This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
Early Discovery, Settlement and Government of the Country.
THE RECORD of North American discovery and settlement may be thus briefly told: Greenland, by Icelanders, in A. D. 980; Bahama islands, by Christopher Columbus, in 1492; Isthmus of Darien, by Columbus, in 1494; Florida, by Sebastian Cabot, in 1497; Newfoundland and Canada, by John and Sebastian Cabot, in 1497; North and South Carolina, by Sebastian Cabot, in 1498; Hudson bay, by Sebastian Cabot, in 1512; the Mississippi river, by De Soto, about 1541; Davis' strait, by John Davis, in 1585; the Hudson river, by Henry Hudson, in 1608; and Baffin bay, by William Baffin, in 1616. In 1500, Amerigo Vespucci explored Brazil, S. A., and gave his name to both of the American continents.
The Spaniards early settled the West India Islands and New Mexico. The French occupied Canada in 1534, with the valley of the Mississippi, and other regions south and west. The English made their first permanent settlement at Jamestown, Va., in 1607, and a few years later several districts (including the present city of New York) were populated by Hollanders and Swedes. In 1620, the Puritan Pilgrims landed on the bleak coast of Massachusetts. By 1770, England, after a series of conflicts, had captured the country, occupied by the French, Dutch, and Swedish settlers, and was in possession of nearly the whole of North America, except Mexico, which was held by Spain. Soon afterwards, Russia acquired territory on the northwestern coast. Such was the ownership of the continent when the war of the Revolution began, in 1775.
At that time there were thirteen American colonies. These afterwards became the thirteen original States.
The colonists, who were subjects of Great Britain, became restive under various restrictions placed upon them by the mother country. Among these were a species of search warrant, which permitted government officials to enter stores and private houses to search for goods upon which prescribed taxes had not been paid.
Another was a stamp tax, which required every document used in the trade or legal business of the colonies to bear a stamp costing not less than an English shilling each, and a larger sum in proportion to the value of the document used.
This tax was afterwards repealed, but in 1767 another act of parliament provided for taxing paper, glass, tea and other goods imported into the colonies.
This enactment being resisted upon the part of the people, the English government sent troops to Boston to enforce the law, when a collision ensued between the troops and the citizens, in which several of the latter were killed and wounded.
Owing to the bitter opposition these taxes were soon repealed, excepting that of threepence on each pound of tea imported. But even this tax the colonists refused to pay, and when the first shipload of tea arrived in Boston harbor, the citizens went upon the vessel and threw the tea overboard.
In order to subdue and punish her American subjects, the English government thereupon devised other oppressive measures and annoyances, which, in the spring of 1775, resulted in the conflicts between the British soldiers and citizens at Concord and Lexington, and commenced the seven years war, known as the War of the Revolution for American Independence. The war had been in progress for about a year, when the Continental Congress in session at Independence Hall, in Philadelphia, July 2, 1776, adopted a resolution, introduced by Richard Henry Lee, declaring:
That these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
Two days later the Declaration of Independence, prepared by Thomas Jefferson, was brought into Congress, and, amid intense excitement on the part of the citizens, was adopted. The announcement that it had been signed was made by the ringing of a bell in the cupola of the building. Such was the birth of American freedom.