Photographic book

The American Revolution (1775-1783)


Battle of Saratoga
Battle of Saratoga

To repay its heavy debts from the wars with the French and to meet the costs of keeping British troops in frontier forts, Great Britain passed a series of laws restricting trade and imposing higher taxes in the colonies. These measures led to violent protests by colonists, and many New York merchants and professional men formed patriotic groups.

About half of New York’s 186,000 inhabitants in 1771 were of British descent, and many of them remained loyal to the British crown. These Loyalists, or Tories, gained control of the assembly, where they opposed the revolutionary mood within the colony. They rejected the embargo on British goods imposed by the First Continental Congress in 1774.

The next year the rebel elements in New York formed a provincial congress in defiance of the assembly and sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress. After receiving news of the battles of Lexington and Concord, which began the American Revolution in April 1775, rebellious New Yorkers took up arms to support the Massachusetts militia (see Lexington, Battle of and Concord, Battle of). In October Governor William Tryon fled New York, followed by many Tories, and the provincial congress took steps to set up a provisional government. In July 1776 the New York congress ratified the Declaration of Independence and changed its own name to the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York. The next year, New York’s first constitution was drafted, and the first legislature met in Kingston.

George Clinton, who had served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, was elected the state’s first governor.

Almost one-third of the military engagements in the American Revolution (1775-1783) took place in New York State. In the early stages of the fighting, the Americans captured Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point, on Lake Champlain. In September 1776, after the battles of Long Island and Harlem Heights, the British occupied New York City and held it until the war ended. The American victory at Saratoga in October 1777 was a turning point in the war, thwarting the British plan to occupy Albany, control the Hudson River and cut off New England from the other colonies. When the revolution broke out, the powerful Iroquois Confederacy could not agree on whether to side with the Americans or the British, or to remain neutral.

But some of the individual tribes joined the British, and Mohawk chief Joseph Brant led bands of his people and Tories in raids on unprotected frontier settlements in New York. In the summer of 1779, American generals James Clinton and John Sullivan marched against Native American villages near the Finger Lakes and present-day Elmira and decisively defeated a combined force of Tories and Native Americans. Clinton took harsh measures against the Tories. By the end of the revolution more than 30,000 British sympathizers, including more than half of New York’s landholding aristocracy, had fled to Canada. The state seized their estates and sold the land to speculators and farmers. Most of the Iroquois who had sided with the British also settled in Canada. Those who remained signed treaties that confined them to reservations, and by 1800 they had signed away most of their land. "New York" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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