler to New York to campaign in Canada. He later turned over command to his deputy, Brigadier General Richard Montgomery. With reduced forces, Montgomery occupied Montreal on November 13. The attack on Quebec was repulsed by British troops, saving Canada. Richard Montgomery was killed, and Benedict Arnold, a wounded volunteer officer, gained the fame at Quebec that would bring him the rank of general. Congress decided to create a United Colonies war fleet, recruiting battalions of sailors and authorising the capture of British ships. It appointed a Navy Committee and elected a Commander of the Naval Forces. Mandated a secret correspondence committee with wide powers to make contact with Spain and France.
Meanwhile, in London, in October 1775, the session of parliament opened, the Lords, Whigs and Radicals, hostile to the king and ministers, attacked the government until the spring of 1776. Mass resignations resulted: Edmund Burke,Marquis of Rockingham, Sir George Savile, Charles James Fox, John Wilkes, Lord Shelburne and Lord Camden, Duke of Grafton, who joined the opposition and condemned the government”s measures, calling for an end to the conflict with America. Radical John Wilkes demonstrated that a military victory meant nothing, the colonists could not be kept under permanent control. America”s population was doubling every two decades, while England”s population was shrinking. Support for America by Spain and France and the attack on England was foreseen. Governors continued to downplay the dangers, refusing to consider proposals like the humble demands of London and Bristol merchants. Edmund Burke”s proposed bill to repeal the tea tax was defeated in the House of Commons by 210 votes to 105.
On November 20, 1775, Lord North presented to the House the Prohibitory Act prohibiting trade with the colonies and establishing a blockade, authorizing the seizure and confiscation of colonial vessels and the forcible enlistment of sailors from those vessels. The Prohibition Act prompted the government to send special commissioners to America to investigate complaints and grant pardons to all who admitted wrongdoing.
Passed and sanctioned on 22 December, the Prohibition Act came into force on 1 March 1776. Parliament took up the work, the government was working to procure troops, but volunteers were not showing up at enlistment points, as the British had no enthusiasm for war in America. George III appealed to Catherine II of Russia to send him 20,000 Russian troops to suppress the uprising, but the Tsarina refused. The purchase of mercenaries was resorted to. England had great financial resources, but also a national debt of £136 million from the seven-year war. German princes showed themselves willing to sell out their subjects. The Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel sold 17,000 soldiers, Duke Karl of Brunswick-6,000, the Dukes of Hesse-Hanau and Anspach-Bayreuth-2,400, the Princes of Waldeck and Anahlt-Zerbist-1,200. German farmers, dressed in military uniforms, had to face deprivation, disease, epidemics and death in a land as far away as America for a foreign cause. General Howe, the commander-in-chief of British forces in America, received reinforcements by the end of 1776, his strength rising from 8,000 to 34,000 equipped and trained soldiers.
Ten thousand Redcoats and Hessians were sent to Canada at the behest of General Guy Carleton, the governor of the colony who was to drive out the rebels. They were to advance south to Albany and join Howe”s army, receiving orders to occupy New York and crush American resistance in the central colonies and New England. A corps of 3,000 troops, led by General Henry Clinton, was deployed to operate in the southern colonies. Naval forces were to fight and blockade the American coast.
But the senior officers were inept, unimaginative, methodical and cautious, avoiding taking a risk, failing to adopt tactics appropriate to American conditions, even though the British troops were well equipped and trained and had the support of naval forces and financial resources (£12 million spent annually on the war in America). In the spring of 1776, British reinforcements arrived, by which time Gage”s troops remained in Boston and Carleton”s in Quebec.
In the South, Lord Dunmore, Governor of Virginia, recruited loyalist troops and organized a regiment of black slaves. Farmers in Virginia and North Carolina hastily assembled to form a detachment of the 900-strong People”s Militia. The detachment crushed Lord Dunmore”s forces at Great Bridge. The Governor of Virginia evacuated Norfolk, establishing his base and taking refuge on a British military ship. On January 1, 1776, he landed again to punish the American rebels and burned Norfolk.
On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published the pamphlet Common Sense, which proved to be direct, vigorous, simple and incendiary. The colonists called for king against parliament, creating and maintaining the “myth of the good king” while only condemning ministers in petitions, manifestos and pamphlets. But Paine shattered the monarchist myth. He condemned the principle of monarchy by directly attacking the “robber king”. He advocated the separation of the American colonies from England and the establishment of a great republic by force of arms. Paine argued that America would know true prosperity if it were not under British rule. He also appealed to ordinary Americans to prepare America as a refuge for all mankind and for freedom banished from Africa and Asia and considered alien by Europe. Common Sense became the Bible of the revolutionaries, selling 120 000 copies.
In January 1776, radicals caused Congress not to adopt James Wilson”s motion from Pennsylvania. In North Carolina on February 27, detachments of guerrilla fighters defeat 1600 Loyalists at Moore”s Creek, taking 900 prisoners. More than 10,000 patriots joined the guerrilla fighters on news that British forces were about to land and invade the province. Congress ordered that in all colonies, Loyalists were to be disarmed. On March 23, Congress authorized private vessels to be equipped to capture British ships. In April, Congress repealed the Navigation Act and opened American ports to ships of all nations.Independence had been declared. South Carolina”s provincial Congress adopted a constitution on March 25 establishing an independent government. North Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia declared independence. On April 12, the South Carolina Provincial Congress decided to send delegates to the Continental Congress to conclude with delegates from other colonies and declare independence. On May 4, Rhode Island declared its independence. On May 15, the Virginia Convention unanimously adopted the resolution. The Continental Congress debated the resolutions of the British Parliament on May 10-15, excluding the inhabitants of the United Colonies from the protection of the Crown and recommending that the Assembly and Conventions of the United Colonies overthrow the British authorities and elect new rulers. John Adams, elated by the victory, considered that Congress had passed the most important resolution. In all the colonies, bills of rights were passed proclaiming freedom of speech, conscience, assembly, inviolability of the person. Constitutions were drafted and committees appointed. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, rights were expanded and local governments were replaced by radical elements, in New Jersey, Benjamin Franklin”s own son, William Franklin, the royal governor, was dismissed, arrested and imprisoned. New delegates were sent to the Continental Congress with a mandate to vote for independence. On June 7, Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, submitted to Congress a resolution in favor of independence, alliance with foreign states, and the establishment of an American Federation. The resolution was debated on June 8 and June 10. The Conciliators, led by John Dickinson, tried to delay adoption. Congress commissioned a committee of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, R.R. Livingston and John Adams to draft a declaration of independence by 1 July. Congress was wavering, colonial delegations were wavering and hesitating. On July 1, Lee”s resolution was approved by delegations from nine colonies. South Carolina, Delaware and Pennsylvania joined the next day. On July 2, Congress officially proclaimed the Independence of the American States. The Declaration of Independence was debated to show the world the reasoning that led the American states to declare independence. The text was drafted entirely by Thomas Jefferson. Benjamin Franklin made minor changes.
On 4 July, the Declaration was adopted. New York abstained from voting and signed it after the New York Provincial Congress ratified it on 9 July.
Strongly influenced by the ideas of the 18th century French Enlightenment and the philosophers of the 17th century English bourgeois revolution, the Declaration encompassed the political theories of the most democratic wing of the revolutionary party, formulating the inalienable rights of man, proclaiming in an act of state the principle of the sovereignty of the people as the basis of state organization. The Declaration enumerated the 27 charges against George III and the British Parliament and declared that henceforth the colonies considered themselves “Free and Independent States” and were fully entitled to declare war, make peace, enter into alliances, engage in trade and any other acts which free and independent states might perform. The national and planter bourgeoisie adopted the declaration, responding to the aspirations and dreams of the broad popular masses. Read on July 8 in Philadelphia, greeted with cannon salutes, bells ringing and enthusiastic cheers, the Declaration crossed the Atlantic Ocean, bringing to America the sympathy and admiration of Europeans, the wave of confidence in the greatness and dignity of the human spirit fighting for freedom linking continents, inspiring everywhere the struggle against feudalism and absolutism. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That, to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among the people, springing their powers only from the consent of the governed, That when any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or remove it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as shall seem to them most likely to produce Safety and Happiness.”
On July 9, in New York, the statue of King George III was toppled from its pedestal, marking the beginning of the removal of British rule from America.
The Proclamation of Independence polarised antagonistic forces: the loyalists linked to the British Crown and the anti-British. In 1778, the British army numbered 7,500 Loyalists, but by 1781 the number had fallen to 5,500, and in 1783 British troops were withdrawn from the USA. One hundred thousand Tories left America during the revolutionary years. 30,000 Tory Americans served in British forces during the revolution. Loyalists joined the ranks of the British army or formed partisan detachments aimed at ravaging the interior, exerting counter-revolutionary pressure and terror by looting and burning revolutionary farms and homes and mistreating families. After the occupation of New York, the Loyalists waged a corsair war permanently threatening the eastern coasts of New England.
