Significant Events in the Revolutionary Era, 1754–1812
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
On This Day in the History of American Independence 1754 to 1812, the thirteen American colonies under the British Empire declared independence and twice beat the mightiest military power in the world. This is the story of the American Revolution told from significant dates and events that changed the course of history. The story starts with the French-Indian War in 1754, through adopting the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and ending with the War of 1812 in 1815. Americans gained their independence from Britain and became the first modern democracy in the world. Also, revolutionary is this new nation’s Founding Fathers created a Constitution and Bill of Rights that granted minorities such as the small Jewish community the rights, freedom, and equality that eluded them throughout history.
Since university, I have consistently been interested in American colonial and Revolutionary history. At McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where I majored in history, American, and a lesser extent Jewish history, no professor specialized in that period teaching at the university. The only course the History Department offered was the American history survey until 1865. I wanted to learn more, unfortunately, and with busy schedules, students are rarely motivated to read outside their classes at the undergraduate level. Since then McGill has been fortunate to have a tenured professor teaching this important era in history, Jason Opal, one of the Top Young Historians I included in my History New Network series. 
When I took the Masters in Arts in Judaic Studies at Concordia University I was fulfilling another dream to learn about American Jewish history, not that the department was that enthusiastic about my scholarly obsession. Judaic Studies was offered as part of the Department of Religion, not an independent Jewish Studies department. The emphasis was on the religious aspect as opposed to the social, political, and cultural elements that are at the least equally important in studying American Jewish History. I chose to research probably the most studied era in American history, the Civil War. Since then, I have focused my historical writing on anti-Semitism and American Jewish history in the South before, during, and after the Civil War.
Again I put aside my interest in learning more about the colonial and Revolutionary eras. Recently, I decided to fulfill this long waited academic dream. When I was in graduate school my interest peaked more when I worked as the features editor at the History News Network and edited the History Doyens series. Then I had the opportunity to speak with three of the greatest historians and scholars of that period, Edmund S. Morgan, Bernard Bailyn, and Gordon S. Wood. We have lost two of them, Morgan and Bailyn, who just died this past August. My brief virtual meetings with these legends made me even more resolved to study the Revolutionary period.
Still, it is all my professors in history and Judaic Studies during my academic career that have instilled this continued interest in American and Jewish history, Edward Kohn at McGill University, Ira Robinson, and Norma Joseph at Concordia University, and my two mentors, History News Network founding editor Rick Shenkman and McGill University history professor Gil Troy. I learned everything about writing from the two of them, although I stopped my education at the masters’ level, what I learned from them was as if I received a PhD from the university of Troy and Shenkman.
I began writing the “On this Day in History” feature back in December 2007, when I was at the History News Network. My first edition was “December 17, 1862: Grant Issues General Order №11 Against the Jews.”  When I restarted writing my “On This Day in… History” series in 2018, I decided to write every time about an American Revolutionary event when one came up on a date. Some of my most popular articles were on the First Continental Congress, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the Treaty of Paris with many schools referencing these essays.
Still, I also wanted to know more about the lives of the small Jewish minority in the pre-Revolutionary era than what I had read in the surveys during my academic studies. In 2013, I had touched upon the topic when I wrote about the court battle between Congregation Jeshuat Israel in Newport, Rhode Island, and Congregation Shearith Israel in New York. The two congregations were fighting over ownership of the Touro Synagogue building and the religious contents particularly, “Colonial-era silver Torah scroll finials handcrafted by prominent silversmith Myer Myers valued at more than $7 million.” 
This is an argument reminiscent of the two congregations’ disagreements in 1790 over the writing of an address to President George Washington. In that disagreement, Jeshuat Israel won out in their historic address and Washington’s response, their exchange is remembered in history while Shearith Israel’s is but a footnote. This time round Shearith Israel won in appeals court and the Supreme Court failed to take up the case leaving Touro synagogue belonging to Shearith Israel. However, the colonial Jewish experience and history are more than this court battle two hundred and thirty years after the historic Washington addresses.
In 2019, I came upon Francis Salvador’s January 1775 election to South Carolina First Provincial Congress and started to write a short On This Day in History article. However, life and other more timely topics interrupted my work. This summer as I am editing this American Revolutionary “On This Day in History” anthology I decided to revisit Francis Salvador’s life. The resulting essay “Dreaming of Equality: Francis Salvador the American Revolutionary Jewish Patriot” is just but an excerpt of what the manuscript blossomed into, and is a work in progress.
