Figure 1, Stamp Act political cartoon
In many important ways the United States is a unique nation. Unlike most European nations, which are based on a specific national language, dominate religion, culture or ethnicity; the United States is based on an association of very different categories of people. While most of the colonies were originally founded by the English, they were very different is structure. These colonies were either chartered as private companies, such as Virginia or Massachusetts or proprietary, such as Maryland or the Carolinas and the purpose of the colonies also varied widely. Some colonies were for profit ventures, as in Virginia, while others were places of religious refuge, such as Plymouth, and still others were social experiments, places for religious tolerance, as was the case in Rhode Island, or social rehabilitation, as in Georgia. Not only were the colonies set up in very different manners but also they were originally more connected with the home country than with each other. Not only were Virginia and Massachusetts separated in social structures but by hundreds of miles of undeveloped coastline. The Dutch would establish New Amsterdam further separating these two English colonies. It would not be until the mid eighteenth century when an inter-colonial road system would begin to develop allowing significant trans-colonial social interaction that a sense of "Americanism" would start to be noticed in English North America. But even on the eve of the American Revolution the concept of an American nation was a rare topic of conversation.
The purpose of the colonies in the British imperial system was to enrich the mother country. This purpose was fulfilled by a trade system known as "mercantilism" which was a trade system, which focused on maintaining a favorable balance of trade. In this system the gold and silver acquired in the empire should ultimately migrate to the mother country by a system, which imported raw materials, which were used in the manufacturing of high valued finished goods, which were subsequently exported in exchange for gold and silver. In this system the colonies doubled as sources of raw materials and as markets for markets for the finished manufactured goods. For most of two centuries this system seemed equitable to both England and the colonies but would ultimately engender many of the grievances, which contributed to the causes of the American Revolution.
Paradoxically the success of the British Empire in acquiring supremacy against its imperial rivals also paved the way for the growth of the American nation. England was not alone in its quest for an empire in North America. The Spanish had been first and had out posts in Florida long before the establishment of Jamestown, the French also built an inland trade empire across what is today Canada and the Dutch would establish New Amsterdam right in the middle of British North America. Starting with the seizure of New Amsterdam in 1664 and concluding with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British were successful in eliminating virtually all European imperial competition east of the Mississippi in North America. Following Britain's great success in consolidating power in North the colonists seemed content to be part of the British Empire. When Benjamin Franklin had offered his Albany Plan in 1754, which proposed a colonial union, this was not a call for separation from Britain. As late as the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1763, the thought that the colonies should separate from Britain was simply not popularly considered, yet in barely more than a decade the call for separation was being discussed throughout the colonies. How this change occurred and how the revolution succeeded are the topics of this unit.
Figure 2, Although this image is often thought to date from the time of the American Revolution it was actually a cartoon published by Benjamin Franklin in support of his Albany plan
Unfortunately any text on American history will leave out certain people and events and the American Nation is no exception. However since this class is being taught online it is simple to add a few interesting Patriots so follow the links and read about John Paul Jones, Molly Pitcher Molly Pitcher and David Bushnell.
All issues discussed in the text are important for this class as well as the years in which events took place. After reading chapter three and four the student needs to be able to answer the following questions and discuss related topics:
Questions for Chapter Three:
Why did few colonists, in the early days of any English colony, question Englands sovereignty?
Where governors in all the English colonies selected by the same method?
Did all the colonies have legislatures? How were the members selected?
What was the primary power of the lower houses?
How did the colonial legislatures view themselves?
What colonial authority did the kings Privy Council possess?
How did Parliament affect the colonies?
In the late seventeenth century what was the general policy toward proprietary and corporate colonies?
What was the importance of the Lords of Trade and the later Board of Trade?
What was the Dominion of New England?
What did it mean when a law was disallowed? Did this happen often?
What was the purpose of London based colonial agents? Who was the most famous such agent and who did he represent?
What does it mean to be a "subject" in the context of the English colonial system?
According to "prevailing European opinion" what were three economic reasons for a country to possess overseas colonies?
According to mercantilist theory what was "treasure?" Who were the big winners in the acquisition of treasure?
What was Francis Drake's relationship to Spanish treasure?
What mercantilist practice ultimately proved more lucrative than treasure collecting?
What did it mean to have a favorable balance of trade?
Where did the English wish to concentrate manufacturing?
What was special about the tiny island of Barbados?