In October 1775, Congress recommended that the Provincial Security Committees guard persons who might threaten the security of the colonies and the freedom of America. Tories were removed from public office and stripped of political rights in all states. Priests, lawyers and teachers declared “Tory” were barred from practice. Loyalist banishment laws were passed in nine states. Even moderate Tories were harassed and boycotted and forced to sell their goods for depreciated money and subjected to double or treble fines and taxes, requisitioned and were arrested at home, sentenced to hard labour or tortured and killed. Assets were confiscated. The committees even drew up blacklists of all those suspected or accused of collaboration with the British, of declared or undeclared opponents from within, of neutrals, doubters, and these were subject to fines and duties. Security committees collected contributions needed for the war and were responsible for supplying weapons and military equipment to military units, supporting local industry working for the army, stimulating privateering expeditions and the capture of British ships.
In November 1777, Congress recommended the seizure and sale of British Crown property, and the proceeds were invested in treasury bills issued by Congress. New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, South and North Carolina, and Georgia took over the undistributed lands that had been in the king”s possession. Obstacles imposed on westward settlement by the Quebec Act and by the Indian boundary line in the Kentucky-Tennesse area and in the northern Ohio and western southern region were removed. Pennsylvania seized the Penn family”s estates, Maryland seized Lord Baltimore”s lands, and in the Carolinas, Lord Grenville”s lands were seized, while in Virginia, Lord Fairfax”s estate was seized, in Maine-Sir William Pepperrell”s estates were seized, and hundreds of estates and the fortunes of many families totaling $40 million were seized, so much so that the Loyalists came to demand compensation for their lost fortunes from the British government at the end of the war.
In New York it was forbidden to sell lots larger than 500 acres. Following the democratic distribution of landed property, all states granted free lots to soldiers, squatter rights and relief from pay. In Virginia, the law granted homestead rights for 400 acres to a family on the condition that they remain on the lot for one year and grow a crop of wheat. In 1779, the sale of hundred-acre lots was authorized and paid for in state-issued paper money that was depreciated, and in 1781, the law allowed squatters to buy 100 acres for a nominal sum to be paid in two and a half years. The big landowners, however, were buying up the certificates of soldiers who didn”t need or want to settle as farmers for pennies on the dollar, sending servants to get pre-emptive rights, converting state-issued paper money into land, buying through intermediaries. A wealthy Richard Henderson, along with a group of wealthy North Carolinians, founded the Transsylvania Company in January 1775, buying 20 million acres in Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee from the Cherokee Indians for nothing. Under his leadership, 300 frontiersmen erected a Boones-borought settlement, and eventually Richard and they, too, petitioned Congress for recognition of their property rights, but being refused, his company also petitioned the Virginia and North Carolina legislatures, each of which, under the influence of the great Tory proprietors, invoked the transaction with the Indians and were granted 200,000 acres each in Kentucky and Tennessee. Thus began the process of westward settlement. By 1791, 21 individuals had acquired rights to 5 million acres in western New York, and George Washington himself owned 58,000 acres across the mountain line.
On agrarian policy, two tendencies were clashing, representing two major groups in the Republican Party, even though the common enemy was England. Farmers, squatters, artisans, merchants, servants, blacks, slaves were the basic force of the revolution, making up the Popular Democratic group, led by Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine. Merchants like John Hancock in Massachusetts, Gadsen in South Carolina, Stephen Hopkins in Rhode Island and planters like George Mason, Patrick Henry and jurists like Luther Martin, Joseph Reed, George Bryan, William Henry Drayton and Thomas Burke supported the cause of democracy.
The democrats believed that man was a dignified being, capable of rational self-government. They supported the sovereignty of the people and said that in the past, governments had been used to oppress the common people, and to prevent tyrannies and oppressions, the powers of government should be reduced so that all power belonged to the people who had to make constitutions in each state, giving to the government powers which it could exercise only when it was in the interest of the people, and reserving to itself fundamental rights in return for labor in small dues, life and liberty, and the limited powers of government were to be exercised by the people themselves, by equal and legislative representation, by general suffrage and the right of every man to be elected to office.
But the provincial, state government had to be more important than any federal or national government. Thomas Jefferson admits that a majority is wrong in public matters, arguing that the errors of the people are less serious than the self-serving policies of kings, priests, big landowners and aristocrats. The lethargy of the people was the death of the republic, and he believed that popular uprisings were welcome. The people needed to be properly informed, educated and the press to be free. Benjamin Franklin believed that a man”s property for the preservation of himself as an individual and the perpetuation of the species was his natural right which no one could dispossess him of, and that the surplus was the property of the body which had created it by laws, and could therefore dispose of it when the welfare of the body was necessary.
The democratic group denied the crown”s claims to unoccupied land, rejecting the rights claimed by landowners and favouring the division of large estates into small farms.
But within the Republicans there was a conservative group of large landowners, industrialists, merchants, aristocrats who wanted to squeeze surplus value out of the exploitation of the broad masses, starting from the totally opposite conception of the common man as ignorant, lazy and unskilled; as an individual as weak, totally selfish and violent. People like Eldbirge Gerry, the signer of the Declaration of Independence, Edmund Randolf, Roger Sherman, Alexander Hamilton, William Livingstone, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney believed that democracy could be a danger and that the restless and changeable masses are rarely capable of sound judgment and will not be able to govern themselves. The natural order demanded that the few but able, well-bred and educated people should be the custodians of wealth and the possessors of virtue, being charged with the maintenance of peace, good order and culture in society, and that the mass of the people made up of slaves, servants, tenants, debtors and clerks should be subordinate to the chosen minority. The aristocrats considered it necessary to take measures to prevent the rebellion of the masses, the school was to teach the poor a trade and to teach them to listen, the church was to teach them respect for authority and property, and the government was to maintain order and protect the interests of the people with status. Because the poor outnumbered the rich in every state, the federal government had to have an army at its disposal to break up democracy and bring about a redistribution of wealth. All government jobs were to be controlled by the aristocracy, and constitutional restrictions were to prevent popular laws that could harm the upper classes, and dues and taxes to support the armed forces and state churches were to be levied equally on the people, not the rich, according to their ability to pay. The courts were not to show goodwill to debtors, servants, officials who wanted to change the state of affairs. As far as land was concerned, the aristocrats were against the egalitarian tendencies of the mass of small farmers and supported large property and land speculation. The estates of the crown and the great landowners were liquidated, the estates of the loyalists were confiscated, quit rent, the right of primogeniture and entail was abolished. The revolution spurred the steady westward movement of the poor from the coastal regions and newcomers from Europe in search of cheap or graced land in the West.
The American Revolution changed the theory of state government, choosing a republican form over a huge territory, with a decentralized, federated system and weak relations with the central government. The principle of the sovereignty of the people was proclaimed as the sole legal basis of state power. New Hampshire, South Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, Georgia and New York, and Massachusetts drafted and adopted their constitutions. Only Rhode Island and Connecticut retained their old colonial charters, but removed references to the king.
The states of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have introduced Bill of Rights laws, with Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey and New York to follow by including the laws in their articles. The first Bill of Rights influenced the others, being passed by Virginia on June 2, 1776, which provided for liberty and independence which are natural and inherent rights of man, all power belonging to and emanating from the people, and the government was in the service of the people, and they had the right to reform or remove it as they saw fit. Offices and dignities could not be inherited. It stipulated the separation of powers in the state, the need for fair and frequent elections, no taxation or taxation without representation, not even temporarily on grounds of force majeure, laws could not be retroactive, the accused had the right to know the charges against him, to face accusers and witnesses, not to be compelled to give evidence against himself, to be tried by juries at short notice. There was a general prohibition on search, arrest or confiscation, freedom of the press was guaranteed, and the military forces were subject to civilian power, the state was not to interfere in religious matters. All these were the basic principles of a free republic and the fundamental rights of the citizen. But the drafting of the constitutions led to fierce battles between democratic and conservative forces.
Radical Democratic leaders like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams campaigned for the ever-widening franchise, equal representation of all districts in relation to population, the supremacy of the lower house of the legislature over the upper house, and executive and judicial power. Moderate Democratic leaders like Thomas Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason argued that the upper house was becoming as tyrannical as the aristocratic oligarchy and advocated a government with the most limited powers possible in which the main branches: the executive, legislative and judicial, would keep each other in check.
Conservatives reckoned that the great owners of the country should rule America, and demanded that the poor should not be given the vote, and that the wealthy districts should enjoy influence, and that the Upper House should have authority, and that the executive and judiciary should be independent to prevent the Lower House from exercising its power.
Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Delaware and Georgia adopted fundamentally Democratic constitutions, while the state constitutions of Virginia, South Carolina, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and New Hampshire were dominated by conservative influences. Pennsylvania drafted the most democratic constitution of the time, and framers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson provided for a unicameral legislature, elected annually by all tax payers, the right to be elected went to anyone who had been domiciled for at least two years in the city or county, no one could be elected for more than two consecutive terms, and no one could be re-elected for more than three years at a time.
