I’ve read that the American Revolution started at Lexington and Concord with what Ralph Waldo Emerson called, “the shot heard around the world”.

Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord, fought on April 19, 1775, kicked off the American Revolutionary War (1775-83)


The Concord Hymn - Ralph Waldo Emerson(1837)

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set to-day a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee


I also read the American Revolution started after the Stamp Act from Britain as the American colonists resisted taxation without representation.

The Stamp Act
The issues raised by the Stamp Act festered for 10 years before giving rise to the Revolutionary War and, ultimately, American independence.

Which of these is true? If none, how was the American Revolution started?


  • 1
    That all depends on how you define the revolution. Is it the moment the first shot is fired or the moment the first people come together and plot to throw out the British? Or somewhere in between maybe?
    – jwenting
    Aug 27, 2018 at 14:29
  • 7
    Unfortunately, things as complex as a revolution rarely have definitive starts. The Declaration of Independence was the official declaration of separation, Lexington and Concord were the first battles, the Continental Congresses discussed and planned independence, various demonstrations rejected British control, the Seven Years War caused monetary issues that lead to new taxes... Unfortunately, you pretty much need to define a start in order for it to have a start, but that kind of negates the question.
    – Giter
    Aug 27, 2018 at 14:39
  • 3
    I fear that the idea that it was started by a single thing is too simple. The Revolution involved many people and consequently involved many motives: Some motives were economic, some religious, some political, some personal. There are whole shelves of books which try to answer this question. Motives in history -- even when they may be knowable at all -- are rarely simple. Hopefully you'll get some answers that describe reasons -- but when reading them, remember: people are complicated and they make history complicated and that simple answers are rarely right.
    – Mark Olson
    Aug 27, 2018 at 14:40
  • 4
    Please be nice with your close votes folks, by the phrasing of the question it seems likely that OP is simply new to academic history and all of its lovely and impossibly knotted questions of causation.
    – Random
    Aug 27, 2018 at 15:07
  • 3
    This question comes across as a deliberately open-ended term-paper question, intended to foster analysis and thought and to not have a single simple answer. Convince us otherwise, or the question is unsuitable for this forum. Aug 27, 2018 at 15:11

2 Answers 2


I’ve read from certain places that the American Revolution started because of the “shot heard around the world” and I also read from other places that the American Revolution started after the Stamp Act from Britian as the American colonists wanted representation. Which of these is true? If none, how was the American Revolution started?


The "shot heard around the world" or Lexington and Concord (April 18, 1775) was the anonymous first shot of the American Revolution. That was literally the start of the war, but not the cause or why the war was fought.

Technically it wasn't Taxation without representation either. That was the slogan used to oppose the Stamp Act 1765(March 22 1765). The Stamp act was an unpopular precursor of the cause of the war, but it wasn't the actual cause because that crisis was mitigated after one year when the British Parliament repealed the act(March 18, 1766). It was in effect for only six months, and repealed a decade before the Declaration of Independence was signed July 4, 1776.

The start of the lead up to the war was the Tea Act(May 10, 1773), which did not increase the price of Tea but significantly reduced the price of tea in the Colonies. Reduced the legal tea so much it was less expensive than black market tea which dominated the colonial tea market. That was the first domino which fell which elicited a response and counter response and eventually led to war. (See timeline be low)

Important Facts

  • Stamp Act 1765 (royal assent: March 22, 1765, commencement: Nov 1 1765, repealed: March 18, 1766) was the first direct, internal tax that Parliament had ever levied on the colonists. It was repealed after British officials trying to enforce it were subject to physical intimidation and mob violence, making it's enforcement impossible.

