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Following the end of the French and Indian War in 1763 the British government was strapped for cash and in no mood to intercede in any new conflicts in its American colonies. To prevent further fighting between the powerful tribes of the Ohio River Valley and the colonists, the British parliament passed the Proclamation of 1763, an act that prevented settlement west of the Appalachians. This angered the colonist considerably, since they viewed that region as a hard-won prize they fought the French to obtain.
This proved to be a minor annoyance compared to the taxes that soon followed. The Stamp Act of 1765, Townsend Acts of 1767 and Tea Act of 1773 were all passed to help pay for the cost of imperial defense. But these taxes were passed without the consent of the colonists, which is where the cry, “No taxation without representation” was spawned. It is important to note that up to the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 the colonial assemblies had been given the responsibilities to lay and collect taxes as they saw fit. Now that power had been stripped away from them for the first time since their founding.
The colonies did not give in without a fight. All British attempts at taxation were resisted. The colonies boycotted British trade goods, sent angry petitions to congress, protested in the streets and in some cases physically attacked tax collectors.
It is these last acts that resulted in the British sending armed troops to Boston, which only infuriated the colonists more. Now they had to live with British soldiers in their streets, and in some cases, quartered (housed) in their homes. Tensions flared in Boston, where frightened British soldiers fired into a crowd of angry colonists, an episode famously dubbed the Boston Massacre. This act was used as propaganda by colonial leaders to fuel anti-British sentiment, and proved incredibly effective at demonizing the British soldiers.
Further acts of colonial protest, such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773, resulted in parliament taking more drastic action against Boston in particular. The Coercive Acts closed the port and placed the city under military rule. Almost at once the remaining colonies realized that unless they joined together, they could be targeted next, which led to the First Continental Congress in 1774. At this meeting, leaders from twelve of the colonies (Rhode Island refused to come) decided to band together and support Boston. They also decided to arm themselves in case of future British aggression. All over America colonial militias began drilling and stockpiling supplies.
When the British commanders in Boston received word that colonists in nearby Concord were gathering gunpowder, they decided to try and capture the arsenal. A large force of soldiers was sent to capture the weaponry in April of 1775, but word that “the regulars are coming” was spread by Paul Revere and other colonial messengers. By the time the British arrived in Lexington, which was about half way between Boston and Concord, they were met by armed militia. The British and Americans exchanged fire, and what had been a simple argument over rights and taxation quickly spiraled into the blood feud know as the American Revolution.
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