1754 – 1776: Prelude to Independence
The Implementation of Taxes
From 1754 until 1763, the British colonies and France fought an expensive land war on the North American continent known as “The French and Indian War.” To recoup these expenses and raise funds to replenish their coffers, the British government enacted a series of new taxes. Until the Stamp Act of 1765, some taxes were proposed, and others were enacted and withdrawn. This was the first tax imposed directly on the 13 American colonies. Benjamin Franklin testified before Parliament that the tax was too high and that the colonies had already done more than enough to support the French and Indian War. That same year, the group known as the Sons of Liberty was established.
The Consequences of Unrest
In 1767, Parliament imposed the Townshend Acts, which placed a duty on several essential goods, including tea. A year later, the Liberty, a sloop owned by John Hancock, was seized on suspicion of smuggling. The growing unrest following this event led to the Occupation of Boston by British troops in 1768. The tensions in Boston came to a head on March 5, 1770, as a mob gathered around a group of soldiers guarding the Custom House. The unruly protestors threw snowballs and other debris at the soldiers. Amid the chaos and without a direct order, the soldiers fired into the crowd, killing five men and wounding six others in what would be known as the Boston Massacre. John Adams successfully defended the soldiers, but patriots like Samuel Adams, John’s cousin, used the event to garner support for the independence movement.