Long before there was a United States of America, there was British America, a subset of which was called the Thirteen Colonies, an assortment of European settlements on the Atlantic coast, the precursor to what we know today as the USA.
This story goes back to 1606 when King James I of England granted two trading companies the royal charter to establish permanent settlements in the New World. These were the Plymouth Company and the London Company.
Only 5 years ago, his predecessor, Queen Elizabeth had granted a similar charter to the East India Company to colonize...India. Yes, imperialism those days wasn't the government's job; it was outsourced to private businesses through charters like these.
Soon after the 1606 charter, the two companies merged to form a single joint stock unit called the Virginia Company. The first New World colony to be established under this charter was the Colony and Dominion of Virginia. This included Jamestown, America's first town.
The news of a strange new land across the Atlantic inviting settlers with promises of a new life free from persecution and European laws interested many. Soon, Europeans were flocking to the New World in large numbers. This included the Pilgrims.
The first Pilgrims to arrive in America were Puritan Calvinists fleeing religious persecution in England. They came in a boat named Mayflower and established the Plymouth Colony. Today we know them as Pilgrim Fathers; one of them, Henry Adams. This name is important.
Religion and state weren't very separable in England those days. The Church of England was the State religion and attending its services mandatory. A 1559 Act of Uniformity fined you 1 shilling (£19 today) for each Sunday Mass you missed. Many disliked this.
Mayflower blazed the trail for many persecuted or disgruntled Europeans. There were the Irish, the Scots, the Catholics, the Calvinists, the Protestants, the Swedes, the Dutch, and many even just fleeing the law. These Puritans were no secularists though, just so we know.
The Virginia Company wasn't the only one gentrifying the new continent. The Dutch were carving out territories too. Their side was being handled by a Dutch West India Company; its territory was called New Netherlands. This included the swampy island of Manhattan.
In 1626, a gentleman by the name of Peter Minuit purchased this island from the Lenape Indians for a sum of 60 guilders ($1,143 today) and established it as a private colony. He named it New Amsterdam. Soon, as you'd expect, the Dutch and the British were in open conflict.
This territorial conflict turned into a series of wars in the later 17th century climaxing with the Second Anglo-Dutch War of 1665. This ended in a British victory with the Treaty of Breda 2 years later. Soon after, the British renamed New Amsterdam as New York.
There would also be a Third Anglo-Dutch War ending in yet another British victory with the 1674 Treaty of Westminster. With this loss, the Dutch formally exited the American theater for good. A consequence was renewed consolidation of British holdings in the New World.
Although India remained the most precious jewel in the British Crown all along, America wasn't doing bad either. Over the first half of the 18th century, the Thirteen Colonies became a valuable node in the British trade network, exporting sugar, fur, tobacco, and much more.
Back in Europe, a war was brewing. In October 1740, Emperor Charles VI of the House of Habsburg also called the House of Austria, the Holy Roman Emperor, died. This was problematic because he only had a daughter, Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina.
Maria Theresa was eligible because Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 said she was. But also, Maria Theresa wasn't eligible because the 500 AD Salic Law said she wasn't. Maria Theresa got her coronation done anyway. But not before having triggered history's first real "world war."
This was the War of Austrian Succession. It's the first world war in truest sense of the expression because it was fought in unimaginably distant theaters. From the 1st Carnatic War in India to the the Jacobite rising in Scotland to the the War of Jenkins' Ear in America.
In the American theater, the Colonists and the British fought together to lay siege to and capture the French outpost of Louisbourg (in today's Nova Scotia, Canada) in 1745. The next year, the French retaliated with a similar capture of Madras in India.
2 years later, the War of Austrian Succession finally ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle between Britain, France, Spain, and other belligerents. Per this treaty, Louisbourg was to go back to France and Madras back to Britain. This naturally upset the colonists.
Although the War was over and the treaty was signed, the animosity between the British and the French persisted. And less than 6 years since the signing of the treaty, the two were at war again. This time it was purely American.
After the War of Austrian Succession, both Britain and France began rapid expansion into the Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley regions. Whoever controlled the waters, controlled the trade. These territorial maneuvers were bound to bring them into conflict. And they did.
This conflict was the French and Indian War of 1754 and lasted a good 9 years. William Pitt the Elder, the British Paymaster of the Forces at the time, allocated vast sums to winning this war of territory and ego. Vast enough to significantly deplete the treasury.
Every war involves 2 kinds of resources: Man and money. In this case, Pitt invested men from the colonies and money from Britain. This was out of logistical pragmatism as money is far more portable than people. But this would create problems later.
The French and Indian War's most enduring legacy is American nationalism. Men from vastly different backgrounds — Whites, Blacks, Irish, English, Swedes, Dutch, etc. — fought together against a common adversary, the French. The war shaped a distinct "American" identity.
The idea of recruiting local men for the war had far-reaching consequences. Many young men from the Thirteen Colonies were armed and trained by some of the best officers in the British army. One of them was George Washington.
The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the war in a British victory. This victory was celebrated by both colonists and the British and it saw Pitt catapult into national reckoning as the new British Prime Minister. But the euphoria didn't last very long.
Within years of this victory, resentment started building up between the colonists and the British over who owned the victory. The colonists felt it was theirs because their sons laid their lives at the battlefields; the Brits said it was funded by their hard-earned money.
The reason Brits felt this way was because they were one of the most heavily taxed people in all of Europe at the time. In comparison, the colonists were hardly taxed. But the colonies were the biggest cash cow after India, so alienating them was not a wise move.
By 1770, British America accounted for 40% of the British Empire's GDP. But they weren't being taxed the same as others. This had to be remedied, right? That's what Pitt thought too. And in came new taxes...
1764: Sugar and Currency Acts
1765: Stamp Act
1767: Townshend Acts
Colonists were reasonably upset, nobody likes more taxes. Some decided to do something about it. One of them was Samuel Adams. Remember a name I mentioned earlier saying it was important? That Mayflower Pilgrim Henry Adams? Samuel Adams was one of his descendants.
Right after the Stamp Act of 1765, Adams put together a secret paramilitary group called Sons of Liberty. He even gave it a slogan:

No Taxation without Representation

This was because the colonists weren't allowed to vote in British elections, nor run for Westminster.
Although the act was repealed the very next year and Adam's group largely disbanded, some dominoes had already fallen. One such domino was trade discrimination. You see, the colonial elites had generally took pride in their British heritage.
They celebrated every victory scored by the East India Company in Bengal and elsewhere. Finest of Indian textiles, tea, and other commodities were landing on the docks of Boston and New York. The colonial elites enjoyed showcasing them as their spoils from Asia.
Only one problem. While they could buy these spoils, they could do so only from the EIC at a premium. They weren't allowed to trade directly with India. All trades happened via London. One such traded commodity was going to shape America's fate.

This discrimination became more apparent and pronounced in 1773 when, in order to help the EIC financially (the Company had suffered huge losses in many expensive and protracted wars in India), Westminster passed the Tea Act. This act exempted the EIC from paying taxes.
Britain had hoped this would make everyone happy. No taxes meant better profits for the EIC. It also meant cheaper tea to the increasingly resentful colonists. And it meant redundancy of tea smugglers. Win-win for all involved, right? Well, not really.
Those tea smugglers that went out of business? Most of them were colonists. The Tea Act meant the heavy taxes on non-EIC tea was to continue, so many still found it unfair. And protested. These protests culminated in Boston 7 months later on Dec 16, 1773.
That evening around 100-odd Sons of Liberty men reached Griffin's Wharf in Boston, boarded 3 tea ships, and tossed 342 chests of Chinese tea worth about £9.6k ($1.7m today) into the harbor. This was the Boston Tea Party, a watershed moment in the story of America.
What happened in Boston that day is the reason why America drinks coffee today. Tea, that day, became a tool of oppression, much like salt would in India a century later. More and more Americans shifted to coffee in a symbolic protest against the East India Company.
the French and Indian War of 1754 had left France not only bruised emotionally but also depleted financially. Some French intellectuals did attempt to fix the former by downplaying the losses. Voltaire, for instance, called the losses in Canada a "few acres of snow."
But Louis XV needed a drastic wealth injection to keep the Empire afloat. But any more war was out of question at this point. So he started building a network of allies, a global coalition. Allies that saw Britain as a common adversary. There were plenty.
One such ally was an Indian Muslim king by the name of Hyder Ali. Ali ruled the kingdom of Mysore and with the military help of France, managed to stay invincible until his death. His indigenous Mysorean rockets ensured victory in both Anglo-Mysore Wars.
Two oceans away, the French were also in alliance with the American colonists who, by now, had started seeing Hyder Ali as a formidable archetype of anti-imperialism. To them Ali was a beacon of hope. If he could do it, the colonists could too, that was the sentiment.
The Boston Tea Party of 1773 had consequences. One of them was the Intolerable Acts of 1774. These laws took away self-governance from Massachusetts, something the state had enjoyed for decades now. The idea was to make an example out of Massachusetts.
In response, on Sep 5, 1774, representatives of 12 of the 13 colonies (Georgia abstained) convened in Philadelphia in a series of assemblies known as the First Continental Congress. This is where a formal systematic boycott of all things British was ordered.
By April 1775, all disparate reprisals had coalesced into a single unified armed resistance against the British. The American War of Independence, also known as the American Revolutionary War, was now officially in progress.
