|THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION: 1775-1783
I. Second Continental Congress -- May 10, 1775
A. All 13 colonies present -- delegates still not interested in independence but rather redressing of grievances (conservative position).
B. Most significant act of Congress: Selected George Washington to head of the
-- Selection largely political – Northerners wanted to bring Virginia into the war.
C. Declaration of the Causes & Necessity of Taking Up Arms
(written by Jefferson & Dickinson)
1. Drafted 2nd set of appeals to the king and British people for redress of American grievances.
2. Seen as intermediate step towards the Declaration of Independence
-- (Declaration & Resolves from 1st Continental Congress was earlier step.)
3. Adopted measures to raise money and to create an army and a navy.
D. Olive Branch Petition (written largely by John Dickinson)
1. Last ditch effort by moderates in the Continental Congress to prevent an all-out war.
2. Once again, pledged loyalty to the crown; sought to restore peace
3. Appealed to George III to intercede with Parliament to reconsider the
4. King refused to recognize Congress; the war raged on
II. Early Battles
A. Ticonderoga and Crown Point -- May 1775
1. Tiny forces under Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys of Vermont
& Benedict Arnold of Connecticut surprised & captured Br. garrisons.
B. Bunker Hill – June 17, 1775
1. Colonials seized Breed's Hill -- commanded a strong position overlooking Boston.
2. Over 1,000 oncoming redcoats in ill-conceived frontal assault were mowed down
by 1,500 American sharpshooters.
-- Americans had 140 killed and 441 wounded.
3. Americans ran out of gunpowder and were forced to abandon the hill in
4. Viewed as an American victory due to the heavy losses suffered by Britain.
5. Bloodiest battle of the War for Independence
6. British Army left Boston to conduct the war from New York.
C. Following Bunker Hill, King proclaimed the colonies in rebellion (Aug. 23, 1775).
1. This was tantamount to a declaration of war against the colonies..
2. 18,000 Hessians (German mercenary soldiers) hired by King to support
-- Americans shocked that king would hire soldiers reputed for their brutality;
Colonials saw the war as a family conflict.
D. Americans failed to successfully invade Canada in Oct. 1775
-- Yet, invasion postponed large British offensive which eventually contributed to
the American victory at Saratoga.
IV. Declaration of Independence
A. Most Americans did not desire independence; proud to be British citizens
B. Reasons for shift of loyalty
1. Hiring of Hessians
2. Burning of Falmouth & Norfolk by the British
3. Governor of Virginia promised freedom to slaves who would fight for Britain.
-- Impact: persuaded many southern elite to join New England in the war effort.
C. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense (published early 1776)
1. Became an instant best-seller in the colonies; effective propaganda
2. Main ideas:
a. Britain's colonial policies were inconsistent; independence was the only course
b. Nowhere in the physical universe did a smaller heavenly body control
a larger one. Why should tiny England control huge North America?
c. King was nothing more than the "Royal Brute of Great Britain."
d. America had a sacred mission; moral obligation to the world to set up an
independent, democratic republic, untainted by association with corrupt
3. Persuaded Congress to go all the way for independence
a. Could not hope for aid from France unless they declared independence
b. France not interested in colonial reconstruction under Britain
D. June 7, 1776, Philadelphia Congress, Richard Henry Lee proposed independence.
1. "These United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states..."
2. Motion was adopted on July 2, 1776
3. Yet, formal explanation was needed to rally resistance at home and invite foreign
nations to aid the American cause, especially France.
E. Congress appointed Committee on Independence to prepare an appropriate
statement shortly after Lee's speech.
1. Task fell to a committee that chose Thomas Jefferson.
--Other members: B. Franklin, J. Adams, Roger Sherman, & Robert Livingston
2. Some debate and amendment had preceded its adoption especially slavery clause
which was heavily modified with some portions being excised.
a. Jefferson had blamed England for continuing the slave trade despite colonial
wishes (despite his owning slaves).
b. Yet, southerners in particular still favored slavery and dismissed the clause.
3. Declaration not addressed to England; U.S. didn't expect a response from the king.
4. Declaration of Independence formally approved on July 4, 1776
F. Declaration of Independence had three major parts:
1. Preamble (heavily influenced by John Locke)
a. Stated the rights of colonists to break away if natural rights were not
protected: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property)
b. Stated "all men are created equal"
2. List of 27 grievances of the colonies (seen by Congress as most important part)
a. Underwent the most changes from the original draft -- 24 changes
b. Charged King with imposing taxes w/o colonials' consent, eliminating trial
by jury, military dictatorship, maintaining standing armies in peacetime,
cutting off trade, burning towns, hiring mercenaries, & inciting Indian violence.
