Brief Timeline of American Literature and Events
1750 (22 June) Jonathan
Edwards is dismissed from his Northampton (Mass.) church when he rejects
covenant." He becomes pastor of a church in the frontier settlement
of Stockbridge, in western Massachusetts.
Franklin publishes New Experiments and Observations on Electricity.
and Indian War (See also the web
index listing of sites and an encyclopedia
1754 Colonies adopt Benjamin
Franklin's "Plan of the Union" of English colonies.
1758 General Montcalm and his French
troops are defeated at Fort Ticonderoga, New York.
Edwards becomes president of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton
1759 Quebec surrenders to the British
1760 Pennsylvania-born painter Benjamin
West travels to Italy to study art and becomes a celebrated artist in London.
West's Self Portrait (1770) courtesy of Carol
L. Gerten (Jackson)'s site at the University of North Carolina.
1763 10 February. Treaty of Paris
ends the Seven Years War (French and Indian War). France cedes Acadia (Nova
Scotia), the St. Lawrence River islands, and Canada to the British.
May-November. When the British refuse to
supply less expensive trade goods and ammunition, the Ottawas under Chief
Pontiac destroy western British garrisons, among them Fort Duquesne.
After beseiging the garrison at Detroit for five months, Pontiac withdraws.
Patrick Henry presents the theory of a mutual
compact between the governed and the ruler.
1764 Boston lawyer James Otis publishes
Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved.
1765 Stamp Act is enacted by English
Parliament and meets with colonial opposition.
1766-67 Daniel Boone travels to the
Kentucky territory through the Cumberland Gap.
1765-6 William Bartram travels in
Florida and publishes his Travels in 1791
Occom, A Short Narrative of My Life
1770. 5 March. When British troops
arrive in Boston, they are surrounded by angry colonists and fire into
the crowd, killing three Americans and wounding two others. The event becomes
known as the Boston Massacre. (Image courtesy of Images
of Political History. See also the Map
of the Americas showing European powers  [262 k. file])
1773 May 10. Due to pressure from
the East India Company, which has suffered because of the colonists' successful
embargo on tea, the Tea Act becomes effective. It retains the threepenny
tax on tea but repeals the previous export tax, so that British tea merchants
can now undercut the prices of American sellers.
29-30 November. After colonists decide to send
the Dartmouth with her cargo of tea back to England, Massachusetts
Governor Thomas Hutchinson declares that the ship must stay in Boston Harbor
until the tea taxes are paid.
December 16. Boston Tea Party. Samuel Adams
addresses a crowd of 8,000 colonists gathered in the Old South Church,
telling them of Governor Hutchinson's decision. That night, colonists
disguised as Mohawk Indians dump 342 casks of tea into Boston Harbor.
1774. All colonies except Georgia send
representatives to the First Continental Congress.
1770 Robert Munford's satirical play,
Candidates; or, The Humours of A Virginia Election
writing the Autobiography (Part I published in 1818)
Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects
Woolman, The Journal of John Woolman
1775 March 23. Patrick Henry's "give me
liberty" speech in Richmond, Virginia.
1776 July 4. Second Continental Congress
adopts the Declaration
April 18-19. Paul Revere's midnight ride. 19
April: Battles of Lexington and Concord,
first battles of the Revolutionary War.
10 May. Second Continental Congress convenes
in Philadelphia, with John Hancock as its president.
15 June. George Washington is named commander-in-chief
of the Continental army. (Go to the George
Washington Papers at the Library of Congress for letters, images, and
17 June. British victory at Battle of Bunker
1775-83 Revolutionary War (see
battles and events)
1775 Mercy Otis Warren, The Group
1776 Thomas Paine, Common
1783-5 Noah Webster's "Blue-Backed
Speller" (A Grammatical Institute of the English Language) helps
to standardize spelling and to distinguish British from American English.
