The meeting was opened by Chairman Peter Wilson who thanked all those who had donated to the Christmas Charity collection for SHARE AFRICA. The final total collected was £435 which, with Gift Aid added, will increase to well over £500.
This week’s meeting featured our own David Siddans who gave a well-structured and illustrated talk about the unfolding story of the American Revolution from 1730 onwards to 1783. He described the 18th century as a new age of enlightenment with people inspired by philosophers, thinkers and highly revolutionary ideas of the time.
Throughout the 18th Century there was intense rivalry between France and Britain, who were global powers, eager to extend their influence in North America. Both countries entered into treaties with native Indian tribes to advance their cause and to increase the lands they controlled.
In 1754 British forces led by George Washington attacked a French detachment near the Ohio River killing around 50 soldiers and brought about what was called the French and Indian War. The War ended after 7 years in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris and provided Great Britain with enormous territorial gains in North America with the French losing almost all their territory and Britain controlling all the Continent to the East of the Mississippi.
The period of 20 years from 1763 saw the build-up to the American Revolution. George lll and his Government were financially strapped by the cost of the 7-year War. To help pay the expenses involved in governing the American colonies, Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which initiated taxes on glass, lead, paint, paper, and tea. This policy was strongly resented by the colonists who believed that it violated their rights as Englishmen to “no taxation without representation”. In addition, the Tea Act allowed the British East India Company to import tea from China without paying full taxes and therefore able to undercut other importers.
In Boston, the Sons of Liberty strongly opposed the taxes in the Townshend Act as a violation of their rights and, in 1773 protesters, some disguised as American Indians, destroyed an entire shipment of tea sent by the East India Company. The demonstrators boarded the ships and threw the chests of tea into the Boston Harbour. The British Government responded harshly applying Acts which, among other provisions, ended local self-government in Massachusetts and closed down Boston’s commerce.
The crisis escalated, and the American Revolutionary War started near Boston in 1775. Open warfare erupted with confrontations between British regulars and local Patriots at Lexington and Concord. The Patriots joined forces with the newly formed Continental Army under George Washington and drove the British back into Boston where they were put under siege until they withdrew by sea towards New York.
In the summer of 1776 the retreating British captured New York City with its strategic harbour. Subsequently, the Royal Navy blockaded ports and captured other cities for brief periods as the war moved south. However, in late 1777 France entered the war as an ally of the Patriots and the combined forces finally captured the Cornwallis troops at Yorktown effectively ending the war. The Treaty of Paris of September 1783 marked the end and the new nation’s complete withdrawal from the British Empire. Subsequently, about 80,000 Loyalists migrated back to Britain, Nova Scotia and other British colonies.
Having gained their Independence the Americans soon adopted a Constitution, rejecting monarchy and aristocracy, and establishing a Federal Republic with an elected Executive, a National Judiciary, a Congress representing the States and The House of Representatives for the population.
In offering a vote of thanks, Peter Belton commended David Siddans for his fascinating historical timeline of the movement to American Independence which had kept his audience keenly engaged throughout.
Next week, on the 18th January Canon Roger Deadman will speak on “Aspects of the Post Office from 1900 onwards”
Reported by: RICHARD WRIGHT