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A Chronology of American History: 15th | 16th | 17th | 18th | 19th | 20th

18th Century

Population of the British colonies: approximately 275,000. Boston, the largest city, has about 7000 inhabitants.

Samuel Sewall publishes The Selling of Joseph, one of the first expressions of antislavery thought in the American colonies.

May 4: Queen Anne's War, the second French and Indian War, begins. It lasts until 1713.

February 29: French and Indian forces attack Deerfield, killing fifty and taking a hundred residents captive, in one of the most violent episodes in Queen Anne's War.

April 24: The Boston News-Letter is the first successful newspaper in the British colonies.

Massachusetts prohibits marriages between whites and blacks.

September 22: The Tuscarora Indian War (1711-13) begins. Surviving Tuscaroras move northward and join the League of the Six Nations.

April 11: The Treaty of Utrecht ends Queen Anne's War. France cedes Newfoundland and Nova Scotia to Britain.

January: South Carolina settlers, aided by Cherokees, defeat the Yamassee Indians, and move southward into lands claimed by Spain.

May: Connecticut prohibits Sunday travel except for attendance at worship.

May 17: The Molasses Act levies heavy duties on rum and molasses imported from the French and Spanish West Indies.

The Great Awakening begins in New England, ignited by Jonathan Edwards, who sermons in Northampton, Mass., emphasize human depravity and divine omnipotence.

Peter Zenger, publisher of the New York Weekly Journal is acquitted of seditious libel, helping to establish the principle of freedom of the press.

June 9: George II grants James Oglethorpe a charter for Georgia to serve as a buffer against Spain and as a haven for debtors. Georgia was the only one of the original 13 colonies to forbid slavery.

August: George Whitefield, a Methodist preacher, arrives from England, and preaches from New England to Georgia.

September 9: The Stono slave rebellion in South Carolina.

Population of the British colonies: approximately 889,000.

The Negro Conspiracy of 1741, an alleged plot to burn down New York City, leads authorities to burn 13 blacks alive, hang eight, and transport 71 out of the colony.

King George's War, the third French and Indian war, begins. It lasts until 1748.

June 16: New Englanders capture Fort Louisbourg, a French stronghold in Nova Scotia. The fort was returned to the French at the end of King George's War, outraging New Englanders.

Benjamin Franklin publishes his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, perhaps the most influential essay written by an American colonist.

June: Benjamin Franklin demonstrates that lightning is form of electricity by flying a kite and a key during a thunderstorm.

30-year-old Benjamin Banneker, an African American, constructs the first clock made entirely in the American colonies.

May 28: The fourth and most important French and Indian War (1754-1763) begins when British and French and Indian forces clash near Fort Duquesne (the site of present-day Pittsburgh) for control of the Ohio River Valley.

July 19: The Albany Congress, called to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois in event of war with the French, approves Benjamin Franklin's "Plan of the Union" of the colonies, with a president general named by Britain and a grand council with legislative power. The plan was rejected by the colonies and the Crown.

August. 10: A day after surrendering to French Gen. Montcalm at Fort William Henry in northeastern New York, many British troops die in an ambush by France's Indian allies. James Fenimore Cooper makes use of this incident in The Last of the Mohicans.

September 13: In the climactic battle of the war, Britain defeats the French on the Plains of Abraham at Quebec. Both French Gen. Montcalm and British commander James Wolfe die in the battle.

Population of the British colonies: approximately 1,610,000.

February 10: France cedes Canada to Britain under the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years' War.

May 7: Pontiac's Rebellion begins when the Ottowa Indian chief leads an attack on Detroit. After failing to receive French aid, the conflict ends in October.

March 22: Parliament passes the Stamp Act, which imposes a tax on all newspapers, legal documents, playing cards, dice, almanacs, and pamphlets, raising the issue of taxation without representation.

March 24: The Quartering Act, which requires the colonies to provide housing and food for British troops stationed in the colonies, goes into effect.

May 29: When Patrick Henry is accused of treason for denouncing the Stamp Act in the Virginia House of Burgesses, he replies: "If this be treason, make the most of it."

October 7-25: The Stamp Act Congress, consisting of delegates from nine colonies, meets in New York to organize united resistance to the Stamp Act. It calls on the colonies to protest the act by refusing to import goods that require purchase of a stamp.

The phrase "Sons of Liberty" refers to opponents of the Stamp Act.

March 17: Under pressure for London merchants, Parliament repeals the Stamp Act.

March 18: Parliament passes the Declaratory Act, asserting its power to pass laws affecting the colonies.

June 29: The Townsend Acts require the colonists to pay an import duty on tea, glass, oil, lead, paper, and paint.

June 9: Customs officials in Boston seize John Hancock's sloop Liberty on the (probably false) charge that it was used for smuggling.

October 1: Two regiments of British troops land in Boston.

Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan friar, establishes the first California mission.

June 7: Daniel Boone reaches Kentucky for the first time.

Population: 2,205,000

March 5: Boston Massacre. Around 9 p.m., British troops fire on a crowd of men and boys who are throwing snowballs and chunks of ice at them. Three members of the crowd--Crispus Attucks, James Caldwell, and Samuel Gray--are killed and two others--Patrick Carr and Samuel Maverick--died later of their wounds.
John Adams, assisted by Josiah Quincy, defended the soldiers, arguing that the crowd had rushed the soldiers, taunting them and striking at their muskets with sticks and clubs. Preston and six other defendants were acquitted. Two soldiers, found guilty of manslaughter, were branded on the thumb and dismissed from the army.

April 12: Parliament repeals the all the Townsend duties except the one on tea.

June 10: Colonists near Providence, R.I., burn the British customs schooner Gaspee after it runs aground.

Harvard College announces that it will no longer rank students in order of social prominence.

Phyllis Wheatley, the slave of a Boston merchant, publishes Poems on Various Subjects.

May 10: Tea Act. To save the East Indian Company from bankruptcy, the British Parliament authorizes it to sell a huge tea surplus without payment of duty directly to the public, outraging established tea merchants, since the East India Company could undersell them.

December 16: Boston Tea Party. Disguised as Mohawk Indians, a group of approximately 150 protesters boarded three tea ships in Boston harbor and emptied 342 chests of tea worth 18,000 pounds sterling into the water.

March 31: Intolerable Acts. In reprisal for the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament enacts the first of the "Intolerable Acts," closing Boston harbor to all shipping until payment for the destroyed tea was made.

May 20: Two additional "Intolerable Acts" forbid public meetings in Massachusetts unless sanctioned by the royal governor and transfer any trial of a British official accused of a capital offense to England or another colony.

June 2: The Quartering Act, another of the "Intolerable Acts," requires Massachusetts residents to house and feed British troops in private homes.

June 22: The Quebec Act extends the boundaries of Quebec to the Ohio River and guarantees the rights of Catholics and Indians in the region.

August 6: "Mother" Ann Lee, the founder of the Shakers, arrives in New York.

September 5: The First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia; all 13 colonies except Georgia are represented.

September 17: The First Continental Congress approves the Suffolk Resolves, calling for organized opposition to the Intolerable Acts.

March 3: At a convention held in Richmond, Va.'s St. Johns Episcopal Church, Patrick Henry reportedly denounced arbitrary British rule with the stirring words: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

April 14: The first antislavery society in the colonies is organized in Philadelphia.

April 19: At the battles of Lexington and Concord, 73 British troops are killed and 200 are wounded or missing in action. The patriot losses were 49 dead and 46 wounded or missing.

May: The Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia.

June 15: Congress selects George Washington to be commander in chief of the Continental Army.

June 17: Battle of Bunker Hill. British forces attacked Patriots on Breed's Hill, which overlooks the sea approach to Boston Harbor. Almost half of the British troops--1,054 out of 2,400--are killed or wounded. American colonel William Prescott is credited with telling his troops: "Don't fire till you see the whites of their eyes!"

June 22: The Second Continental Congress issues its first paper money.

January: Thomas Paine arrives in the United States bearing a letter of recommendation by Benjamin Franklin. His pamphlet Common Sense, published on Jan. 10, sold over 100,000 copies in three months.

June 6: At the Second Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduces a resolution that "these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and indpendent states."

July 2: New Jersey gives "all inhabitants" of adult age with a net worth of 50 pounds the right to vote. Women property holders have the vote until 1807, when the state limited the vote to "free, white males."

July 4: Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence. Virginia Richard Henry Lee formally moved for independence on June 6. On June 11, a five-member committee--consisting of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman--was named to produce a draft of a declaration.

September 22: Before being executed by the British for spying, Capt. Nathan Hale says, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."

December 19: To bolster the patriots' morale, Thomas Paine publishes The Crisis, which begins: "These are the times that try men's souls."

June 14: The Continental Congress authorizes a flag with 13 red and white stripes and 13 white stars on a field of blue.

July 2: Vermont becomes the first political unit in the world to abolish slavery.

According to Thomas Jefferson, "30,000 slaves escaped from Virginia in the year of 1778."

February 6: France signs a treaty with the United States.

December 29: The British invade the deep South, capturing Savannah, Ga.

June: Spain declares war on England.

September 23: When British forces on the Serapis demand that John Paul Jones surrender the sinking Bon Homme Richard, Jones replies: "Sir, I have not yet begun to fight."

U.S. population: 2,781,000.

September 21: Benedict Arnold offers to exchange West Point for 20,000 pounds and a commission as major general in the British army.

Quork Walker, a slave, successfully petitions for his freedom, basing his plea on the State constitution's declaration that "All men are born free and equal."