3. Formal declaration of independence
a. Officially broke ties with England
b. "United States" officially an independent country
G. Result: Foreign aid could now be successfully solicited
V. Patriots & Loyalists
A. John Adams claimed that 1/3 of colonists were Patriots, 1/3 were Loyalists
and 1/3 were neutral. This number is difficult to verify but is useful anyway.
B."Tories" (loyalists) = about 20% of the American people
1. Colonists who fought for return to colonial rule; loyal to the king.
2. Usually conservative: educated and wealthy; fearful of “mob rule.”
3. Included the older generation; younger generation was more revolutionary
4. Included king's officers and other beneficiaries of the crown
5. Included the Anglican clergy and a large portion of their followers;
most numerous of the loyalists (except in Virginia)
6. Influential in aristocratic NY, Charleston, PA, and NJ.
7. Least numerous in New England
8. Ineffective at gaining allegiance of neutral colonists
1. Sometimes called "whigs" (named after British opposition party)
2. American rebels who fought both British soldiers and loyalists
3. Most numerous in New England
4. Constituted a minority movement
5. More adept at gaining support from colonials
6. Financing: Robert Morris, “the financier of the Revolution” helped
Congress finance the war.
D. About 80,000 Loyalists fled the colonies.
1. Loyalists regarded by Patriots as traitors.
2. Their estates were confiscated and sold; these funds helped finance the war
3. 50,000 fought for the British
VIII. The War in 1776-1777: Britain changed its focus to the mid-Atlantic states
A. Battle of Long Island (Summer & Fall 1776)
1. Washington’s army escaped from Long Island to Manhattan and then NJ.
2. British lost a great opportunity to crush the Americans early.
B. Battle of Trenton (Dec. 1776)
1. Washington crossed the ice-clogged Delaware River on Dec. 26, 1776
2. At Trenton, surprised and captured about 1,000 Hessians who were
sleeping off their Christmas partying.
C. Battle of Princeton (Jan. 1777)
1. One week later, Washington defeated a smaller British force at Princeton
2. British forced to pull his outposts back to New York
3. Trenton and Princeton was a gamble by Washington to achieve quick victories
to revive the disintegrating Continental Army.
D. Battle of Saratoga (most important battle of the American Revolution).
1. British sought to capture New York and sever New England from the U.S.
2. Benedict Arnold saved New England by slowing down British invasion of
3. General Burgoyne surrendered entire command at Saratoga on Oct. 17,
1777 to American General Horatio Gates.
4. Saratoga one of history's most decisive battles
a. Made possible French aid which ultimately ensured American independence.
b. Spanish and Dutch eventually entered; Englandfaced with world war.
c. Saratoga revived the faltering colonial cause
E. Washington retired to Valley Forge for winter of 1777-78
1. Supplies were scarce: food, clothing
2. Army whipped into shape by the Prussian drillmaster Baron von Steuben.
3. Episode demonstrated American resolve despite horrible conditions.
F. Benedict Arnold becomes a traitor, 1780 -- tremendous blow to American morale
1. Arnold frustrated with his treatment by his superiors despite his heroic service
2. Persuaded Washington to make him head of West Point
3. Plotted with the British to sell out the key stronghold of West Point commanding
the Hudson River
4. Plot failed after it was accidentally discovered by Washington
IX. Articles of Confederation adopted in 1777 (Drafted by John Dickinson)
A. Set up by 2nd Continental Congress in order to create a lasting government.
B. Did not go into effect until 1781.
C. First constitution in U.S. history; lasted until 1789 when Constitution adopted
D. Congress had power to: conduct war, handle foreign relations & secure loans,
E. No power to: regulate trade, conscript troops, levy taxes.
X. France Becomes an Ally of the U.S.
A. French eager to exact revenge on the British for the French & Indian War.
1. Saw Revolutionary war as an opportunity.
2. British America were England's most valuable colonies.
B. Secret supply to the Americans
1. France initially worried that open aid to America might provoke British attacks
on French interests..
2. Americans Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin arranged for significant
amounts of munitions and military supplies to be shipped to America.
-- Helped forge the Franco-American Alliance.
3. Marquis de Lafayette significant in helping U.S. get financial aid from France.
C. Declaration of Independence was a turning point for French aid
1. Showed Americans meant business
2. Victory at Saratoga displayed an excellent chance for defeating England
D. Franco-American Alliance, 1778: France offers U.S. a treaty of alliance.
1. Promised Americans recognition of independence.
2. Both sides bound themselves to wage war until the US won its freedom
or until both agreed to terms with Britain.
