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Digital History ID 3215


As late as 1774, most colonists did not favor declaring independence from the British Crown. Far from rejecting monarchy, most Americans saw the king as their protector from oppressive acts of Parliament. The delegates to the First Continental Congress, which had assembled in Philadelphia in September 1774, hoped for reconciliation with Britain. They asked Massachusetts Bay colonists, who were the most radical in their opposition to British policies, to avoid involving "all America in the horrors of a civil war."

In February 1775, Parliament declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. This declaration permitted soldiers to shoot suspected rebels on sight. In April, British General Thomas Gage received secret orders to arrest the ringleaders of colonial unrest. To avoid arrest, colonial leaders fled Boston.

Gage decided to seize and destroy arms that the patriots had stored at Concord, 20 miles northwest of Boston. When Joseph Warren, a Boston patriot, discovered that British troops were on the march, he sent Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn the people about the approaching forces.

At dawn on April 19, the troops reached the town of Lexington, five miles east of Concord. About 70 volunteer soldiers lined the Lexington Green to warn the red-coated British troops not to trespass on the property of freeborn English subjects. A shot rang out. The British troops fired. Eight minutemen were killed, and another ten were wounded.

The British continued to Concord, where they searched for hidden arms. At North Bridge, a group of redcoats and minutemen clashed, leaving 3 redcoats and 2 minutemen dead. The British then retreated to Boston, while citizen-soldiers fired at the redcoats from behind trees and stone fences.

Even after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the members of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress described themselves as "loyal and dutiful subjects" of the king, who were ready to defend the crown with their "Lives and Fortunes." They asked King George III and the British people to protect them against the King's ministers.

But George III dismissed the colonists' protestations of loyalty and told Parliament in October 1775 that such claims were "meant only to amuse." He noted that the Continental Congress was already assuming the powers of government. It had established an army, appointed officers, named a commander-in-chief. It had also raised money to support an army by loans and printing money. In addition, it had taken charge of Indian affairs and the post office.

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