J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer
Concerning the Savages of North America
1785. March. Thomas Jefferson is appointed
minister to France, replacing Benjamin Franklin.
28 November. In the Treaty of Hopewell,
the Cherokees' right to land in the Tennessee area is reinstated, nullifying
an earlier treaty.
1786 Congress adopts a decimal coinage
system based on the Spanish milled dollar.
1787 Shays's Rebellion in western
Massachusetts. Farmers facing foreclosure deny judges entrance to the courthouses
where bankruptcy proceedings are heard. In a confrontation at Springfield,
four farmers are killed as 1,000 militiamen fend off approximately 1,500
1787. 25 May. The Federal Convention
convenes in Philadelphia, although only seven states are represented.
Several provisions of James Madison's Virginia Plan become part of the
U. S. Constitution, including a bicameral legislature, a federal
judiciary branch, and an executive branch. The Constitution is approved
on 17 September and then is sent to the states for ratification.
1789 George Washington elected president.
1787 Thomas Jefferson, Notes on
the State of Virginia
Abraham Panther, A Surprising Account of the
Discovery of a Lady . . . ("Panther Captivity" narrative)
October 1787-May 1788. The Federalist
Papers appear in New York newspapers under the pseudonym Publius. The
letters are written by James Madison (1731-1836), Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804),
and John Jay (1745-1829).
Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
1790 First American cotton mill.
1791 Washington, D. C. established
as U. S. capital.
1794 Whiskey Rebellion breaks out
in western Pennsylvania among farmers who oppose the collection of the
tax on liquor and stills.
1794 Jay's Treaty provides for withdrawal
of British forces from the Northwest Territory by 1 June 1796 in exchange
for payments of war debts to British citizens. It is ratified on 24 June
1790 Judith Sargent Murray, "On the
Equality of the Sexes"
Rowson, Charlotte: A Tale of Truth
1792 Bunker Gay, A Genuine and
Correct Account of the Captivity, Sufferings, and Deliverance of Mrs. Jemima
1793 Elihu Hubbard Smith publishes
anthology American Poems, Selected and Original. It includes several
poems by the Connecticut Wits: Joel Barlow, Timothy Dwight, Lemuel Hopkins,
and John Trumbull
Woolman, A Word of Remembrance and Caution to the Rich (calls
for social reforms, including the abolition of slavery)
1794 Timothy Dwight (1752-1817), Greenfield
1795. 3 August. In the Treaty
of Greenville, twelve Ohio tribes turn over lands to General Anthony Wayne
after their defeat in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.
1796. 1 June. Tennessee is admitted
to the Union as a slave-holding state.
17 September. Washington publishes
his Farewell Address; it states his reasons for returning to private life
and deciding not to run for a third term as president.
7 December. John Adams (Federalist party)
wins the presidency and Thomas Jefferson (Democrat-Republican) becomes
vice president in the nation's third presidential election.
1797. A cast-iron plow is invented,
but farmers fear it will poison the soil and refuse to use it.
18 October. Amid tensions between the
US and France, French foreign minister Tallyrand's agents suggest a "loan,"
essentially a bribe, to bring the French to the bargaining table.
Charles C. Pinckney, the American minister to France, refuses, saying,
"Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."
The USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides")
is launched as part of the new US navy.
1798. The passing of several Alien
and Sedition Acts draws fire when Benjamin Franklin Bache, the grandson
of Benjamin Franklin, is arrested for libeling President Adams.
Thomas Jefferson later pardons all those convicted under the Sedition Act,
many of whom were Democrat-Republicans.
Congress abolishes debtors' prisons.
1798 Charles Brockden Brown, Wieland;
or, the Transformation (September) and Alcuin, a Dialogue
written and maintained by
1799 Charles Brockden Brown, Arthur
Mervyn; or, Memoirs of the Year 1793 (May) and Ormond; or, the Secret
1799. George Washington dies at Mount
For a more comprehensive chronology of historical
events in this period: