The following chronology is based on the Timeline of the Revolutionary War and other sources.
French & Indian War 1754-1763 (part of the European war called the Seven Years War) – English victory was at the cost of a large debt. “It was that debt that caused the escalation of tensions leading to the Revolutionary War.”
Proclamation of 1763 – King George III’s proclamation that closed off the frontier to colonial expansion, which was resented by the colonists, who felt penned in on the East coast.
Sugar Act of 1764 (The American Revenue Act) – An act of Parliament that reduced the rate of tax on molasses and added other taxes, while Lord Grenville took measures that the duty be strictly enforced. This disrupted the colonial economy by reducing the markets to which the colonies could sell, and the amount of currency available to them for the purchase of British manufactured goods.
Currency Act of 1764 – An act of Parliament that prohibited the issue of bills of credit, which made it more difficult for colonists to pay off their debts to Great Britain.
Stamp Act of 1765 – An act of Parliament that imposed many taxes to pay Great Britain’s debt for the French & Indian War. It was their first serious attempt to assert governmental authority over the colonies.
Quartering Act of 1765 – An act of Parliament that required colonial governments to provide and pay for feeding and sheltering any troops stationed in their colony.
Virginia Stamp Act Resolutions of 1765 – The Virginia House of Burgesses adopted four of Patrick Henry’s resolutions, which declared that Americans possessed the same rights as the English, especially the right to be taxed only by their own representatives; that Virginians should pay no taxes except those voted by the Virginia House of Burgesses; and that anyone supporting the right of the British Parliament to tax Virginians should be considered an enemy of the colony. Virginia Governor Fauquier did not approve of the resolutions, and he dissolved the House of Burgesses in response.
Stamp Act Congress of 1765 – A gathering in New York City of representatives from nine of the colonies. It was the first gathering of elected representatives from several of the American colonies to devise a unified protest against new British taxation. They issued a Declaration of Rights and Grievances.
Declaratory Act of 1766 – Alarmed by developments in the colonies, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act and passed the Declaratory Act, which asserted Parliament’s authority to pass laws that were binding on the American colonies “in all cases whatsoever.”
Townshend Revenue Acts of 1767 – Four acts of Parliament that imposed several new taxes, which reignited the colonial hostilities created by the Stamp Act.
Boston Non-Importation Agreement of 1768 – An agreement by Boston based merchants and traders not to import or export items to Britain as a protest of the Townshend Revenue Acts.
Boston Massacre of 1770 – A riot in Boston in which British troops killed 5 men who were protesting, which led to the Royal Governor evacuating British troops from Boston.
Gaspee Affair of 1772 – The Gaspee was a Royal Navy ship operated by an overzealous enforcer of British taxes, which was baited to run aground near Rhode Island and burned by the colonists.
Tea Act of 1773 – An act of Parliament to sell eighteen million pounds of unsold tea from the East India Company at a bargain price, which would have undercut the business of local merchants. It was considered an attempt to buy popular support for Britain.
Boston Tea Party of 1773 – Three ships carrying the East India Company tea entered Boston Harbor. At night, radical townspeople stormed the ships and tossed 342 chests of tea into the water. Disguised as Native Americans, the offenders could not be identified.
Intolerable Acts of 1774 (aka Coercive Acts) – To punish Boston for their Tea Party, Parliament passed a series of laws, including the Boston Port Act, to close Boston Harbor until payment was made for the destroyed tea.
First Continental Congress of 1774 – In response to the Intolerable Acts, representatives from twelve colonies (not Georgia) gathered in Philadelphia. They first considered a Plan of Union of Great Britain and the Colonies proposed by Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania, which failed by a narrow margin. The Declaration that passed outlined colonial objections to the Intolerable Acts, listed a colonial bill of rights, and provided a detailed list of grievances. Excerpt:
That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North-America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following RIGHTS:
Resolved, N. C. D. 1. That they are entitled to life, liberty, and property, and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever a right to dispose of either without their consent.
Resolved, N.C.D. 2. That our ancestors, who first settled these colonies, were at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural- born subjects, within the realm of England.
They also passed the Continental Association, which was a pact for nonimportation of English goods, to establish mechanisms throughout the colonies to enforce and regulate the resistance to Great Britain, and to keep the channels of communication open. It was to become effective on December 1, 1774, unless Parliament should rescind the Intolerable Acts.
