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America: 1763-1776

Important Terms, People, and Events

Context

Timeline

Terms

Committees of Correspondence  -  Committees of Correspondence were organized by New England patriot leader Samuel Adams and made up a system of communication between patriot leaders in the towns of New England and eventually throughout the colonies. Committees of Correspondence provided the political organization necessary to unite the colonies in opposition to Parliament.
Declaratory Act  -  The Declaratory Act stated that Parliament could legislate for the colonies in all cases. Passed just after the repeal of the Stamp Act, most colonists interpreted the act as a face-saving mechanism and nothing more. However, Parliament continually interpreted the act to its broadest extent and continued to try to legislate in the colonies.
Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer  -  This series of twelve letters published by John Dickinson denounced the Townshend duties, demonstrating that many of the arguments employed against the Stamp Act were valid in regard to the Townshend duties as well. The letters inspired anti-parliament sentiment throughout the colonies.
Loyal Nine  -  The Loyal Nine was a group of Boston merchants and artisans that formed during the Stamp Act crisis to lead the public in attempts to drive the stamp distributors from the city. This was one of the first steps toward political organization in the colonies.
Quartering Act  -  The Quartering Act was enacted in 1765, requiring colonial assemblies to pay for certain supplies for troops stationed within their respective colonies. In 1767, New York, the colony in which the greatest number of troops were stationed, refused to comply with the law, provoking parliament to threaten the nullification of all laws passed by the New York colonial legislature.
Salutary Neglect  -  Salutary neglect refers to the state of Anglo-American relations before the end of the French and Indian War. British Parliament did not interfere in the government of the colonies, and America existed in relative political isolation.
Sons of Liberty  -  The Sons of Liberty were the successors of the Loyal Nine as the leaders of the opposition to the Stamp Act. They brought a new level of sophistication to the mass demonstrations, prohibiting their followers to carry weapons and using strict discipline and military formations to direct the protestors.
Stamp Act  -  The Stamp Act required Americans to buy special watermarked paper for newspapers and all legal documents. Violators faced juryless trials in vice-admiralty courts, just as under the Sugar Act. The Stamp Act provoked the first truly organized response to British impositions.
Sugar Act  -  The Sugar Act lowered the duty on foreign-produced molasses from six pence per gallon to 3 pence per gallon, in attempts to discourage smuggling. The act further stipulated that Americans could export many commodities, including lumber, iron, skins, and whalebone, to foreign countries, only if they passed through British ports first. The act also placed a heavy tax on formerly duty- free Madeira wine from Portugal. The terms of the act and its methods of enforcement outraged many colonists.
Townshend Duties  -  Parliament passed the Revenue Act of 1767 on July 2, 1767. Popularly referred to as the Townshend duties, the Revenue Act taxed glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea entering the colonies. The colonists objected to the fact that it was clearly designed more to raise revenue than to regulate trade in a manner favorable to the British Empire.
Virginia Resolves  -  In response to the Stamp Act, Patrick Henry persuaded the Virginia House of Burgesses to adopt several strongly worded resolutions that denied Parliament's right to tax the colonies. These resolutions were known as the Virginia Resolves, and persuaded many other colonial legislatures to adopt similar positions.
Virtual Representation  -  The concept of virtual representation was employed by Prime Minister George Grenville to explain why Parliament could legally tax the colonists even though the colonists could not elect any members of Parliament. The theory of virtual representation held that the members of Parliament did not only represent their specific geographical constituencies, but rather that they took into consideration the well being of all British subjects when deliberating on legislation.
Writs of Assistance  -  Writs of assistance were general search warrants, which allowed customs officers to search any building or ship they thought might contain smuggled goods, even without probable cause for suspicion. The colonists considered the writs to be a grave infringement upon personal liberties.

People

Samuel Adams  -  Samuel Adams played a key role in the defense of Colonial rights. He had been a leader of the Sons of Liberty, and suggested the formation of the committees of correspondence. Adams played a crucial role in spreading the principle of colonial rights throughout New England.
John Dickinson  -  An influential political leader from Pennsylvania, Dickinson published Letters From a Pennsylvania Farmer in response to the Townshend duties, and provoked much colonial response thereby.
Thomas Hutchinson  -  Hutchinson was a British official who played many roles in the years leading up to the American Revolution. He served as chief justice of the Massachusetts supreme court that heard James Otis' case against the writs of assistance; as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts during the Stamp Act crisis; and finally, as the royal governor. In 1773, Samuel Adams published a number of Hutchinson's letters, in which Hutchinson advocated "an abridgement of what are called British liberties," and "a great restraint of natural liberty" in the colonies.
King George III  -  The king of England during this period, King George III exercised a greater hand in the government of the nation than many of his predecessors had. Colonists were torn between loyalty to the king and resistance to acts carried out in his name.
Ebeneezer MacIntosh  -  MacIntosh, a shoemaker from the South End of Boston, was chosen by the Loyal Nine to lead the coalition of the North End and South End factions in Boston against the stamp distributor, Andrew Oliver. He oversaw the mob that drove Oliver out of town before he could collect stamp taxes.
James Otis  -  James Otis was an influential Bostonian heavily involved in the fight for colonial rights. Most notably, he argued the case against the writs of assistance in front of the Massachusetts supreme court. Though unsuccessful in his case, Otis succeeded in illuminating the core of the colonists' opposition to Parliamentary actions in the colonies.
Pontiac  -  Pontiac was an Ottawa Indian leader, who led a series of attacks against the British forts near the Great Lakes, eight of which he successfully sacked. He was a great proponent of driving the British out of Indian territory, fearing the British presence there would encourage the colonists to move west and overrun the tribal lands.
Charles Townshend  -  Townshend was the chancellor of the exchequer under Prime Minister William Pitt. However, when Pitt fell ill, Townshend took effective control of the government. His most notable action was the passage of the Revenue Act of 1767, popularly called the Townshend duties. The act enraged the colonists and provoked widespread resistance.
John Wilkes  -  Wilkes was a political dissident who had fled Britain to evade arrest. During the outcry against the Townshend duties, he returned to London to run for Parliament in 1768. He was elected, but denied his seat and jailed. A mass movement grew up in Britain and the colonies in support of Wilkes, and when he was finally released in 1770, he was hailed by one Boston celebration as "the illustrious martyr of liberty."

Events

Boston Massacre  -  On March 5, 1770, a crowd led by sailor Crispus Attucks formed to demonstrate against the customs agents. When a British officer tried to disperse the crowd, he and his men were bombarded with rocks and dared to shoot by the unruly mob. After being knocked to the ground, one soldier finally did shoot, and others followed. Five people were killed, including Attucks, who is often considered the first casualty of the Revolutionary War.
Massacre of St. George's Fields  -  After John Wilkes was denied his seat in Parliament, some 30,000 of his followers, known as Wilkesites, gathered on St. George's Fields, outside the prison where he was being held, to protest his arrest. When the protestors began throwing objects, soldiers fired into the crowd, killing eleven. The so- called Massacre of St. George's Fields emphasized the disagreement in Britain over colonial rights and spurred the movement that grew up in support of Wilkes' cause.
Stamp Act Congress  -  In response to the Stamp Act, and representing a new level of pan-colonial political organization, on October 7, 1765, representatives of nine colonial assemblies met in New York City at the Stamp Act Congress. The colonies agreed widely on the principles that Parliament could not tax anyone outside of Great Britain, and could not deny anyone a fair trial, both of which had been done in the American colonies.

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