• Learn about YOUR history: Reunion 1602-2004

  •  An overview of American history

    Another timeline online from the US (class-gender-ethnicity background)

  • Indian timeline
  • Admission dates of the 50 states
  • Presidents
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  • Reading US history 
  • On trouvera une chronologie très complète en français dans Histoire des Etats-Unis, ouvrage publié sous la direction du Professeur B. Vincent, consultable à la B.U.
  • <> A course in American History, USA style


    1585-1591 Roanoke (an island off the coast of Virginia) is the first settlement in America by the English.

    1606 Santa Fe is founded by Spanish settlers.

    1607 Jamestown, the first permanent British settlement in America, is founded on the Chesapeake.

    1619 John Rolfe brings African slaves to Jamestown to harvest tobacco along with indentured whites.

    The Mayflower (1620)


    The Mayflower left Plymouth to Virginia in September, with 102 passengers on board, those later called the Pilgrim Fathers. 

    The Mayflower arrived on Nov. 9th near Cape Cod,  in today's Massachusetts.

    "The Pilgrim Fathers" founded  the colony of Plymouth (Nov. 11th) and drew up a contract, the Mayflower Compact, before landing.

    See this document.


    Plimouth Colony (1620)


     Plimouth plantation as recreated today. Note the high palissades.

    Thanksgiving, a painting by Norman Rockwell

    John Winthrop


    After the Pilgrim Fathers, Puritans arrived by the thousands and founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Between 1628/1640, some 20,000 Puritans left England to America. They settled around Boston, ad the area is now called New England. 

    "We shall be like a City Upon a Hill. The eyes of all people are on us." 

    These words are taken from a sermon by John Winthrop, first Governor of Massachusetts, delivered in 1630 aboard the ship Arbella, which had anchored at Salem harbor. 


    1628 -1640 Some 20,000 Puritans leave England to America.

    1630-1733 Foundation of the first thirteen  colonies.

    1651-1673 Navigation Acts passed by British Parliament establish a trade monopoly with England (mercantilism).

    1672 The Royal African Company created

    To meet planters' growing demand for slaves, the English government established the Royal African Company in 1672. After 1698, when Britain ended the Royal African Company's monopoly of the slave trade, the number of enslaved Africans brought into the colonies soared. Between 1700 and 1775, more than 350,000 Africans slaves entered the American colonies.
    1730s-1740s -  Great Awakening (Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefiled).

    1754-63 French and Indian War ( in Europe: Seven Years' War)

    1763  Treaty of Paris: France loses Canada and possessions east of Mississippi River. To compensate for the enormous war debt, Parliament in London passes a series of acts to raise new taxes in America. For example ...

    1764  Sugar Act: imports -mostly sugar- are taxed.
    1764 Currency Act: the colonies are forbidden to issue paper money.

    1765  Quartering Act: Americans are to house and feed regular British  troops.
    1765  Stamp Act: taxation on newspapers, insurance policies, playing  cards, legal documents... Protest by the Stamp Act Congress

    1766  Declaratory Act: Parliament asserts its right to make laws for  the American colonies.

    1767  Townshend Acts: customs and duties to be collected by British  officers.

    1772 Somerset case

    On May 14, 1772, a court case between Steward, a Virginia slaveowner, and Somerset, the slave he brought into England from Virginia, effectively outlawed slavery in Great Britain. The prosecution for Somerset argued that slavery was a "municipal relation" created by and "confined to certain places," rather than a "natural right" governed by natural law. Since slavery was an institution "dropt by passage into a country [England] where such municipal regulations do not exist," it was asserted that Somerset be set free.[13] Ironically, Britain's direct involvement in the perpetuation of slavery in the British colonies was to continue for another 60 years. (Oct.10,2002)

    1773 Boston Tea-Party


    The Boston tea Party (1773) : 
    342 chests of tea were tossed into the harbor.

    1776-1783 War for Independence (or the Revolutionary War)

    1776 Declaration of Independence
    The events that led to Indpendence

    1763 THE PROCLAMATION LINE set the western borderline for colonial settlement at the Alleghenies. West of the Alleghenies (or Appalachians) was reserved for the Indians. King George absolutely wanted to make peace with the Indians because it would be impossible for England to keep peace with the Indians by a chain of forts: it would have required too many soldiers and too much money. As for the colonists, they had already settled the Ohio region and it goes without saying that they would refuse to go back east although the Proclamation ordered them to do so. As for those colonists who had not yet moved over to the Alleghenies, they refused to be "hemmed in" as they said. American westward expansion couldn't be stopped by the king.