At the time of the American Revolution there might have been only 2,500 Jews spread over six port cities, however, American Jewish contributions were already showing to be significant especially in their fight for their rights. Jews in that era laid the groundwork for the later larger waves of Jewish immigrants that would come from Central Europe in the antebellum era and the nearly four million East European Jews that started arriving in 1881. Without the hard-won fights for political and religious rights, these later Jewish immigrants would not have the opportunities to flourish as they did. Jewish heroes like Francis Salvador deserve to be remembered as an honor for their groundbreaking path and sacrifices for American Jewry.
Seeing the impact my “On This Day in History” articles on the American Revolution were having on the public and schools I decided to put them together in this anthology combining it with relevant selections of my essay on Jewish involvement in the American Revolution. Few general histories of the American Revolution also include the Jewish perspective and Jewish contributions making this introductory volume different and maybe more inclusive. I apologize that the experiences of Catholic and other religious minorities, African Americans, Natives, and women are missing. Their stories would have made a really inclusive survey, they mostly are absent because they are not part of my research areas.
The scope of the anthology starts with the French and Indian War (1754–1763) because it gave Britain control of almost the entire North American continent. The additional control over the Canadian colonies and the cost of war boosted British power while depleting its funds. The American colonies lost out on being Britain’s only colonies in the new world and they also bore the brunt of paying for the war. This caused the colonial rebellion that eventually led to declaring independence and the Revolution War. However, the animosity with Britain did not end the 1783 Treaty of Paris issues lingered as some historians believe the War of 1812 only ended the American Revolution, after the decisive American victory Britain finally gave America the respect it deserved as an independent nation. It is because of the resolution of the War of 1812, the second war for independence that my volume ends with that war’s end in 1815.
Most of the essays are introductory and geared towards the high school, undergraduate, and general audience. This is survey is told episodically but from a pro-American and Jewish perspective. Since most of my essays involved the political aspects of the American Revolution and less a focus on the military battles, I have included a timeline of the military events. The timeline starts with the French-Indian war and ends with George Washington’s inauguration as president. In the end, I included an extensive bibliography of secondary books on the American Revolution, they were almost all published in the post World War II period representing the modern academic study of history. It is a work in progress, this is but a first draft, and I hope to add in the future more episodes that will round out the anthology.
- 1754–1763… The French and Indian War begins rifts between Britain and the Colonies
- March 22, 1765, Britain institutes the Stamp Act first direct tax on the colonies
- June 5-July 6, 1767: Parliament passes the Townshend Acts furthering Uniting the Colonies
- December 16, 1773, American Colonists protest the Tea Act of 1773 with the Boston Tea Party
- September 5-October 26, 1774, the First Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia
- January 11, 1775, Patriot Francis Salvador the first Jew elected joins the Provincial Congress of South Carolina
- April 19, 1775: The Patriots engage in first battles of the American Revolution
- June 15, 1775, the Continental Congress votes George Washington Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution
- July 5, 1775, Second Continental Congress adopts Olive Branch Petition last appeal to King George III
- July 6, 1775, Second Continental Congress issues the Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms
- 1776: Patriot Jews support the American Revolution
- January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense argues for American independence
- July 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress declares American Independence from Great Britain
- August 1, 1776, Patriot Francis Salvador becomes the first Jewish death of the American Revolution
- August 2, 1776, Second Continental Congress delegates sign the Declaration of Independence
- December 26, 1776 — January 6, 1777: Washington crosses the Delaware and takes Trenton and Princeton
- June 14, 1777, Continental Congress adopts the Stars and Stripes as the American flag
- November 15–17, 1777, the Second Continental Congress Adopts the Articles of Confederation and sends it for ratification
- September 3, 1783, The Treaty of Paris ends the American Revolutionary War
- September 7, 1787, Jonas Philips asks George Washington to give Jews equality in the United States Constitution
- June 21, 1788, the United States Constitution is ratified becomes law
- September 25, 1789, Congress passes James Madison’s Bill of Rights
- September 24, 1789, Washington signs the Judiciary Act establishes the first Supreme Court
- August 18, 1790: President George Washington Promises American Jews Civil Equality
- June 24, 1795, the Senate ratifies Jay’s Treaty establishing trade between America and Great Britain
- October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave Sally Hemings during the 1796 election
- July 14, 1798, Congress passes the Sedition Act an assault on the first amendment
- July 11–12, 1804, Aaron Burr kills founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel
- June 22, 1807, The Chesapeake-Leopold Affair one of the key events leading to the War of 1812
- June 18, 1812, President Madison signs a declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada
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About the Author
Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) and historian. She is the author of Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896, The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South, We Used to be Friends? The Long Complicated History of Jews, Blacks, and Anti-Semitism, and the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings.”
Ms. Goodman has a BA in History and Art History, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”
Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu. She has over a dozen years of experience in education and political journalism.