Sons of Liberty
The origins and founding of the Sons of Liberty is unclear, but history records the earliest known references to the organization to 1765 in the thriving colonial port cities of Boston and New York.
Through the use of mob rule, tactics of fear, force, intimidation, and violence such as tar and feathering, and the stockpiling of arms, shot, and gun powder, the Sons of Liberty effectively undermined British rule, paving the way to America’s independence.
Incited by the Sons of Liberty, thousands gathered and a sign was placed on the effigy of Andrew Oliver(official in charge of enforcing the Stamp Act) declaring, “He that takes this down is an enemy to his country.” The riotous, angry, and alcohol fueled crowd paraded the effigy through the streets of Boston inciting supporters of the Patriot cause throughout the city.
The crowd, with the Sons of Liberty leading the way, marched on the home of Andrew Oliver. The fence around Oliver’s home was torn down, windows were smashed, furnishings destroyed, and the home looted – most notably Oliver’s personal wine cellar. The ironic truth of the matter was Andrew Oliver privately was not a proponent of the Stamp Act. Rather, he was an obvious and easy target for the Sons of Liberty to take out their anger over the Stamp Act and accuse him of duplicity. As a result, on August 17, Oliver publicy resigned his commission and on December 17, the Sons of Liberty made him publicly swear an oath he would never again serve as a stamp master.


  • The Indemnity Act (1767) was the first attempt by Parliament to save the British East India Company which was one of England's largest companies, but was on the verge of collapse due to much cheaper smuggled Dutch tea. Part of the purpose of the entire series of Townshend Acts was to save the company from imploding.
  • The biggest market for illicit tea was England—by the 1760s the East India Company was losing £400,000 per year to smugglers in Great Britain
  • At the time of the Boston Tea Party American colonists consumed, on average, 2 to 3 cups of tea each day. This equaled approximately two million pounds of tea among 3 million colonists each year.
  • It was estimated that approximately 90% of the tea being drank by American colonists was smuggled.
  • The Tea Act(1773) eight years after the failed Stamp Act 1765, was not a tax. Tea sold in the colonies prior to the Tea Act(1773) was required to travel to Britain first for export, where it was taxed. Then shipped to the colonies were it was taxed again. The Tea Act allowed the tea most of which came from China or India to be shipped directly to the US, thus cutting the effective tax in half and lowering overall the consumer cost significantly.
  • Shipping companies who purchased tea from the East India Company for distribution to Colonial Merchants had tons of rotting tea in colonial warehouses which they could not sell due to colonial hostilities over taxes. Tea Act(1773) allowed the East India Company to dump this tea onto the market at rock bottom prices, undercutting all illegal competition.
  • Tea Act(1773) so reduced the cost of British tea within the colonial marketplace that it made British tea cheaper than smuggled tea.
  • The Boston Tea Party(Dec 16th, 1773) was in reaction to the Tea Act(May 10, 1773)
  • The Son's of Liberties Leader who organized the Boston Tea Party was Samuel Adams cousin of John Adams the second President of the United States.
  • Samuel Adams was strongly associated with the another founding father and tea smuggler, John Hancock. A joke at the time was the two were so close that when Samuel Adams wrote a letter, John Hancock licked the stamp.
  • John Hancock was a wealthy shipping magnate, who made the bulk of his money illegally by smuggling tea, and almost single handedly financed all of the early protests against Britain in Boston and would become President of the Continental Congress and the first signature on the Declaration of Independence. (top row of signatures, center of the page, largest signature on the page)

enter image description here

Declaration of Independence
The first and most famous signature on the engrossed copy was that of John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress.


The first domino which caused the American Revolution was the Tea Act of 1773. This made legal British tea more competitive in the market than smuggled tea. It meant that a key founding father (John Hancock) who was the president of the Continental Congress and first signer of the Declaration of Independence, also a tea smuggler, would loose market share and money to the now more competitive British East India Company. The British East India Company had the British tea monopoly in the Colonies, and now also had a cheaper product.

The Tea Act(1773), reformed the British tax policy, made their disbursement more efficient, and undercut the price of the dominant black market tea which controlled 90% of the colonial market. The British Parliament hoped to both recapitalize the economically important British East India Company and increase the crowns control over the Colonies. Increase control because the Tea Act(1773) shifted the use of the existing Colonial Tea Tax, which now was substantially reduced, to fund British expenses in the Colonies. The British thought this was both reasonable and would not draw down the protests which defined the earlier Stamp Act 1765.

