American Revolution

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What role did taxes and the city of Boston have to do with the Revolutionary War?

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Boston and taxes played a primary role in the American Revolution.

Mounting tension occurred after the French and Indian War because British rule began to tighten its hold over the colonies. For, as the British government wished to find new revenues to pay debt incurred by the war, it tightened on its existing trade laws as well as imposing new ones.

  • The Sugar Act imposed new duties on many goods shipped from Britain to the colonies.
  • The Quartering Act required colonial governments to provide supplies and quarters for British troops that were stationed in the colonies.
  • The Stamp Act demanded that colonists pay for a tax stamp every time they paid for a legal document, a newspaper, or playing cards. This stamp was then placed upon the item purchased.

The protest against these acts was vociferous as merchants complained that the Sugar Act duties were exorbitant and they could not afford them; also, the Colonial governments simply ignored the Quartering Act. Most of all, the Stamp Act enraged colonists. In the House of Burgesses in Virginia, Patrick Henry rose to condemn this act and the English king, declaring, "If this be treason, make the most of it!" As a result of this oppression, colonists formed the Sons of Liberty, a group who were openly defiant as they attacked stamp tax collectors. Later, they sent a formal protest to King George III, who did repeal the Stamp Act, but imposed new laws shortly thereafter.

In 1767 the new British Prime Minister persuaded the British Parliament to impose new revenue-producing duties on glass, lead, paper, pepper, and tea that was brought to the colonies. Naturally, the colonists perceived that these duties were thinly disguised taxes. So, some colonists smuggled in like products, others simply did not use these products. Therefore, imports of these goods was reduced by 50 per cent, with Boston as the hotbed of resistance.

On March 5, 1770, a crowd of citizens in Boston shouted at British troops, taunting them as they stood guard near the Customs House. When a shot rang out, the soldiers opened fire and killed five colonists. This incident became known as the Boston Massacre and news of it spread throughout the other colonies. With growing discontent, the colonists succeeded in causing the British government to back down on the Townsend duties and they were repealed except for those on tea. 

Then in 1773, the British passed the Tea Act, which favored a British company and threatened to put colonial tea merchants out of business. On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves and stole aboard three British ships loaded with over 300 crates of tea in Boston's harbor. Within an hour, these men had thrown overboard all the crates. This "Boston Tea Party" enraged the British government, and in 1774 the Parliament passed a series of acts called Intolerable Acts. The first act, the Boston Port Bill, closed Boston harbor, an act which threatened the people of Boston with shortages of food and business failures. Another act removed the Massachusetts government from the hands of the colonists; it also forced the colony to host 10,000 British troops, who were sent to guard and to administer these new laws.

In the British government's move to isolate and punish Massachusetts, the results were the opposite of what England desired. For, the other colonies rallied around this spirited colony. The Virginia House of Burgesses met where Patrick Henry gave his famous speech. Then, in September of 1774, 56 delegates (Georgia was absent) met in Philadelphia as the First Continental Congress.  As a result, more British troops were sent to quell any rebellion. But, the Minutemen had a supply of guns and ammunition near Concord, a few miles outside of Boston. When British troops tried to seize these supplies, the colonists were alerted by means of a system they had pre-arranged. On the night of April 18, 1775, a light flashed from a tower in Boston's Old North Church, alerting Paul Revere and William Dawson, who raced on horseback, warning the people, "The British are coming." In Concord Minutemen drove away the British troops and back onto the road to Boston. In the end, the Minutemen killed 240 British soldiers.

On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress assembled and petitioned King George III to repeal the Intolerable Acts and to refrain from "unprovoked attacks." Also, George Washington was named commander of the American forces. But, before Washington could reach Boston, a major conflict arose between the colonists and British soldiers. This conflict took place at Breed's Hill and Bunker Hill, north of Boston. While the colonists fought tenaciously, the British drove them out; however, there were nearly 1000 English casualties.

Finally, after learning that the British Parliament refused to grant the petition of the Continental Congress, the Second Continental Congress met again and the Declaration of Independence was produced on July 4, 1776, and the new United States was on its way to revolution. Boston lay under siege for nearly a year until British forces under General William Howe pulled out and sailed to a base in Canada.                                                                                                                                                                                        

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