An executive board consisted of 13 members, elected triennially, and a non-powered president, taking the place of the old governor and owner”s council. Neither the president nor the council had veto power in preventing the work of the legislature, so Legislative debates were public and their journal published weekly, laws of collective interest being first submitted to public debate and could not be voted on until the next session, all public officials being elected and at any time recalled and judged by the Legislature.
But the Conservative opposition led by John Dickinson and Robert Morris organised an anti-constitutionalist party and in December 1776, they prevented the state government from functioning. But following the intervention of the Continental Congress, the Tories agreed to cooperate and take part in the February 1777 election. Under the new legislature, meeting on 4 March 1777, the Constitution came into force. Pennsylvania was the only state not to make the right to elect or be elected contingent on wealth, and the only state with a unicameral legislature.
In other states with democratic constitutions, the census was set at 50 acres for voters, and to be elected to the House or Senate, candidates were required to have a middle wealth. South Carolina had the most conservative constitution, drafted by the state”s congress, in which conservative coastal districts had 144 representatives and inland Democratic districts had only 40, covering three-quarters of the white population.
It provided voting rights only for free white men owning 50 acres with taxes paid up to date. To be elected to the Senate required 2,000 pounds of land, and if not residing in the district, 7,000 pounds. Districts were set so that the coastal region had 144 seats and the inland-55. The governor and the eight councillors elected by both houses together, were each required to own £10,000 worth of land, and judges were appointed by the Senate, the other judges, sheriffs, officers being elected, by ballot of the Senate and House. The state was run by the rich, the big landowners. Massachusetts, which adopted its constitution in 1780, was the only state in which the governor had veto power and the right, with his council, to appoint judges, the attorney general, sheriffs, prosecutors, army and fleet officers. Taxes for the maintenance of the church were maintained, and the exclusive powers of the Legislative Assembly were secured. Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson pointed out that the maintenance of liberty and happiness could not be possible without the spread of knowledge, without the people being educated. Legislatures and state governments were obliged to establish schools to develop and spread the sciences and arts.
The wealth seized from loyalists funded education in New York, Connecticut, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. In Pennsylvania, criminal laws could be revised, with punishments no longer so cruel but more in keeping with the severity of the crimes. At Benjamin Franklin”s request, the Society for the Relief of Needy Prisoners was founded to campaign for reform of the prison system and for the re-education of prisoners through work, schooling and a suitable climate. In Virginia, on Jefferson”s initiative, the penal code was revised, with the death penalty being imposed only for murder and treason. The Pennsylvania and North Carolina constitutions abolished imprisonment for unpaid debts when there was no evidence of cheating.
In July 1775, Benjamin Franklin submitted to Congress a plan to unite the colonies into a single confederation called the United Colonies of North America. The strength of the colonies lay in their unity, and only a strong alliance could ensure success against England. Thomas Jefferson and the other radicals, however, advised him not to present the plan, as the idea was premature, far too bold for the timid majority members of Congress who feared a break with London.
In January 1776, Franklin tried again to submit it for debate, but failed. After the Proclamation of Independence, the situation changed dramatically. States had to cooperate in the conduct of the war, and there were common economic, commercial and territorial problems. In June 1776, Congress mandated a Commission of Thirteen, one from each state, to draw up a plan for union. The draft was submitted to Congress on 12 July, with amendments and additions. The debates resulted in the Act of Union, entitled Articles of Confederation, which was also ratified by Congress on 15 November 1777. There were disputes between the conservatives who wanted a central government that was to be sovereign in regulating trade, introducing a single currency, drafting navigation laws and foreign policy, and having an army and fleets to quell rebellions, and the democrats who wanted a weak central government, restricted in its rights, with small farmers and small merchants favoring the sovereignty of their state, and their leaders demanding that the central government not be given the right to impose and levy duties and taxes or control armed forces, to regulate commerce and to enact navigation laws, all taxes and duties to be voted by the Legislatures of the States having their own armed forces not to be used against the people, and to regulate commerce and navigation to prevent the large merchants and landlords from oppressing the farmers, as well as to be vested with the power to coin money, issue credit notes and regulate the relations between creditors and debtors. John Adams writes of very strong separatist tendencies in Massachusetts and Philadelphia in manners, morals, language, taste, religion, and the educational system.
The situation was also complicated for land in the west, with different burgh groups competing for it. Land speculators in states that did not want western territories preferred a centralized government to take over western rule. In states that did claim western territories, land speculators and farmers wanted their states to have them. In southern states, planters did not want to cede any of their power to a central government. There were contradictions between the slaveholding Southern states and the New England states. But powerful factors moved to unite the states.
The first Constitution of the United States of America, called the Articles of Confederation, ratified by Congress in November 1777, provided for a unicameral Congress, elected annually, in which each state had an equal number of delegates, regardless of population. There was no provision for a president, and the powers of Congress were restricted, with the states retaining sovereignty in the imposition and collection of taxes, the minting of coins, the issuing of banknotes, and the making of laws on trade and credit. But the main rights granted to Congress could only be exercised with the consent of nine states out of thirteen: the right to declare war, to fix the size of land forces and fleets, to coin money, to issue paper money, to make requisitions, with the states having to redeem the currency issued and pay requisitions according to quotas fixed in relation to the value of land and buildings in private hands. Congress concluded commercial treaties and regulated relations with the Indians, provided that decisions in these matters did not contravene state laws. With regard to western lands, Congress agreed that all disputed lands should be ceded to Congress, to be settled and incorporated into separate states that would become members of the federal union with equal rights of sovereignty, liberty, and independence. In peacetime, the military forces were made up of the states” militias, and in wartime, the states had to recruit contingents whose strength was set by Congress. States that failed to meet their obligations could not be coerced because of the weakness of central power. The union of the states was more symbolic, and it was not until 1781 that the Articles of Confederation were ratified that the westward expansion became operational. Until then, Congress had acted as a de facto government without the benefit of a constitution.
As the Anglican Church was a symbol of British authority, Maryland and North Carolina rescinded the privileges of the Anglican Church in their constitutions in 1776. In Virginia, non-Anglicans were exempt from paying church taxes. In New York, Georgia, South Carolina and Massachusetts, religious freedom was approved for all Christian churches. Catholics were allowed in eight states and Jews in four states to hold public office. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson submitted a “Statute on Religious Freedom” to the Virginia legislature. He argued that the human mind should not be coerced or frightened into hypocrisy and nothingness, condemning persecution of those of other faiths. He declared in the Statute that the rights of the citizen did not depend on religious beliefs. The Statute was not adopted until January 1786.
Another priority issue was the eradication of slavery. Blacks made up 20% of the population of the colonies, or 600,000, 90% of whom were slaves concentrated in the southern states from Maryland to Georgia. The majority of America”s white population held deeply racist views. Radical leaders were fully aware of racism and the practice of slavery. James Otis condemned slavery and asserted the right of blacks to freedom in his pamphlet “Rights of the British Colonies” published in 1764. Benjamin Franklin, Dr. Benjamin Rush, Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, and Thomas Paine supported the abolition of slavery.
In 1771, the Connecticut legislature debated the memorials filed to end slavery, legislating a ban on the slave trade. In Massachusetts, the Legislature passed a similar decision in 1773, but ran into Governor Hutchinson”s vote.
In 1774, the town meeting of Baintree passed a resolution that residents would stop trading slaves and boycott slavery. Similar measures were adopted in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware. The Rhode Island legislature, under pressure from Quakers, proclaimed that any black slave would be considered free, and the abolitionist movement was supported by a black-organized memorial campaign.
In 1775, the Worcester County Committee of Correspondence led to the convening of a citizens” meeting on June 14, at which residents pledged to fight for the abolition of slavery. In the spring of 1775, the first Association for the Abolition of Slavery in America was formed in Philadelphia, which later sprang up in New York and Delaware in the following decade. The War of Independence accelerated steps to abolish slavery.
In 1776, the slave trade was outlawed in Massachusetts, and in Delaware, it was provided under the constitution that no person from Africa shall be enslaved. In 1780, Pennsylvania legislated the abolition of slavery, and in 1781, a case was brought before the Massachusetts Supreme Court in which a white man was accused of mistreating a black man and fined, but the defendant claimed that the black man was his slave. The Supreme Court ruled that the idea of slavery was incompatible with the Constitution. In New Hampshire, a new constitution abolished slavery, and in 1784, Connecticut and Rhode Island legislated the abolition of slavery.
During the war, many blacks were in American detachments, like Poor Slem who proved himself brave at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Radical leaders advocated using blacks as soldiers in the Continental Army, and James Madison, chairman of the Virginia Committee of Safety, advocated that blacks be freed and enlisted, but planters, landlords, and merchants objected. At the suggestion of John Rutledge, a South Carolina delegate, the Continental Congress banned black enlistment in October 1775. The Council of Generals of the U.S. Army adopted a similar decision until on November 12, Washington issued an order on the army. Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia, organized a regiment of black slaves, and in his November proclamation, promised freedom to those who would fight in the British Royal Army against the American rebels. Blacks presented themselves confidently to British units.
