1754 - A skirmish between French troops (supported by Indians) and American colonists on the western frontier begins the French and Indian War, also known as the Seven Years’ War, a worldwide contest for empire between Great Britain and France and their respective allies.
1760 - George III becomes King of England and ruler of the British Empire. He favors new political leaders and advisors who follow a stricter policy toward the colonies.
1763 - The Treaty of Paris ends the Seven Years’ War. France gives up most of its claims to North American territory. Britain gains Canada and all of French Louisiana east of the Mississippi.
1764 - Parliament passes the Sugar Act to raise money from the colonies through import taxes. In response, Boston merchants refuse to buy English luxury goods.
1765 - The Stamp Act, the first tax to affect all the colonies equally, becomes law, levying taxes on a wide variety of everyday items. The Quartering Act requires all the colonists to provide lodging for British troops.
Virginia’s House of Burgesses adopts Patrick Henry’s Stamp Act Resolves, which protest taxation without representation. In response, Governor Francis Fauquier dissolves the General Assembly. Angry mobs force stamp distributors to resign, and many merchants and others agree not to import British goods.
Representatives of nine colonies meet in New York in what becomes known as the Stamp Act Congress. The delegates reject Parliament’s right to tax the colonies.
1766 - Bowing to pressure from British merchants, Parliament repeals the unsuccessful Stamp Act, but reaffirms its supreme authority over the colonies.
1767 - The Townshend Acts impose duties on glass, tea, and other items imported into the colonies. Colonists react by adopting nonimportation agreements and refusing to buy British goods.
1768 - Virginia’s House of Burgesses petitions the king, House of Lords, and Parliament of Great Britain for the repeal of the Townshend Duties. The Massachusetts General Assembly is dissolved for refusing to assist with the collection of taxes.
1769 - Virginia’s House of Burgesses restates its exclusive right to tax Virginians and condemns British actions. The new governor of Virginia, Lord Botetourt, dissolves the General Assembly.
1770 - British soldiers, sent to support local British officials, fire into an angry Boston crowd and kill five people. This incident soon becomes known as the Boston Massacre.
Realizing that the Townshend Acts are discouraging the purchase of British goods, Parliament repeals all the taxes except that on tea, which cannot be grown in North America.
Lord Botetourt dies.
1771 - The new royal governor of Virginia, John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, arrives in Williamsburg.
1772 - Samuel Adams forms a Committee of Correspondence in Massachusetts, to keep citizens and other colonies’ leaders informed of events.
1773 - A Committee of Correspondence is formed in Virginia. The Tea Act gives the British East India Company a monopoly on sales. In protest, Patriots in New York and Philadelphia force ships to return to England without unloading their cargoes of tea. Patriots dressed as Indians board ships in Boston harbor and destroy more than 300 chests of tea to prevent its unloading and sale. (This event became known only in the 1830s and 1840s as the “Boston Tea Party.”)
1774 - Parliament passes the Coercive Acts (known widely in the colonies as the “Intolerable Acts”) including, as punishment for the destruction of the tea, the Boston Port Act, which closes the harbor to all seaborne trade. Virginia’s House of Burgesses supports Boston by observing a day of “fasting, humiliation and prayer.”
Virginia calls for a unified colonial response through a boycott of British goods. In response, Governor Dunmore, the new governor of Virginia, dissolves the House of Burgesses. Eighty-nine former Burgesses meet at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg to continue discussions. They form a non-importation association—a boycott of tea and other British imports—and issue a call for a congress with representatives from every colony.
The First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia and declares that Americans are entitled to the rights of “life, liberty, and property.” It forms the Continental Association, an agreement calling on the colonies to stop all imports from Britain and providing for local committees to enforce its provisions. Yorktown residents board the ship Virginia and dump chests of tea into the York River to prevent their sale.
Throughout the colonies, local leaders prepare military resistance and develop new political institutions to replace British authority, such as county committees that later become known as Committees of Safety. They also meet in the first Continental Congress.
1775 - The Second Virginia Convention meets at St. John’s Church in Richmond. Following Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, delegates adopt an ordinance for assembling and training an independent militia.
Parliament declares Massachusetts in a state of rebellion. British General Gage is authorized to use force to subdue the colony.
British troops, attempting to capture colonial military supplies at Concord, exchange gunfire with Massachusetts “minutemen” (so called because of their willingness to be ready to fight at a minute’s notice) at Lexington and Concord.
Lord Dunmore seizes the colony’s store of gunpowder at Williamsburg.
The Second Continental Congress, which includes delegates from all thirteen colonies, meets in Philadelphia. Peyton Randolph is re-elected president of the Congress. On June 15, George Washington is appointed commander-in-chief of American defense forces, soon to be known as the Continental Army. Congress enacts Articles of War.
On June 8, Lord Dunmore flees Williamsburg with his family. Lady Dunmore and their children sail for Britain at the end of June. Lord Dunmore remains aboard the British warship H.M.S. Fowey off Norfolk.
British troops win a battle against American colonists at Bunker and Breed’s Hills in Boston, but suffer heavy losses.
King George III declares the American colonies in rebellion.
Governor Dunmore issues a proclamation calling upon all Virginians loyal to the king to arm themselves and join Dunmore’s forces. He offers freedom to the indentured servants and slaves of rebels if they agree to fight for the king.
An American assault on Quebec, led by Generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold, is repulsed and Canada remains under British control.
Virginia colonists burn Norfolk to prevent its use as a British base of operations.
France begins secretly sending money and military supplies to Britain’s rebellious North American colonies.
The Fifth Virginia Convention declares independence, then passes George Mason’s Declaration of Rights, the first bill of rights to be adopted in America.
The Second Continental Congress approves the final version of the Declaration of Independence.
The American War of Independence, also known as the Revolutionary War, is fought throughout the colonies.
1783 - The Treaty of Paris is signed, whereby Britain recognizes the United States as an independent nation. European powers agree that the new nation will possess the land between the Florida and Canadian borders, stretching west to the Mississippi River.