The Founding of America

  • Published
  • By Jessica Lawson
  • 944th Fighter Wing Historian

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
-Thomas Jefferson

The words that open the Declaration of Independence are some of the most profound and inspiring words that have been written on behalf of a revolution. The American War for Independence was one of the first of its kind to be fought against a mother nation. At the time, Great Britain was a small, struggling island, and their years of conquest were many years into the future. But their current largest prize was the wealth of New England. The land was ripe with resources and manpower, all of which belonged to the crown.

Great Britain had just won their battles with their life-long enemy, France, in the French and Indian War, fought on American soil. To this end, their treasury was empty. What better way to pay for the damages to the establishment then tap into King George III’s only viable source: the American Colonies.

Parliament began to pass laws that restricted the colonist’s freedoms and raised their taxes on basic necessities, all while not allowing them to govern themselves as they had over the previous several decades. Originally, the colonies were free to make their own laws with no intrusion from British Parliament, but laws like The Stamp Act and orders to disarm the people began to circulate. Those same colonists, once loyal to the crown, began to seriously doubt if England had their best interests in mind.

Peaceful envoys had been sent to England to seek a resolution to these issues, but England wouldn’t budge. In late summer of 1765, a group of like-minded men began to question the legitimacy of being governed by a legislative body nearly 3,000 miles away. The Sons of Liberty, founded by Samuel Adams and financed by John Hancock, began to hold secret meetings on what should be done. The American Colonies were a part of Great Britain and its inhabitants were subjects of the king, there was no getting around that unless the colonies were able to break from England forever.

On March 5, 1770, the situation reached a boiling point when British troops opened fire into a group of colonists after a brawl began between a British soldier and an American colonist. The Boston Massacre, as it is now known, ended with five men dead. There was no turning back at this point and three years later, in December, a ban of colonials dressed as Mohawks boarded British ships in the Boston harbor and dumped 342 chests of tea into its waters. In retaliation, Parliament passed the Intolerable, or Coercive Acts, that were designed to reassert imperial authority in Massachusetts.

King George III never expected his own people to rebel against him. It was unheard of to want independence. Wars fought for control of the crown were not uncommon in British history but to want to separate all together had never been done.

The American Revolution began with the “shot heard ‘round the world,” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The war raged on for eight years, until the defeat of the British general, Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown in October of 1783. An estimated 6,800 Americans were killed in action, 6,100 more were wounded. Because of the smallpox epidemic, another estimated 17,000 died of disease and 8,000 to 12,000 out of the 20,000 prisoners of war died in captivity.

These men knew what their actions were. They were committing treason against their king. Should they lose the war, they would face a traitor’s death back in London and because of that, only about 20 percent of the colonial population openly supported the revolution. The other 80 percent stayed loyal to King George III or just waited to see who the victor would be. But the remaining populace fought a growing empire to forge a nation bound with the idea of freedom, creating the future spirit of America.