At the end of 1775, Washington announced that he approved of officers recruiting free blacks. In a resolution of January 16, 1776, Congress ratified the resolution, but only with the reservation that free blacks who had served faithfully in the army at Cambridge could be enlisted, but not others.
In New York, any citizen was called to arms, with the right to bring a replacement, either black or white, who was fit for combat, and eventually, black conscription was allowed without restriction. Masachusetts and Rhode Island approved by law the enlistment of blacks in 1778. In 1779, black conscription was also allowed in North Carolina. In 1780, Maryland adopted the same measure. Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia banned black conscription. It was not until March 1779, when the US military situation was disastrous, that Congress passed a resolution asking Georgia and South Carolina to allow the conscription of 3,000 Negroes, promising to pay the owners $1,000 for each Negro freed, but both states refused. Blacks from the 13 states fought in the ranks of the American army and navy in partisan detachments. Entire units were made up of blacks with white officers. In states where conscription was banned, slaves who wanted to join detachments were imprisoned. The flight from the plantations took on mass proportions. Thomas Jefferson claimed that 30,000 blacks fled Virginia in 1778, many dying, others enslaved in Florida, West Indies.
Thomas Jefferson”s draft of the Declaration of Independence included an open and forceful condemnation of slavery. As the union of the states was shaky, under pressure from Georgia and South Carolina, the slavery language was removed and the anti-slavery delegates were forced to concede. The first American Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, leaves the slavery issue unresolved. But the revolution paved the way for freedom for the serfs. In 1778, Pennsylvania voted to give money to masters whose servants enlisted. Servants enlisted with or without their masters” consent. Associations were formed in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland to protect the interests of newly arrived servants on the American continent.
Eventually, after the revolution, the system of debt imprisonment was abolished, and industrialization and increased demand for free labor contributed to the decline and disappearance of the indentured servant system.
Conditions for soldiers in war were terrible. Poor quality uniforms were produced, the food was bad, and corruption was rampant. Trade with the enemy was practised on a large scale, and in the winter of 1777, Washington”s soldiers starved and froze to death at Valley Forge while profiteers refused to take Congressional coin and sold food to British armies.
In November 1776, Congress passed a law introducing maximum prices for food and certain products, but it was not enforced. A bushel of wheat sold for 7 shillings in 1777, rising to $80 in 1779. Between 1775 and 1779, Congress issued $191 million worth of paper money. The states did not collect the taxes and duties they had undertaken to pay to Congress and so the paper money could not be redeemed and withdrawn from circulation. By 1779, the states had paid Congress only $3 million. Along with the paper money issued by Congress, paper money issued by each state also circulated. In January 1779, the exchange rate was $1 silver for $8 paper, in May-1:24, and in November-1:38. In the spring of 1780, the Continental Congress suspended payments, and in March, it was decided that the states would levy taxes to redeem paper money in circulation at the rate of $1 silver for $40 paper.
About $120 million was withdrawn, with another $71 million remaining in circulation, bought by speculators at a rate of 1:1000 in the hope that Congress would redeem them, as the States withdrew their own paper currency from circulation after 1789. Inflation encouraged speculation and big business, hitting farmers, workers, small merchants and artisans in droves. The price of labour was fixed, with products becoming more expensive by the day and wages frozen. Big merchants were raising the prices of goods offered for sale in the currency trances, anticipating their depreciation. Small farmers, craftsmen and merchants were forced to take out loans by rising prices.
When inflation became acute, creditors were assured by law that debts would be paid at the existing silver equivalent. Speculators, big merchants, businessmen invested their paper money profits in land, houses, industry and non-perishable goods, mortgages, treasury bills. MSEs rose up against speculators in stocks in 1777 in the towns of Boston and Beverly, East Haven and elsewhere, groups of women raiding the warehouses of speculating merchants and dividing up goods and merchandise. Strikes broke out due to higher prices, numerous demonstrations and rallies.
Lord Sandwich, the first Lord of the Admiralty, spoke in the House of Lords, defending repressive policy, declaring even before Lexington and Bunker Hill, that Americans were unwise, undisciplined and cowardly, underestimating them. Lord George Germanin, the Colonial Secretary in charge of military operations in America, learned from the early clashes between the Americans and the British.He sent well-equipped and trained regiments overseas, overestimating the numbers of loyalists and downplaying the possibilities of revolutionaries.
The plan was based on the idea that in the south, loyalists needed British troops to overthrow the rebel leadership and take control. General Henry Clinton, leading three thousand troops, and Sir Peter Parker, commanding a naval expedition of 11 warships, were ordered in 1776 to occupy South and North Carolina in cooperation with Loyalist units.
Former North Carolina Governor Josiah Martin released a manifesto calling on loyalists to stand up to the revolutionary regime. In February, 2,000 loyalists gathered at Cross Creek under the command of Brigadier General Donald McDonald. Two thousand American soldiers reported to General James Moore, commander of the 1st North Carolina Regiment. Moore sent half his force to meet the Loyalists advancing on Wilmington.
On February 22, 1776, the Loyalists allowed themselves to be drawn into the ambush set up by Moore”s soldiers at Moore”s Creek. 30 of them were killed. The next day, General McDonald surrendered with the 850 Loyalists, the others scattered. Following the occupation of Charleston, British land and naval forces arrived in Charleston on June 4. Washington realized the British interest in the South and appointed Major General Charles Lee, commander of the Southern Front, which included Virginia, Carolineel and Georgia, as his second in command. Lee arrived two days after the British at Charleston with 1900 troops, increasing the strength of the city”s defenders to 6600. Fort Sullivan, located on Sullivan”s Island, pierced the entrance to the harbor. Clinton landed most of his forces on nearby Long Island. Lacking small boats to cross the channel separating Long Island from Sullivan”s Island, however, he was unable to improvise pontoons and land on Sullivan”s Island, so he had to leave the royal fleet the honor of forcing his way into Charleston Harbor. Parker readied naval forces, and on June 28, while Clinton”s troops were trying to cross the channel for diversion, Parker sent three smaller ships to bombard the fort from the west while the others bombarded from the south. The fort”s towers, defended by Colonel William Moultrie, responded to this intensive bombardment . It had only 30 cannonballs for each gun, but fortunately for the Americans, two of the three small ships, seeking to get as close as possible, collided. The assault by Clinton”s British troops was repulsed.
On January 1, 1776, George Washington ordered a flag to be raised at army headquarters in Cambridge. The flag had 13 horizontal white stripes alternating with 13 red stripes. Congress ordered him to hasten the siege of Boston. Washington sent for the heavy guns captured at Fort Ticonderoga. Colonel Henry Knox, a bookseller by trade, brought 59 guns. As the batteries were being deployed, the British decided to withdraw from Boston. General Howe promised a Boston delegation that he would not burn the city unless the Americans attacked his troops. The belligerents kept hostilities to a minimum. On the night of March 17, the last British soldier was embarked. Howe evacuated Boston, planning to occupy New York, which had the best harbor on the Atlantic coast, was the leading center of Loyalism, and held control of the Hudson-Champlain River to Canada.
Awaiting reinforcements from England, Howe landed at Halifax in Nova Scotia and occupied State Island. Washington, convinced that Howe had left for New York, left five regiments in Boston under Artemius Ward and headed out on a forced march to defend the city.
British ships brought reinforcements and supplies during the spring. In August, Howe commands 32,000 troops, 9,000 of whom are German mercenaries. Admiral Lord Richard Howe, the general”s elder brother, arrived from England with a war fleet: ten ships of the line and 20 frigates, several hundred transport ships and 10,000 sailors. Britain”s largest expeditionary force was ready to attack. Lord William Tryon, the former royal governor of New York, holed up on a ship, was secretly corresponding with loyalists in the city to prepare a plot. David Matthews, the city”s mayor, organized a Loyalist rebellion that was to break out with the British attack. Washington and the other generals were to be assassinated, and Continental Army soldiers, including Thomas Hickey of Washington”s personal guard, were involved in the plot.
But the plot was discovered in time. Washington held command of 20,000 troops, reorganising the army into five divisions. Despite severe punishments, he still had problems maintaining discipline, desertions, drunkenness and beatings. On August 22-25, Howe attacked in force, attempting to land 20,000 troops on Long Island, and with the support of the fleet, was to occupy the Brooklyn Hills, where Washington had concentrated much of his troops. He realised he would not hold out, so he withdrew his forces from the hills on the night of 29 August. Some of Washington”s generals, led by Nathanael Greene, suggested evacuating and burning the city. The Continental Congress advised the commander in chief to do no damage. On September 12, Washington decided to retreat from the city to the north side of Manhattan Island. Howe landed on the south side of the island, threatening to encircle American units. Clashes ensued, through which the Americans fought bravely managing to join the bulk of the forces. But New York was occupied by Howe on September 15.