    1764 The Chancellor of the Exchequer was George Grenville. He had a plan to end the policy of salutary neglect. After the war with France, England was broke and it was time to replenish the treasury. About 10,000 soldiers -the Red-coats- were sent to the colonies to "protect" them from the Indians; but the Red-coats had a tendency to stay  in the cities along the coast. Of course eveyone realized that they were there to back up the tax collectors.

    1764 THE SUGAR ACT: duties on sugar and molasses were lowered but importation from foreign West Indies of rum and spirits was prohibited.

    1764 THE STAMP ACT was proposed one year before it was to go into effect, which was fair enough, but politically stupid. American tax-payers had ample time to organize opposition to the new tax law.

    1765 THE STAMP ACT was passed. Stamps had to be affixed to all sorts of items such as newspapers, insurance policies, playing cards,legal documents, ... 

    1765: THE STAMP ACT CONGRESS:(James Otis)  The Stamp Act Congress met in October in New York city with representatives from nine colonies.They sent a petition to the King and Parliament in London. This petition was very important in that it brought up a very important issue. The colonials considered that no taxation could be demanded without representation. The Americans thus considered that only their own colonial assemblies were entitled to levy taxes for revenue purposes. (revenue: income of a government)

    1765 BOYCOTT OF ENGLISH GOODS/SONS OF LIBERTY/STAMP ACT REPEALED:Just after the Stamp Act Congress, merchants in Boston , N.Y.C., Philadelphia, Charleston signed promises not to buy any goods from England.This is called a boycott. At the same time, groups calling themselves "Sons of Liberty" - some of them were respectable businessmen and merchants,others were young people who enjoyed the fun of using violent means in a popular cause- organized to use violent means if necessary to punish any merchant that would not respect the boycott on English goods.There were riots in Boston and New York City especially. Finally the boycott on English goods so much damaged the trade between England and its American colonies, that the London merchants decided to petition Parliament for a repeal (abrogation)  of the Stamp Act. Eventually, because of the unrest in the American colonies and because of the London merchants' petition, the Stamp Act was repealed on May 1st,1766. These events revealed real resentment against England in the colonies. 

    1766 DECLARATORY ACT:At the same time as the Stamp Act was repealed, Parliament passed the Declarartory Act. It stated that  Parliament had the right to make laws which would apply to the colonies. It was a flat rejection of the "no taxation without representation" principle, and any other legal argument.  The colonies celebrated the repeal of the Stamp Act & ignored the Declaratory Act.

    1766 THE QUARTERING ACT:This Act required the colony in which English troops were stationed to provide the soldiers with living-quarters if the military authorities had no room for them. Even private homes could be used.

    1767 THE TOWNSHEND ACTS: Charles Townshend was Chancellor of the Exchequer , after Grenville. Since Americans argued there could be no taxes for revenue purposes on internal trade of any item,  he made sure all the new taxes he had planned were external. The new taxes were on glass, tea, lead,paint, paper...

    1767 JOHN DICKINSON'S  "FARMER'S LETTERS": John Dickinson published his ideas in the Pennsylvania Chronicle. He said that import taxes to raise revenue could not be levied by Parliament. Parliament could only levy taxes to control imperial trade and affairs.

    1768 THE CIRCULAR LETTER: SAMUEL ADAMS:Sam Adams, a man from Boston, wrote a series of statements explaning why the Townshend Acts were unacceptable; his main point once again was that "taxation without representation was tyranny." He also called for united action by the several colonies. The Massachusetts House of Representatives adopted his document and decided to send it to the other colonial assemblies. The document was known as the Circular Letter. 

    1768 THE SECOND BOYCOTT:It was then decided that no item on the Townshend lists would be bought by colonial merchants. The movement was initiated in Boston and spread all over the colonies in a few months; but there was no petition to Parliament by merchants this time as the trade with Europe was prosperous. Nevertheless it was soon announced that the Townshend Acts would be modified .

    1770 TOWNSHEND DUTIES  REPEALED EXCEPT ON TEA:The new Prime Minister Lord North repealed all the Townshend Acts except the duties on tea. The Quartering Act had expired and was not renewed . It made colonial merchants drop the boycott. But the tea tax was still to be levied and Lord North had designed it to show that Parliament did have the right to levy such a tax.