What did Daniel Defoe say about trade?
What were the Navigation Acts? To what were they a response?
What were "enumerated articles?"
Why were all European products being shipped to the English colonies required to be sent to England first?
What was the purpose of the Wool Act, the Hat Act and the Iron Act? Why have historians considered these laws important?
What was "the flow of specie to England?"
Did the British restrictions on colonial manufacturing effect colonial shipbuilding?
In conflicts of interest between the colonies and the Board of Trade or Parliament, what was the typical result?
What was the significance of smuggling? What was the Molasses Act?
What did Robert Walpole mean when he spoke of "salutary neglect?"
Why did the word "American" enter the colonial vocabulary around 1750?
What was the "Great Awakening?" Why was it important from a religious as well as a national perspective?
Who were George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards? What was the "plaine style?" Who were the "Old Lights," "New Lights," "Old Sides," and "New Sides?"
Why did Timothy Cutler say, " our presses are forever teeming with books and our women with bastards?"
How did the Great Awakening effect education in colonial America?
How did the Great Awakening, the intercolonial postal system of 1691 and Benjamin Franklins Albany Plan contribute to a national identity?
What was the "divine watchmaker?" What was Deism? How did the Enlightenment affect political thinking in the colonies?
How did the role of colleges and universities change in the eighteenth century?
What was the importance of lawyers and physicians in regard colonial intellectual life?
What were the "Junto" and the "American Philosophical Society?"
What were the important colonial scientific achievements?
Which European nations clashed in North America? What did they compete for?
How did these clashes affect the Algonquin, the Huron and the Iroquois?
What were the result of King Williams War, Queen Annes War, and King Georges War?
How did the French and English collide in North America? Who started the "French and Indian War? What was "Fort Necessity?"
Who were Edward Braddock, James Wolfe, and William Pitt?
What was the importance of Quebec? How did the British gain Spanish East and West Florida? How did Spain get Louisiana?
What was the Treaty of Paris?
How much of a contribution had the colonists made to the war effort in regard to soldiers and money?
After 1763 how did the cost of maintaining the British colonies in North America change? Why did many English military men and ordinary people resent Americans?
Why did the British decide " after the French and Indian War to intervene more actively in American affairs?" How was this done?
What were "writs of assistance?" How were they "against the constitution?"
With the French removed how did relations between the colonists and the native Indians change?
What was the purpose of the "Proclamation of 1763?" Why did American resent this proclamation?
What was the Sugar Act of 1764? Who were James Otis and John Locke?
What was the difference between the theories of "virtual" and "actual" representation? What did "taxation without representation" specifically refer to?
What was the Stamp Act of 1765 and how did it "weld" colonial opinion?
Figure 3 The last issue of the Pennsylvania Journal which ceased publication in protest to the Stamp Act
What were the "Sons of Liberty?"
What is the difference between a direct or an indirect tax? What type of taxes did the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act create?
What did Patrick Henry think about Parliaments right to tax?
What was the Stamp Act Congress?
Who said and what does, "when the pot is set to boil, the scum rises to the surface," mean?
Who was Thomas Hutchinson?
What did the colonists mean by "the rights of Englishmen?"
Why did the British begin to use their large standing army not just to control Indians in the west but also colonists?
What was the Quartering Act? Why was it resented?
What were "nonimportation agreements?"
What was the Declaratory Act? Why was it passed?
How did the American and English interpretations of the words constitution and sovereignty differ?
Who was "Champagne Charlie" and what were the Townsend duties? What was the American reaction to these duties?
What was the Board of Custom Commissioners and why was it placed in Boston? Why were the new Vice-Admiralty Court hated?
What was the Massachusetts General Court "Circular Letter" and what was the British reaction?
What was the "Boston Massacre" and what role did John Adams play?
When the British backed down why was the Tea Tax maintained?
What was the Gaspee incident?
Why did the Crown decide to pay the salary of Thomas Hutchinson?
What were "committees of correspondence?"
What was the basis of the Tea Act crisis? What was the purpose of the Boston Tea Party and what role did Samuel Adams play? Why the Indian costumes?
What were the Coercive or "Intolerable" Acts? Why were they aimed solely at Massachusetts and was the strategy successful?
What was the First Continental Congress of 1774? What were the "declaration of grievances," Massachusetts proposal for the armed defense of their rights and the "Continental Association?"