Washington fortified itself in the Harlem Hills with Fort Washington and Fort Lee on either side of the Hudson. He could not repel the British fleet”s entry into the Hudson. He left 3,000 troops at Fort Washington and 4,500 at Fort Lee under N. Greene and withdrew to White Plains on 23-26 October.
Having been pursued, Washington broke off from the British frontal attacks and continued to retreat on the night of October 31 to the heights of North Castle, leaving General Lee with half his force and General William Heath with 2,000 troops at Peekskill to guard Hudson, leading the rest of Lee”s forces.
Arriving on November 13, he conferred with Greene and the other officers about withdrawing the garrison across the river from Fort Washington. Greene insisted on taking his time, but Washington was wavering. On November 16, Howe surrounded the fort with British forces, and Colonel Robert Magow, commander of the fort, surrendered with the entire garrison.
On the night of 19-20 November, British forces crossed the Hudson under General Cornwallis. Washington, suspecting that Howe intended to conquer part of New Jersey and occupy Philadelphia, asked Congress and the New Jersey leadership for reinforcements. He wrote to Lee to withdraw from North Castle and join him toward New Brunswick.
Arriving there on November 28, 2000 soldiers from Maryland and New Jersey left it after the enlistment deadline expired. He had only 3400 troops and Lee had not arrived, he was convinced that Washington was going to be replaced by Congress due to mistakes, defeats and retreats and that he would be named as his successor, being a career officer with a high reputation in European and American operations. Pressured by the British, Washington destroyed the bridge across the Raritan River, retreated from New Brunswick to Trenton, a town on the Delaware River. Washington, preparing to evacuate the soldiers, ordered all boats on the river to be assembled and sent word to Lee to hurry. Pursued by the enemy, Washington, protected by the fire of his artillery, crossed the Delaware on the morning of December 8, under British observation. In Pennsylvania he received reinforcements of 2,000 militia from the surrounding area, with 5,000 soldiers with him. Lee crossed the Hudson with 4000 troops, but at a slow pace. On the evening of December 12, he set up camp near Morristown, leaving the troops under the command of General John Sullivan, accompanied by a small guard, spending the night at the saloon. He was captured by a detachment of British cavalry, and Sullivan quickly marched to join Washington and on December 20 arrived at Washington”s camp with 2,000 troops.
The Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia on December 12, expressed regret and lack of hope that Washington would ever defeat British troops again. Washington told them on 17 December that the policy of short-term enlistments was not effective. Thomas Paine, a soldier in the Continental Army, wrote the first issue of The American Crisis, a periodical that appeared in thirteen issues. The first issue was even read to soldiers on each side at Washington”s behest to make them aware that the fighting would be difficult and protracted. Howe, noticing that American resistance seemed to be crumbling, decided to station his army in winter quarters to delay the coup de grace until spring. The delay gave Washington the opportunity to defeat the British forces with a bold manoeuvre. On Christmas night, Washington crossed the Delaware and made a surprise attack on the Hessian garrison at Trenton. He took over 900 prisoners, a large quantity of ammunition, guns and cannons, food and equipment, and returned on December 26 to his camp. The exhausted soldiers after a 45km march in cold weather tasted victory after months of suffering and defeat.
Howe sent General Cornwallis with 8,000 troops to restore the situation on the Delaware, but Washington, leaving his men exhausted and sick, crossed the Delaware on December 29 and reoccupied Trenton. On December 30-31, Washington personally visited each regiment and appealed to the soldiers to re-enlist. Many agreed to stay another six weeks, with a new contingent of Philadelphia militia replacing those who left.
On January 3, 1777, Washington scored another victory against Cornwallis” forces at Princeton, taking 200 prisoners. Princeton was reoccupied by the Americans, and Washington headed for the town of Morristown, overlooking the central New Jersey plain between New York and Philadelphia, establishing his winter quarters. With an inferior army he forced Howe and his forces to abandon western and central New Jersey.
In the summer of 1775, while Congress believed that the break with London could be avoided, one of Vergennes” secret agents, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, concluded in London that the break-up of the British Empire was inevitable.
The secret agent, Pierre Caron de Beamarchais, political adventurer, playwright, convinced Vergennes that France should support the Americans in secret. Vergennes sent a secret agent, Achard de Bonvouloir, to Philadelphia to find out if the colonies wanted independence and to pledge France”s goodwill. Arriving in Philadelphia in December 1776, Bonvouloir contacted Benjamin Franklin with the Congressional Committee on Secret Correspondence, and was able to conclude that America”s main goal was to gain independence. Vergennes agreed with Spain to offer a million pounds each to supply ammunition and armaments to the Americans. Beaumarchais received the French million and launched the fictitious firm of Rodrigue Hortalez & Company to trade with America.
In March 1776, Congress mandated Silas Deane to represent Congress in France. In September, Congress appoints Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to negotiate treaties with European powers alongside Silas Deane to counter a £2 million loan. Jefferson declined his appointment and Arthur Lee, who was in Europe, was chosen in his place.
Washington”s army was based at Morristown and numbered only 1,000 Continentals and 1,000 militiamen. Equipped, fed and armed, they maintained the appearance of an army, though desertions outnumbered enlistments. Congress promised each recruit a $20 bonus and a 100-acre lot at the end of his military service. By May, Washington”s army numbers 9,000 well-equipped Continentals. More equipment was being produced, and the army was capturing British ships through privateers and the Continental fleet . In March 1777, two French ships arrived, bringing 20,000 muskets, large quantities of ammunition, gunpowder and equipment.
Washington has faced difficulties with volunteers hired in France by Silas Deane. Deane had hired all the bidders, promising them higher ranks and higher pay. Some joined the revolutionary army, others were rogue adventurers. Few had any military knowledge. But the generals or colonels proved to be uninterested and incompetent in fulfilling the obligations they had undertaken. Meanwhile, Howe planned to attack Philadelphia with 11,000 troops to force Washington to defend the capital, concluding that in an open battle, disciplined and trained armies would destroy the revolutionary army. He left strong garrisons in New York City and Rhode Island and planned to transport his troops to Philadelphia by water, along the coast, to the head of the Chesapeake Bay, and from there by land. General John Burgoyn presented his plan that was approved: he would lead the Army of Canada in two columns, one in the Champlain-Hudson Valley area toward Albany and the other in the Champlain-Oswego area, also toward Albany, reckoning that he would make the junction with Howe in the Hudson-Delaware region. New England was to be cut off from the other colonies as British troops dispersed the revolutionary troops.
In the spring of 1777, two British expeditions sent by Howe captured the American depots at Peckskill in New York and Danbury in Connecticut. In July, Howe embarked his troops at New York, an armada of 245 transport ships, escorted by 16 warships under the command of Admiral Lord Howe. Washington followed the path of the British fleet and moved his troops. While in Philadelphia to settle administrative affairs, he met a French nobleman, the Marquis de La Fayette, Marie-Jospeh Paul-Roch Yves Gilbert, senior du Motier, Baron de Vissac, senior de Saint Romain, who had secretly bought a ship which he renamed “Victoria”, and accompanied by several officers, landed in June 1777 in North Carolina. He was received at Philadelphia, was appointed major-general, and Washington took him to his quarters. He presented his artillery units to La Fayete. Seeing the pitiful state of the army, he set about training them. Howe landed on August 25th, 50 miles from Philadelphia. Washington tried to stop the British advance at Brandywine Creek on September 11, but was forced to retreat, losing 1,000 troops. Congress left Philadelphia, and met at Lancaster and Yorktown. Howe entered Philadelphia on September 25. Thanks to his spy network, Washington knew the area of Germantown where the main British forces were concentrated. He made a surprise attack on Howe”s army, but the Americans suffered heavy casualties, some 1,100 dead, wounded and missing. Howe fortified Philadelphia and provided a clear line of communication with Lord Howe”s fleet. But the main objective had not been achieved.
Burgoyne led an expedition of 7500 soldiers, 250 French and Tory Canadians, 400 Indians, 42 artillery pieces, a small flotilla, setting out from near Montreal in June 1777. Another unit of 1800 Loyalist British and Indians was heading for Oswego on Lake Ontario. A huge convoy of baggage and hundreds of women and children accompanied the expedition. The first objective was Fort Ticonderoga. Not far from the fort a fortress was being built, enlarged and fortified by Colonel Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish volunteer engineer, future hero of the struggle for Polish independence. The American forces at Ticonderoga, commanded by General Arthur de St. Clair, numbered nearly 3500 ill-equipped, ill-armed and exhausted by disease.
The British occupied the Wall on 5 July, an important strategic position that made the fort undefended. The Americans withdrew during the night, abandoning the depots. Burgoyne continued his advance, but slowly because of the wooded terrain and obstacles erected by the Americans. General Horatio Gates, commander of American forces in the northern region, following Washington”s principle, avoided fighting regular British troops, waiting for circumstances to be advantageous.
