1700-1783: Early US History


The colonies were all independent of each other, and they weren't banded together. Almost all of them had the same problems, though. Living near colonies of other countries, like France and Spain, was dangerous. They got along pretty well, but they were commercially competitive because they wanted each other's land and resources. Besides this, the countries were often at war with each other. Also, except in specific instances, the colonists didn't get along with the Indians.

At first, the Indians were nice enough, considering their strange new neighbors. But the colonists acted like jerks by ripping them off, stealing their women, taking their land and killing them. The Indians eventually fought back. Colonists had been pretty much left to themselves to pursue trading or their religions by special charters. But in 1685 self government was taken away from the northern colonies. This was aggravating.


From 1754 – 1763 the French and Indian War was happening. This shook things up in the colonies. Learn more about the French-Indian War.


The colonists were a lot chummier after the war. The British hadn't been very helpful fighting the war because they were almost tapped out from fighting the Seven-Years War which started in 1756. The Brits tried to control the war in America, but the colonists resisted, and finally, in '58, the Brits backed off. The colonists learned to work together to fight the bad guys, be they French, British, or Indian. Also, they ended up with a lot more land.

This could have been a happy ending, and a beginning of a docile membership in the British Commonwealth (think Canada). Unfortunately, Britain was broke. King George III, a twenty-something and not too bright British ruler, decided the colonists should pay for the war and their future defense with taxes. Also, he wanted to put in a more centralized government so that they would be easier to control (read exploit).


Navigation Act (1662): This was started in 1662 based on similar Spanish trade laws. Colonies were only allowed to trade with their mother nations. This act was tightened up in 1763.

Sugar Act (1764): This law taxed sugar, coffee, and wine.

Stamp Act (1765): This required colonists to use special stamped paper for all sorts of documents. It was so intensely resisted that was soon repealed.

Townshend Acts (1767): These were taxes on paper, paints, glass, and tea. The tea tax was particularly irritating to the colonists.

Quartering Act (1769): This meant that colonists had to let soldiers stay in their homes. There were no army barracks. But soldiers ate a lot and weren't very nice houseguests.

Locker Searches: There was no guaranteed privacy. Troops could search homes for black market goods, anything that taxes hadn't been paid on.

No Taxation Without Representation: The British Parliament voted on who would rule the colonies. There were no colonial representatives in Parliament, so they had no say in how they were being taxed.


In the face of all these unfair acts, the colonists got organized. They split into Patriots who were rebels and Tories who were loyal to Britain. The Patriots boycotted stamps, and Parliament repealed the acts.

Boston Massacre (1770): An unarmed group of Patriots called The Sons of Liberty were harassing a British soldier, a redcoat. Some other soldiers showed up. A crowd formed; the soldiers attacked, and they killed some colonists.

Boston Tea Party (1773): The Townshend Act which taxed tea was especially unappreciated by the colonists. To express their objections, The Sons of Liberty dressed up like Indians and boarded a British merchant ship (British East India Company). They dumped the tea cargo into the Boston Harbor.