3. Many Americans reluctantly accepted the treaty.
a. France a strong Roman Catholic country
b. Hitherto a traditional enemy of Britain for centuries.
E. The Revolution turned into a world war that stretched Britain’s resources.
1. Spain and Holland entered in 1779.
2. Catherine the Great of Russia organized the League of Armed Neutrality
-- Lined up almost all remaining European neutrals in an attitude of passive
hostility toward England as a result of England disturbing Baltic shipping.
3. War raged in Europe, N.A., South America, the Caribbean, and Asia.
XI. Land Frontier & Sea Frontier
A. West raged throughout most of the war
1. Indian allies of Britain attacked American frontier positions
2. 1777 known as "the Bloody Year" on the frontier
-- Joseph Brant (“Monster Brant”), Mohawk Chief, and leader of the
Iroquois Six Nations, led Indian raids in western PA and NY.
-- Forced to sign Treaty of Ft. Stanwyk -- 1st treaty bet. U.S. & Indians.
-- Indians lost most of their lands.
B. Illinois country taken from the British
1. George Rogers Clark, a frontiersman, seized several British ports along the
Ohio River: Kaskaskia, Cahokia (St. Louis), and Vincennes, Indiana.
2. Helped quiet Indian involvement
3. His supporters credit him for forcing the British to cede the whole Ohio region
in the peace treaty of Paris after the war. This is still a debate.
D. The American Navy
1. John Paul Jones most famous American naval leader (Scottish born)
2. Chief contribution was destroying British merchant shipping and carrying war
into the waters around the British Isles.
3. Did not affect Britain's navy
E. American Privateers were more effective than the American navy
1. Privately owned ships authorized by Congress to attack enemy ships.
2. 600 British ships captured; British captured as many American merchantmen
3. Brought in gold, harassed the British, and increased American morale by
providing American victories.
F. Major naval battles between British, French, & other European powers
1. Mostly in the West Indies
2. British overcome by French, Spanish and Dutch.
-- War continued until 1785 when British won last battle near India.
XII. In 1778, Britain again changed its strategy: focused on former Southern Colonies
A. Savannah, Georgia taken in late 1778-early 1779
B. Charleston, SC, fell in 1780 (4th largest city in America)
1. Devastating loss to American war-effort
2. Heavier loss to the Americans than Saratoga was to the British
C. Nathanael Greene succeeded in clearing Georgia and S.C. of most British
-- Cornwallis forced to abandon the Southern strategy; fell back to Chesapeake
Bay at Yorktown
D. Battle of Yorktown: last major battle of the war
1. French Admiral de Grasse, head of powerful fleet in W. Indies, blockaded
Chesapeake Bay; British ships unable to enter.
2. Washington made 300-mile+ march to Chesapeake Bay from NY.
3. Accompanied by Rochambeau's French army, Washington attacked British
by land while de Grasse blockaded them by sea..
4. Oct. 19, 1781, General Cornwallis surrendered entire force of 7,000 men
5. War continued one more year (especially in the South)
XIII. Peace at Paris
A. British ready to come to terms after losses in India, West Indies, & Mediterranean
1. Lord North's ministry collapsed in 1782; George III lost influence in Parliament
2. New Whig ministry (more sympathetic to Americans) replaced the Tory regime.
B. French attempted to create a weak U.S.
1. U.S. diplomats Ben Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay sent by Congress to
make no separate peace without consulting the French..
a. They ignored these orders as they were highly suspicious of France & Spain.
b. John Jay believed France wanted to keep US border east of the Allegheny
mountains and give western territories to its ally, Spain, for its help in the war.
2. U.S. turned to Great Britain
a. Britain eager to separate U.S. from the Franco-American Alliance.
b. Preliminary Treaty signed in 1782
C. Treaty of Paris of 1783: Britain formally recognized US independence
1. Granted US huge boundaries stretching to the Mississippi in the west, the
Great Lakes in the north, and to Spanish Florida in the south
a. Americans allowed to retain a share in the valuable Newfoundland fisheries.
b. British promised troops would not take slaves from America.
2. American concessions:
a. Loyalists could not be further persecuted
b. Congress was to recommend to state legislatures that confiscated
Loyalist property be restored
c. American states were bound to pay back debts to British creditors.
d. U.S. did not comply with many of these concessions and it became
partial cause of the War of 1812 against Britain..