Figure 4, Political Cartoon of Governor Hutchinson
Questions for Chapter Four:
What change in British attitude toward the colonists was suggested by the replacement of Thomas Hutchinson with Thomas Gage?
What was the Serapis?
What famous event happened at the Battle of Monmouth?
What was the Eagle
Who were the "Minute Men?"
Why was Gage seizing weapons and why did he want to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock? What was the exact purpose of the ride of Paul Revere?
Where was "The Shot Heard Round the World" heard?
Figure 5, Cartoon protesting the British attacks at Lexington and Concord showing coffins and a list of the dead killed by the "Bloody Butchery of British Troops."
Which of the American colonies first took the offensive against the British?
Who said, "Can a virtuous man hesitate in his choice?"
On May 10, 1775 what two important revolutionary events occurred?
What was A Summary View of the Rights of British America?
What was John Hancock in 1775?
What was the Continental Army and who was its first commander?
Who won the battle of "Bunker Hill?" Why was this battle so important?
What were the "Olive Branch Petition" and "The Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms?"
Why were the Congress and majority of the citizens in the colonies still reluctant to break with Britain? How was this position changed by views of George III, Parliament, the arrival of "Hessians" and Common Sense?
What were "privateers" and how were they used by the Congress?
What resolution did Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduce to Congress on June 7, 1776, when was it passed?
What committee did Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston work together on?
What was the actual purpose of the Declaration of Independence and why does it have two sections? Does it contain original ideas? Why does this document continue to resonate?
Why did General Howe withdraw his troops from Boston and what did he do on the same day that the Congress resolved the colonies to be independent?
Figure 6, Recruitment Poster for General Washington's Army
Why did the British change their base of operations from Boston to New York?
According to John Adams what proportions of the colonists supported independence?
Why did General Howe land his army at Staten Island?
What advantages did the American forces possess and what advantages did the British possess?
What were the differences between Washingtons army and Howes?
Who were Tories?
Who were the "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots?"
Despite winning all the important battles, why did Howe fail in achieving a decisive victory during the New York-New Jersey Campaigns? What did Washington learn during these battles?
How did Washington manage his victory at Trenton? Why were Trenton and Princeton so important for the American cause?
What was the big plan that the British put into motion in the In the Spring of 1777?
How were "Gentleman Johnny" Burgoyne, Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger and General Howe going to coordinate their commands? What result did they seek?
What did Benedict Arnold do during this action?
Why did Howe suddenly move his army to New Jersey and then Philadelphia?
What happened at the battle of Saratoga and how did this greatly affect the course of the American Revolution?
Before Oct. 17, 1777 had the French assisted the Americans?
What did Louis XIV do when news of Saratoga reached Paris?
What happened in Parliament when news of Saratoga reached London?
Why did the Congress receive the Royal peace commissioners "icily?"
Why did Washington take his army to Valley Forge? What was "fire cake?" How did wintering at Valley Forge affect the Continental Army?
Did Congress support Washington?
After How was replaced by Clinton, why did the focus of the war change to the south colonies?
Why was British sea power more effective in capturing and holding Savannah and Charleston than Philadelphia?
Why could the British hope for help from southern slaves? Why could this back fire?
What did Marion Fox and Thomas Sumter do to counter British victories in the south?
Despite not being an ally of the Americans, how did Jose de Galvez indirectly assist the revolutionary cause?
How did Nathaniel Greene and Daniel Morgan persuade Cornwallis to withdraw to Wilmington?
How was it possible for Cornwallis after withdrawing from Wilmington to Yorktown, Virginia, to join up with forces under the command of Benedict Arnold, one of the American revolutionary heroes of Saratoga?
Why was Yorktown chosen as a British base of operations?
Why was the French alliance crucial for the revolutionary victory at Yorktown? Why was Yorktown a marvel of military coordination? What was special about this battle?
What change did the British make in their American policy after Yorktown and why?
Why were France and Spain slow to make peace with Britain? Why would France side with Spain in a conflict with the fledgling Unites States?
What committee included John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson and Henry Laurens? What instruction did they ignore and why?
What did Britain concede to the United States in the Treaty of Paris?
During the Revolutionary War under what authority had the Continental Congress governed?
Why had Maryland refused to ratify the Articles of Confederation and why did they finally concede?
What powers did the articles grant congress?
Who was Robert Morris?
