The Coercive Acts – A Heavy Hand Has the Opposite Effect

Today in History, March 28, 1774:

The British Parliament enacts the Coercive Acts, or what were called the Intolerable Acts in the colonies.

Since the end of the 7-years war, part of which was fought on the North American continent between Britain and France, the British Government was cash strapped. Part of their solution was to tax the American colonists, who did not have representation in Parliament. Taxation without representation led to increasing discontent in the colonies.

After the Boston Tea party in December of 1773, parliament decided to punish the Massachusetts colony, in hopes that the recalcitrant colony would back down, and the other colonies would calm themselves and pressure Massachusetts to behave.

The Boston Port Act closed the port of Boston until the colonials paid back the cost of the tea destroyed during the Tea Party to the East India Company, and until the King was satisfied that peace had been restored.

The Massachusetts Government Act took governance of the colony out of American hands. All administrators would be appointed by the British Governor, or the King. Citizens would only be allowed to have one town meeting per year.

The Administration of Justice Act allowed the Governor to move trials for royal officials accused of crimes to other colonies or Britain, effectively preventing witnesses from testifying in the trials.

The Quartering Act ordered that American colonists provide housing for British troops. Many believe that this forced colonists to house troops in their homes, but that is not correct; they were to house them in public buildings or vacant buildings.

Finally the Quebec Act drastically enlarged the territory of Quebec into lands previously considered to be part of the colonies. Aside from the obvious, the Protestant colonists believed the Roman Catholic French of Quebec were being primed for use against them.

The Intolerable Acts had the opposite of the effect Parliament intended. They had underestimated the Americans. Rather than turn on Massachusetts, the other colonies shipped in supplies that Boston could no longer get by sea and agreed to defend Massachusetts should she be attacked.

By September, the first Continental Congress had convened to organize a unified response.

Fort Necessity

 

Today in History, July 4, 1754:

During the French and Indian Wars, a young colonial member of the British Army abandons “Fort Necessity” after surrendering it to the French the day before.

The officer, 22-year-old Lt. George Washington had also commanded British forces in the first battle of the war on the American continent weeks before. The French and Indian Wars were only part of a global conflict between England and France, the Seven Years War.

His experience here would serve Washington well in our War for Independence.  The conflict would also contribute to the American Revolution.  The war was very expensive for the Crown, and had to be paid for to save the English economy.  The colonialists considered themselves as English subjects; they fought alongside the regulars fighting the French and the Indians, many paying with their lives.  After the war the government felt the colonists owed them for their “rescue.”  The colonists however, felt the Crown owed them for saving British territory.

The ill feelings between the “homeland” and the colonies would only continue to multiply.

The Real “First” World War?

Today in History, February 10: 1763 –

“The Seven Years War”, or as it was known in the colonies, “The French and Indian War” ends with the Treaty of Paris. Britain and France had been battling for years in America, Europe, India and on the high seas over their competing imperial interests. Spain had taken sides with France. Both Britain and France had their allies in what could be considered a World War.

After several British victories on land and at sea, and after several of France’s allies had signed separate peace treaties, France and Spain finally came to the table. France gave up several of her holdings including in Canada, America and India.

The Spanish received the Louisiana Territory, the British received Spanish Florida.

Probably the most important issues for the American colonies however, are these: Many Americans, such as George Washington, gained extensive military experience fighting the French and their Indian allies during the war. And when Americans decided less than two decades later to fight for their independence from the British Crown, the French had a grudge to settle; it wasn’t that difficult for Ben Franklin to convince France to come in on the side of the Colonials. French Naval might was pivotal to the American victory.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. A Date Full of Historic Significance!


Today in History, July 4: This is my favorite day of the year to post, not only because it is America’s birthday, but because the date is so rich in American History. 

 1754 – During the French and Indian Wars, a young colonial member of the British Army abandons “Fort Necessity” after surrendering it to the French the day before. The officer, 22-year-old Lt. George Washington had also commanded British forces in the first battle of the war on the American continent weeks before. The French and Indian Wars were only part of a global conflict between England and France, the Seven Years War. His experience here would serve Washington well in our War for Independence. 

 1776 – The second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence from England after years of conflict as colonists, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

 1803 – President Thomas Jefferson announces the signing of a treaty in Paris formalizing the Louisiana Purchase, effectively doubling the size of the United States in one day for $15M. 

 1826 – 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, two of it’s signers, second President John Adams and third President Thomas Jefferson, die on the same day. The two had become bitter political enemies for years (Adams a devout Federalist, Jefferson an equally devout state’s rights man, in addition to vicious political vitriol the two had exchanged). But in 1812 they made amends and began a years’ long correspondence, making them good friends again. It is said that Adams’ last words were, “Jefferson survives”. He was wrong, Jefferson had died five hours before. Many Americans at the time saw their death on the same day 50 years after the Nation’s birth as a divine sign. 

 1863 – Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrenders Vicksburg, Mississippi to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Pemberton had sent a note asking for terms on the 3rd, and initially Grant gave his usual “unconditional surrender” response. He then thought about what he would do with 30,000 starving Southern troops, who he had lay siege to since May 18th, and granted them parole, accepting the surrender on the 4th. The capture of Vicksburg effectively secured the main artery of commerce for the Union and cut off of the Confederate states west of the Mississippi (and their supplies) from the South. Grant’s parole of the rebels would come back to haunt him, as the Confederacy did not recognize it’s terms and many of the parolees fought again…which came back to haunt the Confederacy because as a result the Union stopped trading prisoners.  Celebrated as a great victory by the North, but by Vicksburg not so much. The Citizens of the Southern city had to take to living in caves during the siege as US Navy and Army continuously bombarded their homes.  Starving and desperate, they saw Grant’s waiting a day to accept surrender as malicious.  Independence Day would not be officially celebrated in Vicksburg for a generation. 

1863 – On the same day, half a continent away, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led his defeated Army of Northern Virginia south away from the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This was no small matter…”Bobby Lee” had been out-foxing and out-maneuvering multiple Union Generals practically since the war began. No official surrender here…Lee’s army would survive to fight another day. While both battles were turning points, they did not spell the end of the South as many believe. There were years of hard, bitter fighting still to come with ghastly losses in life and injury. Gettysburg was, however, the last serious attempt by the South to invade the North. 

 1913 – President Woodrow Wilson addresses the Great 50 Year Reunion of Gettysburg, attended by thousands of Veterans from both sides, who swapped stories, dined together…and it would seem, forgave for a time. 

 1939 – “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth”. After 17 years as a beloved member of Major League Baseball, New York Yankee Lou Gehrig stands in Yankee Stadium and says goodbye to his fans, having been diagnosed with a terminal disease that now bears his name. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. I’ve posted the video below. 

God Bless America! And thank you to our service men and women that continue to make our freedoms possible.