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Britain and France engaged in the French and Indian War, battling over land in North America. After the British won the war, they gained possession of France’s North American territories east of the Mississippi River. Up until this point the British had left the American colonies mostly on their own, but under the rule of King George III, Great Britain began to exert more control over the colonies.
The French and Indian War put the British crown in debt. In order to increase revenues for the costs of defending the expanding British Empire, Britain taxed the colonies. It imposed the Sugar Act in 1764, and, one year later, it added the Stamp Act. Colonists protested the added taxes. The Stamp Act was repealed.
In another effort to raise money and exert its authority over the colonies, Britain established the Townshend Acts in 1767. This series of acts placed taxes on tea, lead, paint, paper, and glass imported to the colonies. The acts were resisted through violence, deliberate refusal to pay, and hostility toward British agents.
Colonial opposition to the British grew, and the British sent troops to Boston, Massachusetts. As punishment for the colonists’ resistance, the British Parliament enacted four measures known as the Intolerable Acts. Meant to divide the colonies, the act united the colonies and provided justification for organizing the First Continental Congress in 1774.
After representatives for the colonists called on Britain to cancel the Intolerable Acts, Britain responded by sending more troops. Fighting ensued, and the colonies officially declared independence on July 4, 1776.
The Peace of Paris, a collection of treaties signed by both sides, ended the war. Britain recognized the United States of America as an independent country and ceded territory to the new United States.
A new plan of government, the Articles of Confederation, were written in 1776–77 and adopted by Congress on November 15, 1777. The articles were not fully ratified by the states until March 1, 1781. This new government organization served as a bridge between the initial government by the Continental Congress and the federal government provided under the Constitution of the United States.
The Constitution was written in 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution organized the country’s basic political institutions and formed the three branches of government: judicial, executive, and legislative.