The American Revolution

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The American Revolution
revolution – the overthrow of a government, with a new government taking its place
The French and Indian War


  • British fought French in the war

  • fighting for control of America

  • Many American Indians helped the French – why British call it the “French and Indian War”

  • The British won the war

  • cost England/Great Britain a lot of money – they taxed the colonists to make money to pay for the war

  • British noticed colonists becoming more independent and the Brits were not pleased

  • England/Great Britain had let colonists manage their own affairs. Now, they decided to take control = Britain’s Imperial Policy

  • England had a large empire all over the world and wanted to keep it under control

  • France had colonies in Canada and along the Mississippi River

  • France built forts to protect their colonies when the British started moving west

  • In the beginning France was winning because had American Indians fighting, too. Then British govt. sent more soldiers and won the war

  • 1754 – Major George Washington was sent by Virginia's governor to evict the French from Fort Duquesne.

  • 1763 – France and Great Britain agreed to have peace. France left North America. Canada, and all of North America east of the Miss. River now belonged to Great Britain (but France was allowed to keep Louisiana – today New Orleans is known as “the French Quarter.”

  • The war officially came to an end on Feb. 10, 1763 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

  • King George III and the British Parliament decided to tax the American colonists. A tax is money that people pay to government in return for services.

  • Britain usually taxed goods that colonist imported. These were goods brought from outside the colonies such as cloth.

  • King George III – became king at the age of 22 and his country was already winning the French and Indian War.

  • imperialrelated to an empire

New Taxes

  • 1764 –new tax law – the Sugar Act – taxed not only sugar, but many other imported goods such as coffee and cloth. Some merchants avoided paying the tax by smuggling, which means to import illegally

  • 1765 – Parliament created another tax called the Stamp Act.

The Stamp Act of 1765

  • taxes to help pay for the war

  • It required colonists to buy a government stamp for almost every paper document including newspapers, legal documents, and even playing cards

  • Colonists felt taxes like the Stamp Act were unfair because they were not represented in the British government. They had representatives in their local governments, but not in Parliament.

  • Parliament is the lawmaking group in England.

  • Also, colonists were taxed to help pay the cost of keeping British troops in the colonies. The troops were there to make sure England kept control of the colonies

  • People began to say the slogan, “No taxation without representation”

  • slogan – a short set of words to help you remember something

  • Patrick Henry – a member of Virginia’s House of Burgesses, made an angry speech against the Stamp Act. He said Britain was using its power unfairly. People all over the colonies heard about his speech, and many agreed with him.

  • Patrick Henry’s famous quote/saying “Give me Liberty, or give me death!”

  • 1765 – Across the colonies, groups formed and called themselves the Sons of Libertymerchants, journalists and others who would be affected by the tax.

  • Liberty means freedom from being controlled by another government.

  • Samuel Adams was an important leader of the Sons of Liberty in Boston. Adams and the Sons of Liberty organized protests against the stamp act. A protest is an event at which people complain about an issue.

  • Sometimes the Sons of Liberty and other groups used violence to resist the Stamp Act. Colonists wrecked the homes of a few British officials and beat up tax collectors.

  • England soon repealed (in 1776), or did away with, the Stamp Act because of what the colonists said.

  • Later, Parliament passed a law taxing imported goods. Imported means bought from another country. Many colonists boycotted, or stopped buying, those goods.

The Townshend Acts – 1767

  • In 1767, the British passed new taxes on glass, paper, teas, paints and other goods shipped to the colonies from Britain. Prime Minister Charles Townshend wanted to raise money to cover the cost for defending the colonies, and pay the salaries of governors and judges in the colonies. These were known as the Townshend Acts.

  • Instead of buying imported goods, such as cloth, the colonists made their own. An organization called the Daughters of Liberty wove their clothes.

The Boston Massacre – 1770

  • A boy and a British soldier got into an argument. The soldier knocked the boy down

  • An angry crowd surrounded the soldier.

  • They threw snowballs and yelled at the soldier. Other soldiers ran to help him. Someone yelled “Fire!”

  • The soldiers got scared and fired into the crowd.

  • Five colonists were killed.

