Empire in Transition p. 98-126

Chapter 4 Study Guide

The main topic of Chapter 4 is the emergence of the colonial resistance movement. (l) the interaction of forces that determined how the American colonists and the British perceived each other between 1754 and 1774, and (2) how the actions born of those perceptions created tensions and conflicts that led to the emergence of a widespread and unified colonial resistance movement.

1763: A Turning Point, presents the consequences of the Seven Years War, especially the devastating impact of the war on the southern and northwestern Indians and Pontiac's desperate attempt to regain a measure of independence for the northwestern Indians. The consequences of the war on the British, on their North American colonies, and on the relationship between the two takes up the rest of the section, and indeed the rest of the chapter. The British frame of reference was shaped by: (l) Britain's need for additional revenue in the face of financial crisis; and (2) Britain's definition of representative government, the role of Parliament, and the nature of the relationship between Parliament and the colonies. The colonial frame of reference toward Great Britain was shaped by: (l) a feeling of security stemming from the outcome of the Seven Years War, (2) a wariness of the British based on the influence of the Real Whigs, and (3) colonial theories about representative government. Given this frame of reference, the colonists began to see oppressive designs behind the actions of Grenville and his successors. Out of this colonial perception grew the conspiracy theory considered at the end of the chapter.

Passage of the Sugar and Currency Acts in 1764 and the hesitant protest attending those acts are the topics of the third section, The Stamp Act Crisis. The debate over constitutional issues led to widespread but relatively moderate protest at the ideological level. Involvement of the masses shifted the protest to the emotional level. Soon some internal colonial divisions appeared, caused by the tension between the ordinary folk and the educated elite. Composed of merchants, lawyers, prosperous tradesmen, and the like, the Sons of Liberty attempted to channel the energy of the masses into acceptable forms of resistance.

Repeal of the Stamp Act, passage of the Declaratory Act, passage of the Townshend Acts, and the expansion of the resistance movement are considered in the fourth section, Resistance to the Townshend Acts. John Dickinson's contention that the colonists had the right to determine the intent of Parliament before deciding to obey its laws suggests that the conspiracy theory was gaining ground. British reaction to the Massachusetts Circular Letter further strengthened the perception that the British were conspiring to destroy colonial rights and liberties. The discussion of how the middling sort used public rituals to involve the ordinary in the resistance movement again shows the internal divisions among the colonists.

We then focus on events in Boston that eventually led to the Boston Massacre, an event that exemplified the fears of the most conservative patriots about involving the masses in the resistance movement. News of the repeal of the Townshend duties (except the tea tax), the use of the Massacre as a propaganda tool against the British, the defense of the British soldiers by two leading patriots, and the relative calm from 1770 to 1773 helped alleviate those fears. Yet both the resistance movement and the conspiracy theory continued to grow in these calm years. It was during this time that Samuel Adams used the Boston Committee of Correspondence to widen the geographic scope of the resistance movement. Both the Boston Committee's statement of rights and grievances and the response of interior Massachusetts towns to this document demonstrate the emergence of patriots more committed to American rights than to loyalty to Great Britain.

Such commitment led to definitive action by patriots, who perceived a corrupt, oppressive, tyrannical Great Britain conspiring to destroy colonial rights and liberties through passage of the Tea Act, the Coercive Acts, and the Quebec Act. As stated by the authors, It seemed as though the full dimensions of the plot against American rights and liberties had at last been revealed. The chapter ends with the calling of delegates to the First Continental Congress for the purpose of formulating a united plan of resistance against the British.

1619 First African slaves arrive in Virginia.

1660s Virginia enacts its first laws governing slavery.

1732 Founding of Georgia, the last of England?s thirteen colonies.

1751 Revocation of Georgia?s charter and reversion to the Crown.
Benjamin Franklin publishes Experiments and Observations on Electricity.

1754 Thomas Chippendale publishes Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker?s Directory.

1739 Stono Rebellion in South Carolina.

1754 Benjamin Franklin publishes Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind. Colonists reject the Albany Union. Major George Washington constructs Fort Necessity in the Ohio Valley.

1755 Braddock's defeat at Fort Necessity.

1756 England and American colonists begin war against France (French and Indian War, or Seven Years? War).

1758 English and Americans capture Fort Duquesne and Louisbourg.

1759 English and Americans capture Quebec.

1760 English and Americans capture Montreal.

1763 The Peace of Paris ends the French and Indian War and expels Canada from North America.


American Identity: During the French and Indian War and its aftermath, events led many American colonials to reassess what it meant to be British. For many colonists the war was the first close contact they had with British individuals and they found it unsettling. With the end of Salutary Neglect, Americans began to question just how British they really were.

Economic Transformations: As political tensions heightened after 1763, Americans came to see economics as a tool of protest and began to see their economy as somewhat independent of Britain and powerful in its own right. Commercial warfare and the boycott became embedded in American diplomacy.

Politics and Citizenship: A wholesale reassessment of the colonial political system within the context of empire occurred in the dozen years after the French and Indian War. Issues of sovereignty and representation came to the fore as both the British and Americans questioned their status as subjects of the individual colonies and the Crown. An American political ideology emerged.

War and Diplomacy: This period was sandwiched between two wars, both of which transformed America's place within the British Empire and its place in the world. The French and Indian War marked a shift in British policy toward its American colonies and ended the French presence on the North American continent. The beginning of the Revolutionary War marked a giant stride toward independence from England.

Digital History

The American Revolution

Much more than a revolt against British taxes and trade regulations, the American Revolution was the first modern revolution. It marked the first time in history that a people fought for their independence in the name of certain universal principles such as rule of law, constitutional rights, and popular sovereignty. The roots of the American Revolution can be traced to the year 1763 when British leaders began to tighten imperial reins. Once harmonious relations between Britain and the colonies became increasingly conflict-riven. Britain?s land policy prohibiting settlement in the West irritated colonists as did the arrival of British troops. The most serious problem was the need for money to support the empire. Attempts through the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Acts to raise money rather than control trade met with growing resistance in the colonies. Tensions increased further after Parliament passed the Coercive Acts and the First Continental Congress took the first steps toward independence from Britain. Before the colonies gained independence, they had to fight a long and bitter war.

Biography of America (series 4)

The Coming of Independence
Professor Maier tells the story of how the English-loving colonist transforms into the freedom-loving American rebel. The luminaries of the early days of the Republic -- Washington, Jefferson, Adams -- are featured in this program as they craft the Declaration of -- and wage the War for -- Independence.

Lecture Outlines

Road to Revolution 1744-1763 notes 

Prologue to Revolution 1763-1775

Road to Revolution 1763-1776 notes