IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > I. North America, 1500–1789 > 5. Reform, Resistance, and Revolution, 1763–1789
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
5. Reform, Resistance, and Revolution, 1763–1789
Expansion beyond the mountains. About 200,000 Indians lived in the region west of the Appalachian Mountains and stood as a barrier to the swift occupation by European settlers. Nonetheless, European settlers increasingly moved into the region. The Watauga settlement in eastern Tennessee was made in 1769 and was augmented by the arrival of Virginians and North Carolinians under James Robertson and John Sevier (1770–71). Richard Henderson, of North Carolina, together with his associates organized the Transylvania Company, purchased land from the Cherokees, and established the Transylvania settlement in Kentucky in 1775. Daniel Boone was Henderson's agent and cleared the wilderness road to Kentucky. The settlement of Kentucky (1775–77) was facilitated by the peace forced on the Indians as a result of Lord Dunmore's War (1774).  1
The Preliminaries of the American Revolution. By 1761 the British government was thoroughly aroused by the systematic evasion of the Molasses Act of 1733 through colonial smuggling and by the illicit trade that the colonies had carried on with the enemy during the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War. British officials felt that the trade prolonged French resistance. To prevent smuggling, the British resorted to writs of assistance, general search warrants that made possible the search of all premises where smuggled goods might be found. This aroused the opposition of merchants, who alleged that the writs were illegal. In 1761, when Boston customs officers applied for the writs, the merchants contested their use. James Otis argued cogently against their legality before the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Although the court decided they were legal, the argument of Otis did much to shape public opinion.  2
George Grenville in power in England. The acquisition of the vast territory from France in America necessitated increased revenues for defense and Indian administration. The ministry decided to enforce the navigation laws, tax the colonies directly, and use that revenue to maintain an army in North America. Powers of the admirality courts were enlarged, and colonial governors were instructed to enforce the trade law. The decision to station a peacetime army of about 10,000 soldiers in North America generated resentment from above and below. Colonial elites feared the army would undermine their “liberty,” while workers feared competition from soldiers for low-wage work in the port cities.  3
Decreeing of the Sugar Act, with the avowed purpose of raising revenue in the colonies and reforming the old colonial system, both economically and administratively.  4
The Colonial Currency Act prevented colonies from paying their debts in England in depreciated currency and forbade issues of unsound money. This edict created a shortage of money in the colonies at a time when the Sugar Act injured the West Indian trade of the colonies, which had previously supplied the necessary specie.  5
Disregarding colonial protests against the two previous measures, Grenville pushed through Parliament the Stamp Act, providing for stamps on commercial and legal documents, pamphlets, newspapers, almanacs, playing cards, and dice.  6
The Quartering Act was passed, providing that in the event of insufficiency of barracks in the colonies, British troops might be quartered in public hostelries.  7
May 29
Patrick Henry introduced into the Virginia House of Burgesses a series of resolutions boldly challenging the position of the British government.  8
The Massachusetts general court sent an invitation to colonial assemblies to send delegates to meet in New York and consider the Stamp Act. Meanwhile the arrival of the stamp officers led to riots in various cities, including Boston, where the house of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Hutchinson was sacked.  9
Oct. 7
Stamp Act Congress at New York. Twenty-eight delegates from nine colonies drew up memorials to the king and Parliament and adopted a Declaration of Rights and Liberties (Oct. 19). Americans rallied to the cry “Liberty, Property, and No Stamps” and forced most stamp distributors to resign by November. A multiclass alliance of merchants, intellectuals, and workers also organized the Sons of Liberty to coordinate resistance to the measure.  10
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.