American Revolution dbq american Studies Ms. Wohlgemuth Question

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American Revolution DBQ

American Studies

Ms. Wohlgemuth


From the late 1760s to July 4,1776, American colonists moved from merely protesting the decisions of King and Parliament to a Declaration of Independence and a Revolutionary War to overthrow that authority.

Using both your own knowledge and the documents provided, identify and discuss the turning points which marked this changing relationship.

Document A

Document B

SOURCE: George Hewes, 1773 - Firsthand America, A History of the United States, David Burner, 1996.
This account of the Boston Tea Party and an original document of the remembrances of a participant in that event appears in one of the standard college textbooks used today in many colleges and universities.


One the evening of December 16, 1773, a gathering of perhaps 8,000 men, much of the town’s contingent of able-bodies males, assembled at the Old South Church. They were there to hold a town meeting, to ask that the hated tea not be landed. Their request was not granted, and at the end of the meeting Sam Adams rose from his seat and said, "This meeting can do nothing to save the country." As if by prearranged signal, as soon as the meeting adjourned, a band of men disguised as Mohawk Indians rushed down Milk Street to Griffin’s Wharf. Three companies of these instant Indians rowed out to the anchored tea ships, boarded them, split open the tea chests, and dumped their massive contents into the waters of the harbor. Their mission accomplished, the men quickly and quietly dispersed...." Firsthand America, A History of the United States, David Burner, 1996


George Hewes, One of the Indians participating in the Boston Tea Party, December 16, 1773

"[I brought}... a small hatchet, which I and my associated demonated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin’s wharf, where the three ships lay that contained the tea.... [T]here appeared to be an understanding that each individual should volunteer his services, keep his own secret, and risk the consequences for himself. No disorder took place during that transaction, and it was observed at the time that the stillest night ensued that Boston had enjoyed for many months."
Document C

SOURCE: The Association of the First Continental Congress, October 20, 1774, in
Journals of the Continental Congress, Vol. 1, pp. 75-80.".
The Association was the most effective device adopted by the American colonials and the First Continental Congress to deal with grievances with Great Britain. Copying earlier spontaneous boycotts and harshly enforced by radical Sons and Daughters of Liberty, the non-importation of British goods forced British merchants to appeal to Parliament to placate the colonials.

"We, his Majesty's most loyal subjects, the delegates of the several colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the three lower counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, deputed to represent them in a continental congress, held in the city of Philadelphia, on the 5th day of September, 1774, avowing our allegiance to his Majesty, our affection and regard for our fellow-subjects in Great Britain and elsewhere, affected with the deepest anxiety and most alarming apprehensions, at those grievances and distresses, with which his Majesty's American subjects are oppressed... are of opinion that a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement, faithfully adhered to, will prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure: and therefore, we do, for ourselves, and the inhabitants of the several colonies whom we represent, firmly agree and associate, under the sacred ties of virtue, honour and love of our country . . . .

And we do solemnly bind ourselves and our constituents, under the ties aforesaid, to adhere to this Association, until such parts of the several Acts of Parliament passed since the close of the last war,... are repealed.... And we recommend it to the provincial conventions, and to the committees in the respective colonies, to establish such farther regulations as they may think proper, for carrying into execution this Association.
The foregoing Association being determined upon by the Congress, was ordered to be subscribed by the several members thereof; and thereupon, we have hereunto set our respective names accordingly."
Document D

SOURCE: Sons of Liberty, New York City, December 15, 1773.
"He shall be deemed an enemy to the liberties of America," 1773

The following were resolutions passed by the Sons of Liberty of New York City on December 15, 1773 concerning the use of taxed tea by American colonials. Notice the attitudes taken by these New York patriots toward their relationship with Great Britain and the authority of the British government.


"...To prevent a calamity which, of all others, is the most to be dreaded -- slavery, and its terrible concomitants -- we subscribers being influenced from a regard to liberty, and disposed to use all lawful endeavors in our power, l to defeat the pernicious project, and to transmit to our prosperity, those blessings of freedom which our ancestors have handed down to us; and to contribute to the support of the common liberties of America, which are in danger to be subverted, do, for those most important purposes, agree to associate together, under the name and style of the sons of liberty of New York, and engage our honor to, and with each other, faithfully to observe and perform the following resolutions, viz.