    1770 THE BOSTON MASSACRE: March 5th. Tension was high in Boston. Five people were killed .

    1770 THE QUIET PERIOD: Busine$$ was good; import duties and even the tea-tax were being collected.  Everybody seemed satisfied. Yet Sam Adams started a sort of anti-English propaganda campaign sending letters to all colonies and organizing committees of correspondence. Those who followed Sam Adams in his action were the Sons of Liberty and a few radical leaders; they were called radicals. As for the rest of the population, they were quite satisfied with the situation as it was & were called conservatives.

    1773 16TH DECEMBER THE BOSTON TEA PARTY: At the time, the British East India Tea Company was nearly bankrupt. To help the Company,  Lord North's ministry allowed them to ship  tea directly from the British EAST Indies to America without the usual one shilling per pound tax. So that all in all tea was at a lower price in America and the company avoided bankruptcy.Then the company made one big mistake. It announced that all tea sold in America would be sold by the agents of the Company only. This  infuriated the American merchants. Now it was clear that the high profits on one item i.e. tea, were beyond the reach of American merchants; it had become a monopoly to an English company. Now, if this could be done with tea, it could be done with any other item. Boston had become the center of rebellion.There were 3 tea-ships in the harbor, with a cargo of tea, and the Sons of Liberty prevented it from being unloaded. Sam Adams then organized a meeting in front of OLD SOUTH CHURCH  in Boston. When it was clear that Governor Hutchinson absolutely refused to let the ships leave the harbor, he signaled several men disguised as Indians to go ... Those would-be Indians went to the harbor and dumped 42 chests of tea worth $70,000 into the water.
    Similar acts of rebellion took place in many colonial ports.

    1774 THE INTOLERABLE ACTS: King George III , against the advice of his Prime Minister , William Pitt, the Elder, was determined to teach the colonials a lesson and had the Parliament vote a series of acts called the Intolerable Acts. For example, the Boston Port bill stated that  no ships could leave or enter Boston Harbor except those with military supplies.
    It was  clear  that all colonies deeply felt concerned by what was going on in Boston, and they expressed solidarity. 
    The Virginia House of Burgessses was thus dissolved, after which many of the members of the same assembly decided to hold an illegal session called a "rump" session at Raleigh's Tavern, in Williamsburg. Yhey called for a meeting of all the colonies at Philadelphia. Similar resolutions for joint action by all the American colonies had been expressed in the New England and Middle Colonies. Now the most important Southern colony had spoken. A meeting could be called,  representing all the colonies.

    1774 FIRST CONTINENTAL CONGRESS:(Sept. 5th/Oct. 26th) 56 delegates from all colonies, except Georgia attended the congress held in Carpenters Hall, Philadelphia. This Congress was not a legal body. The question was to know whether their decisions were going to be accepted or rejected by the rest of the American population. Those delegates believed that revenue taxes and the control of internal affairs were outside of the proper area of King and Parliament. The congress adopted the Suffolk Resolves. Those resolves reflected the opinion of Boston. Paul Revere had brought the resolutions of the people of Boston to Carpenters Hall , Philadelphia. The Congress thus resolved to :1- keep trade with England at a minimum. There was then another boycott on imports. The Americans simply refused to buy , wear, use, consume English products. 2-consider unacceptable all the punitive measures taken against Boston, and Massachusetts, since the  Boston tea party . 3- urge all colonies to raise and train militia of their own. 4-set up a special committee in each state to enforce these resolutions. This Association of Committees was thus much better organized than the Sons of Liberty.  The First Continental Congress thus clearly showed that it stood firmly behind Massachusetts . It also sent a petition to George III, resquesting the repeal of all regulatory Acts since 1763, since the Treaty of Paris.

    1775 THE KING'S REPLY: LEXINGTON AND CONCORD (April 19th) King george III and the Parliament were determined to make the colonies pay the tea tax and force them to obey their regulations. The boycott, even though it was effective, didn't make them change their minds. At the same time the militia companies were rapidly forming all over the colonies. In Concord (north of Boston) weapons had been hidden for the local militia company. On the night of April 18th the British started from Boston. On the same night Paul Revere made his famous ride to the town of Lexington warning revolutionary leaders of the approach of British troops. By the next day, about 70 Minute Men of the local militia company had gathered in Lexington and were prepared to do battle. A shot was fired, 8 colonials were killed. This was the Battle of Lexington.The British then marched on to Concord, where other militia men were waiting for them. A few shots were fired. The British walked back to Boston but the colonial soldiers kept shooting at the  Red-Coats killing about 275 of them. This episode stands out in American History.It is the beginning of the American Revolution.