3. France approved the British-American terms (officially, no separate
4. America alone gained from the war
a. Britain lost colonies and other territories
b. France became bankrupt which helped spark the French Revolution.
c. Spain gained little
XIV. American society during the war
A. Over 250,000 American soldiers fought
-- 10% who fought died; largest % of any American war in history
B. British occupied most major cities, e.g. Boston, New York, and Philadelphia.
C. War Economy: all of society became involved in the war.
1. State and national governments created.
2. Men with military experience volunteered for positions in the army.
3. Some merchants loaned money to the army and to Congress. Others made
fortunes from wartime contracts.
4. Most of the fighting was done by the poorest Americans
-- Young city laborers, farm boys, indentured servants, and sometimes slaves.
5. African Americans fought on both sides.
-- 5,000 in the Continental army and nearly 30,000 in the British army in
return for promises of freedom.
6. Native Americas also fought with the British since they hoped to keep
land-hungry Americans out of their territories.
-- Bitter feelings remained long after the war ended.
D. Women in the War
1. Women managed farms and businesses while men served in the army
2. Other women traveled with the Army as cooks and nurses.
3. Women more politically active and expressed thoughts more freely.
E. Newburgh “Conspiracy” (1783)
1. Cause: Soldiers in the Continental Army not paid regularly throughout the war
and the money they did receive was often worthless due to inflation.
2. Several officers, Congressional nationalists, sought to impose an impost on the
states for back-pay by threatening to take over the American government.
-- Horatio Gates was consulted about the possibility of using the army to force
the states to surrender more power to the national government.
3. Washington appealed to the officers to end the conspiracy; they acquiesced.
XV. CHANGE IN SOCIETY DUE TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
A. Many conservative Loyalists no longer in America; paved way for more democratic
reforms in state governments.
B. Slavery issue
1. Rise of anti-slavery societies in all the northern states (plus Virginia)
-- Quakers the first to found such societies.
2. Slavery eradicated in most northern states by 1800
-- Quok Walker case in Massachusetts (1781) effectively ended slavery there.
3. Slavery not allowed above Ohio River in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787
4. Slave trade to be abolished in 1808 according to Constitution.
5. By 1860, 250,000 free blacks lived in the North, but were disliked and
-- Several states forbade entrance of blacks, most blacks denied right to vote,
and some states barred blacks from public schools.
6. Thousands of southern slaves freed after the Revolution
7. Yet, slavery remained strong in the South, especially after 1793 (cotton gin)
C. Stronger emphasis on equality
1. Common people openly criticized the Cincinnati Society, a hereditary
organization that included America's military elite and foreign officers
-- George Washington was a member
2. However, equality did not triumph until much later due to tenant farming, poor
rights for women and children, slavery, and land requirements for voting and
office holding (although reduced) were not eliminated.
3. Further reduction of land-holding requirements for voting occurred in 1820s.
4. End of primogeniture and entail before 1800.
a. Primogeniture: eldest son inherits father's estate.
b. Entail: Estates could not be sold off in pieces; guaranteed large landholdings
to a family and meant less land available for purchase to the public.
D. Separation of Church & State
1. Jefferson’s Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom, 1786
-- Became the foundation for the First Amendment to the Constitution.
2. Anglican Church replaced by a disestablished Episcopal church in much
of the South.
3. Congregational churches in New England slower to disestablish
(CT in 1818, MA in 1833)
E. State governments:
1. Three branches: weak governors, strong legislatures, judicial branch
2. sovereignty of states, republicanism
3. Most states had a bill of rights
F. Indians no longer had British protection; became subject to U.S. expansion
-- Iroquois suffered significant losses after the war
G. Women did not enjoy increased rights
1. Abigail Adams had written to her husband, John, to "remember the
ladies" during the revolution. Yet, women still second-class citizens.
2. Idea of “Republican Motherhood” took hold: women
to raise their children to be good citizens of the republic.
3. Feme covert -- In many states, women could not own property if
married. Even if women inherited property, their husbands took control of it.
XVI. Gordon S. Wood -- The Radicalism of the American Revolution
Thesis: Revolution was the most radical and far-reaching event in American history
A. Made the interests and prosperity of ordinary people -- the pursuit of happiness --
the goal of government.
B. Changed the personal and social relationships of people.
1. Destroyed aristocracy as it had been understood for nearly 2,000 years.
2. Made possible egalitarian thinking: subsequent anti-slavery and women's rights
C. Brought respectability and even dominance to ordinary people long held
-- Gave dignity to their menial labor in a manner unprecedented in history
D. Brought about an entirely new kind of popular politics and a new kind of
E. Released powerful popular entrepreneurial and commercial energies -- Transformation occurred without the industrial revolution, urbanization, & railroads
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