1st, Resolved, That whoever shall aid, or abet, or in any manner assist in the introduction of tea, from any place whatsoever, into this colony, while it is subject, by a British act to parliament, to the payment of a duty, for the purpose of raising a revenue in American, he shall be deemed an enemy to the liberties of America.
2d. Resolved, That whoever shall be aiding, or assisting, in the landing, or carting, of such tea, from any ship or vessel, or shall hire any house, storehouse, or cellar or any place whatsoever to deposit the tea, subject to a duty as aforesaid, he shall be deemed an enemy to the liberties of America.
3d. Resolved, that whoever shall sell, or buy,... tea, or shall aid... in transporting such tea,... from this city, until the... revenue act shall be totally and clearly repealed, he shall be deemed an enemy to the liberties of America.
4th. Resolved, That whether the duties on tea, imposed by this act, be paid in Great Britain or in America, our liberties are equally affected.
5th. Resolved, That whoever shall transgress any of these resolutions, we will not deal with, or employ, or have any connection with him."

Document E

SOURCE: Declaration of Colonial Rights and Grievances, October 1, 1774 , Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1779 (Washington, 1904-1937).
This declaration by the First Continental Congress was clearly targeted at the American people and to the outside world as colonial leaders attempted to explain the grievances which had brought them into opposition to their King


"...The good people of the several colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Castle, Kent and Sussex on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, justly alarmed at these arbitrary proceedings of Parliament and administration, have severally elected, constituted, and appointed deputies to meet and sit in general congress, in the city of Philadelphia, in order to obtain such establishment, as that their religion, laws, and liberties may not be subverted.

Whereupon the deputies so appointed being now assembled, in a full and free representation of these colonies, taking into their most serious consideration the best means of attaining the ends aforesaid, do, in the first place, as Englishmen, their ancestors in like cases have usually done, for asserting and vindicating their rights and liberties, declare,

That the inhabitants of the English colonies in North America, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following rights:

Resolved, That they are entitled to life, liberty and property, and they have never ceded to any sovereign power whatever, a right to dispose of either without their consent.
Resolved, That our ancestors who first settled these colonies, were at the time of their emigration from the mother country, entitled to all the rights, liberties, and immunities of free and natural-born subjects, within the realm of England.
Resolved, That by such emigration they by no means forfeited, surrendered, or lost any of those rights, but that they were, and their descendants now are, entitled to the exercise and enjoyment of all such of them, as their local and other circumstances enable them to exercise and enjoy.

Resolved, That the foundation of English liberty, and of all free government, is a right in the people to participate in their legislative council: and as the English colonists are not represented, and from their local and other circumstances, cannot properly be represented in the British Parliament, they are entitled to a free and exclusive power of legislation in their several provincial legislatures, where their right of representation can alone be preserved, in all cases of taxation and internal polity, subject only to the negative of their sovereign, in such manner as has been heretofore used and accustomed. But, from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such Acts of the British Parliament, as are bona fide, restrained to the regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members; excluding every idea of taxation, internal or external, for raising a revenue on the subjects in America, without their consent.

Resolved, That the respective colonies are entitled to the common law of England, and more especially to the great and inestimable privilege of being tried by their peers of the vicinage, according to the course of that law.
Resolved, That they are entitled to the benefit of such of the English statutes as existed at the time of their colonization; and which they have, by experience, respectively found to be applicable to their several local and other circumstances.
Resolved, That these, his Majesty's colonies, are likewise entitled to all the immunities and privileges granted & confirmed to them by royal charters, or secured by their several codes of provincial laws.
Resolved, That they have a right peaceably to assemble, consider of their grievances, and petition the king; and that all prosecutions, prohibitory proclamations and commitments for the same, are illegal.
Resolved, That the keeping a standing army in these colonies, in times of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony, in which such army is kept, is against law.
Resolved, It is indispensably necessary to good government, and rendered essential by the English constitution, that the constituent branches of the legislature be independent of each other; that, therefore, the exercise of legislative power in several colonies, by a council appointed, during pleasure, by the Crown, is unconstitutional, dangerous, and destructive to the freedom of American legislation.
All and each of which the aforesaid deputies, in behalf of themselves and their constituents, do claim, demand, and insist on, as their indubitable rights and liberties; which cannot be legally taken from them, altered or abridged by any power whatever, without their own consent, by their representatives in their several provincial legislatures.
In the course of our inquiry, we find many infringements and violations of the foregoing rights, which, from an ardent desire, that harmony and mutual intercourse of affection and interest may be restored, we pass over for the present, and proceed to state such acts and measures as have been adopted since the last war, which demonstrate a system formed to enslave America.
Resolved, That the following Acts of Parliament are infringements and violations of the rights of the colonists; and that the repeal of them is essentially necessary in order to restore harmony between Great Britain and the American colonies, viz:
The several Acts of 4 Geo. III, c. 15 and c. 34; 5 Geo. III, c. 25; 6 Geo. III, c. 52; 7 Geo. III, c. 41 and c. 46; 8 Geo. III, c. 22, which impose duties for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, extend the powers of the admiralty courts beyond their ancient limits, deprive the American subject of trial by jury, authorize the judges' certificate to indemnify the prosecutor from damages that he might otherwise be liable to, requiring oppressive security from a claimant of ships and goods seized, before he shall be allowed to defend his property, and are subversive of American rights.