    1775 SECOND CONTINENTAL CONGRESS: May 10th. The meetings of the Second Continental Congress were held in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. John Hancock was president. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were present. At the time, the American colonies were in a state of rebellion, patriot troops harrassing and besieging the British. The Congress organized the troops around Boston into "the American Continental Army" and appointed George Washington to take command. It was a most important decision in that Boston and the state of Massachusetts had always been the instigators of anti-British action. It was therefore important to give prominence to some other colony. With Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, Virginia was given a prominent position at the very beginning of the war.The Revolution thus was the business of all American colonies.

    1776 COMMON SENSE BY THOMAS PAINE The American colonies were moving towards independence with hesitancy. Loyalty to the king was still deeply imbedded in the American subjects of the British Empire. Then came Thomas Paine and his pamphlets "Common Sense". Every literate person in the colonies read it. It was clear and tough, thus very convincing. What Thomas Paine said was : America should be the one place in the world where freedom and the love of mankind should flourish. In other words, since the colonies wanted freedom , they should become independent. 

    1776 DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (The fourth of July or Independence Day ) (now a national holiday in the U.S.A.) On June 7th, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia made a motion which was seconded by John Adams of Massachusetts that contained  3 parts:1) the American colonies are independent States. 2) foreign aid should be sought; (mainly from France) 3) a confederate form of government must be prepared. On the other hand, one committee was appointed to draw up a Declaration of Independence and another committee was to work on a Constitution for a Confederation.The most famous members of the 1st committee were Thomas Jefferson (Va.) & Benjamin Franklin (Mass.). The Committee asked Jefferson to write the 1st draft of the Declaration. So Jefferson is the true father of the Declaration of Independence. On the 4th of July, by a vote of 12 to 0 the Declaration of Independence was adopted. 


    The first painting that Trumbull completed for the Rotunda shows the presentation of the Declaration of Independence in what is now called Independence Hall, Philadelphia. The painting features the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence — John Adams, Roger Sherman, Thomas Jefferson (presenting the document), and Benjamin Franklin — standing before John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress. The painting includes portraits of 42 of the 56 signers and 5 other patriots. The artist sketched the individuals and the room from life.
    Look closely to see that John Adams is standing on Thomas Jefferson's foot!

    IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

    The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions ofmankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
    He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
    He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
    He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
    He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
    He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
    He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
    He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
    He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
    He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
    For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
    For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
    For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
    For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
    For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
    For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
    For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
    For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
    For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
    He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
    He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
    He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
    He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
    He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
    In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

    Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

    We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
    [Column 1]


       Button Gwinnett
       Lyman Hall

    North Carolina:
      William Hooper
      Joseph Hewes
      John Penn

    South Carolina:
      Edward Rutledge
      Thomas Heyward, Jr.
      Thomas Lynch, Jr.
      Arthur Middleton

      John Hancock

      Samuel Chase
      William Paca
      Thomas Stone
      Charles Carroll of Carrollton

      George Wythe
      Richard Henry Lee
      Thomas Jefferson
      Benjamin Harrison
      Thomas Nelson, Jr.
      Francis Lightfoot Lee
      Carter Braxton

      Robert Morris
      Benjamin Rush
      Benjamin Franklin
      John Morton
      George Clymer
      James Smith
      George Taylor
      James Wilson
      George Ross

      Caesar Rodney
      George Read
      Thomas McKean

    New York:
      William Floyd
      Philip Livingston
      Francis Lewis
      Lewis Morris

    New Jersey:
      Richard Stockton
      John Witherspoon
      Francis Hopkinson
      John Hart
      Abraham Clark

    New Hampshire:
      Josiah Bartlett
      William Whipple

      Samuel Adams
      John Adams
      Robert Treat Paine
      Elbridge Gerry

    Rhode Island:
      Stephen Hopkins
      William Ellery

      Roger Sherman
      Samuel Huntington
      William Williams
      Oliver Wolcott

    New Hampshire:
      Matthew Thornton

    July 4th, Independence Day is the national holiday.