The American Revolution: A History Documentary


The American Revolution would only burst in 1775, but for more than ten years, the prerequisites for its start would accumulate. The British government was keen to maintain control of the colonies as well as exploit them for revenue-rising. The policy of the British Parliament, which did not consider the colonists’ interests, ultimately led to a full-scale Revolutionary War and the United States Independence.

Events of 1763-1775

Seven Years’ War

Conflicts began to occur against the background of growing tension, which became the reasons for subsequent revolutionary activity. 1763 marked the end of the Seven Years’ War or the French-Indian War, which ended the disputes between Britain and France over territories in North America (Woodburn, 1892). The war lasted from 1754 and began due to the desire of the British and French colonists to expand their spheres of influence on the continent (French and Indian War, n. d). Thus, on one side of the conflict were France, its colonists, and the Native American allies, and on the other – Britain, the English colonists, and the Iroquois Confederacy. The Iroquois Confederacy at the time was an extremely powerful representative of the Native American forces and controlled parts of northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York (French and Indian War, n. d). Before the conflict, 13 American colonies were controlled by Great Britain, but beyond the Appalachian Mountains laid the large and sparsely populated colony of New France.

A dispute between the two empires arose over border territories that were vaguely defined. French forts were located in the upper Ohio River valley, which the British army, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel George Washington, unsuccessfully tried to capture in 1754 (French and Indian War, n. d). Plans for an undeclared retaliatory strike against French troops led to the outbreak of a full-scale war. The war took place not only in North America but also in Europe and India. In 1759, Britain succeeded in capturing Canada, which marked a coup in the course of the war. Even an alliance with Spain did not help France to resist the numerous successes of the British troops, and in 1763 the Treaty of Paris was signed.

As a result, Britain was able to preserve vast territories in North America, including the captured French areas and Spanish Florida. Despite the successes, the war brought high costs for the British Empire, which led to an increase in taxes on the colonists and a rise in discontent among them. Moreover, due to the defeat, the French left the north of North America, and the Spaniards departed from the south, which expanded the colonists’ opportunities for revolutionary struggle (Woodburn, 1892). Thus, the Seven Years’ War allowed the weakening of the British Empire in North America, which became the reason for further developments.

British Taxation Policy

Grenville’s Acts

One of the reasons for the revolutionary uprisings was a series of laws regulating taxation and trade from 1763 to 1775, which further increased the tension. The first of the measures taken by the British government in 1763 to increase revenues from the colonies was the Sugar Act (Britain begins taxing, n.d). This law was an extension of the Molasses Act of 1933 and implied increased duties on the import of sugar and molasses from France and the Dutch West Indies (Woodburn, 1892). Thus, this Act created a de facto monopoly for sugar and molasses from the British West Indies, significantly limiting American trade. In particular, the tightening of the rules for shipping goods by sea, which the Sugar Act implied, severely damaged maritime commerce.

Despite the dissatisfaction of the colonists, the British government also passed the Stamp Act in 1965. This law stipulated that all legal documents, brochures, newspapers, academic degrees, as well as dice and cards, were accompanied by a stamp of the Treasury as evidence of tax payment (Britain begins taxing, n.d). While the Sugar Act taxed exclusively foreign goods, this law increased the financial burden on all residents within the colonies. This tax was fully utilized to cover the financial needs of the British Army in North America to protect the colonists from the Indians. However, the colonists did not feel grateful to Parliament for such a service since they did not consider the need for assistance in self-defense (Woodburn, 1892). This factor intensified the controversy among the colonists, who viewed the tax as meeting the needs of the British Empire by increasing the burden on the colonies.

Both Acts were part of the British Parliament’s revenue-raising policy initiated by Prime Minister George Grenville. After the end of the Seven Years’ War, the supply of food, weapons, and precious metals to the colonists from Britain decreased significantly, which led to a drop in the incomes of many artisans. Many merchants in Philadelphia, New York, and Boston filed for bankruptcy due to declining demand for New England goods. The colonists’ cost of goods and materials was constantly increasing, which led to a significant decrease in their income. In 1964, an outbreak of smallpox was also reported in the region, further aggravating the situation (Britain begins taxing, n.d). Against the background of such an environment, new taxes, including Sugar and Stamp Acts, became another difficulty for the colonists.

