Oh, it’s on now! On October 26, 1775 King George III stood up in front of Parliament and declared the American colonies in rebellion. He then went on to authorize a military response to squash the nascent American Revolution.
Things had been, well, tense between Britain and its colonies for some time before the 1770s. Britain spent nearly the whole 18th century at war, and wars can get expensive. To the mother country, the colonies seemed to closely resemble a giant cash machine: you could keep getting money out of it, and it couldn’t answer back to you. A win all around! Except if you happened to live in the colonies, that is.
After a while, a few colonists started to realize they were getting a pretty lousy deal, and in 1772 they began organizing Committees of Correspondence, which would eventually evolve into Provincial Congresses in many of the colonies. These Congresses rejected Parliament and started running things themselves. In 1774, they created the First Continental Congress.
The British, meanwhile, weren’t pleased at what they were seeing, and they sent combat troops over to dissolve local governments and make sure the colonists fell in line. The colonists refused to take that lying down and they mobilized their militias. Fighting broke out in April 1775, when the British and colonial soldiers met at the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which was followed closely by the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The Second Continental Congress convened that same year and sent the Olive Branch Petition to the King, hoping to bring the conflict to a peaceful resolution. But George had already issued his Proclamation of Rebellion in August, and he refused to accept the petition. When he officially opened Parliament on October 26, the King declared that the rebel colonists were out to create an independent empire, and he intended to deal with the problem with armed force. George’s attitude essentially drove the colonies to seek full independence, whereas before most colonists only wanted certain freedoms accorded to all Englishmen. The war dragged on until General Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown in October 1781, making the former colonies their own country at last.