January 30: The Articles of Confederation are adopted.

October 19: General Cornwallis's encircled 8000-man army surrenders at Yorktown, Va.

J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur publishes his Letters from an American Farmer, which asks: "What is an American, this new man?"

Massachusetts no longer identifies adulterers with a scarlet "A" branded on the skin or sewn on a garment.

100,000 Loyalists have fled the United States, mainly to Nova Scotia.

March 12-15: The Newburgh Conspiracy. Continental officers threaten to revolt against a "country that tramples on your rights." Washington convinces military leaders to resist sedition.

May 13: Revolutionary Army officers form the Society of Cincinnati.

September 3: The Paris Peace Treaty gives the United States all land east of the Mississippi River, south of Canada, and north of the Floridas.

Virginia abolishes primogeniture, the practice of conveying an estate to the eldest son.

January 25. Shays Rebellion. Massachusetts farmers, faced with high taxes, eviction, and imprisonment for debt, attack the Springfield arsenal. George Washington writes to James Madison: "If there exists not a power to check them, what security has a man for life, liberty or property?" THomas Jefferson, in Paris, responded differently: "A little revolution now and then is a good thing; the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

May 14: The Constitutional Convention, with George Washington presiding, convenes in Philadelphia.

July 13: The Northwest Ordinance establishes a system of government for the region and prohibits slavery from the territory.

June 21: By a vote of 57 to 47, New Hampshire becomes the 9th state to ratify the Constitution. North Carolina and Rhode Island rejected the document. In Virginia the vote was 89-79 for approval; in New York, 30-27; and in Massachusetts, 187-168.

The first American novel, William Hill Brown's The Power of Sympathy, seeks "to expose the dangerous Consequences of Seduction and to set forth the advantages of female Education."

February 4: The Electoral College selects George Washington as president. Washington wrote: "My movement to the chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution."

July 14: A Paris crowd of 20,000 storms the Bastille, a hated royal fortress. The crowd frees seven prisoners.

August 27: The French National Assembly, inspired in part by the Declaration of Independence, issues the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which proclaims the legal equality of all citizens and freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion.

U.S. population: 3,929,625.

Philadelphia's Walnut Street Prison introduces the Pennsylvania system of prison management; prisoners are placed in solitary confinement to isolate them from other offenders and encourage them to reflect on their crimes.

January 14: Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton recommends that the Federal Government assume the national debt and state debts incurred during the Revolution. In exchange for Southern support, northern members of Congress agree to move the U.S. capital to a site located between Maryland and Virginia.

December 21: Samuel Slater opens the first cotton mill in Pawtucket, R.I.

March 3: To raise revenue, Congress imposes a tax of 20-30 cents a gallon on distilled spirits.

August 22: 100,000 slaves revolt in the French colony of St. Domingue, marking the beginning of the Haitian Revolution. Napoleon reestablished slave labor in Haiti in 1802, but lost 24,000 troops to disease and black resistance in 1803, which led to his decision to abandon his New World empire and sell Louisiana Territory to the United States.

December 15: The Bill of Rights is ratified, protecting individual liberties from the power of the central government. The first ten amendments to the Constitution guarantee such basic rights as freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, and the right to a jury trial.

April 22: President Washington issues a proclamation of neutrality, calling on Americans to avoid taking sides in the war between Britain and revolutionary France.

October 28: Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin. He had learned how to separate seeds from raw cotton from a slave known only as Sam.

Charles Willson Peale opens America's first museum of national history in Philadelphia.

August 20: General Anthony Wayne defeats Indians at the battle of Fallen Timbers, opening the Ohio country to white settlement.

July-November: Whiskey Rebellion. President Washington demonstrates the ability of the federal government to enforce its laws by calling out state militia to suppress a tax revolt by farmers in western Pennsylvania, who object to a tax on whiskey.

November 19: Jay's Treaty.

The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church is formed in New York.

September 19: A Philadelphia newspaper publishes President Washington's Farewell Address. A plea for national unity against partisan and sectional divisions, the address also calls on the United States to avoid entangling foreign alliances.

May 31: The XYZ Affair. French agents, referred to as X, Y, and Z, demand a $10 million loan and bribes before France will negotiate a treaty with the United States. The incident gave rise to the slogan, "Millions for defense, but not one sent for tribute."

The Alien and Sedition Acts give the president the power to imprison or deport foreigners believed to be dangerous to the United States and make it a crime to attack the government with "false, scandalous, or malicious" statements or writings.

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions declare the Alien and Sedition Acts to be unconstitutional and provide the basis for the doctrine of states' rights.

December 14: George Washington dies at his home at Mount Vernon. "Light-Horse Harry" Lee delivers the most famous eulogy: "To the memory of the man, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."


This site was updated on 24-Jul-14.

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