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Garrett Holt and Shelly Peters
18th Century Theology
September 26, 2013
From Colonies to Nationhood
After the French-Indian War ended in 1763, the British Colonies in America entered a new era of intellectual, religious, economic, political, and martial transformation. Increased pressure by European rivals led the British Empire to enact more severe mercantile policies against its overseas colonies. The next decade experienced a rise in hostilities between Britain and the American Colonies. Around 1770, these events led to and accelerated the Colonies’ trajectory toward revolution and independence, culminating in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence and continuing until its completion in 1783 with the treaty of Paris. One of the first, significant events of the new decade that began to shape the Colonial resistance was the Boston Massacre, which occurred on March 5, 1770. The massacre resulted from increasing hostility between colonists and British Regulars in Boston. Unease in the city caused the British Soldiers to be called out into the streets for riot control. Accounts differ, but likely a colonist threw something at the soldiers, causing the Regulars to fire upon the crowd, killing five colonists and incensing the population. In the ensuing trial, the Soldiers were ironically defended by John Adams. Shortly after, the British Parliament issued the Townshend Acts, repealing many of their former taxes, but still maintain the tea tax. The next few years experienced a growing unrest in the colonies. More local governments began to speak out against British rule and state populaces began more frequent
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protests of British policies. The next watershed moment occurred in Boston on December 18th, 1773. A group of Angry Bostonians known as the Sons of Liberty, under the leadership of the fiery Samuel Adams, raided a shipment of British team aboard several boats docked in Boston harbor, and threw the tea into the bay. The Boston Tea Party, as it came to be called, led to the passing of a series of British laws known as the Intolerable Acts to the Colonists on June 4th, 1774. This decision only served to further the rift developing between the Colonies and Mother England. On September 5th, 1774, in Philadelphia, the First Continental Congress began. Delegates such as Samuel and John Adams, John Jay, and George Washington, from every colony, except Georgia, came to decide the future course of the country. After this, events began speed up. On February 9th, 1775, The British Government declared the Massachusetts Colony to be in a state of rebellion. The spirit of the revolution that had mostly been in New England began to spread south. A little over a month later on March 3rd, Patrick Henry gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death speech” to the Virginia House of Burgess, helping compel Virginia to Revolution. Then on April 18th, The British set out to capture rebel leaders and arms in Concord, Massachusetts. This event became canonized in American history when Robert Newman hung two lanterns in the Old North Church alerting Paul Revere and Williams Dawes that the British were coming by sea as the two patriots embarked upon their legendary, midnight ride. They rode through the night, alerting rebels along the way. The rebel militia, known as Minutemen, gathered at the Old North Bridge in Concord and fired the “Shot heard around the world”,
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turning back three companies of the King’s men. As the Regulars retreated back to Lexington, 273 Regulars were killed, in contrast to only 8 Minutemen. Even after this outbreak of violence, not all the colonies were set on revolution, and many still sought to negotiate peace with Great Britain. On June 15th, George Washington was chosen by the Continental Congress to lead the American Army. Largely in part to Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, published on January 10th, 1776, which spoke of America’s right to overthrow British rule, many colonists were won over to the Revolutionaries side. Finally, on July 4th, 1776, The Declaration of Independence, penned by Thomas Jefferson, declared The American Colonists free of British rule. This measure was passed by the Second Continental Congress in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. After low success on the American side, a much needed victory came on December 25 at McKonkey’s Ferry. General Washington and his 2,400 troops cross the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey on Christmas Day from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. the next morning, and defeats 1,400 Hessians in the 1st Battle of Trenton, capturing 900 men. On January 3rd, 1777, General Washington and the 7,000 man Continental Army defeats British General Charles Cornwallis at Princeton, New Jersey. This battle, combined with that of Trenton one week earlier, impressed upon other European nations that the Americans could combat the British Army. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union are adopted by the Continental Congress in Independence Hall on November 15th. It serves as the first constitution of the United States. On December 17th, after John Adams, elected commissioner to France by the
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Continental Congress, and Benjamin Franklin engage their support for the Revolutionary War, France recognizes the independence of the 13 colonies, signing treaties of alliance and commerce. This French involvement becomes the turning point of the war. After failing victory in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, and in response to the British capture of Philadelphia, George Washington marches his 11,000 man Continental Army into Valley Forge for the first winter encampment on December 18th. Friedrich von Steuben of the Prussian Army meets with the Continental Congress in York, Pennsylvania in February of 1778. They direct him to join General George Washington at the winter encampment at Valley Forge to drill the Continental Army into an effective fighting unit while the British retain control of Philadelphia, only twenty miles away. South Carolina also becomes the first state to ratify the Articles of Confederation. Although currently a successful American general, on June 1st, 1779 Benedict Arnold is court-marshaled for civil authority disputes. His sentence, however, was a light reprimand by General Washington. Mad about the court-marshal and the new American alliance with France, Arnold became a traitor against the American cause when he plotted to transfer the fort at West Point, New York, for 20,000 sterling (approximately $1,000,000 today) that would effectively give control of the Hudson River to British forces. His plot was uncovered, but Arnold escaped, then joined British forces and fought against the Continental Army.
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