However, Grenville focused on the need to reduce Britain’s debt after the Seven Years’ War. Additionally, in the colonies, it was necessary to maintain military forces, which are associated with high costs. The Pontiac Rebellion in Ohio, which occurred in May 1763 and became the largest Indian uprising, convinced the government of the need to support the military force (Britain begins taxing, n.d). The main purpose of the new taxes was to increase trade between Great Britain and its colonies by restricting the import of foreign goods. Additionally, higher tariffs could help tackle the illegal trade that flourished in North America (Britain begins taxing, n.d). Therefore, the Sugar Act assumed lower duties on foreign sugar and molasses from 6 pence to 3 pence, as well as a ban on the import of foreign rum, as well as taxes on many foreign goods and restrictions on the shipment of lumber to Europe.

These conditions disrupted the balance of trade, which negatively affected the entire economy of the colonies, especially New England, where sugar production was the main industry. Additionally, in 1764, the Currency Act was passed, which prohibited the payment of taxes under the Sugar Act in the paper currency of the colonies, allowing only gold and silver (Britain begins taxing, n.d). The new laws also provided stricter supervision of documents accompanying any transported goods and transactions. In 1765, the Quartering Act was issued, which required the colonists to provide housing to the British military in the territory of North America (Greene & Pole, 2000). Thus, Grenville’s policy was aimed at solving the financial problems of Britain, maintaining the army, and also strengthening control over the colonies. All the laws he passed from 1763 to 1765 implied not only an increase in income but also the restoration of British authority, which played a key role in the subsequent reaction.

Before the adoption of the Sugar and Stamp Acts, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island protested against them, but the complaints had little effect. These colonies could suffer the most from the consequences of the introduction of this tax. The Stamp Act caused much more discontent, as eight colonies opposed it at once. Although Grenville invited the representatives of the colonies to consider alternatives to these laws, they did not take advantage of the proposal, as this would be a recognition of parliamentary authority (Woodburn, 1892; Greene & Pole, 2000). However, such objections were considered by the Prime Minister as a threat to parliamentary sovereignty, which hastened the adoption of the Acts.

The resistance of the colonies was initially rather slow, but in 1765, it reached its peak. Several resolutions were presented by Patrick Henry to the Virginia House of Burgesses that inspired colonial residents to resist the taxes imposed by Parliament. The resolutions were later distributed to other colonies through the print media, leading to the formation of the Illegal Stamp Act Congress in 1965 (Greene & Pole, 2000). It then appealed to the British King with the conviction that Parliament had no right to tax colonists against the will of the colonial assemblies. This activity led to the first response in Boston when the Sons of Liberty movement was organized, which continued to show respect to the British Constitution and the King in an effort to defend the rights of the colonists (Greene & Pole, 2000). The movement succeeded in rallying the urban mob to organize a large-scale march in which they resisted the law. In particular, the crowd threatened the life and well-being of the distributors of stamps, which also happened in other colonial cities.

The resistance of the colonists led to the fact that most of the distributors of stamps resigned. In 1766, under pressure from resistance, the Stamp Act was repealed by Parliament (Greene & Pole, 2000). However, the Declaratory Act was issued, which stated that the tax authority of the British Parliament is the same in America as it is in Britain. Despite the cancellation of the Stamp Act, the new law further increased the pressure on the American colonies and demonstrated the insensitivity of the British government to the maturing independence of North America. The Quartering Act also displeased the colonists, particularly in New York, where 1967 the colony refused to comply with this Act. This led to the passing of the New York Restraining Act by Parliament, which prohibited the governor from signing any laws while the Quartering Act was not respected (Greene & Pole, 2000). This Act would later lead to a massive confrontation called the Boston Massacre in 1770, which would become the basis for the strengthening of revolutionary sentiments.

The Townshend Acts

Repeal of the Stamp Act forced the British Parliament to look for new ways to raise revenue from the colonies. The Townshend Acts were adopted in 1767 and contained a number of taxation corrals for imported goods (Greene & Pole, 2000). The Acts were named after the British chancellor of the Exchequer and taxed glass, tea, lead, paint, and paper imported into the colonies. Parliament was confident that these goods would be difficult for the colonists themselves to produce, which would force them to pay taxes. An additional purpose of these Acts was to maintain loyalty to the British Crown since the revenue raised was used to pay salaries to the colonial governors (Greene & Pole, 2000). However, in combination with the Declaratory Act, the new taxes sparked a wave of protests among the colonists and a boycott of British goods.