In August, Burgoyne, alarmed at his dwindling food supplies, sent a corps of 700 soldiers to gain control of the American depots at Bennington. The town was defended by 2,000 Americans, most of them newly recruited militiamen under John Stark. The British were defeated or taken prisoner, and reinforcements sent by Burgoyne were repulsed, losing 200 soldiers. Bennington represented an American victory. British troops were advancing towards Oswego, attacked by American militia units, and forced to retreat towards Montreal. Burgoyne crossed the Hudson determined to attack Kosciuszko”s fortified positions at Bemis Heights, where General Horatio Gates concentrated the bulk of his 7,000-strong force. On 19 September, Burgoyne attacked west in a complicated manoeuvre to occupy the heights, but was repulsed by Freeman”s Farm, the British losing 600 soldiers and the Americans-300.
General Clinton, the British commander in New York, called to Burgoyne”s aid, marched down the Hudson, occupying Forts Clinton and Montgomery on October 6. He ordered the flotilla to burn the Esopus town of Kingston and withdraw on October 16. He returned to New York.
Burgoyne had only two weeks” food supplies left, and on October 3, rations were reduced to one-third. On October 7, an attack at Bemis Heights cost 600 soldiers wounded or captured. Burgoyne headed for Saratoga. On October 12 he called a council of war, his army surrounded from three sides, his ships captured. General Friedrich von Riedesel proposed abandoning the convoy of baggage and artillery and setting out for Fort Edward and Lake George. Six days” rations were distributed and preparations began for the march. But Burgoyne hesitated at the last moment, countermanding the order. The next day, American General John Stark with 1100 militiamen and an artillery battery guarded the single clearway. With his officers unanimous, Burgoyne began negotiations. After two days of negotiations, Gates and Burgoyne concluded the surrender treaty, which provided for the British to return to England free. Congress repudiated the convention. British soldiers were held captive near Boston for a year, transferred elsewhere. Some deserted, others integrated into the American population. On 17 October, Burgoyne”s army, 5,700 soldiers and several generals laid down their arms. 37 guns, 5000 small arms and a quantity of ammunition and equipment were captured. The humiliating victory at Saratoga tipped the scales in favour of the Americans. France”s intervention in the war in America turned the local revolution into a world war.
Vergennes proposed a new defensive and offensive alliance to Spain in July 1777. Count Floridablanca feared that an independent American nation with a republican system could pose a danger to the Spanish empire. Charles III and his minister, Floridablanca, drew up plans for the conquest of Portugal. They turned down France”s proposal. With or without Spain, France was to avenge its humiliating defeat in the Seven Years” War with England.
Large quantities of munitions and goods were loaded at French ports for America by Beaumarchais”s company or by French merchants doing business with American representatives in Paris. American ships used French ports and American privateers to unload their booty. Benjamin Franklin became America”s ambassador to the French people in anticipation of his recognition at court. He took charge of the American mission in France and his residence at Passy became the headquarters of the representative office. Franklin and Vergennes consulted in secret. English spies watched them, providing information to Viscount Stormont, the British ambassador at Versailles, for the protests he was making to the French government. Franklin lost no opportunity to win public opinion to the American cause, and his pamphlets, articles and lectures, as well as his presence, brought America many friends and influence.
In December 1777, Paris learned of Burgoyne”s surrender. Vergennes reckoned that England would offer the Americans concessions to make peace and France had to act quickly. Paul Wentworth, head of the British intelligence network in France informed Silas Deane that England was ready to offer generous peace proposals. Two days later, Vergennes promised formal US recognition. On February 6, 1778, the Franco-American treaties were signed. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce provided for formal recognition of the United States by France and agreement by both nations to encourage mutual trade. The treaty of alliance provided that both states would be loyal to each other and would not lay down their arms until independence was formally or tacitly secured. Neither power could conclude treaties without the consent of the other. France gave up any claim to North America, giving the US freedom to occupy these territories. The US agreed that France could occupy the British islands in the West Indies. On 13 March 1778, the French ambassador to London informed the British government of the conclusion of the treaties. The ambassadors were recalled. France declared war on England, and military operations were to begin within months. On 28 March 1778, Louis XVI officially received Franklin, Deane and Lee. In the British Parliament, Charles James Fox, the Duke of Richmond and Rockingham”s group stepped up their attacks, urgently demanding recognition of American independence and to avoid war with France. North would not acknowledge the danger of war with France. Parliament withdrew the laws contested by the Americans and authorised the sending of a commission to negotiate with America. The commission, made up of the Earl of Carlisle, William Eden, George Johnstone and endowed with funds to bribe the Americans, was instructed to negotiate with Congress. General Howe, the commander-in-chief, was recalled and replaced by General Henry Clinton who was required to abandon Philadelphia and New York to ravage the New England coast and send an expedition to Georgia to prepare an attack on the island of St. Lucia in the French West Indies. The Negotiating Committee asked Congress to begin negotiations, and Congress responded on June 17 that it would not negotiate until independence was recognized and British troops withdrew. Congress ratified the pacts with France and in August 1778 refused to negotiate further with the British commission.
Spain made a secret treaty with England, offering neutrality in exchange for Gibraltar and Menorca, but England refused. Floridablanca obtained Vergennes” support to regain Gibraltar, agreeing in 1779 to sign the secret Franco-Spanish Convention of Aranjuez. Spain declared war on England, but refused to recognise US independence. Following the formation of the Armed Neutrality League which included Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Prussia, Austria, Portugal, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, England was diplomatically isolated which indirectly helped the American cause. Meanwhile, on 20 December 1780, England declared war on Holland.
Washington”s army was stationed at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778, experiencing suffering, famine, cold and disease. Medical care was nonexistent. Washington was constantly in the midst of his soldiers, enduring hardships with them, facing the intrigues of generals, the bickering of politicians, the unfair accusations of strategists . Out of 11 000 soldiers, 3000 died of hunger and disease and 2000 deserted. Washington received support from the volunteer Friedrich Wilhelmvon Steuben, a career officer appointed lieutenant general by Congress, who adopted European training regulations adapted to American conditions and worked intensively and efficiently to train the troops.
And once Nathaniel Greene was appointed to head the army, he brought food, ammunition, and weapons in increased quantities, and the numbers increased. Clinton took command of the British army in May 1778 and began preparations for retreat from Philadelphia, sending some of the troops to New York by water and marching the bulk of the army through New Jersey. Washington followed close behind. At Monmouth Courthouse on June 28, Washington ordered an assault on the British airfield. American forces commanded by General Charles Lee, who was released after a prisoner exchange, were saved from disaster by Washington”s intervention. Losses were even, with 800 soldiers killed. Lee, court-martialed for incompetence, was found guilty and stripped of his command.
The Battle of Monmouth was the last great battle of the Northern War. The military effort was limited to raids to the frontier and landings on the coast. The main theatre of the war moved south in 1778. The participation of France and Spain brought the Americans much-needed naval forces, and most American states set up ships to defend their coasts, and Congress initiated the creation of the fleet and the naval war corps. But American battleships could not stand up to Howe”s fleet, and the Americans had no ships in line. With the help of the states, privateers turned to piracy. Raiders raided waters in the West Indies, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Europe, and around the British Isles, capturing 342 British ships and 464 in 1777. The British lost a total of 2,000 ships loaded with goods and produce worth £18 million, with 12,000 sailors captured.
In September 1779, a battle took place between the American ship ”Poor Richard”, commanded by John Paul Jones, and the British frigate ”Serapis” with 44 guns escorting a fleet of 39 Baltic merchant ships with the Countess of Scarborough (22 guns). The Sarmarn Richard, which had only 42 guns, accompanied by another French ship “Pallas”, attacked the British fleet. The first exchange of fire was in favour of Serapis.But an American cannonball caused an explosion on Serapis, and when the main mast fell, the frigate surrendered. The poor Richard was on fire, Jones transferred his crew of 237 to the Serapis and brought the frigate into a Dutch port. During the battle between Richard and Serapis, Pallas forced the Countess of Scarborough to surrender. A French squadron of 12 ships of the line and 5 frigates under Count Had d” Estaing arrived in July 1778 in Delaware Bay and cooperated with Washington in blockading New York and the Rhode Island coast.
In 1779, French and Spanish squadrons turned their main attack on the British West Indies, forcing English naval forces to disperse in order to defend the islands. In the autumn of 1778, the British decided to occupy Georgia, a more isolated and less populated state. The Creeks and Cherokee tribes along the border were sympathetic to the British. British troops under General Prevost attempted to occupy Savanna in December 1778. After a month, they captured Augusta. Attacks by Americans led by General Benjamin Lincoln in March 1779, Georgia was completely recaptured by the British. Admiral d” Estaing returned in the fall of 1779 to the American coast and cooperated with General Lincoln in the siege of Savannah in September. The siege was prolonged, and at the request of the French, the assault began on October 9. Rejected with heavy losses, d”Estaing being wounded and Polish volunteer Casimir Pulaki killed, losing 800 soldiers, they were forced to retreat. d”Estaing”s fleet headed for France. General Clinton evacuated Rhode Island, withdrawing 8,000 troops from New York as well, concentrating his forces in the south in September 1779. The main objective was Charleston. Washington”s army, having winter quarters at Morristown, suffered hardship and privation. Food rations were reduced to an optimum. Hunger and misery drove some soldiers to despair. On May 25, two Connecticut regiments rose up and begged for food and pay for their soldiers, gun in hand. The rebellion was put down, a few officers managing to persuade them.
