October 26, 2014 01:01 UTC

The Making of a Nation

The American Revolution - Program No. 11

The Making of a Nation
The Making of a Nation

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From VOA Learning English, this is The Making of a Nation.  American history in Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
 
This week in our series, we look at the start of the American Revolution.
 
The road to revolution in the late seventeen hundreds took several years. There were protests against the British policy of taxing the colonies without giving them representation in Parliament.
 
To prevent trouble, the British sent thousands of soldiers to Boston, the largest city in Massachusetts. 
 
Jayne Gordon, the director of education and public programs at the Massachusetts Historical Society, explains the mood at the time.
 
“We’re looking at a time of great tension, we’re looking at a time when there’s an expectation, I think, on both sides that something will happen but nobody knows exactly what or when.”
 
On March fifth, seventeen seventy, that tension led to violence.
 
It was the end of winter but the weather was still very cold.  A small group of colonists began throwing rocks and pieces of ice at soldiers guarding a public building. They were joined by others, and the soldiers became frightened. They fired their guns.
 
Five colonists were killed. The shooting became known as the Boston Massacre.
 
The people of Massachusetts were extremely angry. The soldiers were tried in court for murder. Most of them were found innocent. The others received minor punishments.
 
Fearing more violence, the British Parliament removed most of the taxes on the colonists. Only the tax on tea remained.
 
The tensions eased for a while. Imports of British goods increased.  The colonists seemed satisfied with the situation, until a few years later. Then the Massachusetts colony once again became involved in a dispute with Great Britain.
 
The trouble started because the government wanted to help the British East India Company. That company organized all the trade between India and other countries in the British empire.
 
By seventeen seventy-three, the company had become weak. The British government decided to let the company sell tea directly to the American colonies. The colonies would still have to pay a tea tax.
 
The Americans did not like this new plan. They felt they were being forced to buy their tea from only one company.
 
Officials in the colonies of Pennsylvania and New York sent ships from the East India Company back to Britain. In Massachusetts, the British governor wanted to collect the tea tax and enforce the law. When the ships arrived in Boston, some colonists tried to block their way.  The ships remained just outside the harbor without unloading their goods.
 
On the night of December sixteenth, seventeen seventy-three, a group of colonists went out in a small boat. They got on a British ship and threw all the tea into the water.
 
Destroying the tea was a serious crime. 
 
The colonists were dressed as American Indians so the British would not recognize them. But the people of Boston knew who they were. A crowd gathered to cheer them. That incident -- the night when British tea was thrown into Boston harbor -- became known as the Boston Tea Party.
 
“And all of a sudden, with the Tea Party, they say enough is enough.”
 
Gordon Wood, a history professor at Brown University in Rhode Island, says the Tea Party made Britain furious with the colonies.
 
Parliament reacted by passing a series of laws that punished the whole Massachusetts colony for the actions of a few men.
 
One of these laws closed the port of Boston until the tea was paid for.  Other laws strengthened the power of the British governor and weakened the power of local officials throughout the colonies.
 
The laws were called the Coercive Acts. Historian Gordon Wood says they helped unite all the colonies against Britain, even though not everybody approved of the Boston Tea Party. 
 
“The Virginians are appalled at the Tea Party. They just think that’s just terrible, the destruction of all that property. But when they see what the British do, the Coercive Acts, they say to themselves, 'If they can do that to Massachusetts, the British can do that to us.' And they’re on board. And that really is the turning point.”
 
In June of seventeen seventy-four, Massachusetts called for a meeting of delegates from all the other colonies to consider joint action against Britain.
 
This meeting was called the First Continental Congress. It was held in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in September of seventeen seventy-four. All the colonies except one were represented. The southern colony of Georgia did not send a delegate.
 
The delegates agreed that the British Parliament had no right to control trade with the American colonies or to make any laws that affected them. They said the people of the colonies must have the right to take part in any legislative group that made laws for them.
 
The First Continental Congress approved a series of documents that condemned all British actions in the colonies after seventeen sixty-three. The delegates approved a proposal by Massachusetts saying that the people could use weapons to defend their rights. They also organized a Continental Association to boycott British goods and to stop all exports to any British colony or to Britain itself. Local committees were created to enforce the boycott.
 
One of the delegates to the First Continental Congress was John Adams of Massachusetts. Years later, he would say that by the time the meeting took place, the American Revolution had already begun.
 
King George the Second announced that the New England colonies were in rebellion. Parliament made the decision to use troops against the colonists in Massachusetts in January of seventeen seventy-five. 
 
The people of Massachusetts formed a provincial assembly and began training men to fight. Soon, armed groups were doing military exercises in towns all around Massachusetts and in other colonies.
 
British officers received their orders in April seventeen seventy-five.  By that time, the colonists had been gathering weapons in the town of Concord, about thirty kilometers west of Boston. 
 
“It’s a gentle landscape. There are no great mountains, there are no great valleys or waterfalls. It’s a gently rolling hillside, farm landscape. There are two rivers that come together to form another river.
 
Jayne Gordon from the Massachusetts Historical Society lives in the area. She describes what the scene must have been like.
 
“The houses are mostly made of wood. Many of them are not painted. In April the leaves would just be budding out, things would be greening up, and actually the first day of the revolution was a very warm spring day.”
 
The British forces were ordered to seize the colonists’ weapons.  But the colonists were prepared. They knew that the British were coming.
 
Years later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem about what happened. The poem is about Paul Revere, one of three men who helped warn the colonial troops that the British were coming:
 
Listen my children and you shall hear
 
of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.
 
