A History of U.S. Revolutions

When one thinks of a revolution, they may think of a war. What does the word revolution really mean when speaking of conflict? A revolution is a radical or substantial change in the ways a group thinks and/or behaves. It can be a change in the way things are done, as in the industrial revolution. It can also be a political break or upheaval; sometimes it is a combination of these things. Although conflict should seldom be a first choice to solving a problem, it is sometimes necessary to promote change for the better. In the event of tyrannical leadership, starting a revolution to remove the unhealthy government from power can help promote political activity on the part of the layperson and actively involve the average person in their leadership and community.

In other situations, a leader might be out of touch with the people; not understanding or caring how their interests could damage the community as a whole. Such was the case of the king of England and the first people of the early American colonies. The colonists had tried to get their government to hear them, and while it cannot be honestly said what exact thing led to the Revolutionary war, one thing is sure; the people in America were tired of not being treated as equally as their counterparts living in Britain. America had turned into a sort of ATM machine for the British. The colonists were exploited and pressured to follow the lead of the English monarchy, it was inevitable that a war would follow. The people began to revolt, refusing to follow rulings and laws that they could not agree with. It wasn’t long until that defiance spread across the colonies.

Much of the early history in the United States speaks of war, revolution, and battles. The colonists were establishing a new land, a new country, freeing themselves from tyranny, and protecting their rights. They wanted to be self-governing and able to make their own laws, no longer under the thumb of British rule. But this was only one of the revolutions of the United States, many would follow and many changes would be made before the people could truly say that they were free, until they could establish themselves as an independent nation.

The French and Indian War

The American colonists and England went into a seven-year war against the French who were fighting along side of select North American Indian groups. Several battles had already been played out between the French and British, and both had started building forts. The French had Indian allies whom helped to win many of their battles for them, and the colonists and British soldiers had had enough. It began in 1754, George Washington, then a major, in the American army, was told to clear the French from Fort Duquesne. When he and his troops met up with some Frenchmen and killed or wounded 34, there was no turning back. In the end, the Indians were defeated and the French no longer controlled Canada. This war greatly influenced the future of the colonists. The war officially over in 1763.

Ohio History Central The French and Indian War history with related links and reading materials.

War For Empire Sections to tour sites, maps, listen to history, stories, interactive timeline and more!

Proclamation of 1763

After the French and Indian War, the colonies had a lot of new opportunities before them. For the first time, the west was open to them and they were excited about it. However, the royal proclamation of 1763 soon dashed the colonists' hopes. It basically declared the frontier off limits, as the king was trying to calm the Indians, who were worried about losing more land to the colonists, and with whom the king wanted to trade furs. The colonists felt that the proclamation was just another way to keep them trapped where they were and remain under the king’s control; which may have been true, as there were British royal posts set along the boundaries to keep them separate from the Indian nations. The colonists were also angry because they had to pay for the new posts as they had been told that they were for their own protection.

U.S. History The history of the Proclamation, plus the actual words of the proclamation of 1763.

William Matton The Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763.

Sugar Act

The Sugar and Molasses Act was about to expire, so in 1764, the Sugar Act was passed as a modified version. Under the original act, there was a lot of corruption and people fully, or partially, evaded paying the taxes due on foreign molasses. The Lord of treasury and Chancellor Lord Grenville wanted the colonies to pay the taxes required and put stronger forces behind making sure there were no loop-holes, although they lowered the tax from six to three pence. The problem was that now other items were also taxed, things like wine, coffee, pimento. Molasses was used to produce rum and production soon waned. Trade was also reduced with several other countries unwilling to pay the duties, so the economy slowed, there was less British money and the colonists had limited resources in which to sell. All of this left the colonists ready to revolt.

Voices of the Revolution The Sugar Act of 1764.

America's Homepage Lesson plans, educator’s resources, virtual tours and historic documents.