One of the "expenses" which the tea act was to fund was the salaries of royally appointed local officials, such as Governors. Governors salaries were traditionally paid for by the colonial legislatures. By paying these officials directly from the crown, although still with colonial money, the Sons of Liberty believed the local legislatures were weakened as now their governorships were more loyal to London than their Colonies.

The Sons of Liberty: Who Were They and What Did They Do?
enter image description here
“A New Method of Macarony Making, as Practised at Boston,” print, circa 1774. Print shows two men tarring and feathering a British customs officer and forcing him to drink tea. The man holding the teapot is wearing a hat with number 45 on it, a symbol referring to the John Wilkes case of 1763. The other man is holding a noose and carrying a club. The large bow in his hat indicates his membership in the Sons of Liberty.


A New Method of Macarony Making, as practiced at Boston in North America
A satire on the treatment given to John Malcom or Malcomb, an unpopular Commissioner of Customs, at Boston, as recorded in the English newspapers shortly before its publication. On Jan 27 1774 he had been tarred and feathered, led to the gallows with a rope round his neck, on the way there being forced as a torture to drink enormous quantities of tea. His offense was in attempting to collect Customs duties; it was not connected with the Boston Tea Party.
Wilkes was a national hero in the colonies and "45" a patriotic symbol. "Liberty Tree" at Boston was reported to be decorated with "Number 45, Wilkes and liberty".
Another print, a folio line engraving, was issued by Carington Bowles on 2 June 1775 with the same title as and the verses quoted above. Macomb is being lowered by ropes from the window of his house into a cart, before receiving his "American suit"


The response the Son's of Liberty lead by Samuel Adams, funded by John Hancock, was to threaten and physically intimidate colonial merchants not to accept the cheap tea. This was very effective and no colonial merchants would risk taking delivery of this legal and now inexpensive tea. The tea could not even be offloaded from the ships which brought it to the colonies. This lead to the British tea being consolidated in ships in Boston Harbor for weeks unable to be offloaded. Being thus consolidated it was a target for the Son's of Liberty and resulted in the Boston Tea Party (December 16, 1773). If the East India Company's legal tea was permitted to reach the Colonies market, it would undercut the lucrative black market enterprise of the Son's of Liberty's primary benefactor, John Hancock. John Hancock who made his fortune selling smuggled goods, especially tea, would become the first and most prominent signer of the Declaration of Independence just under 3 years removed from the Boston Tea Party. It would have also strengthened the crown's control over the Colonies at the expense of Colonial legislatures and Colonial merchants.

The British reaction to the Boston tea party likewise contributed to the Revolution. Previously when the Colonies stood up to the British Crown like the demonstrations over the unpopular Stamp Act 1765, the Crown backed down and repealed the legislation quickly. ( 1 year almost to the day). But now with the Tea Act(1773) and the destruction of British Property they decided to take a new and harder position.

The British Parliament would reconsider their long policy of appeasement to the Colonies mob eruptions, and respond with the Coercive Acts(1774). The Colonies would call them the "Intolerable Acts".

  • The Intolerable Acts
    On April 22, 1774, Prime Minister Lord North defended the Coercive Acts in the House of Commons, saying:

The Americans have tarred and feathered your subjects, plundered your merchants, burnt your ships, denied all obedience to your laws and authority; yet so clement and so long forbearing has our conduct been that it is incumbent on us now to take a different course. Whatever may be the consequences, we must risk something; if we do not, all is over.


The Coercive Acts:

  • Boston Port Act (March 31, 1774) Closed Boston Harbor until the Boston Tea Party destroyed goods were paid for
  • Massachusetts Government Act (May 20, 1774) Modified Massachusetts charter of 1691 to end local participation in government.
    • Put Massachusetts under Military rule, and outlawed town meetings.
  • Administration of Justice Act (May 20th, 1774), Allowed British Official charged with capital crimes in the Colonies to be tried for these crimes back in Britain and not answerable to Colonial Courts.
  • Quartering Acts (June 2, 1774), Allowed the British Military confiscate occupied buildings in the colonies for their use.
  • The Quebec Act (June 22, 1774), removed all the territory and fur trade between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from possible colonial jurisdiction and awarded it to the province of Quebec.

