From Resistance to Rebellion
Acts of Protest
For years the colonies had flourished in a state of salutary neglect. Britain had been content to leave the day-to-day administration of local government to its royal governors and to the colonies own English-style representative legislatures, common-law jury courts, and local militias. Following its victory in the French and Indian War, Britain looked anew at its imperial responsibilities. Parliament decided to secure its expanded American empire with British troops. English commoners paid taxes to support Britains powerful army and navy and finance its war debt; it seemed fair that colonists should pay too.
Colonists bristled when the British government began to enact and execute taxes and other binding laws without deference to colonial governments or popular consent. Colonial resentment gradually turned to open resistance. Colonists issued statements of their rights, appealed to the king and people of Britain, and petitioned Parliament. They boycotted British goods and harassed royal officials. Some protests turned violent.
Differing economic interests, regional and ethnic identities, and religious beliefs divided the colonists. But as they began to communicate and coordinate insurgencies, they came to realize that they shared a common understanding of their rights and liberties.
A War Begins
On April 19, 1775, British troops in Boston marched in darkness toward nearby Concord to seize the local militias cache of arms and gunpowder. Patriots from Boston alerted the countryside. At dawn, the British confronted a militia unit gathered on the green in Lexington. During the standoff, a shot was fired. In a brief melee, eight colonists were killed and ten wounded.
From Lexington, British troops marched to Concord, where they destroyed the few supplies the militia had not hidden. After a fierce skirmish with militia, they started back to Boston. Hundreds of militiamen joined the counterattack, forcing the British to make a desperate retreat.
Exhausted and panicked British soldiers lashed out, killing civilians, ransacking and looting houses, and setting firesthree houses near Lexington burned to the ground. Our all is at stake, declared a call to arms issued the next day; the British were going to ravage this devoted country with fire and sword. Some colonists recoiled from the notion of taking up arms. Other joined the fight resolved to save themselves and their children from lives of perpetual slavery under British rule. The war for independence had begun.