Becoming America Timeline: From First Settlers to an Official Government

Part of American Politics For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition)

Things had to get ugly between the British colonists who first settled in America and their ruling government overseas before the new nation could emerge. Here are some key dates within that process:

  • 1607: Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement.

  • 1620: English Separatists founded the Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts; the Mayflower Compact is their governing document and a blueprint for colonies to come.

  • 1774: The first Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia to issue a declaration of grievances to the British government, including unfair taxation and trade restrictions.

  • 1775: British rulers responded with the “shot heard round the world,” seizing weapons from the colonists; Second Continental Congress convenes and appoints George Washington as general and commander in chief of the new Continental Army.

  • 1776: The Congress releases the Declaration of Independence, a statement of rebellion against the British; the Congress assumes the responsibilities of a government.

  • 1782: The Battle of Yorktown effectively ends the Revolutionary War; the Anglo-American Treaty establishes peace between the British and Americans.

  • 1783: England officially declares an end to hostilities; the Treaty of Paris recognizes America as a new nation.

  • 1789: After much debate and some false starts, the Constitution of the United States goes into effect.