We turn on the news and we hear the whining about a “Trade War”. We forget it was a trade war that gave birth to this country. In Philadelphia, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the independence of the United States of America from Great Britain. The declaration came 442 days after the first shot was fired in the American Revolution.

Most colonists quietly accept British rule until Parliament’s enactment of the Tea Act in 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a monopoly on the American tea trade.

The low tax allowed the East India Company to undercut even tea smuggled into America by Dutch traders, and many colonists viewed the act as another example of taxation tyranny. In response, militant Patriots in Massachusetts organized the “Boston Tea Party,” which saw British tea valued at some 18,000 pounds dumped into the Boston Harbor.

Outraged, the British Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts, also known as the Intolerable Acts, in 1774. Closing Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts, and made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America and required colonists to quarter British troops. In response, the colonists called the first Continental Congress to consider American resistance.

With the other colonies watching intently, Massachusetts led the resistance to the British, forming a shadow revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony.

April 1775, Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Concord, where a Patriot arsenal was located. On April 19, 1775, the British regulars encountered a group of American militiamen at Lexington, and the first shots of the American Revolution split history.

In January 1776, Thomas Paine published “Common Sense,” an influential political pamphlet that convincingly argued for American independence. In the spring of 1776, support for independence swept the colonies, the Continental Congress called for states to form their own governments, and a five-man committee was assigned to draft a declaration.

The first section features the famous lines, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The second part presents a long list of grievances that provided the rationale for rebellion.

On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve a Virginia motion calling for separation from Britain. The dramatic words of this resolution were added to the closing of the Declaration of Independence. Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by 12 colonies after minor revision. New York approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed.

The Revolutionary War would last for five more years. Until the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain. The United States formally became a free and independent nation. It started with a trade war.

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