  • As a result of the Boston Massacre, all the taxes were removed except the tax on tea (The Tea Act of 1773).

  • John Adams was an important Boston lawyer who defended the soldiers at their trial after the Boston Massacre. He wanted to show Britain that colonial courts wee fair. Adams tried to prove that the soldiers had been protecting themselves from the crowd.

The Boston Tea Party – 1773

  • 1773 – Colonists were angry about the tax on tea. On Dec. 16, 1773 several members of the Sons of Liberty disguised themselves as Indians. They boarded a ship carrying tea and dumped 342 chests of tea into the Boston Harbor. This is known as the Boston Tea Party.

  • This act of rebellion encouraged others to join the battle against England.

  • The Tea Party made the British very angry. They wanted the colonists to pay for the ruined tea.

  • Parliament passed several laws that hurt colonists including closing the Boston Harbor and one said soldiers could live in the colonists’ homes.

  • This made colonists believe they would have to fight for their freedom.

Events that lead to war – Battles at Lexington and Concord 1775

  • Sept. 1774 – some delegates from all the colonies except Georgia met in Philadephia. The meeting was called the First Continental Congress.

  • They wanted the British king to change the tax laws.

  • congressa meeting or convention

  • Minutemen – An army of farmers and store owners formed to fight the British. “They would be ready in a minute’s notice.”

  • April 18, 1775 – British soldiers left Boston to get gunpowder that they heard colonists were storing.

  • Two colonists, Paul Revere and William Dawes, secretly left Boston on horseback to warn the Minutemen.

  • The British are coming! The British are coming!”

  • When the British arrived in Lexington on their way to Concord, the Minutemen were waiting for them.

  • The first shots of the American Revolution were fired, and eight colonists were killed and nine were wounded.

  • Years later, the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson called this event “the shot heard ‘round the world."

  • The British pushed on to Concord, but they did not find gunpowder. The colonists had taken it away.

  • As the British marched back to Boston, Minutemen fought them all the way. More than 250 British soldiers were wounded or killed.

  • British soldiers captured Revere in Lexington, but Dawes and Prescott (another rider) escaped. The soldiers later released Revere.

  • More and more militias (like the Minutemen) arrived in Boston. Soon thousands of armed colonists surrounded the city. The British in Boston were trapped. Forcing the British to leave Boston was a huge success for the Patriots, but the war was just beginning.

Other Notes: John Adams

  • John Adams was an important Boston lawyer who defended the soldiers at their trial after the Boston Massacre. He wanted to show Britain that colonial courts were fair. Adams tried to prove that the soldiers had been protecting themselves from the crowd.

  • Colonists who opposed British rule called themselves Patriots.

Battle at Bunker Hill – 1775

  • Two months after the battles at Lexington and Concord, there was another important battle called The Battle of Bunker Hill.

  • Militia leaders decided to build a fort on Bunker Hill, across from the Charles River, from Boston. They chose the hill to fire cannons at the British soldiers in Boston, and the hill made it difficult for British troops to attack them. (geography of the area makes a difference in the type of battle)

  • Then they decided to build the fort on Breed’s Hill instead of Bunker Hill.

  • These colonists were mostly farmers who had not had any army training.

  • The colonists fought bravely against the British until they ran out of gunpowder. Although the British won, the colonists had fought very well. The colonists had killed almost half of the British soldiers.

  • Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” A Patriot officer is said to have given this famous order as 2,000 British soldiers marched closer and closer up the hill on June 17, 1775.

  • The British in Boston fired red-hot cannonballs and set Charleston on fire.

  • Three times, British soldiers march slowly uphill toward the fort. Hot, tired, weighed down by 125 pounds of gear, the British soldiers were easy targets for Patriots.

  • To save ammunition, the Patriots waited to shoot until the British soldiers were almost on top of them. The British only captured the fort when the Patriots ran out of bullets.

Second Continental Congress

  • Remember that the first Continental Congress had sent a list of demands to the British govt. When Britain refused to meet their demands, the colonial delegates gather again in Philadelphia in the spring of 1775. This meeting became known as the Second Continental Congress.