A series of pamphlets written by Pennsylvania legislators John Dickinson, James Otis Jr., and Samuel Adams were adopted by the Massachusetts House of Representatives and other colonial legislatures. With the participation of the Sons of Liberty in 1768, 24 towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island decided to boycott British goods (Greene & Pole, 2000, p. 143). New England merchants signed an agreement to limit imports of British goods for one year, except for basic necessities; New York also followed with import restrictions. The British Parliament, in response to the disagreement that arose, sent the military to suppress the protests in Boston.

The Tea Tax

In 1769, British troops arrived in Boston, which led to numerous clashes with local patriots. The conflict culminated in the Boston Massacre of 1770, when the military fired at a crowd of colonists, killing five of them (Greene & Pole, 2000, p. 147). Ultimately the Townshend Acts were completely repealed in April 1770, excluding the tea tax. In response to the persistence of the tea tax, the colonists boycotted British East India Company tea by smuggling Dutch tea. As a result, the British company faced a vast surplus of tea and went bankrupt. The Tea Act of 1773 allowed the British company to import duty-free tea, which was still taxed at the colonists’ ports (Greene & Pole, 2000). The Boston Tea Party happened when a group of colonists drowned a large batch of British tea at the Boston harbor. This happened after the Americans refused to pay tax on tea arriving from Britain and offered to send the ships back, which was prohibited.

The Coercive Act

Despite the peaceful end of the incident, the British Parliament reacted by passing of the Coercive Act. The law ordered the closure of Boston Harbor pending payment of damages, the suspension of free choice of town officials in Massachusetts, the housing of British troops on demand, and the expansion of the powers of the French-Canadian Catholics, which angered the Protestants (Greene & Pole, 2000). Nevertheless, this Act was considered intolerable by the colonists and led to increased resistance. The second Boston Tea Party occurred in 1774 when the colonists also threw many chests of British tea in the Boston harbor.

The Coercive Act was perceived as a direct threat to the independence of the colonies, as well as the spread of the tyranny of Britain. As a result, on September 5, 1774, representatives of all 13 American colonies, with the exception of Georgia, met at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia (Greene & Pole, 2000, p. 192). The delegation included John Jay, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, and George Washington from different colonies. This event was the First Continental Congress, in which it was decided to further resist Britain. The colonists demanded that the British Parliament recognize the independent tax administration of the colonies, the right to create their own militia, and the abolition of the Coercive Act. Britain did not respond to these demands, which led to the first sparks of violence and the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.

Events of 1775-1783

Battles of Lexington and Concord

A full-scale armed confrontation began with the march of British troops from Boston to Concord. The British intended to seize the armories, but the colonial militia raised the alarm to intercept them. Joseph Warren, a member of the Sons of Liberty, received information from an insider in the British Command about the impending offensive. The patriots managed to warn the colonists about the approaching army and prepare for the defense. Colonial troops were also intent on repelling British troops, which contributed to the unification of the patriotic, revolutionary movement. A special role in the events of the first days of the outbreak of the war was played by couriers Revere and Dawes, whom Warren sent to warn the patriots in two different routes. They managed to notify all Concord residents for mobilization, and when they got to Lexington, they persuaded John Hancock and Samuel Adams, two revolutionary leaders, to retreat.

Thanks to the efforts of Warren and the couriers, it was possible to prepare for the meeting of the British forces at Lexington. On April 19, 1775, the militia entered the battle with the British troops at Concord and Lexington, after which the Massachusetts Congress announced the mobilization of 13,600 soldiers (Greene & Pole, 2000, p. 220). The incident occurred when British forces met with militias near Lexington, after which shots were fired. It is not known exactly which side started the armed conflict (Woodburn, 1892). The conflict at Lexington allowed the British forces to be delayed, after which they headed to Concord in search of an arms depot. However, it had already been moved. The British eventually decided to burn the city, then the militia rushed into the city and met with British soldiers. The British opened fire but retreated after a return volley.

British forces advanced towards Boston, and militias led by the Minutemen, highly mobile squads of colonists, followed them. The peaceful pursuit did not last long, and the British soldiers moved in and opened fire on the militia but soon retreated as well. In Lexington, the British were awaiting reinforcements that held back militia attacks. However, in the late afternoon, Minutemen from other Massachusetts cities also came to the aid of the colonists (Greene & Pole, 2000). The colonists were able to isolate the British forces from their escape routes and later released them to the Charlestown Neck, where they were able to obtain naval support. The Battle of Lexington and Concord ended with relatively few casualties on either side and proved that the colonists were able to withstand the British in armed conflict (Greene & Pole, 2000). A real revolutionary war of independence would begin next summer, but in 1775, the patriots seriously threatened Britain’s authority.