Clinton arrived on the Carolina coast in February 1780 to begin preparations for the siege of Charleston, with 14,000 troops to attack the city. On May 12, after a four-month siege with only 255 killed and wounded, he occupied Charleston, taking 5400 prisoners. The loss of Charleston and the entire garrison was to be a heavy blow to the Americans.
Clinton was determined to return to New York because he had been notified of the arrival of a French fleet and armies commanded by Admiral de Ternay and the Count de Rochambeau. Clinton left Lord Cornwallis with 8,000 troops in South Carolina. Revolutionary detachments under Francis Marion, Thomas Sumter and Andew Pickens went on to large-scale guerrilla operations against British and Loyalist troops. Congress commissioned General Gates to lead the army south to restore order. Gates” forces attacked Cornwallis” forces at Camden on August 16, 1780. But disaster struck, with the Americans losing 800 soldiers plus casualties, including Baron Kalb and over 1,000 prisoners, and the British only 300 dead and wounded. Gates was replaced by Nathaniel Green at Washington”s request. Following the American defeat, the 1100-strong regiment of Loyalists and British marched as far as King”s Mountain on the border between the Carolinas, destroying a detachment of guerrilla fighters led by Colonels Issac Shelby and William Campbell on October 7, 1780. Cornwallis retreated to South Carolina. General Benedict Arnold was discovered to have betrayed Clinton and turned over the plans for the fort at West Point.Arnold fled and was appointed a brigadier general in the British army, leading British incursions into Virginia and Connecticut.
In 1781, the American army was in a sorry state, with pay costing mere scraps of paper due to the depreciation of the currency issued by Congress. The explosion of discontent erupted on January 2, 1781, when six Pennsylvania regiments under General Wayne marched from Morristown to Philadelphia to complain to Congress. Officers tried to stop them, two of whom were killed, others wounded. In the way of the regiments, a committee came out at Princeton to take cognizance of the soldiers” demands. Congress promised to meet the demands and agreed to release the soldiers who had opted for three years of war. Many re-enlisted, and even arrested two British agents who came to corrupt them. On January 20, three New Jersey regiments mutinied at Pompton and Suffern. Fearing the spread of the rebellion, Washington sent forces to suppress the revolt, and its leaders were put on trial, two of whom were executed.
Nathaniel Greene took command of the American armies in the South in December 1780 and knew that he would not face Cornwallis in open battle.He took the offensive and tasked his soldiers to harass Cornwallis” flanks and communications. Cornwallis won the battles of Cowpens and Guilford Corthouse in January-March 1781, but lost many soldiers. Cornwallis, unable to stay in North Carolina, headed for Virginia, to the Yorktown Peninsula.
Leaving Cornwallis in the charge of Virginia guerrilla detachments, Greene attacked British and Loyalist forces in South Carolina and Georgia. He was repulsed again at Hobkirk”s Hill on April 25. Greene, with the support of guerrilla detachments, pushed back British outposts so that by the late summer of 1781, the British held only Charleston and Savannah.
General Clinton, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, reckoning that American-French forces would assault New York, prepared to repel the attack. Washington accompanied by Rochambeau prepared the assault on New York, a combined land and sea operation, counting on the cooperation of the 20-ship French fleet commanded by Admiral Grasse. Watching operations in the south, Rochambeau realized that an attack against British forces in Virginia might have a good chance of victory. He persuaded Washington to change his objective.
Grasse”s fleet arrived in the Chesapeake Bay, bringing 3,000 French soldiers from the West Indies. The next day, Washington planned for battle, and on August 21, leaving 10 regiments on the Hudson, headed for Virginia, joining French forces at Newport. The troops, carried by Grasse”s fleet, landed and took up positions on the land off Yorktown. They were joined by 1,200 troops under La Fayette, who were sent to Richmond to support the guerrilla detachments in Virginia.
On 20 September, Allied forces had over 18,000 troops, of whom 9500 were Americans, including 3200 militiamen. Cornwallis was surrounded on land by vastly superior armed forces, and withdrawal to sea was doubtful because of the French fleet. Clinton received the desperate message from Cornwallis on 23 September. Throughout September and October, Clinton and his officers in New York planned various methods of rescuing Cornwallis. After much discussion and after receiving the naval fleet, Clinton, with 7,000 troops and the fleet led by Thomas Graves, set sail for Yorktown on 17 September to rescue Cornwallis. Cornwallis”s position on the York River could not be defended, and some of his soldiers were at Gloucester on the north bank of the river. Fortifications were weak, many soldiers were ill, and on 6 October, the Allied forces went on the attack. Cornwallis called for a 24-hour cessation of hostilities and the start of negotiations. On 19 October, Cornwallis and his soldiers laid down their arms. Clinton arrived in the Chesapeake Bay on October 24, where he heard of Cornwallis”s surrender. Being an unnecessary risk to advance, he turned back and landed at New York.
Washington asked Grasse to attack New York together, but the French admiral was expected in the Caribbean and left. Victory at Yorktown convinced the British government that they could not defeat the Americans. George III refused the inevitable. But with the British economy stretched to the limit and British soldiers exhausted, on 5 March 1782 Parliament passed a resolution calling for an end to the war and recognition of the independence of the rebellious colonies.
The North government resigned on 20 March. George III tried unsuccessfully to form a new coalition government to continue the war. He considered abdicating, but accepted a cabinet of opposition members only. Rockingham became prime minister and Clinton was replaced by Sir Guy Carleton who was instructed to avoid offensive action and surrender. He withdrew British forces from America, and Lord Shelburne, the new Secretary of State, was sent to Paris to begin peace negotiations.
In June 1781, the U.S. Congress elected a commission to negotiate peace: Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Henry Laurens, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. On 12 April 1782, Richard Oswald, the British representative, arrived in Paris, finding only Benjamin Franklin, while the others were in other European capitals, and negotiations began. On 23 June, Jay arrived and demanded recognition of independence before the peace treaties were concluded. On 26 October, John Adams also arrived. In the meantime, Rockingham died and the new prime minister commissioned Oswald and Henry Strachey to negotiate. Jay and Adams persuaded Franklin to proceed without France. In November 1782, the British and Americans met daily, discussing matters of debt, fisheries, and loyalists. On November 5 the draft treaty it on its way to London. The following provisions were issued: recognition of U.S. independence by England; boundaries running from the St. Croix River separating Maine from Nova Scotia, a line from Lake Superior to the Mississippi, separating Canada from the U.S., another line from the middle of the Mississippi south to the 31st parallel, forming the border with Spanish Louisiana, and the 31st parallel to St. John”s. St. Mary”s River the border with Spanish Florida; the U.S. gained the right to fish in the usual places of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia; all citizens” debts were valid; Congress was asked to recommend to the state legislatures to restore the Loyalists to their rights and property; hostilities would cease and British forces would be evacuated. On 30 November, the preliminary peace treaty between Britain and the USA was signed in Paris. On 20 January 1783, negotiations were held between England and France and Spain, leading to a general armistice. On 3 September 1783, the peace treaty was signed, and the peace treaty between England and America was signed.
After 1783, the US operated on the basis of the first constitution, although it was one that was criticised for being ineffective. It was seen as a weak nation with a central leadership lacking authority. As early as 1781, Alexander Hamilton criticised the constitution, calling for a federal government. The US faced various economic, social and political problems. Executive power was weak, maintained by an annually changing president, most famously Patrick Henry Lee. It faced serious financial problems, with the debt of the states increasing. Because of this, a Bank of the United States was formed in 1782, but it did not last long. A number of military officers were concerned about the predicament, disorder and lack of authority and so planned the Newburgh Conspiracy-a military coup. They wanted to establish an authoritarian government with Washington as its leader. Washington refused and stepped in to defuse this conspiracy, sanctioning and removing the officers.
In 1784-1786, Indian tribes in the Northwest signed a series of treaties, not knowing what was in them, ceding territory to the U.S. Congress. In the years that followed, there was debate about how to carry out the occupation. In July 1787, the Northwest Ordinance Act was passed establishing the procedure for organizing the non-vacant territories. Congress appointed the governor and magistrates of a specific territory-district. When the territory was populated by 5,000 adult males, a local parliament could be elected. When the population reached 60 000, the territory was admitted to the Union. The ordinance established the granting of fundamental rights to those settled there and prohibited slavery. The first state to undergo this procedure was Ohio in 1883. In 1786, at the initiative of Virginia, a meeting was convened in Annapolis, attended by representatives of five states to discuss trade relations. From the discussion of trade issues, it was clear that the political and economic system had to be rebuilt. A convention to debate the Articles of Confederation was convened in Philadelphia from May to September 1787, with George Washington as president.