  • The delegate knew they needed more than an untrained militia to win the war against the British. They needed an army. The militia only fought for a few months at a time. Soldiers in an army fight until a war is over.

  • Congress created the Continental Army = trained soldiers like the British soldiers.

  • In June 1775, Congress chose George Washington to be the commander of the Continental Army. A commander is the officer in charge of an army.

The Olive Branch Petition

  • Many delegates in the Second Continental Congress didn’t want war with Britain, only to be treated fairly. In July 1775, the delegates sent King George III the Olive Branch Petition. A petition is a written request from a number of people. The olive branch is a symbol of peace. The petition asked the king to help end the conflict. King George did not even read the Olive Branch Petition. Instead, he sent more soldiers to the colonies.


Political Cartoons

  • Cartoons can make you laugh, tell a story, give an opinion, and they can have deeper meanings behind their humor.

  • Cartoons that express opinions about politics or government are called political cartoons.

  • Benjamin Franklin drew this cartoon:

  • It may have been the first American political cartoon. It appeared in the “Pennsylvania Gazette” in 1754. He used his cartoon to urge colonist to support his plan for a union. The snake in the cartoon stands for all of the colonies. Each piece of the snake represents one of the colonies. The saying, “Join or Die” was based on an old tale about snakes. The story said that a snake that was cut into pieces would come to life again if it was put back together before sunset.

  • In his cartoon, Benjamin Franklin used the snake as a symbol. Symbols are a good way to show ideas that are sometimes hard to draw in a picture.

  • Animals are often used in political cartoons. The eagle is often used to represent the idea of freedom. The dove stands for the idea of peace. The hawk stands for war. The snail is used as a symbol of slowness.

Look at website of other political cartoons …. Students draw and describe symbols used in political cartoons.
The Declaration of Independence

  • Leaders of the Second Continental Congress decided to write a document to declare independence for the colonies. They formed a committee of five people to put it together. Each committee leader listed reasons why the colonies should be independent. Thomas Jefferson of Virginia wrote the document which is known as the Declaration of Independence.

  • A declaration is a statement that declares, or announces, an idea.

  • Jefferson worked hard and wrote every night for 17 days. He listed ways that King George III had abused his power = taken away colonists’ rights, forced taxes on them, sent soldiers to control them.

  • The Declaration of Independence was a way for the colonists to respond to tyranny and abuse of power by England’s King George III. They felt they had been denied the basic rights of freedom! It was a statement that the colonies wanted to be free and rule themselves. The colonies needed an official document to unite Americans. They also wanted to get other countries like France on their side. Colonial leaders thought they might need France for military support in a war for independence.

  • Rights are freedoms that are protected by a government’s laws. Jefferson argued that all people are born with natural rights that no one can take away.

  • The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. It was read aloud to the colonists on that day. That’s why we call the Fourth of July “Independence Day!”

  • The Declaration of Independence has become one of the most famous important statements in the world. It is about the rights and freedoms that all people should have.

  • A famous quote from the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”

Parts of the Declaration

  • Section 1: The Declaration begins by promising to explain why the colonies must break away from Britain.

  • Section 2: The second section explains that people have rights that cannot be taken away. It says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. endowed = birth; unalienable rights = can’t give away

  • Section 3: The third section is the longest section. It is a list of complaints against the king. “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them…”

  • Section 4: The last section argues that the colonies have to be free to protect the colonists’ rights. It declares that the colonies are independent.

  • At the bottom of the document (this could be called Section 5): delegates to Congress signed their names. John Hancock, president of Congress, signed his name in large letters (Note: This is where the sayings like “I need your John Hancock” and “Will you sign your John Hancock?” came from.)

Importance of the Declaration

  • The delegates knew that signing the Declaration was dangerous because Britain would call it treason. Treason is the crime of fighting against one’s own government. Anyone who signed the Declaration could be charged with treason and hanged.

  • After the Declaration was read aloud, people tore down pictures and statues of King George III. They celebrated by ringing bells and firing cannons.

  • Jefferson’s words “all men are created equal” included everyone, but at the time they were written all Americans could not exercise the same rights. Only white men who owned property could vote.