The Declaration of Independence

After the end of the first armed conflicts with Britain in the winter of 1775-1776, the colonists saw independence as the only option for them. The leaders of the independence movement in 1776 took steps to assess the possibility of a successful vote on this decision (The Declaration of Independence, n.d). In December 1775, Britain banned trade with the colonies, to which the colonists responded by opening their ports, which largely freed themselves from ties with Britain. Additionally, the leaders of the Congress sought to enlist the support of foreign forces, in particular the French, to increase their strength. The creation of a draft of the Model Treaty began, which in 1778 allowed for an alliance with France (The Declaration of Independence, n.d). At the Second Continental Congress, representatives of the 13 colonies, joined by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, made a number of important decisions. In June 1776, Congress was asked to initiate the process of establishing independence, and the creation of the Declaration was entrusted to Thomas Jefferson.

The British government sought to discourage the adoption of the document as trivial and flawed. However, even in Britain, in particular, in Ireland, the adoption of the Declaration was widely supported. The Congress occurred on July 4, 1776, and its members issued the Declaration of Independence, which declared the end of all political ties between America and Britain (The Declaration of Independence, n.d). The most important impact of the Declaration was the recognition of the United States of America as an independent state by friendly governments. Additionally, Congress approved the formation of a continental army under the command of George Washington for a full-scale revolutionary war against Britain. However, the full recognition of the independence of America by the world community would occur only in 1783.

Crossing of Delaware

In the same months, many British soldiers and a large fleet were sent to suppress the uprising in New York. The defeat of the Continental forces forced Washington to retreat, evacuating the soldiers across the Delaware River (Crossing of the Delaware, n.d). By December 1776, the Continental Army had already suffered several major defeats from the British forces due to the small number and difference in the professionalism of the soldiers. Washington planned to transport 2,400 Continental troops across the Delaware River overnight to Trenton, New Jersey, and attack the British garrisons on December 25, 1776 (Crossing of the Delaware, n.d). However, the crossing was difficult due to the tight time frame, darkness, and harsh winter weather conditions. Additionally, there were difficulties with the transfer of large artillery equipment, which required more time and effort.

Despite the delay in the transition schedule, Washington did not retreat, and at dawn, the continental army crossed Delaware and advanced to Trenton. The British garrisons in Trenton were unprepared for the attack, prompting them to surrender after a short battle. It is worth noting that the garrisons of Trenton housed German troops hired by the British to fight the Continental Army (Greene & Pole, 2000). In Trenton, Washington’s army managed to kill or capture about a thousand German soldiers (Greene & Pole, 2000, p. 292). Thereafter, the Continental Army returned back to Pennsylvania to group with reinforcements and then occupied Trenton again. For the Continental Army, this victory was a turning point in the Revolutionary War, significantly strengthening the morale of the entire army. In particular, until December 1776, the colonists were pushed further and further from New York, and many soldiers were wounded or left the army. This victory made it possible to confirm Washington’s intentions and show its leadership talent, instilling hope for the subsequent struggle.

The American Flag

An important milestone in the establishment of the independence of the United States of America was the adoption of the national flag. The Second Continental Congress adopted the Flag Resolution on July 14, 1777, which approved the appearance of the new flag (Facts about the United States flag, n.d). The first American flag had 13 red stripes, as many white stripes as well as a blue area with 13 stars (Facts about the United States flag, n.d). Subsequently, the flag was modified as new colonies were added to the United States. This event is also important for the history of the Revolutionary War, as it marks the emergence of an independent symbolism among the nation.

Battles of Saratoga

The tactics of the British troops in 1777 were aimed at separating New England from the other American colonies. The British expected to strike New York from three different directions and gather near Albany (Saratoga, n.d). General John Burgoyne with his army moved along the Hudson River valley. During the offensive, the British captured Fort Ticonderoga and defeated the Continental Army at Hubbardton, eventually occupying fort Edward on the banks of the Hudson River (Saratoga, n.d). After the Burgoyne army was defeated at the Battle of Bennington, he was forced to withdraw to Saratoga in September 1777 (Saratoga, n.d). However, the Continental Army, under General Horatio Gates, built powerful fortifications at Bemis Heights overlooking the Hudson. On September 19, the British and Americans engaged in battle near Saratoga, and the British suffered significant casualties (Saratoga, n.d). Although they were expecting reinforcements, additional British troops never came to help.

