United States and American History: 1774

About United States history and the events of 1774 that led to the American revolution including the intolerable acts, the first Continental Congress and the shot heard round the world.


--Goethe's Werther, written while he was on the verge of suicide, swept the Colonies in this year. It provoked unparalleled interest, possibly because it was so widely condemned. The book, Goethe's 1st popular success, had been cited as the reason for suicides among young European romantics, who identified with its morbid theme.

Jan. Virginia's governor, the Earl of Duns-more, appropriated Indian lands in Pennsylvania, forcing the Shawnees and the Ottawas into a confrontation. The subsequent 10-month struggle ended in British victory and a concession from the 2 tribes which allowed peaceful access to, and use of, the Ohio River for settlers.

Mar. 31 The 1st of the political bills which would be called the "Intolerable Acts" by the Colonists was passed. In reprisal for the tea destroyed in Boston harbor, the harbor was closed to all shipping until monetary restitution was made.

June 2 A new Quartering Act was authorized, calling for billeting of troops in private homes. Another "Intolerable" imposition by the Crown, one which led directly to Article III of the Constitution's Bill of Rights.

Aug. 6 Ann Lee, with 8 companions, landed in New York City. Founder of the Shakers in America, Mother Lee voiced a conscientious objection to the War of Independence, refusing to help the Cause. The pacifist group was accused of treason in 1776 and jailed in Albany without a formal trial. They were not freed until December, 1780, over 4 years later.

Sept. 5-Oct. 26 The 1st Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia. All 13 Colonies except Georgia were represented.

Dec. 14 The shot "heard round the world" was fired--at Fort William and Mary, N.H., not at Lexington/Concord. Learning that General Gage was about to strengthen the small garrison in Portsmouth, Sam Adams dispatched Paul Revere. It was Revere's lesser-known "midnight ride," and possibly his most important contribution. He warned John Sullivan, a local militia captain who later rose to the rank of major general under Washington, of Gage's intent to protect his powder and ammunition supplies. Gage's military strategy was sound: The Colonists were desperately short of military supplies everywhere.

Sullivan's small group, hastily assembled from the local militia, surrounded the fort and demanded its capitulation. The commander, Captain Corcoran, refused and opened fire. After a decent interval, during which no one was hit or otherwise hurt on either side, Corcoran gave up. Sullivan gleefully seized almost 100 kegs of gunpowder and transported his booty up the river to Durham, where it was hidden. Some of the powder eventually found its way into the muskets at Bunker Hill, at a time when the need was critical.

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