National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1765-1786: We win a hard-fought Revolution and seize its promise of liberty

For a century and more before 1776, the American colonies were reasonably independent of British authority, and the colonists proudly claimed the rights of Englishmen. But in the 1760s, the British government began to tighten its grip, and the relationship between Britain and America turned sour. Resistance turned into rebellion. Suddenly Americans saw themselves as a new society based on new principles of government. “Governments are instituted among men,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That concept – that the people, not their rulers, are sovereign – was revolutionary then and remains revolutionary today. When the Revolution ended, with their independence won, the former colonists were left with thirteen loosely united states. What seemed simple – that these individual states could be both independent and united as a nation – would not be easy.

   
June 15, 1215
King John grants Magna Carta
  May 14, 1607
On this day Colonists establish first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, VA
  December 11, 1620
On this day Pilgrims sign Mayflower Compact, settle at Plymouth, MA
November 7, 1637
Massachusetts colony banishes Anne Hutchinson for disobeying Puritan government's rules of worship
  February 13, 1689
On this day After taking the English throne in the “Glorious Revolution,” William and Mary agree to a Declaration of Rights
  1690
On this day Adoption of slave codes makes slavery official throughout colonies
  May 15, 1754
On this day Seven Years War begins, pitting Britain against France for control of North American continent
January 20, 1759
We're proud of our unwritten English constitution
October 31, 1765
Colonists are protesting “taxation without representation”
  March 22, 1765
On this day Stamp Act imposes taxes on newspapers, legal documents... even playing cards
  October 19, 1765
On this day Colonists protest Stamp Act at Congress in NY
  March 18, 1766
On this day Parliament repeals Stamp Act but passes Declaratory Act, reaffirming its legislative power
May 16, 1766
What rules: principles, or Parliament?
  May 10, 1773
On this day Parliament passes Tea Act
  December 16, 1773
On this day Protesting Tea Act, Massachusetts patriots stage the Boston Tea Party
  September 5, 1774
On this day First Continental Congress convenes at Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia
  October 14, 1774
On this day American colonial assemblies pass declarations of rights
  April 19, 1775
On this day Fighting breaks out at Lexington and Concord
  May 10, 1775
On this day Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia
1776
Should America declare its independence from Great Britain?
  January 10, 1776
On this day Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense
April 10, 1776
Everyone's reading Common Sense
May 16, 1776
The states set up republics
June 12, 1776
As we debate independence, Virginia declares its rights
  July 2, 1776
On this day Delegates to Second Continental Congress vote for independence
  July 4, 1776
On this day Congress issues Declaration of Independence
July 8, 1776
INDEPENDENCE!
August 2, 1776
Most members of Congress sign Declaration of Independence
  November 15, 1777
On this day Continental Congress proposes Articles of Confederation
  March 1, 1780
On this day Pennsylvania adopts gradual emancipation law
March 2, 1780
Now each state is writing its own constitution
  March 1, 1781
On this day The Articles of Confederation, the first constitutional agreement among the 13 colonies, ratified
  October 19, 1781
On this day British forces surrender at Yorktown
  July 8, 1783
On this day Massachusetts Supreme Court declares slavery unconstitutional in Commonwealth v. Jennison
  September 3, 1783
On this day Treaty of Paris officially ends Revolutionary War
March 15, 1783
Washington diffuses a military coup
  January 8, 1784
On this day Connecticut Legislature approves gradual emancipation plan
  February 23, 1784
On this day Rhode Island passes gradual emancipation law
January 16, 1786
Freedom of religion becomes the law in Virginia

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