The American Revolution lasted from 1775 to 1781. After March 17 76, the city ofBoston was never again touched by fighting. Yet no other city played as important a role in the struggle for independence. It was events in Boston that led to the revolution.
In the 1760s. England passed laws that imposed taxes on the colonists and limited their rights. Bostonians strongly objected. Riots
in 1768 led to the occupation of Boston by British soldiers. From there, problems grew. In 1770, an angry crowd threw snowballs (evidently filled with stones and ice) at some soldiers. The soldiers then fired into the crowd, killing five men; this event became known as the Boston Massacre. In 1773, to protest a new tax. Bostonians, dressed as Indians, threw 400 crates of British tea into the Boston Harbor.
In response to the Boston Tea Party, Britain closed the harbor. This response was a severe one, since Boston depended on trade.
Before long, colonists in and around Boston began raising armies and preparing to fight if necessary. The first shots were fired in April 1775, in the nearby town of Lexington. Independence was formally declared, by Massachusetts and the 12 other colonies, on July 4, 1776.
Visitors to Boston can see landmarks of the revolution by walking the Freedom Trail.
1. The Freedom Trail begins in the Boston Common. Today a public park, the Common was in the past a cow pasture, a public execution site, and a drilling field for soldiers. When the British occupied Boston in 1768, their troops camped on the Common. The British set off for Lexington and the first battle of the war, leaving the Common by boat. (To
day this wouldn’t be possible; the area was long ago filled in to make more land!)
2. In times leading up to the Revolution, the Old South Meeting House was a church and, as its name suggests, an important meeting place for the people of Boston. Here leaders such as Samuel Adams and James Otis gave speeches that stirred up the colonists’ emotions. Only hours before the Boston Tea Party, thousands met to discuss the tea tax. Later, British general "Gentleman Johnny" Bur – goyne, as a deliberate insult, tore up the church benches and used the Meeting House to exercise horses.
3. The Old State House was the building from which the British had ruled Massachusetts. On July 18, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read from its balcony. The statues of a lion and a unicorn, symbols of the British government, were then thrown down into the streets. The streets outside the State House were also the scene of the Boston Massacre, in 1970.
4. Faneuil Hall, sometimes called "the Cradle of Liberty," functioned as both a market (downstairs) and a meeting place (upstairs). The British took over Faneuil Hall and
used it as a weapons storehouse and a theater. British officers were watching The Blockade of Boston, a comedy written by General Bur – goyne himself, when someone cried out, "The rebels! The rebels! They’re attacking Charlestown Neck!" The officers roared with laughter—until they reahzed the play had been interrupted by a scene from real life!
5. Paul Revere was a well-known silversmith and a hero of the revolution. The Freedom Trail continues to a neighborhood known as North Boston, where visitors can see Paul Revere’s House. This house is the oldest in Boston. In the garden there is a large church bell made by Revere. Nearby there is a statue in honor of Revere’s famous ride to Lexington.
6. The colonists knew the British planned to attack Lexington. But they did not know when or how the British would attack. Paul Revere said that when the British left Boston he would cany the word to Lexington. He asked another Bostonian to hang either one or two lanterns from the high steeple of Old North Church. One lantern would mean the British had left by land, two that they had left
by sea. As he galloped to Lexington, Revere saw the two lights.
7. The last stop on the Freedom Trail is Bunker Hill. Colonists defended Bunker Hill against a much stronger British force. The colonists were defeated, but at a huge cost to the British. Bunker Hill convinced other colonists to fight. For the colonists, it was a victory in defeat.
______ 1. Hundreds were killed in the Boston
______ 2. The Boston Tea Party was a meeting held to discuss a tea tax imposed by the British government.
______ 3. The first battle of the Revolution
was fought in 1775.
______ 4. In the beginning, the Revolution took
place mainly in Boston and the surrounding area.
______ 5. Boston was occupied by the British
throughout the Revolution.
(For the answers, see page 171.)