A group of settlers called Pilgrims colonized a place now known as Plymouth. The settlement grew and 13 colonies were established. Although the settlers original fled England to avoid religious persecution, they found themselves under British rule.
The colonies struggled for independence and autonomy from the clutches of England for many years. England was far away and was unable to be actively involved in the welfare of the colonists. They did, however, levy heavy taxes on all products going to the colonies.
In 1767, England placed a tax on all tea used by the American colonist. The colonists protested “taxation without representation”. The 1689 Bill of Rights passed by of the Parliament of England had forbidden the imposition of taxes without the consent of Parliament. The colonists had no representation in Parliament. They complained “taxation without representation” and refused to allow the tea to be unloaded. In 1773, colonists dressed as Native Americans, boarded ships from the East India Company and threw 300 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. This became known as the Boston Tea Party and the road to freedom begun.
On January 10, 1776 the famous pamphlet Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, was distributed. It swept the colonies invoking a sense of pride and determination. The Spirit of ’76 was born.
On July 4, 1776, Congress passed the Declaration of Independence. It announced to the world that “these United Colonies” are “Free and Independent States” and absolved their ties with England, thus beginning the war for independence. They had declared their right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Today, Americans celebrate by flying the American flag, having a barbecue and/or picnic, and watching a brilliant fireworks display.
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