The Constitution was put into force after being approved by nine states in 1789. It respected the separation of powers in the state, but it brought some solutions that were not envisaged in 1777:
Foreign policy was coordinated by the President and Congress. The president was commander-in-chief of the military, appointing commanders and ambassadors, concluding treaties that had to be ratified by the Senate by a majority of 2
The Electoral College unanimously elected George Washington president in 1789 and then in the 1792 election, Washington remains to this day the only president to take 100% of the electoral vote. John Adams was elected vice president. George Washington was sworn in as the first president under the U.S. Constitution on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York, although he did not initially want the office. The first United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year, a very large sum for 1789. Washington, already wealthy, refused the salary because he valued his image as a disinterested public servant. At the insistence of Congress, however, he eventually accepted the payment, to avoid a precedent in which the office of president would be perceived as accessible only to wealthy individuals who could afford to serve the country without a salary. Washington attended the pomp and ceremony of the post with great care, making sure that titles and dress were republican and never imitating European royal courts. By the end he preferred the appellation, Mr. President” to other pompous names that were suggested. Washington was not a member of any political party and hoped they would not form, believing they led to conflict and stagnation.
The US has not been involved in conflict for a while. They were on the side of the French Revolution by expressing a favourable attitude, especially as the Marquis de la Fayette was the commander of the National Guard in 1789 and had played an important role in the French Revolution. In 1793, following the escalation of the revolution and the establishment of the Terror regime, George Washington advocated keeping the US under neutrality. The issue of neutrals was not resolved positively during the War of Independence, as they were denied the right to trade with belligerent states. After the arrival of the French ambassador to the US, relations with France were called into question.
The French ambassador has launched a series of initiatives without regard to the wishes of the French or American governments, such as recruiting soldiers against Britain. Diplomatic relations between France and the US have deteriorated. After the Jacobins came to power, there was a real danger that the US would be drawn into a war against its will, even though its aim was to maintain peaceful relations with France and Spain. Relations with Britain were poor as they did not respect the evacuation of frontier positions with Canada, continuing to support the Indians and not evacuating fortifications. The Americans were in no hurry to comply either, that the compensation of loyalists. Neither France nor the US recognised US neutrality and trade law. The British fleet continued to search ships suspected of supplying materials to the enemy, even kidnapping and enlisting American sailors into the British navy. In 1794, Britain and the US conclude a commercial navigation treaty, which includes freedom of navigation on the Mississippi River and recognizes neutrality. Trade contacts and economic relations were resumed, and in 1795 a treaty was concluded with Spain containing provisions favourable to the Americans, allowing American merchants to trade on the Mississippi and in the port of New Orleans. The US sought to stay out of European conflicts, although the French could invoke treaties signed after the War of Independence. In a speech in 1796, Washington argued that Americans should not engage in European affairs, not enter into alliances with European powers that could lead the US into wars, and grind for isolationism. In 1796, John Adams was elected as president The Constitution of 1797 led to the emergence of two political orientations. To enlighten people to the benefits of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton wrote articles published in the volume “The Federalist” – a plea to the Constitution of 1797 in favor of organizing a centralized state according to his vision and creating a National Bank.
Two groups emerge: the Federalists (named after Hamilton”s work) and the Democratic-Republicans. The Federalists had large concentrations in the north, in the industrialized areas, and the Repulicans had concentrations in the newly settled south. The first state to be admitted to the union was Kentucky in 1792. John Adams was a Federalist, while his vice president-elect, Thomas Jefferson, was a staunch Republican. After 1793, following the outbreak of war between France and Britain, the US tried to preserve as much room for manoeuvre as possible to continue trade with both sides. Relations with France worsened and there was a risk of war. It was around this time that the XYZ affair manifested itself. To avoid war, a delegation was sent to Paris to negotiate. The French said they would facilitate the negotiations in return for a sum of money, and John Adams asked that the names of the French emissaries who had received bribes be nicknamed “XYZ”. Relations with France eventually calmed down.
In 1798, Congress passed a series of laws allowing the president to expel aliens deemed dangerous to the US and ban texts deemed threatening, which was applied to Republican journalists. The Naturalization Act was passed which placed limits on citizenship, as naturalized citizens were drawn to the Republican side. The Federalists were pro-British, representing business and industry, preferring a war with France. The Republicans, led by Thomas Jefferson, were pro-French and anti-British, representing the working population. In 1793, a mechanism was invented to facilitate cotton harvesting, and the cotton trade took off. John Adams concluded a foreign policy agreement with France in which the French accepted free trade for the unborn states and agreed to abrogate treaties signed after the War of Independence. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson is elected president. His term was marked by a turbulent period abroad. His great success was his purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon for $11 million in 1803 after he had recovered it in 1800 from the Spanish to gain the goodwill of the Americans. Napoleon would have wanted France to retake its position in the Caribbean and later retake Louisiana, but the situation became complicated after the outbreak of the revolution in Santo Domingo (which produced most of the sugar), initially divided between France and Spain, colonised with African slaves, slavery was reintroduced in 1802, which later, in 1804, fully retaken by the French, would declare independence, giving birth to Haiti. Jefferson still faced problems with the Franco-British War. The British controlled and seized American ships. Following Napoleon”s establishment of the Continental Blockade, the US and British trade were at a great impasse.
Jefferson tried unsuccessfully to resolve the situation. In 1807, Congress passed the Embargo Act until 1809, banning US trade with belligerent states, but the law hit the American economy hard. In 1809 a law was passed allowing trade with all powers except France and Britain. Trade could only resume if one of these powers lifted restrictions against American trade, so Americans resumed trade with both powers for 3 months. In 1810, Napoleon lifted restrictions on American trade, but Britain did not agree, escalating the conflict between the US and Britain. Because Britain was facing internal difficulties and the king was no longer able to rule due to mental problems, a regency was set up, and assassinations and political conflicts took place, with Britain”s own prime minister, Spencer Percival, falling victim. The British ambassador was weak, and so a new US-British war begins that turns the Indians against the Americans. In 1811 the Battle of Tippecanoe takes place in the Great Lakes area, effectively engaging 1000 Americans and 800 Indians. The Americans, led by William Harrison who proved to be a good military commander, achieve a victory against the Indians led by Chief Tecumseh who led a confederation of tribes, financed and equipped by the British.
In 1812, during James Madison”s term of office, the Second American War of Independence broke out after years of mocking American values. The Americans tried to conquer Canada again, and battles were also fought at sea. In 1813, the Americans were defeated in their attempt to conquer Canada. During a battle in the fall of 1813, Tecumseh died and the Indian confederacy disappeared. The Americans, however, gained control of Lake Erie in 1813, seized portions of western Ontario, thus destroying Tecumseh”s dream of an American Indian confederacy. In the Southwest, General Andrew Jackson humiliated the Creek Nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. With Napoleon”s defeat in 1814, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending three armies along with several patrols. Victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed the British to capture and burn Washington, D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repelled British invasions of New York City, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Peace negotiations begin in 1814, and in December the Peace Treaty of Ghent, Belgium, is signed, establishing principles of boundary delimitation.
But a new front opens in the South, where a battle is fought in January 1815 near the city of New Orleans, won by General Andrew Jackson. To put an end to Indian incursions, Federal troops occupied the two Floridas, with Spain unable to establish control. Under the treaty, West and East Florida were united, and Spain accepted the cession of these territories under the Adams-Onís Treaty (after George Quincey Adams, Secretary of State, and Luis de Onís y González-Vara, Spanish Foreign Minister). Spain was said to have sold Florida for $5 million. The treaty established a border with the kingdom of Mexico that emerged in 1822.
According to the Constitution, voting was censored and slavery was maintained. Local self-government was guaranteed, in the sense that state governments retained broad powers. Federal authority was recognised in foreign policy, defence, general interest legislation, currency. But the conquest of the “wild” West would absorb everyone”s energies and empower the new state. The only major unresolved problem (until 1863) would remain black slavery.
To this day, the democratic system adopted by the United States has been a model for most countries in the world.
- Revoluția Americană
- American Revolution
- ^ Cogliano (2000)
- On peut citer parmi tant d”autres le James Madison Memorial Building, le Jefferson Memorial ou encore le Washington Monument.
- a b c d Horst Dippel: Die Amerikanische Revolution 1763-1787. 1985, S. 18.
- „Für das amerikanische Selbstverständnis prägend geworden sind jene Puritaner, die als sogenannte Pilgerväter an Bord der Mayflower nach Amerika segelten und Ende 1620 bei Cape Cod im heutigen Massachusetts an Land gingen.“ (Horst Dippel: Geschichte Der USA. 9. Auflage. C.H. Beck, 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60166-8. )
- a b c Horst Dippel: Die Amerikanische Revolution 1763–1787. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1985, S. 27.
- Aptheker, 1960, с. 47.
- Miller, 1959.
- 1 2 Frost, 2003.