And the Colonial reaction to the Intolerable acts was War, and eventually the Declaration of Independence.

Timeline To War

( The Virginian George Washington is nominated to be the Leader of the Continental Army by Bostonian John Adams, His leadership makes the Continental Army in Boston a united Colonial Effort. Not just a New Englander revolt. At least that was the Adams, Hancock motivation behind championing his appointment.)


Related Question:

  • 2
    See my comments on the question; well done.
    – MCW
    Aug 27, 2018 at 16:25

They key to the timing of the American Revolution was the end of the Seven Years War. The Seven Years war was a global war fought primarily between France and Britain. Britain's victory made it the undisputed maritime power around the globe. The part of this war that was fought in North America is called the French And Indian War.

Up to this point, Britain's relationship with the thirteen colonies was very laxed. It was primarily a dumping ground for its population and excess merchandise, as well as a source of natural resources. The colonists enjoyed a lot of liberty in their new place. After the Seven Years War, Britain was saddled with debt at a time when it had acquired a heretofore unseen amount of overseas possessions. These things compounded into a financial crisis, and there was also a post war recession happening in Europe. Its possessions were most enlarged in America, where they tripled. This created the need to assert its control in this part of the empire in a way that it had not done before. This, but more so the financial distress caused it to treat the colonies in a way that created the revolution. Obviously, it wouldn't have pursued such an unpopular taxation strategy if it wasn't desperate.

Britain gained New France East of the Mississippi, minus Louisiana, while everything to the West went to Spain. Britain's North American diplomacy became a dance between the colonists, the natives further west, and the Quebecers. The only ones who were appeased were the Quebecers, who did not rebel throughout the American Revolution. They were formally allowed to be Catholic, but more importantly, all of New France down to Louisiana was attached to that provence.

Ostensibly to appease the natives, which it didn't, they barred the colonists from settling West of the Applachias, in the newly conquered land. This was a huge betrayal to the colonists. The French and Indian war had been fought largely by them. In exchange for their services, many had arranged to receive land in the newly conquered territory. One of these people was George Washington. Britain's backing out of the deal was a major source of discontent that led to the revolution.

Britain passed the Sugar Act in 1764. Widespread rebellion began with the Stamp Act of 1765, though. On top of the preexisting taxes, the Stamp Act had a broader application then any previous tax, and was of a more authoritative nature. The Sons of Liberty emerged as violent group to oppose the Stamp Act. Britain compromised with the colonists at this time, and war was averted. The Quartering act of 1765, mandating that British Troops be given room and board, furthered the unpopularity of British rule.

In addition to the Crown, the East India company was also broke. Around this period was when the Crown began to take over the Company, a process which would eventually create British India. The Tea Act that triggered the Revolution was a bail out of the East India Company. It allowed for tea to be imported directly into the colonies tax free. This undercut the tea bootleggers (up to 90% of tea in the colonies was contraband), who were actually the one's who rallied the call to action. In addition to the Sons of Liberty, the Sons of Neptune was created by Isaac Sears, a shipper and tea merchant. The Sons of Neptune was a group of seagoing merchants who were vested in the protection of their Atlantic routes. Another important aspect of the revolution was the participation of James DeLancey, of the formidable New York DeLancey family.

The Boston Tea Party, which was actually a widespread boycott of British Tea, escalated the situation. Britain passed the Coercive Acts (or the Intolerable Acts) to punish Massachussetts for its role in the plot. Thomas Gage, British Commander In Chief of North America, was made Governor of Massachusetts. He enforced the Coercive Acts, but also was accused letting the rebels exist. On April 14, 1775, he received orders from Britain to commence hostilities against the Rebels. This started skirmishes that led to the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, and the siege of Boston commenced that night.

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