Major Events That Led to the American Revolution

The Boston Tea Party, 1773
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The American Revolution was a war between the 13 British Colonies in North America and Great Britain. It lasted from April 19, 1775, to Sept. 3, 1783, and resulted in independence for the colonies.

Timeline of the War

The following timeline describes the events that led up to the American Revolution, beginning with the end of the French and Indian War in 1763. It follows the thread of increasingly unpopular British policies against the American colonies until the colonists' objections and actions led to open hostility. The war itself would last from 1775 with the Battles of Lexington and Concord until the official end of hostilities in February 1783. The 1783 Treaty of Paris was signed in September to officially end the Revolutionary War.


February 10: The Treaty of Paris ends the French and Indian War. After the war, the British continue to fight against Indigenous peoples in a number of rebellions, including one led by Chief Pontiac of the Ottawa tribe. The financially draining war, combined with the increased military presence for protection, will be the impetus for many future taxes and actions of the British government against the colonies.

October 7: The Proclamation of 1763 is signed, forbidding settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. This area is to be set aside and governed as Indigenous peoples' territory.


April 5: Grenville Acts pass in parliament. These include a number of acts aimed at raising revenue to pay for the French and Indian War debts, along with the cost of administering the new territories granted at the end of the war. They also include measures to increase the efficiency of the American customs system. The most objectionable part was the Sugar Act, known in England as the American Revenue Act. It increased duties on items ranging from sugar to coffee to textiles.

April 19: The Currency Act passes Parliament, prohibiting the colonies from issuing legal tender paper money.

May 24: A Boston town meeting is held to protest the Grenville measures. Lawyer and future legislator James Otis (1725–1783) first discusses the complaint of taxation without representation and calls for the colonies to unite.

June 12–13: The Massachusetts House of Representatives creates a Committee of Correspondence to communicate with the other colonies about their grievances.

August: Boston merchants begin a policy of nonimportation of British luxury goods as a form of protest against British economic policies. This later spreads to other colonies.


March 22: The Stamp Act passes in parliament. It is the first direct tax on the colonies. The purpose of the tax is to help pay for the British military stationed in America. This act is met with greater resistance and the cry against taxation without representation increases.

March 24: The Quartering Act goes into effect in the colonies, requiring residents to provide housing for British troops stationed in America.

May 29: Attorney and orator Patrick Henry (1836–1899) begins the discussion of the Virginia Resolutions, asserting that only Virginia has the right to tax itself. The House of Burgesses adopts some of his less radical statements, including the right to self-government.

July: Sons of Liberty organizations are founded in towns across the colonies in order to fight against the stamp agents, often with outright violence.

October 7–25: The Stamp Act Congress occurs in New York City. It includes representatives from Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. A petition against the Stamp Act is created to be delivered to King George III.

November 1: The Stamp Act goes into effect and all business is basically stopped as colonists refuse to use the stamps.


February 13: Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) testifies before the British Parliament about the Stamp Act and warns that if the military is used to enforce it, this could lead to open rebellion.

March 18: Parliament repeals the Stamp Act. However, the Declaratory Act is passed, which gives the British government the power to legislate any laws of the colonies without restriction.

December 15: The New York Assembly continues to fight against the Quartering Act, refusing to allocate any funds for housing the soldiers. The crown suspends the legislature on December 19.


June 29: The Townshend Acts pass parliament, introducing a number of external taxes—including duties on items like paper, glass, and tea. Additional infrastructure is set up to ensure enforcement in America.

October 28: Boston decides to reinstate the nonimportation of British goods in response to the Townshend Acts.

December 2: Philadelphia lawyer John Dickinson (1738-1808) publishes "Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies," explaining the issues with British actions to tax the colonies. It is highly influential.


February 11: Former tax collector and politician Samuel Adams (1722–1803) sends a letter with the approval of the Massachusetts Assembly arguing against the Townshend Acts. It is later protested by the British government.

April: An increasing number of legislative assemblies support Samuel Adams' letter.

June: After a confrontation over customs violations, merchant and politician John Hancock's (1737–1793) ship Liberty is seized in Boston. Customs officials are threatened with violence and escape to Castle William in Boston Harbor. They send out a request for help from British troops.

