the War Came
The American colonists did not embrace independence easily. Most
of them were of British ancestry. They spoke English and traded
mainly with Britain and other British colonies. Most shared the
mother country's Protestant religious tradition. The Americans'
pride in being British reached a high point in 1763, with Britain's
great victory in the Seven Years War (known in America as the French
and Indian War).
That victory gained Britain what had been French
Canada and all territory east of the Mississippi River, including
Spanish Florida. Heavily in debt as a result of the war, Britain
decided to keep an army in America to secure her new possessions
and looked to the colonists to help pay for it. The British parliament
approved new taxes on colonial imports and for the first time imposed
a direct tax-the stamp tax (1765)-on the Americans. Colonial resistance
to the new taxes only stiffened parliament's insistence on its right
to govern the colonists "in all cases whatsoever."
Even after fighting began at Lexington and
Concord, Massachusetts, in April 1775, the Continental Congress
petitioned King George III for redress and insisted that the colonists
wanted to remain within the empire-but only as free men. The king
responded by pronouncing the colonies to be in rebellion, and Congress
decided it had no alternative to proclaiming independence.
On July 4,1776, it declared that the
"united colonies" were henceforth "free and independent
states." Fulfilling this declaration, however, required a military
victory over Britain.
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