On the eighteenth of April in seventy-five
 
hardly a man is now alive
 
who remembers that famous day and year.
 
He said to his friend,
 
"If the British march by land or sea from the town tonight
 
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch of the North Church tower as a signal light.
 
One if by land
 
And two if by sea
 
And I on the opposite shore will be
 
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
 
Through every Middlesex village and farm
 
for the country folk to be up and to arm."))
 
When the British reached the town of Lexington, they found it protected by about seventy colonial troops. These citizen soldiers were called "Minute Men." They had been trained to fight with only a minute's warning. Eight colonists were killed.
 
Each side accused the other of firing the first shot in that first battle of the American Revolution. It became known as "the shot heard 'round the world."
 
From Lexington, the British marched to Concord, where they destroyed whatever supplies the colonists had not been able to save.  Other colonial troops rushed to the area. A battle at Concord's north bridge forced the British to march back to Boston.
 
It was the first day of America's war for independence. When it was over, almost three hundred British troops had been killed. Fewer than one hundred Americans had died.
 
The British troops had marched in time with their drummers and pipers playing "Yankee Doodle." A Yankee Doodle was a man who did not know how to fight. The song was meant to insult the Americans. But in the end they were proud of it.
 
Following the battles at Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts colony organized a group that captured Fort Ticonderoga. This was a British position on Lake Champlain in New York. The other colonies began sending their own troops to help. And another meeting was called: the Second Continental Congress.  That will be our story next week.
 
You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at voaspecialenglish.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I’m Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for The Making of a Nation-- American history in VOA Special English.

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Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Ricky from: Italy
07/01/2013 7:28 PM
A Yankee Doodle went to town,
A-riding on a pony,
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni

Where there is America, there is italian word!!!



by: meshal
06/29/2013 8:33 AM
reading it one time only absolutly not enough


by: meshal
06/29/2013 8:32 AM
Thank you for that piece of information. It was amazing artile. I bileve that people at the begggining of any revolution dont want the sitiuation to become bloody they only protests for small demmands but when they rejected they begin to fight for their rights..

Thank you


by: BIJU.P.Y. from: SOUTH INDIA
06/28/2013 5:44 PM
The Britishers have very cunning ideas to keep the whole world under their iron grip. But history taught them many lessons. Their race for power had made them blind against justice. We can experience the agonies undertaken by the American colonists to bring freedom to their country. That is why one of our poet wrote 'To the dignifie bondage is more frightening than death itself'. Thank you.


by: Rogerio Pessoa from: Brazil
06/28/2013 12:54 AM
excelent tools for studants


by: DennisB. AOR-251 from: Russia
11/23/2012 1:43 PM
Thanks VAO, for a good article. History is one of my the most beloved subjects. Well done, American colonists, you've done a great job. Britan, just don't worry. You still have lot's of time to open a new colonie in the space, somewhere in Mars, and remember the mistakes of the past. Good luck.


by: THIERNO BA from: DAKAR
11/23/2012 12:32 PM
great STEVE EMBER we miss you a lot in "in the new'


by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
11/21/2012 8:40 AM
So, a shot fired to American civilian soldiers by a British troop in Lexiongton in seventeen seventy-five sounded around the world to trigger the American revolution. The British king and parliament attempted to tax American colonies to compensate for the huge debt of French Indian war and East Indian Company. The British Empire seems to have expanded too much larger to be controled by a suzerain country like the Roman Empire's case.

Anyway I think we can see the origin of the mind of present United States from this story indicating American people have been good at organizing some groups to carry out their common benefits from the beginning of its history. In addition to colonists, it's said that some native Indians and the slavery black also took part in the independent war. On the other hand, Britain was also stood by France and Germany. The defeat of Europen league is said to have lead the French Revolution a few years later.

This is my question. Why does this war have two different names? One is the American Revolution mainly called in America and the other is American War of Independence mainly called in England. I would love to know what American people heartilly express in a word, revolution.


by: JeongYoung Kim from: Seoul Korea
11/20/2012 10:09 PM
I usually hear American history with MP3 file to study English. If it is possible, please serve high-quality 192 kbps audio like last time. Thanks and regards, JY.

In Response

by: Steve Ember from: VOA Washington
11/21/2012 8:49 PM
@JeongYoung Kim
Thank you for calling our attention to the absence of the usual 192 kbps high-quality audio for this program. I had been away and was not aware that it had not been posted until I read your comment.
It is good to know that you and other visitors have come to depend on this feature for enjoying "Nation," and I assure you we will be vigilant in providing this high quality audio with each new program.
In addition, if you'd care to hear the more "modern" end of the series in full fidelity, please be aware that Program #184 "Depression Arts and Culture" and all programs from 187 to 240 are available in the same full-fidelity versions.
Thanks for being a regular visitor to "Nation."
-Steve Ember
Producer/Host, "The Making of a Nation"

In Response

by: Walid Omari from: Afghanistan
06/29/2013 9:40 AM
Hello to VOA Team!

VOA English program was the only thing, could strengthen my English conversation, listening speaking. I have passed many interviews always Iwas asked where you learn such english ,my answers were for all the VOA!
I have been listening to the VOA English program through Radio since 2004, but never got bored.

Thank you from VOA Team
Walid Omari


by: JY Kim
11/20/2012 10:05 PM
I usually hear American history with MP3 file. If it is possible, please serve high-quality 192 kbps audio.

Comments page of 2
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