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The American Revolution: Causes of Conflict

Marching Towards War


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The Coercive/Intolerable Acts

In response to the colonial attack on the tea ships, Parliament passed a series of punitive laws in early 1774. The first of these, the Boston Port Act, closed Boston to shipping until the East India Company had been repaid for the destroyed tea. This was followed by the Massachusetts Government Act which allowed the Crown to appoint most positions in the Massachusetts colonial government. Supporting this was the Administration of Justice Act which permitted the royal governor to move the trials of accused royal officials to another colony or Britain if a fair trial was unobtainable in Massachusetts. Along with these new laws, a new Quartering Act was enacting which allowed British troops to use unoccupied buildings as quarters when in the colonies.

In Boston, royal authority was asserted with the arrival of Lieutenant General Thomas Gage as the new royal governor on April 2, 1774. Initially well received as most Bostonians were pleased to see the hated Governor Thomas Hutchinson depart, Gage did not move to quash the Sons of Liberty for fear of escalating the situation.

The First Continental Congress

Using a variety of committees of correspondence, the colonial leaders began planning a congress to discuss the repercussions of the Intolerable Acts. Meeting at Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia, representatives from twelve colonies (Georgia did not attend) convened on September 5, 1774. In the discussions that followed some delegates argued in favor of establishing a new governmental system while others desired to work towards reconciliation with Britain.

As a result of the Congress, which ended October 26, the colonies agreed to the formation of the Continental Association. This compact stipulated that the colonies would boycott all British goods starting on December 1, 1774, and would boycott the West Indies unless the islands agreed to cease importing British goods as well. As a result, importation of British goods dropped 97% in 1775. In addition, if the Intolerable Acts were not repealed, the colonies would cease exporting to Britain effective September 10, 1775. Departing Philadelphia, the group decided to return in May 1775, for a Second Continental Congress.

In the spring of 1775, Gage began a series of raids with the goal of disarming the colonial militias. On the evening of April 18, Gage ordered some of his troops to march to Concord to seize munitions and gunpowder. The next morning, British troops encountered colonial militia in the village of Lexington. While the two forces faced off, a shot rang out. Though the source of the shot is unknown, it touched off eight years of war.

American Revolution 101 | Next: Opening Campaigns

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