Before the French and Indian War (1754-1763), Great Britain was content to leave the American colonists to fend for themselves.
The North American wilderness created a society of rugged individualists that carved out an existence for themselves and their families, overcoming plenty of hardships along the way. However, after the war, the British government was in debt. With nothing in its treasury to win the peace, the British turned to the colonists to pay for the conflict.
The colonists were enraged at the sudden infringements upon their liberties, specifically taxes and tightened trade regulations, which hampered American businesses. As the indignation grew worse, protests turned into revolution.
As resistance became rebellion, Sam Adams launched a campaign against taxes. The result was The Boston Massacre, an incident where British soldiers fired into protesting crowds, and the violence began.
Adams and the boys responded with The Boston Tea Party, throwing tea stored in harbor ships overboard in another tax protest. However, the situation worsened, the British clamped down even harder, and the colonists formed the First Continental Congress, declaring American rights.
The Revolution began when the British dispatched armed troops to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock. The soldiers confronted the colonial militia at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts, and the war was on.
The American colonists were far from war mongers. They formed a Second Continental Congress, during which they drafted a petition to King George III attempting to reconcile with England (especially since they thought of themselves as wronged British citizens, not separatists seeking a new nation). Meanwhile, Thomas Paine wrote a scathing rebuke of King George, which he called Common Sense, and fired up the would-be rebels to unite (although 20% of them remained Loyalists).
Of course, the King rejected reconciliation, and the colonists did begin to unite. George Washington was appointed Commander of the Continental Army, and Thomas Jefferson was asked to script the Declaration of Independence. He took most of the words and ideas for the Declaration from the philosophical writings of John Locke. To the colonists, these words were particularly significant:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed, John Hancock being the first scrivener to sign his own death warrant had the war been lost.
After a bitter struggle, some poor British generalship, heroic American patriots, and support from the French, the revolutionists prevailed. On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended the conflict. Little did the colonists know that their struggles had just begun.