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Officially designated as a federal holiday in 1941, the Fourth of July – or Independence Day – celebrates the turning point in US history when American delegates of the 13 colonies voted to cast off the shackles of the British Empire. The vision shared by the founding fathers took shape in the form of the Declaration of Independence, a document drafted by none other than Thomas Jefferson on July 2nd 1776 and adopted by the Continental Congress two days later. The very first celebration of Independence Day happened on the 8th of July on the same year, although the final signature would not be put on the document until the 2nd of August.
In honor of this historic moment, we have created the Independence Day Timeline, which aims to shed a bit of light on the political and socio-economic context that prompted the colonists’ decision. As a bonus, we have also included a second timeline in the PowerPoint file, which marks the settling of the very first colonies on American soil.
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Happy 4th of July!
"Taxation without representation"
Full-out war with the British and emancipation from the Empire’s rule came after years of oppression and ever-growing taxes imposed on the colonies. One such tax is the 1765 Stamp Act, which the British Parliament passed in an attempt to counterbalance the massive debt left in the wake of the war with the French. The Stamp Act was followed two years later, in 1767, by a series of taxes – the Townshend Acts – passed between June and July, on goods imported from Britain.
Growing tensions between the colonists and the British culminated with the infamous Boston massacre from 1770, when soldiers opened fire on a crowd of Boston citizens taunting them. The Brits eventually decided to withdraw their army before the conflict escalated. However, just 3 years later, in 1773, Britain passed the Tea Act, designed to help the now struggling East India Company, whose majority stakeholders were members of the British Parliament. The radicalized part of the colonists – the Sons of Liberty – responded by donning Mohawk disguises, boarding three of Britain’s ships docked in Boston Harbor and destroying over 90 thousand pounds of tea.
Naturally, the Brits weren’t at all happy with the developments and, in 1774, attempted to declaw the rebellious youth by passing a set of laws that fall under the moniker of Coercive Acts. What were the Coercive Acts? For one thing, Boston Harbor would remain closed until the colonies could pay for the damages caused by the Sons of Liberty. Furthermore, the British military governor Thomas Gage was given full executive power in the colonies and no town meeting could be held without his direct approval. Finally, all British army officials could request their troops to be accommodated in uninhabited houses and buildings. We are now standing on the precipice of war and a single spark can set off the powder.
"The British are coming! The British are coming!"
Thomas Gage is tasked with leading a small force to the town of Lexington, where he plans to capture John Hancock and Samuel Adams – two of the radicalized leaders – in one fell swoop, as well as seize their gunpowder. But things don’t exactly go as planned: they’re behind enemy lines with American spies all around. Upon descending into Lexington, the British force is met with a hail of lead fired by the 77-men Yankee militia force. It ends in disaster for the Brits: 73 casualties, 174 wounded and 25 MIA. The colonists lose only 7 people to this skirmish and continue to harass the retreating force all the way to Boston.
Meanwhile, legendary rider Paul Revere and others travel from town to town, warning the Americans about the impending invasion, and troops are being rallied. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with waging war against the British Empire, particularly the southerners who had no love for the Yankees. The bombardment and sacking of Falmouth, Massachusetts by the Brits would eventually change their mind, as the leaders of the rebellion use this brutal action to band the colonists together.
"I have not yet begun to fight!"
The Siege of Yorktown by the allied forces of the Yankees under the command of George Washington and the French army led by Rochambeau is one of the decisive victories in the war for independence. The British general Cornwallis and 7,000 of his soldiers surrender on October 19, 1781. A few isolated land skirmishes continue for a while, while the main battles are carried out at sea between England and American allies – among which we now count the Dutch and Spanish forces.
A preliminary Anglo-American Peace treaty is signed in 1782 and a more comprehensive version of it – the Treaty of Paris – in 1783. The terms of the treaty state that Britain recognizes the independence of the US and a massive portion of the territory on the continent now belongs to the Yankees. It’s the dawn of a new day for the Americans, who have forged their legacy in blood, grit and sacrifice.
About the Independence Day Timeline
The Independence Day and US Colonies timelines were created with Office Timeline and are available to download as fully customizable PowerPoint slides. Office Timeline is an intuitive and versatile PowerPoint add-in that can help you create beautiful graphics like roadmaps, swimlane diagrams or Gantt charts within minutes. Download the Pro Edition and find out how quick and easy it is or try out the free version for less complex applications.
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