September 28: British warships arrive to help support the customs officials in Boston Harbor.

October 1: Two British regiments arrive in Boston to maintain order and enforce customs laws.


March: A growing number of key merchants support the nonimportation of goods listed in the Townshend Acts.

May 7: British military man George Washington (1732–1799) presents nonimportation resolutions to the Virginia House of Burgesses. Proclamations are sent out from Patrick Henry and Richard Henry Lee (1756–1818) to King George III (1738–1820).

May 18: After the Virginia House of Burgesses is dissolved, Washington and the delegates meet at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia, to endorse the nonimportation agreement.


March 5: The Boston Massacre occurs, which results in five colonists being killed and six injured. This is used as a propaganda piece against the British military.

April 12: The English crown partially repeals the Townshend Acts except for the duties on tea.


July: Virginia becomes the last colony to abandon the nonimportation pact after the repeal of the Townshend Acts.


June 9: The British customs vessel Gaspee is attacked off the coast of Rhode Island. The men are set ashore and the boat is burned.

September 2: The English crown offers a reward for the capture of those who burned the Gaspee. The offenders are to be sent to England for trial, which upsets many colonists as it violates self-rule.

November 2: A Boston town meeting led by Samuel Adams results in a 21-member committee of correspondence to coordinate with other Massachusetts towns against the threat to self-rule.


May 10: The Tea Act goes into effect, retaining the import tax on tea and giving the East India Company the ability to undersell colonial merchants.

December 16: The Boston Tea Party occurs. After months of growing consternation with the Tea Act, a group of Boston activists dressed as members of the Mohawk tribe and boarded tea ships anchored in Boston Harbor in order to dump 342 casks of tea into the water.


February: All colonies except North Carolina and Pennsylvania have created committees of correspondence.

March 31: The Coercive Acts pass in parliament. One of these is the Boston Port Bill, which does not allow any shipping except for military supplies and other approved cargo to go through the port until the customs duties and the cost of the Tea Party are paid for.

May 13: General Thomas Gage (c. 1718–1787), the commander of all British forces in the American colonies, arrives in Boston with four regiments of troops.

May 20: Additional Coercive Acts are passed. The Quebec Act is termed "intolerable" as it moved part of Canada into areas claimed by Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Virginia.

May 26: The Virginia House of Burgesses is dissolved.

June 2: A revised and more onerous Quartering Act is passed.

September 1: General Gage seizes the Massachusetts Colony's arsenal at Charlestown.

September 5: The First Continental Congress meets with 56 delegates at Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia.

September 17: The Suffolk Resolves are issued in Massachusetts, urging that the Coercive Acts are unconstitutional.

October 14: The First Continental Congress adopts a Declaration and Resolves against the Coercive Acts, the Quebec Acts, the Quartering of troops, and other objectionable British actions. These resolutions include the rights of the colonists, including that of "life, liberty, and property."

October 20: A Continental Association is adopted to coordinate nonimportation policies.

November 30: Three months after meeting Benjamin Franklin, British philosopher and activist Thomas Paine (1837–1809) immigrates to Philadelphia.

December 14: Massachusetts militiamen attack the British arsenal at Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth after being warned of a plan to station troops there.


January 19: The Declarations and Resolves are presented to parliament.

February 9: Massachusetts is declared in a state of rebellion.

February 27: Parliament accepts a conciliatory plan, removing many of the taxes and other issues brought up by the colonists.

March 23: Patrick Henry gives his famous "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech at the Virginia Convention.

March 30: The crown endorses the New England Restraining Act that does not allow for trade with countries other than England and also bans fishing in the North Atlantic.

April 14: General Gage, now the governor of Massachusetts, is ordered to use any force necessary to apply all British acts and to stop any buildup of a colonial militia.

April 18–19: Considered by many to be the beginning of the actual American Revolution, the Battles of Lexington and Concord begin with the British heading to destroy a colonial arms depot in Concord Massachusetts.

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Your Citation
Kelly, Martin. "Major Events That Led to the American Revolution." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). Major Events That Led to the American Revolution. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Major Events That Led to the American Revolution." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).