Second Virginia Convention of 1775 – On March 23 Patrick Henry offered amendments to raise a militia independent of royal authority in terms that recognized that conflict with Britain was inevitable, sparking the opposition of moderates. He defended his amendments, concluding with the statement he is best known for:
If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
Battles of Lexington and Concord of 1775 – On the night of April 18, 1775, Joseph Warren told Revere and William Dawes to warn patriots that the king’s troops were about to embark in boats from Boston bound for Lexington and Concord. At Lexington the minutemen wanted to make a show of political and military determination, but not to prevent the march of the British Regulars. However, someone fired a shot and a skirmish ensued, with eight Lexington men killed, ten were wounded, and one Regular wounded.
The Regulars regrouped and moved on to Concord, where a battle took place with the minuteman. The patriots lost 49 men with 39 wounded and 5 missing, and the Regulars lost 73 with 174 wounded and 53 missing. The Regulars then retreated to Boston. The war had begun.
Second Continental Congress of 1775 – A convention of delegates from the thirteen colonies that started meeting in May of 1775 in Philadelphia. Similar to the First Continental Congress, notable new arrivals included Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock. Peyton Randolph was summoned back to Virginia, and replaced by Thomas Jefferson.
On June 14, 1775, the Congress voted to create the Continental Army out of the militia units around Boston and appointed George Washington of Virginia as commanding general. Meanwhile, on Jun 17th, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought, which the British won but with heavy causalities. The battle demonstrated that inexperienced militia were able to stand up to regular army troops in battle. On July 3rd Washington assumed command of the Continental Army.
On July 6, 1775, Congress approved a Declaration of Causes outlining the rationale and necessity for taking up arms. Other than a few radicals like John Adams, a majority of delegates were not seeking independence from Britain. On July 8, they approved the Olive Branch Petition to the British Crown as a final attempt at reconciliation.
King George III refused to receive this petition and instead declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion in August. He then ordered the hiring of Hessian mercenaries to bring the colonists under control. The delegates in Philadelphia were now wanted for treason.
Common Sense in 1776 – In January Thomas Paine published his book, which challenged the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy. The plain language that Paine used spoke to the common people of America and was the first work to openly ask for independence from Great Britain.
Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776 – Adopted unanimously by the Fifth Virginia Convention on June 12, it proclaimed the inherent rights of men. Excerpt:
Section 1. That all men are by nature equally free and independent and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.
Section 2. That all power is vested in, and consequently derived from, the people; that magistrates are their trustees and servants and at all times amenable to them.
Section 3. That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community; of all the various modes and forms of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration. And that, when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community has an indubitable, inalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.
First Virginia Constitution in 1776 – This was unanimously adopted on June 29 as the first constitution of the independent Commonwealth of Virginia. It contained a Bill of Rights with the following sections:
Section 1 – Equality and rights of men.
Section 2 – People the source of power.
Section 3 – Government instituted for common benefit.
Section 4 – No exclusive emoluments or privileges; offices not to be hereditary.
Section 5 – Separation of legislative, executive, and judicial departments; periodical elections.
Section 6 – Free elections; consent of governed.
Section 7 – Laws should not be suspended.
Section 8 – Criminal prosecutions.
Section 8-A – Rights of victims of crime.
Section 9 – Prohibition of excessive bail and fines, cruel and unusual punishment, suspension of habeas corpus, bills of attainder, and ex post facto laws.
Section 10 – General warrants of search or seizure prohibited.
Section 11 – Due process of law; obligation of contracts; taking or damaging of private property; prohibited discrimination; jury trial in civil cases.
Section 12 – Freedom of speech and of the press; right peaceably to assemble, and to petition.
Section 13 – Militia; standing armies; military subordinate to civil power.
Section 14 – Government should be uniform.
Section 15 – Qualities necessary to preservation of free government.
Section 15-A – Marriage.
Section 16 – Free exercise of religion; no establishment of religion.
Section 17 – Construction of the Bill of Rights.
Declaration of Independence of 1776 – On June 11 the Continental Congress appointed Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston to a committee to draft a declaration of independence. Jefferson, at the request of the committee, drafts a declaration, which the committee revised and delivered on June 28. On July 2 Congress declares independence as the British fleet and army arrive at New York. Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence on July 4.