Stamp Act

The Revenue Act of 1764 was not bringing in enough money to pay for defending the colonies, so the British wanted to find another way to tax the people. The prime minister decided to impose a stamp tax, which was a varying tax on every document, or newspaper, that was used or printed in the colonies. Though the colonist leaders tried to protest, the tax was forced through anyway. This outraged the colonists and when Patrick Henry heard of it, he introduced a resolution and in June of 1765, a meeting of the representatives was called in New York. The resolution stated that taxes could only be imposed by representative legislatures and not in what was deemed an unconstitutional taxation. The stamp act brought the colonists together and they began to see that as a group, they had the power to change the law and stand up for themselves.

Colonial Williamsburg Teacher resources - A summary of the Stamp Act.

Travel & History The role of the Stamp Act in the history of the U.S.A.

Townshend Acts

In 1767, Charles Townshend became Chancellor of the Exchequer and took charge of the British Colonial government. He didn’t care about the rights of the colonists; his only concern was empowering the British parliament and it's officials. He put into affect laws imposing new taxes on imports, many new taxes; on things like tea, lead, paper and glass. He also made sure that governors, judges and colonial officials were paid directly from the British Crown, and suspended the NY legislature until they allowed British soldiers to be quartered.

The American Revolution The Townshend Acts - British legislation intended to raise revenue, tighten customs enforcement, and assert imperial authority in America.

Social Studies for Kids Definition, related terms, resources and links.

Boston Massacre

As soon as the British troops were stationed in colonies tensions began to rise, and Boston was no exception. In March of 1770, it finally came to a head, when the British sentries guarding the customs house, found themselves surrounded by sixty townspeople. The people yelled and threw snowballs at them until shots were heard and in the end, 5 of the colonists were dead and 6 others had been wounded by the gun shots. In court, John Adams defended the British and all were acquitted, but two. They were charged with manslaughter and were branded on their hands. As word of the attack spread, it was dubbed the “Boston Massacre.”

Boston Massacre Historical Society Includes pictures, the trial, and participants.

Archiving Early America A behind-the-scenes look at Paul Reveres most famous engraving of the Boston Massacre.

Committees of Correspondence

In order to coordinate against the British governments complete control, the Committees of Correspondence were established, after Dabney Carr suggested it to the House. The committee would correspond with leaders of the colonies. In 1772, this came to be and each group had representation for any colony. Such committees were not unheard of and had been used in a temporary fashion by many of the colonies before. In short, the committee would learn of all the acts and proceedings of the parliament or the ministry, which related to the colonies and would maintain correspondence with the colonies as well, creating a communication outlet for both sides. The committees brought colonial unity and summoned in the First Continental Congress, which was established in 1774.

NY State Museum The Committee of Correspondence – Article with relative links.

Dept. of State Secret Committee of Correspondence/Committee for Foreign Affairs, 1775-1777

Tea Act

Passed by parliament in May of 1773, the Tea Act was enacted in order to save the financially strapped East India Company, who had eighteen million pounds of tea left to be sold. The tea was then sold at sale prices to the colonies, but the Townshend taxes were still active and leaders saw it as just another ploy to get colonists to accept the imposed taxes. They also did not like that the pricing would ultimately hurt the local merchants. While some ships were turned back to Britain by the colonists, others left the tea to rot in the ships, refusing to let them unload. Ships carrying tea filled the harbor, leaving British ship crews without work and looking elsewhere. Tensions were getting higher by the day and it was inevitable that there would be a breaking point.

Manhattan Rare Books Americana history and travel.

BTP Historical Society Significance of the Tea Act

Boston Tea Party

Despite the refusal by colonists to buy the tea coming via ship, the Governor insisted it be taken off the ships. By the morning of the 29th of November 1773, the people of Boston became overwhelmingly fed up with the Tea Act, then a handbill was circulated regarding more tea coming to the harbor. On December 16th the people of Boston met to hear Samuel Adams speak, he expressed his disapproval of the Governor’s decision to tie up the harbor with ships wishing to leave with their loads of tea. Afterward, the listeners headed for the piers, and with them 50 people dressed up as Indians. The 50 boarded three ships and began to toss tea overboard, in all around 90,000 pounds was tossed into the water at the Boston Tea Party. 