A 2nd Continental Congress on May 10, 1775. This is where landmark decisions were made. A siege of Boston was planned. This siege called for a coordinated attack for which a commander in chief was appointed to organize a Continental Army. This man was George Washington.
The colonists still wanted to avoid a war. In a last desperate attempt to that effect, the 2nd Continental Congress signed and issued an Olive Branch Petition to King George III who responded with a Proclamation of Rebellion declaring an all out war against the "rebels."
Before the year ended, Washington scored his first success as Boston went independent. This was a crucial morale boost and helped his men score a string of further wins thereon. In January 1776, Thomas Paine published his pamphlet, Common Sense.
Common Sense was the first written document of import that openly advocated freedom for the Thirteen Colonies. The pamphlet made a compelling case for American sovereignty using Protestantism as a unifying feature of the "distinct American Identity."
The last straw broke in Feb 1776 when the colonists learned of the Prohibitory Act that was recently passed in the British Parliament declaring American ships as enemy vessels. And then news came of King George hiring German mercenaries to crush the colonials.
That was it, John Adams, one of the prominent delegates of the 2nd Congress, declared a "complete Dismemberment of the British Empire." On July 4, 1776, a document was formally adopted declaring America independent. It was titled the Declaration of Independence.
That's the date Americans still celebrate as the anniversary of their independence. In reality though, it was just a declaration. Just as India declared independence on January 26, 1930. Actual independence was still 7 years away, just as it was 17 years away for India.
Washington's Continental Army continued its campaign and scored a decisive victory against the Brits at Saratoga, NY. It was October 1977. This win impressed France enough to offer them an open trade and military alliance against the Brits.
The French were already in collaboration with Hyder Ali on the other side of the globe at the time. That Muslim king is said to have given the British their worst defeats of the time and his tales of valor were already all over the colonies.
When Charles Cornwallis surrendered to Washington's troops on Oct 19 (my birthday) in 1781, a toast was raised in celebration to "The great and heroic Hyder Ali, raised up by providence to avenge the numberless cruelties perpetrated by the English."
Despite all these mainland victories, the harbors were still largely off-limits to the colonists. This changed in April 1782 when Capt. Joshua Barney of Pennsylvania commanded his ship into the Delaware Bay to take on a much larger British vessel, General Monk.
What Capt. Barney scored that day was America's first naval victory against what was then the world's most formidable navy. All this with a tiny merchant boat named Hyder Ally. Philadelphia celebrated this with parades and ballads to Ali in the streets.
Ali died fighting the British later that year. But before that, the British Parliament voted in favor of a ceasefire in the New World. A treaty document was commissioned soon thereafter and on September 3, 1783, the colonists and the British met in Paris.
Facilitated by the French, this Treaty of Paris formally ended the American War of Independence and with it, Britain's 176-year rule over the Thirteen Colonies. With French and British recognition, the United States of America was born as a sovereign nation.
Of course, the country back then didn't look like it does today and extended only as far west as the Mississippi. But it was a country nevertheless.

September 3, 1783.

That's when America really won independence.
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