Following the cessation of the hostilities known as the French and Indian War, Britain was faced with a large post war debt, a need to tax her own citizens in the British Isles and the need to continue supporting her army on the American continent. On the 9th of March George Grenville, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, proposed to the Parliament his American Revenue Act, commonly referred to as the Sugar Act. This was the first act passed by Parliament specifically intended to raise moneys in the colonies for the crown. Followed, in September, by the Currency Act which prohibited the issue of legal tender in all of the American colonies. These recent actions outraged the colonists who viewed them as intended to ruin the colonial economy. A town meeting held in Boston on 24 May denounced the Grenville acts as taxation without representation and called for united action by all the colonies to protest them. A committee of correspondence was established on 13 June to contact the other colonies and make the suggestion for noncompliance.
On the 22nd of March the Stamp Act was passed by the British Parliament as a direct tax on all types of legal and public documents, requiring that all paper used for public purposes have a stamp affixed to them. Parliament insisted that this act was imposed in order to raise funds for the defense of the colonies. Two days later the Quartering Act was passed, requiring each of the colonies to supply living quarters for the British troops. Groups began to form throughout the colonies during the summer to protest (and often carry out acts of violence) against the increasing Parliamentary acts. These groups were known as the Sons of Liberty. Between 07 October and 25 October, representatives from nine of the thirteen colonies met at New York City to decide what unified action could be taken against the Stamp Act. The meeting, known as the Stamp Act Congress, had been proposed by the Massachusetts Assembly on 06 June. The Stamp Act Congress chose to place economic sanctions upon Britain and to engage in a program of nonimportation of European goods until the Stamp Act be repealed.
Parliament met in early January and the repeal of the Stamp Act was the focus of attention. The colonial agents, including Benjamin Franklin, were called upon to give testimony to the House of Commons. A bill calling for the repeal of the act was put before the House and passed on 04 March. King George III encouraged the House of Lords to likewise pass the bill and on 17 March it was approved by that parliamentary body. The king signed the bill on the 18th and the Stamp Act was repealed effective 01 May. The American colonies responded by lifting their sanctions. The colonists celebrated a victory with the repeal of the stamp act, but on the same day the Parliament passed the Declaratory Act which stated that Parliament had the absolute authority to make laws binding the Americans "in all cases whatsoever". In December of 1765 General Gage had requested that New York provide quarters and supplies for his troops. The New York Assembly protested that that province would be unfairly subjected to hardship if she complied, and in January of 1766 made a formal refusal to comply. Throughout the summer and into the early autumn thereoccured numerous incidents of friction between the New York provincials and the British soldiers.
A change in the ministry brought Lord Chatham into office, but an illness kept him from taking effectual control of the government. Instead, Charles Townshend, the newly elected Chancellor of the Exchequer took over. His first action was to propose (and secure the passage of) the Townshend Acts, a series of acts reminiscent of the Stamp Act in that they placed import duties on a wide range of articles needed by the colonies, including paper, glass and tea. The colonies responded again by passing nonimportation legislation. Fourteen essays, published between 05 November, 1767 and January, 1768 under the title of Letters From A Farmer In Pennsylvania To The Inhabitants Of The British Colonies, by John Dickinson questioned the constitutionality of the Townshend Acts.
The Massachusetts Assembly approved a Circular Letter composed by Samuel Adams on the 11 of February to be circulated throughout the other colonies. This Circular Letter denounced the Townshend Acts as being "taxation without representation" and called once more for unified action against such acts. Lord Hillsborough, the Secretary of State for the colonies denounced the letter and the actions of the Americans and ordered the provincial governors to prevent their assemblies from endorsing it. His dispatches arrived in the colonies too late; Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Virginia had already agreed to stand by Massachusetts. The actions of the assembly at Boston provoked more antagonism and the Customs commissioners requested an armed force to protect them while they carried out their duties. The frigate, Romney, with 50 guns was dispatched to Boston and gave the Customs officials confidence. They received a report that a wharf official had been imprisoned in a cabin on John Hancock's sloop, the Liberty, while madeira wine was being unloaded without the duty being paid. On 10 June the Liberty was seized by the Customs officials. A crowd of citizens promptly assaulted the officials and their homes and caused them to flee to Castle William in the harbor. Parliament ordered two regiments of infantry to take control of Boston and they landed on the first of October without incident.
With the presence of British troops in and about Boston, the assemblies of the various colonies again decided to employ nonimportation activities against the items to be taxed according to the Townshend Acts to show Britain their disagreement with those Acts. By the end of 1769 all of the colonies, with the sole exception of New Hampshire, would pass nonimportation legislation. George Washington, on 16 May, introduced a set of resolutions framed by George Mason to the Virginia House of Burgesses. These Virginia Resolves asserted, among other points, that the governor and legislative body of the province should have the sole right of taxing the citizens of the province of Virginia. The bill was passed unanimously. In an attempt to censure the the voice of the assembly, Governor Botetourt dissolved the assembly, but the members simply decided to meet on their own at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg. This action was the first of many that would follow in which the provincial assemblies divorced themselves from, and essentially annulled, the power of the British appointed governors.
Lord Frederick North became head of the British government on 31 January, and soon thereafter, on 05 March, proposed a bill withdrawing all of the Townshend duties with the exception of the one on tea. On the 12th of April the George III signed his consent to the bill, and tea became the sole focus of the Customs agents. The various colonies, pressured by merchants who had also suffered by the sanctions placed on British goods, now began to repeal their nonimportation legislation.