Eyewitness History Printer friendly version of the Boston Tea Party.

Kid Port Events leading to, videos and links to other sites.

Intolerable Acts

The Intolerable Acts were the series of laws that Prime Minister of Britain sponsored after the Boston Tea Party. There was the Impartial Administration of Justice Act, which let the Royal Governor of a colony to move court proceedings, if he thought a jury in the colony where there was an offense would be unable to continue the trial without bias. Then there was the Massachusetts Bay Regulating Act, which made sure that only the Royal Governor could select law officers; the Boston Port Act, that closed Boston’s port until they recovered the cost of the dumped tea, as well as moved the capital of Massachusetts to Salem and made Marblehead the new official port for the colony. There was also the Quartering Act, which gave empty buildings and homes to royal troops if the barracks were full; and finally the Quebec Act, that gave Catholics in Quebec the freedom of religion and to have their own civil government.

The new acts cost the colonists a considerable amount of money, and was a blatant attempt to stifle any revolutionary activity. The colonists were also infuriated that “Redcoats” would be allowed to move into their homes and that Quebec received freedoms not offered to them. It was the something the colonists would not forget nor succumb to.

Germantown Academy The Intolerable Acts of 1774: Road to Independence

University of San Francisco Intolerable Acts and the First Continental Congress.

First Continental Congress

The first Continental Congress met in 1774 and was established to define the relationship between the British government and the American colonists. The colonists believed they should not be taxed by Britain, and that they really were only entitled to the control of trade. The congress was attempting to establish a new agreement with Great Britain, but really just wanted to put a stop to their control. Finally, the colonists decided they would stop all trade with Britain until the repealing of the previous acts and they decided that the colonists would no longer drink tea from the East Indian Company.

Revolution to Reconstruction First Continental Congress - October 1774. With documents and essays.

Yale Law School Declaration and resolves of the First Continental Congress.


The Minutemen were from the colonial militia of the American Revolutionary War; a select group that were young, well trained and could move quickly, thus their title. The men amounted to about ¼ of the militia and were the first on the scene when needed. Paul Revere was a member of the Minutemen, as well as the Sons of Liberty, and was one of the team members who spread the word about the British soldiers coming.

Billerica Colonial An authentic account of a British officer, the Yankee Doodle song and more.

PBS People & Events: The Minute Men

Lexington and Concord

This was the beginning of the Revolutionary War of America, fought in April of 1775 throughout many towns and provinces. British soldiers were told to capture military supplies stored in Massachusetts and destroy them, but militia intelligence heard of this and they moved most of them to other areas. They also knew of the British’ plans for battle the night before and spread word to all the movement members. The militia was outnumbered, but three companies of British troops were defeated, with the rest retreating toward Boston, but there were more militiamen waiting to blockade the narrow bridges and land ways. The Kings troops were trapped within Charlestown and Boston, leading to the Siege of Boston.

Library of Congress Lexington and Concord-links to minutemen touring turn of the century America and several other history links.

Military Science Battle of Lexington and Concord-A Brief History

Second Continental Congress

May 10, 1775, the date of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, marked the first meeting of the Second Continental Congress. John Hancock presided over the meeting and many of the delegates from the First Continental Congress were also present. All the colonies were included, but the Georgian delegate was not there until autumn. The radical faction soon overshadowed the conservatives who thought the scars between them and Britain could be healed. Though they had no authority to do so, they soon took governing responsibility. They took control of the army stationed around Boston and John Adams campaigned for the backing of George Washington as commander and chief of the army. Washington accepted and began in June. They also decided to invade Canada; worried the French would become involved in the coming conflict.

Public Book Shelf what is the Second Continental Congress?