How important were the changes that the various colonies made to their charters as they modified these into the early state constitution? What were some of the important modifications?
How did these state constitution combined the best of the British system with elements that were uniquely American?
What is the difference between a subject and a citizen?
What was the "compact principle?"
? What changes were made to primogeniture, entails, quitrents, and the freedom of religion?
How did these new state constitutions deal with the institution of slavery? How was the clause in the Declaration of Independence commenting on "liberty and equality" reconciled with the reality of slavery?
Why was the Society of Cincinnati criticized?
What was the purpose of property requirements for holding office?
Who wrote the new state constitutions?
How did the results of the revolution affect the lives of women?
What "were the most obvious results of the Revolution?"
How did the American Revolution contribute to American nationalism?
How did John Marshal and Andrew Jackson become American nationalists?
How did the existence of the great western lands change from a dividing to a unifying element?
What was the importance of the Land Ordinance of 1784 and Northwest Ordinance of 1787?
How did territorial governments correspond to the British colonial model?
Where heroes important to the early Republic?
If Washington usually lost battles, why is he such a hero?
How did the various religions adjust to post-revolution America? Did any states maintain a state religion?
How did Websters Spelling Book and Reader contribute to a new national culture?
Why were people such as Jedidiah Morse, Mercy Otis, John Trumbull, and Joel Barlow important in forming American nationalism?
How did Greek and Roman architecture reflect American nationalism? Where were these style used?
What does "E pluribus unum" stand for?
Figure 7, English political cartoon showing the mother Britannia fighting with daughter America
Before the American Revolution the English colonies in North America were merely a group of scattered minor colonies on the frontier of a growing British Empire. While their financial importance was growing they were still less important to the coffers of Britain than the single tiny sugar island of Barbados and despite being arranged together on the Atlantic coast of a single continent most of the colonies were more bound directly to the mother country than they were to each other. In 1763 following the Peace of Paris the French had surrendered Canada and the Spanish were pushed far to the west, Britain found itself master of virtually all of North America east of the Mississippi river. The stage seemed to be set for greatly expanding colonial prosperity. The population of the English colonies was loyal to their "Britannic Majesty" and would soon swell over two million. Without European rivals to defend against the future of the colonies within the British Empire seemed assured. However within thirteen years these thirteen independent colonies had moved to form a nation, declared independence and raised an army against their mother country. In an amazing twist, after having struggled through a long and expensive series of wars, England had gone from being the biggest winner in the North American colonial sweepstakes, to being the greatest loser. After winning control of the board, the British Empire lost almost the entire region through a series of what can only be described as colossal mismanagement.
Clearly the British government had misjudged the severity of the crisis from the start and most of the measures that it took to regain control of the situation only made the crisis worse. If the British had used better political management in regard the collection of taxes, an appreciation of the colonial view of government, or simply focused on what the colonists considered the "constitution" and the "Rights of Englishmen" the thirteen colonies might have stayed in the imperial system as long as the Canadian provinces. And yet what becomes clear as the revolution unfolds was that a nation had been forming unknown to even the colonists. A common cause, a national mentality, the American experience had formed.
This nationalist character was demonstrated even in the opening battles of the revolution. While the first colony to take the offensive against British was Massachusetts, but the commander of the revolutionary forces at the Battle of Bunker hill came from Rhode Island while the general who forced the British evacuation of Boston Harbor from the Dorchester Heights was form Virginia. The British kept trying to divide the colonies from each other: the first faze of the Revolution was fought in Massachusetts, this was followed by new campaign in New York aimed at splitting the New England colonies from the southern colonies, and the last faze was fought in the south. During each faze the British hoped to have their effort buoyed by local loyalties, but in many cases the simple presence of British troops warring upon the population more often turned the locals into Patriots.
Following the revolution despite victory against the British the survival of the nascent United States of America was anything but assured. Instead of being able to count on the protection of the most powerful nation on earth, this weak nation had to count on itself for survival. One problem that needed to be solved was how was the government was to be structured? Would a king be needed? If the nation was to be a Republic how was that possible, if history was a guide it showed that no Democracy or Republic of any size was destined to last very long before being overrun, such as Athens, or transformed, such as the Roman Republic, into a dictatorship.
This problem was tackled in a genuinely unique fashion in the design of the United States Constitution and will be examined in unit #3.
Figure 8, Mother Britannia and her daughter America kiss and make up in a cartoon published in 1882