The quarreling that had taken place in New York in 1766 over the Quartering Act had flared up again in 1768; then on 15 December, 1769 the Assembly had voted to appropriate £2,000 for the supplies needed by the British troops. Members of the Sons of Liberty objected to this betrayal of the province's earlier nonparticipatory stance and clashes broke out during the early part of this year. On 17 January British soldiers cut down the city's liberty pole. Two days later the Sons of Liberty attempted to prevent the British soldiers from posting broadsides. A riot broke out on Golden HHill and about forty soldiers using bayonets fought against an equal number of citizens armed with clubs and swords. The Battle of Golden Hill resulted in some serious wounds but no fatalities.
Meanwhile, in Boston, where British troops had been quartered since 1768, open quarreling had broken out at various times, but nothing serious consequence came of these clashes. On Friday, 02 March, a fist fight broke out between a town laborer and a soldier in the afternoon and developed into a small riot. By evening, bands of civilians and soldiers itching for a fight were roaming the streets, but the growing rabble was quieted down by the soldiers and other townspeople who were mindful of the approaching Sabbath, which the God-fearing New Englanders respected. Things were quiet until the following week began.
According to one tradition, on Monday, 05 March, five youths, passing through a narrow alley, came upon three soldiers striking their broadswords against a (brick or stone) wall for the sport of watching the sparks fly. One of the youths called out to the others to avoid the soldiers, and all of a sudden one of the soldiers quickly turned around and struck him on the arm with his sword. The youths returned blows and a squabble ensued. The soldiers escaped into their barracks and recruited between twelve and twenty others to follow them back to teach the boys a lesson. With their cutlasses and muskets in hand the band of soldiers swept through the streets striking and bullying any civilians they met. Some of the townsfolk returned blows and pelted the soldiers with snowballs and shots were fired into the crowds of civilians.
According to another tradition, on the evening of Monday, 05 March, between the hours of six and seven o'clock, a crowd of upwards of seven hundred, carrying clubs and other weapons, assembled in King Street. The crowd was shouting, "Let us drive out these rascals! They have no business here - drive them out!" By nine o'clock the crowd had increased in both size and fervor, and an attack was made on some British soldiers in Dock Square. The crowd began to riot and destroy throughout the town. Around midnight, a couple of the town's leading citizens attempted to bring order to the rabble, and had almost succeeded when a man began to cry out to the people, "To the main guard! To the main guard!" The crowd quickly took up the cry and headed toward the section of the town in which the main body of British troops were being quartered. As the crowd passed the custom-house, a boy pointed to the sentinel on duty and cried out, "That's the scoundrel who knocked me down." As the mob surged toward the sentinel, he tried to load his musket, but was overwhelmed. The mob was pelting him with snowballs and pieces of ice, so the sentinel ran up to the custom-house door and attempted to enter the building. The door could not be opened, and the beseiged guard called out to his fellows for assistance. The officer on hand was Captain Preston, who quickly dispatched eight men to the sentinel's aid. The crowd turned their attention on the newly arrived guard and began to pelt them with whatever they could find. A mulatto, by the name of Crispus Attucks, was with a group of sailors nearest to the guard who were loading their muskets. He dared them to fire, but the soldiers were trained not to fire unless under the order of their captain. The crowd pressed forward against the soldiers, taunting them to fire. Attucks and the sailors struck the soldiers' muskets with sticks and clubs all the while deriding the soldiers with taunts of "Come on! Don't be afraid of 'em - they daren't fire! Knock 'em over! Kill 'em!" Just then Captain Preston moved to get between the angry mob and his soldiers. Attucks struck at Preston's head, but the British captain deflected the blow with his arm. In the process, though, he knocked the musket out of the hands of one of the soldiers, a man by the name of Montgomery, and it fell to the ground near Attucks. Attucks grabbed up the musket as Montgomery struggled to retain possession of it. At about the same time, voices in the crowd were shouting to Preston, "Why don't you fire?" Montgomery, hearing the shouting, and being energized by the sound of it, got the gun away from Attucks and, as he rose up from where he and the mulatto had been struggling, he fired the musket, killing Attucks instantly. No sooner had Montgomery fired his musket, than five of the other soldiers fired their own muskets into the crowd.
Irregardless of which version of the story is factual, three civilians were killed outright and two were mortally wounded. The three killed included Crispus Attucks, Samuel Gray and James Caldwell. Samuel Maverick received a wound from which he died the following morning, and Patrick Carr received a mortal wound which claimed his life a week later.
Further uprising was averted by Lt. Governor Hutchinson; he ordered the British troops to withdraw from the town to some islands in the harbor. Captain Preston and six of his men were arrested for murder. The captain's trial lasted from the 24th until the 30th of October; the soldiers' trials lasted from the 27th of November until the 5th of December. The captain and four of his men were acquitted and the other two, though found guilty of manslaughter, were released after simply being branded on the hand. The Boston Massacre would provide impetus for the Patriotic fervor that was growing throughout the countryside.
A group of residents of the piedmont region of North Carolina who became known as the Regulators, protested the lack of representation in that province's Assembly. Disorders increased throughout the colony until May when governor William Tryon led a force of 1,200 militiamen to battle the Regulators. On 16 May they met with a Regulator force of about 2,000. The battle that took place along the Alamance River near Hillsboro resulted in the defeat of the Regulators. More importantly, it revealed the deep rift between the backwoods settlers and the British controlled provincial government.