Massachusetts History The Second Continental Congress-with supporting documents

Declaration of Independence

The Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which was written by Thomas Jefferson in July of 1776. It explains the reasons why the colonies wanted independence from Britain. The preamble talks about why the document was necessary and documented popular opinnion about the King and British rule. It speaks to why they wanted to be a separate nation and what the new nations name would be, The United States of America.

The Charters of Freedom View documents, transcripts, images, resources, stylistic artistry, and the article.

History Place American Revolution – The Declaration of Independence

Battle of Saratoga

1777, the Battle of Saratoga marked a turning point for the Americans in the war for independence. General Burgoyne and his forces defeated the Americans at Fort Ticonderoga and then he was to meet up with troops from New York and from Canada. However, the troops from Canada ran into Benedict Arnold on their way and were forced to turn back. The second group was fighting against Washington’s troops at the Battle of Brandywine and Battle of Germantown, so he was unable to come either. Burgoyne kept moving and attacked the Americans in the Battle of Oriskany, but retreated, he attacked again at the Battle of Bennington, but retreated again. When he attacked them in the Battle of Saratoga he was overcome and defeated, he had to surrender. This victory greatly encouraged the Americans.

Battle of Saratoga Detailed information about the battles, the people and the history of the area.

British Battles The Battle of Saratoga 1777- General Burgoyne surrenders to General Gates.

Valley Forge

Valley Forge, Pennsylvania 1777-1778, was the campsite of the American Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. George Washington and his troops were in need of a safer camp for the winter and he selected the highly defensible Valley Forge. The army was enduring shortages, which had been an issue for the troops for some time and due to climate, they spent most of their time damp and cold. Their food supply was meager and unsubstantial, other than to keep them alive. This led to disease and illness throughout the forces such as jaundice, pneumonia, and dysentery. Congress was unable to send relief and the men suffered for it. Some of the family members and other supporters helped care for the soldiers physical and emotional needs. On June 19, 1778, the army left Valley Forge in pursuit of the departing British forces that were heading toward New York. The war ended 5-years later, their time at Valley Forge was a victory in survival.

Education Helper Valley Forge - winter of 1777-1778-Reading with vocabulary words.

Davis Community Network Patriot Ordeal at Valley Forge-Winter 1777-1778

Articles of Confederation

After the Revolutionary War, the newly established country needed to be unified. The Continental Congress turned to John Dickinson to draft the federal constitution, which was called the Articles of Confederation. They wanted to give the states as much independence as they could, but still maintain a working federal government. The articles consisted of a preamble and 13 articles and were revised many times before they were finally adopted on November 15, 1777.

Bare Foot World Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union

U.S. Constitution Articles of Confederation with topics page, comparison of articles and a table with demographic data for the signers, as well as images of articles.

Battle of Yorktown

General George Washington and his French ally, Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Ponton de Rochambeau, moved their troops to Yorktown on September 28, 1781. Cornwallis and his troops were there waiting for 5,000 relief forces. Washington and Rochambeau split their forces with the French on the left and the Americans on the right, outside of town and yet another mixed force across the York River. Cornwallis brought his men back to the main line of fortifications, the French/American forces finished their first siege line on the 6th of October and on the 8th, Washington took the first shot. They fought for three days and Cornwallis wrote for back up, to make matters worse for him, smallpox had also broken out among his troops. On October 16th, Cornwallis attacked the allied lines, but they couldn’t break through. Finally, out of ammunition and with his troops scattered he decided to negotiate with Washington and his lieutenant waved the white flag.

The Patriot Resource The Yorktown campaign and associated battles.

The American Revolutionary War The Battle of Yorktown September 28 - October 19 1781 in Yorktown, Virginia

U.S. Constitution 

The Constitution of the United States is the authoritative legal foundation for the American states, the citizens and their relationship with the federal government. There are three main branches specified with specific duties and powers: the legislature, the bicameral congress and a judicial branch. The individual states and people receive unremunerated power, which establishes the federal system of government. It was adopted on September 17, 1787.

Cornell University The Constitution of the United States of America

GPO Constitution with analysis and interpretation.