February 3 – The Privy Council of Great Britain, as advisors to King George III, votes for the King's abolition of free land grants of North American lands. Henceforward, land is to be sold at auction to the highest bidder.
February 7 – The volunteer fire company of Trenton, New Jersey, predecessor to the paid Trenton Fire Department created in 1892, is founded. In 1905, at 131 years, it claims to be the oldest continuously serving department in the U.S.
March 10 – The Boston Journal makes the first reference to the "Stars and Stripes" flag to symbolize the American colonies, reporting that "The American ensign now sparkles a door which shall shortly flame from the skies."
June 22 – The Parliament of Great Britain passes the Quebec Act, setting out rules of governance for the colony of Quebec in British North America, enlarging its territory as far south as Ohio and granting freedom of religion for Roman Catholics.
August 1 – The element oxygen is discovered for the third (and last) time – the second quantitatively, following the somewhat earlier work of Carl Wilhelm Scheele (1771–1772) by Joseph Priestley, who publishes the fact in 1775, and so names the element (and usually gets all the credit, because his work was published first).
English explorer James Cook becomes the first European to sight (and name) Norfolk Island in the Pacific Ocean, uninhabited at this date.
October 14 – The Continental Congress in America adopts the first "Declaration of Rights", with 10 principles.
October 20 – Theater performances in the American colonies halt on recommendation of the Continental Congress that the member colonies "discountenance and discourage all horse racing and all kinds of gaming, cock fighting, exhibitions of shows, plays, and other expensive diversions and entertainments."
November 4 –The Maryland Jockey Club follows a recommendation of the Continental Congress and cancels its race schedule. The decision sets a precedent for other jockey clubs in the colonies, and no major races are held until the end of the American Revolution.
Parliament adjourns in Great Britain, but declines to authorize any action against the rebellious American colonies, despite an address the day before by King George III and Prime Minister North.
Thomas Paine, a native of England, arrives in America at the age 37 and soon becomes an influential advocate for the colonies' independence.
December 1 – A boycott called by the Continental Congress goes into effect, as participating merchants and supporters cease the importation or consumption of products from Great Britain, Ireland or the British West Indies.
December 6 – Archduchess Maria Theresa, the ruler of Austria, Hungary and Croatia, signs the General School Ordinance providing for education for both males and females and setting compulsory education for children aged six through 12.
December 23 – King Louis XVI of France issues a declaration that, for the first time, protects "the free commerce of meat during Lent" to support the needs of "the poor whose infirmity requires them to eat meat."