Also the 12 Geo. III, c. 24, entitled "An Act for the better securing his Majesty's dockyards, magazines, ships, ammunition, and stores," which declares a new offence in America, and deprives the American subject of a constitutional trial by a jury of the vicinage, by authorizing the trial of any person charged with the committing any offence described in the said Act, out of the realm, to be indicted and tried for the same in any shire or country within the realm.

Also the three Acts passed in the last session of Parliament, for stopping the port and blocking up the harbour of Boston, for altering the charter and government of the Massachusetts Bay, and that which is entitled "An Act for the better administration of justice," etc.
Also the Act passed in the same session for establishing the Roman Catholic religion in the province of Quebec, abolishing the equitable system of English laws, and erecting a tyranny there, to the great danger, from so total a dissimilarity of religion, law, and government of the neighbouring British colonies, by the assistance of whose blood and treasure the said country was conquered from France.
Also the Act passed in the same session for the better providing suitable quarters for officers and soldiers in his Majesty's service in North America.
Also that the keeping a standing army in several of these colonies, in time of peace, without the consent of the legislature of that colony in which such army is kept, is against law.
To these grievous acts and measures, Americans cannot submit, but in hopes that their fellow subjects in Great Britain will, on a revision of them, restore us to that state in which both countries found happiness and prosperity, we have for the present only resolved to pursue the following peaceable measures:

  1. To enter into a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement or association,

  1. To prepare an address to the people of Great Britain, and a memorial to the inhabitants of British America, and

  1. To prepare a loyal address to his Majesty, agreeable to resolutions already entered into.

Document F

SOURCE: Act of the British Parliament, 1774.
The Boston Port Act was passed by Parliament in direct retaliation for the Boston Tea Party of 1773.


"An act to discontinue, in such manner, and for such time as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town, and within the harbour, of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts’s Bay, in North America.

WHEREAS dangerous commotions and insurrections have been fomented and raised in the town of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts’s Bay, in New England, by divers ill-affected persons, to the subversion of his Majesty's government, and to the utter destruction of the publics peace, and good order of the said town; in which commotions and insurrections certain valuable cargoes of teas, being the property of the East India Company, and on board certain vessels lying within the bay or harbour of Boston, were seized and destroyed: And whereas, in the present condition of the said town and harbour, the commerce of his Majesty's subjects cannot be safely carried on there, nor the customs payable to his Majesty duly collected; and it is therefore expedient that the officers of his Majesty's customs should be forthwith removed front the said town... be it

enacted.... That from and after.... [June I, I774,]... it shall not be lawful for any person or persons whatsoever to lade, put, or cause or procure to be laden or put, off or from any quay, wharf, or other place, within the said town of Boston..., upon pain of the forfeiture of the said goods, wares, and merchandise, and of the said boat, lighter, ship, vessel, or other bottom into which the same shall be put... until it shall sufficiently appear to his Majesty that full satisfaction hath been made by or on behalf of the inhabitants of the said town of Boston to the united company of merchants of England trading to the East Indies, for the damage sustained by the said company by the destruction of their goods sent to the said town of Boston... in the months of November and December, in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-three, and in the month of January, in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-four."
Document G

SOURCE: Declaration of the People of Farmington, 1774.
The Boston Tea Party, which involved the destruction of three cargoes of tea by colonials thinly disguised as Indians, provoked an angry response in Parliament. Other colonies responded with assurances of support. This resolution of protest was passed by the citizens of Farmington, Connecticut.

