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United States of America
Historical Summary
18th Century

Find summaries for:
Late 1700's,
Also: Costumes

These summaries are a supplement to the family histories and place the ancestor's stories in their historical context. They tell of only the major events that could have affected the ancestors living in these places and times, and are collected from several sources 1.

Historical Summary
United States of America - Late 1700's
With the passing of the Seven Years War and the French from west of the Allegheny Mountains, the original British colonies no longer felt the need of Britain. As taxes rose to pay the war debt, so to did the colonial ire, boycotting British products and agitating for revolution. When Boston was placed under martial law in 1774, twelve colonies formed the Continental Congress and made known their grievances. As the British attempted to disarm colonials in Massachusetts, the farmers fought back and began the War of American Independence. The rebel resistance were in the minority mostly in New England, yet with a victory in the British retreat from Boston, the pamphlet writing of Thomas Paine and the persistence of new commander-in-chief George Washington, the sentiments of many more were turned. By 1776 the Second Continental Congress declared independence. While one British army took the capital at Philadelphia, another was surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga, New York. The French recognized American independence and by 1778 were giving full support and were also battling the British. The South eventually fell in 1779, yet the British army there under Cornwallis, hounded by American troops and geurillas, regrouped at Yorktown and surrendered to Washington with the French Navy off the coast in 1781. In the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the British forsook their colonial holdings south of the Great Lakes and the United States of America was free.

The Congress ruled the states weakly, and as thousands of Loyalists travelled north into the still-British Canadas, they attempted to maintain their new confederation. A new federal government was defined by the Constitution of the United States in 1787, whereby the states gave up some powers to the administration run by the national president George Washington. As Washington was sworn in in 1789, the French Revolution had just begun.

The 1790's in America saw the dawning of another revolution - that of industrial mechanization. Inventors defected from Europe, textile mills appeared in Rhode Island, the cotton engine or "cotton gin" was patented, and slavery in the South began a resurgence. The capital is moved to the new city of Washington, DC. There is a minor rebellion in Pennsylvania in 1794 over liquor taxes. John Adams becomes the second president in 1797 after two terms as vice-president and Washington dies in 1799. As the century draws to a close, the population of the USA reaches 5.3 million people.

Follow Loyalists to Upper Canada in the 1790's.

See also Costumes of the late 1700's.