General Burgoyne initiated another attack on American forces, which was also unsuccessful. On October 17, 1777, British forces surrendered at Saratoga, admitting defeat (Saratoga, n.d). This event was the most significant victory for the Americans in the Revolutionary War and helped convince France to sign an alliance to fight Britain. The Treaty of Alliance with France would be issued on February 6, 1778, prohibiting a separate peace with Britain for either side and affirming the independence of the United States (Drexler, 2021). Additionally, agreements would be signed aimed at improving trade between the two countries. Later, Spain and Dutch governments would also support the Americans in weakening British dominance over Europe. General Horatio Gates gained widespread support among the colonists after his success at Saratoga and even organized a secret campaign to remove Washington from the post of commander-in-chief, but his plot failed (Saratoga, n.d). Thus, the battle of Saratoga made it possible to significantly strengthen the continental army’s position and acquire foreign forces’ support.

Events of 1778-1781

The period from 1778 to 1781 was marked by a series of less successful battles for the Continental Army. The winter camp at Valley Forge greatly enhanced the morale and professional skills of the American Army (Valley Forge, n.d). Washington chose a location 25 kilometers from Pennsylvania, as this was a convenient point for defense and a surprise attack on the nearby British Army (Valley Forge, n.d). In the camp, the Continental Army soldiers also trained under the leadership of the Prussian General Friedrich von Steuben and the French General Marquis de Lafayette (Valley Forge, n.d). However, conditions in the camp were difficult not only due to the harsh weather but also due to the spread of diseases, which resulted in many deaths until the beginning of spring.

In the summer of 1778, Washington’s forces attacked the British, retreating to New York near Monmouth, New Jersey. However, the battle ended in a draw as the British managed to get their supplies and soldiers to New York (Greene & Pole, 2000). This was followed by a joint attack with the French fleet in Newport, Rhode Island, which ended in the defeat of the continental army (Greene & Pole, 2000). Thus, the war in the north in the summer of 1778 came to a standstill. From 1779 to 1781, the first major mutinies took place in the Continental Army, and General Benedict Arnold went over to the side of the British, which greatly undermined morale (Greene & Pole, 2000). Additionally, the British won a number of victories in the South by occupying Georgia and capturing Charleston in South Carolina. In 1780 Britain’s troops launched an offensive in the region, but in January 1781, the Continental Army managed to turn the tide of the war (Greene & Pole, 2000). This period laid the foundation for the American victory in the Revolutionary War.

Battle of Yorktown

The Battle of Yorktown is the last major battle of the Revolutionary War and marks its end. The affairs of the Continental Army in the South began to improve under the command of General Nathaniel Green. The Battle of Yorktown occurred when the British Army was sent to the city when it was surrounded by the Army of Washington and the French Navy (Greene & Pole, 2000). After eleven days of bombing, the British surrendered and entered into negotiations with Washington. On October 19, 181, the Articles of Capitulation were signed, which marked the final surrender of the British forces (Articles of Capitulation, n.d). However, even after this event, British troops remained in Charlestown and New York, so the war was not completely over.

The Treaty of Paris

Over the next two years, neither side took decisive action. However, in 1782, Britain withdrew its troops from the south of the United States, which marked the end of the conflict (Greene & Pole, 2000). In the same year, preliminary peace agreements were signed in Paris, and the Treaty of Paris was concluded on September 3, 1783 (Treaty of Paris, n.d). Members of the Continental Congress, including Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Henry Laurens, participated in the signing negotiations (Treaty of Paris, n.d). However, Jefferson was unable to leave the United States, and Laurens was captured by the British until the end of the war (Treaty of Paris, n.d). Thus, only Jay, Adams, and Franklin were actually involved in the negotiations.

The agreement between Britain and the United States formally ended the conflict and affirmed the colonists’ rights to their own nation. Under the terms of the Treaty, Britain recognized the independence of the nation of the United States of America, clarified maritime and land borders, resolved issues with Americans’ debts to British creditors, and also ensured fair treatment of American citizens loyal to Britain (Treaty of Paris, n.d). Additionally, Britain transferred the Northwest Territories to the United States, which included Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and parts of Minnesota, doubling America’s territory and allowing further expansion (Treaty of Paris, n.d). However, the Treaty of Paris left some issues unresolved, which later increased tensions between countries, which would be resolved in the future by Jay’s Treaty.


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