"Early in the morning was found the following handbill, posted up in various parts of the town, viz.:

To pass through the fire at six o'clock this evening, in honor to the immortal goddess of Liberty, the late infamous Act of the British Parliament for farther distressing the American Colonies. The place of execution will be the public parade, where all Sons of Liberty are desired to attend.
Accordingly, a very numerous and respectable body were assembled of near one thousand people, when a huge pole, just forty-five feet high, was erected, and consecrated to the shrine of liberty; after which the Act of Parliament for blocking up the Boston harbor was read aloud, sentenced to the flames, and executed by the hands of the common hangman. Then the following resolves were passed, nem. con. [unanimously]:
1st. That it is the greatest dignity, interest, and happiness of every American to be united with our parent state while our liberties are duly secured, maintained, and supported by our rightful sovereign, whose person we greatly revere; whose government, while duly administered, we are ready with our lives and properties to support.
2nd. That the present Ministry, being instigated by the Devil, and led on by their wicked and corrupt hearts, have a design to take away our liberties and properties, and to enslave us forever.

3rd. That the late Act, which their malice hath caused to be passed in Parliament, for blocking up the port of Boston, is unjust, illegal, and oppressive; and that we, and every American, are sharers in the insults offered to the town of Boston.

4th. That those pimps and parasites who dared to advise their master [George III] to such detestable measures be held in utter abhorrence by us and every American, and their names loaded with the curses of all succeeding generations.

5th. That we scorn the chains of slavery; we despise every attempt to rivet them upon us; we are the sons of freedom, and resolved that, till time shall be no more, that godlike virtue shall blazon our hemisphere."

Document H

SOURCE: Resolutions of freeholders of Albemarle County, Virginia., July 26, 1774.
These resolutions were actually authored in part by Thomas Jefferson, who participated in this collective assembly in his home colony of Virginia.

"At a meeting of the Freeholders of the County of Albemarle, assembled in their collective body, at the Court House of the said County, on the 26th of July, 1774:

Resolved, That the inhabitants of the Several States of British America are subject to the laws which they adopted at their first settlement, and to such others as have been since made by their respective Legislatures, duly constituted and appointed with their own consent. That no other Legislature whatever can rightly exercise authority over them; and that these privileges they hold as the common rights of mankind, confirmed by the political constitutions they have respectively assumed, and also by several charters of compact from the Crown.
Resolved, That these their natural and legal rights have in frequent instances been invaded by the Parliament of Great Britain and particularly that they were so by an act lately passed to take away the trade of the inhabitants of the town of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay; that all such assumptions of unlawful power are dangerous to the right of the British empire in general, and should be considered as its common cause, and that we will ever be ready to join with our fellow-subjects in every part of the same, in executing all those rightful powers which God has given us, for the re-establishment and guaranteeing such their constitutional rights, when, where, and by whomsoever invaded.
It is the opinion of this meeting, that the most eligible means of effecting these purposes, will be to put an immediate stop to all imports from Great Britain, . . . and to all exports thereto, after the first day of October, 1775; and immediately to discontinue all commercial intercourse with every part of the British Empire which shall not in like manner break off their commerce with Great Britain.
It is the opinion of this meeting, that we immediately cease to import all commodities from every part of the world, which are subjected by the British Parliament to the payment of duties in America.
It is the opinion of this meeting, that these measures should be pursued until a repeal be obtained of the Act for blocking up the harbour of Boston; of the Acts prohibiting or restraining internal manufactures in America; of the Acts imposing on any commodities duties to be paid in America; and of the Act laying restrictions on the American trade; and that on such repeal it will be reasonable to grant to our brethren of Great Britain such privileges in commerce as may amply compensate their fraternal assistance, past and future.
Resolved, However, that this meeting do submit these their opinions to the Convention of Deputies from the several counties of this Colony, and appointed to be held at Williamsburg on the first day of August next, and also to the General Congress of Deputies from the several American States, when and wheresoever held; and that they will concur in these or any other measures which such Convention or such Congress shall adopt as most expedient for the American good; and we do appoint Thomas Jefferson and John Walker our Deputies to act for this county at the said Convention, and instruct them to conform themselves to these our Resolutions and Opinions."
Document I

SOURCE: Instructions by the Virginia Convention to Their Delegates in Congress, August 1-6, 1774.
Notice the changing opinion of colonists toward Great Britain.

"It cannot admit of a Doubt but that British Subjects in America are entitled to the same Rights and Privileges as their Fellow Subjects possess in Britain; and therefore, that the Power assumed by the British Parliament to bind America by their Statutes, in all Cases whatsoever, is unconstitutional, and the Source of these unhappy Differences.

