Ap u. S. History Chapter 8: America Secedes from the Empire: 1775-1783 Focus Question

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AP U.S. History

Chapter 8: America Secedes from the Empire: 1775-1783
Focus Question
What goals did the colonists have in waging the Revolutionary War and how did these goals shape their emergent political system?
Learning Objectives

  • Understand how American colonists could continue to proclaim their loyalty to the British crown even while they engaged in major military hostilities with Britain after April 1775.

  • Understand why Thomas Paine’s Common Sense finally inspired Americans to declare their independence in the summer of 1776, and outline the principal ideas of republicanism that Paine and other American revolutionary leaders promoted.

  • Understand both the specific political grievances and the universal ideals and principles that Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence used to justify America’s separation from Britain.

  • Understand why the American Revolution should be understood as a civil war between Americans as well as a war with Britain, and describe the motivations and treatment of the Loyalists.

  • Understand how Britain’s original strategic plan to crush the Revolution was foiled, especially by the Battle of Saratoga.

  • Understand the fundamental military strategy that Washington and his generals, especially Nathanael Greene, adopted, and why it proved successful.

  • Understand the key role of the French alliance in winning American independence, including the final victory at Yorktown.

  • Understand the terms of the Treaty of Paris, and explain why America was able to achieve a diplomatic victory that far exceeded its military and economic strength.


  1. How strong was the sentiment for independence when the Second Continental Congress met in 1775?

Congress Drafts George Washington (132)

  1. Why was selecting George Washington to head the army perhaps the most important single action of the Second Continental Congress?

  2. Why was George Washington the indispensible commander of America's Revolutionary army, despite lacking true military genius?

  3. What were the reasons for which the Continental Congress selected Washington to head up the Continental army?

Bunker Hill and Hessian Hirelings (133)

  1. What did the Americans secure as a result of the May 1775 victory of Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold at Ft. Ticonderoga and Crown Point in upper New York?

  2. Why did the colonial army eventually lose the Battle of Bunker Hill?

  3. Why, in 1775, after fighting between the colonies and Great Britain had begun, did the Continental Congress adopt the Olive Branch Petition? What was the message of the petition?

  4. Why was the Battle of Bunker Hill significant in changing the relationship between the colonies and the government of Great Britain?

  5. How did colonists view the British use of Hessian mercenaries?

The Abortive Conquest of Canada (133)

  1. How did the American invasion of Canada in 1775 contradict the colonials' claim that they were merely fighting for a redress of grievances?

  2. Why is Evacuation Day (17 March) still celebrated in Boston?

Thomas Paine Preaches Common Sense (134)

  1. For what reasons did the colonists delay declaring their independence until July 4, 1776?

  2. What was Thomas Paine's fundamental message in his pamphlet, Common Sense?

Paine and the Idea of "Republicanism" (136)

  1. In a republic, according to Thomas Paine, where does political power originate? What is his view of popular consent?

  2. What examples of colonial experience with self-governance had already prepared Americans for a republic by 1776?

  3. Why did most Americans consider civic virtue to be fundamental for any successful republican government? What exactly was the idea of civic virtue?

  4. In what ways did Patriots respond to Paine's vision of an ultra-democratic republic?

Jefferson's "Explanation" of Independence (137)

  1. Who introduced the resolution that "These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states..." into the Second Continental Congress? From what “state” did he come?

  2. Arrange the following events in chronological order, giving the month and year of each event: (A) fighting at Lexington and Concord, (B) convening of the Second Continental Congress, (C) publication of Common Sense, and (D) adoption of the Declaration of Independence.

  3. Why was Jefferson selected to draft the Declaration of Independence?

  4. What was the “advertisement” or “explanation” purpose of the Declaration of Independence?

  5. What might explain why the Declaration of Independence did not offer the British one last chance at reconciliation?

A Revolution for Women? (138)

  1. Who privately advocated equality for women?

Patriots and Loyalists (139)

  1. What was meant by the terms “Tory,” “Loyalist,” and “Whig”?

  2. Among the American colonists, how much support did the American Revolution receive? What was the position of most colonists?

  3. In what ways did the Patriot militia play a crucial role in the Revolution?

  4. What percentage of the American people were Loyalists?

  5. What factors generally characterized Loyalists? Where were Loyalists least numerous?

  6. What actions did colonial Loyalists take to help the British?

The Loyalists (140)

  1. Why did many Americans remain Loyalists during the Revolution?

  2. What factors characterized British treatment of African Americans who supported the Loyalist cause?

  3. What were the experiences of Loyalists after the Revolutionary War?

The Loyalist Exodus (142)
General Washington at Bay (143)

  1. After defeat at the Battle of Long Island, where did Washington move his forces?

  2. Why did General William Howe not pursue and defeat George Washington's army after the Battle of Long Island?

  3. Why was Washington’s surprise attack on the Hessians in New Jersey such an important event that it would be celebrated 75 years later in Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware?

  4. How did George Washington help restore confidence in America's military in late 1776 and early 1777? How did the Battles of Trenton and Princeton reveal Washington at his military best?

Burgoyne's Blundering Invasion (144)

  1. What was the basic strategy of the British in 1777?

  2. Why was the Battle of Saratoga was a key victory for the Americans?

Revolution in Diplomacy? (145)

  1. What was America's first entangling alliance? Why did France come to America's aid in the Revolution?

  2. Who was the American diplomat that negotiated the Model Treaty with France?

  3. What were the basic principles of the Model Treaty and the new philosophy behind American international affairs?

  4. What did the Americans gain when the alliance with France was formalized?

The Colonial War Becomes a Wider War (146)

  1. Who started the Armed Neutrality League?

Blow and Counterblow (147)

  1. Who was the commander of French troops in America?

  2. What was the impact of General Benedict Arnold’s treason on the American army?

  3. At what battle did the colonists suffer their heaviest losses of the Revolutionary War?

  4. Who was the "Fighting Quaker" who cleared most of Georgia and South Carolina?

The Land Frontier and the Sea Frontier (148)

  1. In general, how did the fighting shift geographically over the course of the Revolutionary War?

  2. Why did some Indian nations join the British during the Revolutionary War?

  3. Who was Joseph Brant?

  4. What was the result of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, and why was this treaty significant?

  5. During the Revolution, why did the fighting on the frontier fail to stem the tide of westward-moving pioneers?

  6. What was the most important contribution of the seagoing privateers during the Revolutionary War?

Yorktown and the Final Curtain (150)

  1. What did French aid to the colonies accomplish?

Peace at Paris (151)

  1. Why did fighting continue for more than a year after the British defeat at Yorktown?

  2. What were the instructions the Second Continental Congress gave American diplomats to the peace negotiations in Paris in 1782-1783?

  3. Why did Britain give America generous terms in the Treaty of Paris?

  4. Which of the provisions of the 1783 Treaty of Paris did America break?

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