Battle of Trenton 1776

  • Washington wanted to win a battle so his soldiers would not give up. He planned a surprise attack on an enemy camp in Trenton, NJ. The soldiers in Trenton were German mercenaries. A mercenary is a soldier who is paid to fight for a foreign country.

  • On the night of December 25, 1776, Washington and his soldiers rowed across the icy Delaware River to New Jersey. Just after dawn they attacked Trenton. The mercenaries were still sleepy after celebrating Christmas the night before. Washington’s army caught them by surprise and took almost 1,000 prisoners. Patriots were overjoyed at the victory.
The Battle at Saratoga 1777 – THE TURNING POINT!!!!

  • In June 1777, the British began a new attack from Canada. General John Burgoyne lead an army south toward Albany, NY. An army of Americans prepared to stop the British near Saratoga, NY. A polish engineer named Thaddeus Kosciuszko helped them. He set up a long wall of earth and logs on a hill so that the Americans could fight from behind it.

  • When the two armies met, they fought two fierce battles. A brave officer named Benedict Arnold led many attacks against the British. The Americans won and force Burgoyne and more than 5,000 of the soldiers to surrender.

  • Before the Battle of Saratoga, Benjamin Franklin had been trying to get help from France. After the American victory, the French were convinced that the Americans could win. They sent money, soldiers, and a powerful navy to help the Americans. As the war went on, Spain, the Netherlands, and Russia joined the fight against Britain.

Notes on Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold – was general during the American Revolutionary War. He began war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British army. While he was still a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, NY, and plotted unsuccessfully to surrender it to the British. After the plot was exposed in September 1780, he entered the British Army as a brigadier general.A defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state or political entity in exchange for allegiance to another. A defector is often called a traitor.

Winter at Valley Forge 1777

  • The victory at Saratoga was good news for Americans, but there was also troubling news. Washington’s army lost two battles in Pennsylvania, and the British captured Philadelphia and settled in the winter of 1777. The Continental Army stayed about 20 miles away in Valley Forge, PA – a frozen plain.

  • Washington and his men camped on this frozen plain. The soldiers were often hungry and sick.

  • The Patriots were brave, but did not know how to fight in an organized way. They were used to making surprise attacks. Now they had to fight the British in open fields.

Notes on Francis Marion

  • In early 1781, Revolutionary War militia leader Francis Marion and his men were camping on Snow's Island, SC when a British officer arrived to discuss a prisoner exchange. As one militiaman recalled years later, a breakfast of sweet potatoes was roasting in the fire, and after the negotiations Marion, known as the "Swamp Fox," invited the British soldier to share breakfast. According to a legend that grew out of the much-repeated anecdote, the British officer was so inspired by the Americans' resourcefulness and dedication to the cause—despite their lack of adequate provisions, supplies or proper uniforms—that he promptly switched sides and supported American independence. Around 1820, John Blake White depicted the scene in an oil painting that now hangs in the United States Capitol. He got his name “Swamp Fox” because the British could never catch him.

Other notes:

A regiment was a team of soldiers made up mostly of African Americans. A bayonet is a piece of pointed metal placed on the end of a rifle. The African Americans in the Rhode Island regiment fought bravely. Even though the African American had no uniforms or bayonets, they killed many of the German soldiers. After the American Revolution, many slave owners in the North began to free their slaves. But in the South, African Americans were still slaves. It would be almost 100 years before they would be free.

Battle at Yorktown 1781

  • Finally, in 1781 the Continental Army defeated British troops for the last time at Yorktown, VA (on the coast = It is Chesapeake Bay now.). England’s Lord Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington. America had won its independence.

  • French soldiers had joined Washington’s army. At Yorktown, the British were trapped. The French Navy blocked Cornwallis from the sea. American and French forces kept Cornwallis from escaping on land. Cornwallis knew he had lost. He surrendered on Oct. 19, 1781 after a two week siege. Siege – the act of surrounding a city or fort by an enemy army

  • The American Revolution was over. The 13 colonies had finally won their independence from Great Britain. In 1783, Great Britain and the new United States signed a peace treaty known as the Treaty of Paris.

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