The End of Government would be defeated by the British Parliament exercising a Power over the Lives, the Property, and the Liberty of the American Subject; who are not, and, from their local Circumstances, cannot, be there represented. Of this Nature we consider the several Acts of Parliament for raising a Revenue in American, for extending the Jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty, for seizing American Subjects and transporting them to Britain to be tried for Crimes committed in America, and the several late oppressive Acts respecting the Town of Boston and Province of the Massachusetts Bay.
The original Constitution of the American Colonies possessing their Assemblies with the sole right of directing their internal Polity, it is absolutely destructive of the End of their Institution that their Legislatures should be suspended, or prevented, by hasty Dissolutions, from exercising their legislative Powers.
To obtain Redress of Grievances, without which the People of America can neither be safe, free, nor happy, they are willing to undergo the great Inconvenience that will be derived to them from stopping all Imports whatsoever from Great Britain after the first Day of November next, and also to cease exporting any Commodity whatsoever to the same Place after the tenth Day of August 1775.... [I]t is our Desire that you cordially co-operate with our Sister Colonies in General Congress in such other just and proper Methods as they, or the Majority, shall deem necessary for the Accomplishment of these valuable Ends."
Document J

Document K

SOURCE: Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776.
Thomas Paine was nothing if he was not a world traveling rabble rouser. He came to the American colonies and helped foment a revolution. He returned to England to promote radical causes and had to flee for his life. He went to France where he aided in the French Revolution. "Common Sense," printed in Philadelphia on January 10, 1776 and reprinted throughout the colonies, offered his reasons why America should seek independence.

"In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense....
Volumes have been written on the subject of the struggle between England and America. Men of all ranks have embarked in the controversy, from different motives, and with various designs; but all have been ineffectual, and the period of debate is closed. Arms as the last resource decide the contest; the appeal [to arms] was the choice of the King, and the {American] Continent has accepted the challenge....
The Sun never shined on a cause of greater worth.... Now is the seed time of Continental union, faith, and honour....
I have heard it asserted by some, that as America hath flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, that same connection is necessary towards her future happiness and will always have the same effect -- Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument: -- we may as well assert that because a child hath thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat....

But Britain is the parent country say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true... the phrase, parent or mother country, hath been jesuitically adopted by the King and his parasites, with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. Europe and not England is the parent country of America. This New World hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny, which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.

Much hath been said of the united strength of Britain and the Colonies, that in conjunction they might bid defiance to the world; But this is mere presumption, the fate of war is uncertain, neither do the expressions mean anything, for this Continent would never suffer itself to be drained of inhabitants, to support the British Arms in either Asia, Africa, or Europe.
Besides, what have we to do with setting the world at defiance? Our plan is commerce, and that well attended to, will secure us the peace and friendship of all Europe, because it is the interest of all Europe to have America a free port. Her trade will always be her protection....
I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation, to shew , a single advantage that this Continent can reap, by being connected with Great Britain. I will repeat the challenge, not a single advantage is derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe and our imported goods must be paid for by them where we will.
But the injuries and disadvantages we sustain by that connection, are without number, and our duty to mankind at large, as well as to ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance; because any submission to, or dependence on Great Britain, tends directly to involve this Continent in European wars and quarrels. As Europe is our market for trade, we ought to form no political connection with any part of it....
Europe is too thickly planted with Kingdoms, to be long at peace, and whenever a war breaks out between England and any foreign power, the trade of American goes to ruin, because of her connection with Britain....
The authority of Great Britain over this Continent is a form of Government, which sooner or later must have an end.... ‘Tis repugnant to reason, to the universal order of things; to all examples from former ages, to suppose, that this Continent can long remain subject to any external power.... Small islands not capable of protecting themselves are the proper objects for government to take under their care; but there is something very absurd, in supposing a Continent to be perpetually governed by an island....
A government of our own is our natural right; and when a man seriously reflects on the precariousness of human affairs, he will become convinced, that it is infinitely wiser and safer, to form a constitution of our own, in a cool deliberate manner, while we have it in our power, than to trust such an interesting event to time and chance....
O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the Old World is over-run with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the Globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind."

Document L

Document M

SOURCE: Richard Henry Lee, Second Continental Congress, July 2, 1776.
As a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Richard Henry Lee served on 18 different committees - none as important as his appointment to frame the Declaration of Rights of the Colonies, which led directly to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee was accorded the well-deserved honor of introducing the bill before Congress. The bill was adopted on July 2 - the formal act that dissolved the ties with England. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was ratified.

"That these united Colonies are, and ought to be, fee and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance from the British crown, and than all political connection between America and State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."

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