educational articles
Educational Articles

American Education—The American Revolution

American Revolution

Before 1775, American history was referred to as colonial times because the lands were technically British colonies. In 1775 the American Revolution began and was the final act by the thirteen colonies that had joined to form a new nation to make their last stand against British rule. During the 18th Century, the colonies were established and those who came to the New World sought freedom from the British Empire. The American Revolution began the colonists' official freedom from Britain and it resulted in the birth of the United States of America. The thirteen colonies that joined together to fight for freedom were Rhode Island, Providence Plantations, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Massachusetts Bay, and Connecticut.

Events leading up to the Revolution

American soil was no stranger to violence and revolution. Some of the major events that occurred before the American Revolution include the French and Indian War and the Boston Tea Party. As the land that would later become the United States was settled, three countries wanted their stake in controlling the land and people. These include the French, the Spanish, and the British. There were major battles fought over Louisiana while the colonists were defending their lives from the Native Americans who fought to protect their land. In the early 1700's, Louisiana had an established French colony and New Orleans was controlled by the French. This would lead to a battle between Britain and France as they fought over North America. In 1754, what would become known as the French and Indian War officially began. The French and Indian War was over the city Duquesne in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The battles between the French, Spanish, and British continued over the years and in 1762, France lost Louisiana to Spain. Louisiana remained under Spanish government for 38 years, before ultimately returning to France's control. The French and Indian War officially ended in 1763, twelve years before the start of the American Revolutionary War.

Another significant incident that helped form the social premise for the American Revolution was the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger. A journalist, Zenger was on trial for libeling the British Empire in his newspaper, the Weekly Journal. Zenger was ultimately acquitted (which means he had the charges dropped and was let free), but the trial helped shape the American constitutional amendment that allows freedom of the press. The trial was one of many incidents that would lead the colonists to feel they must separate from Britain's rule and govern themselves under a new set of laws. Other acts that demonstrated Britain's control over the new colonies included the Sugar Act in 1764, the Stamp Act of 1765, and levies (fees, or taxes) that were placed on a variety of commodities and goods including the Townshend Act of 1767. In 1773, one British Act was significant in sparking rebellion and organizing the colonies to band together in their fight for freedom: the Tea Act.

The Tea Act was established on May 10, 1773, and would require the thirteen colonies to pay taxes to Britain on imports of tea. The colonists opposed the Tea Act (as they had opposed many previous Acts), and refused to pay the taxes. Some colonies sent tea back to Britain, others simply never picked up the shipments, leaving them on docks to wither away. The most significant move against the tea tax occurred on December 16, 1773, when colonists, in disguise as Native Americans, stormed three British ships carrying tea and dumped it all into the waters of the Boston Harbor. Britain was outraged by the move and created another act: the Boston Port Act. This act sealed off the Boston Harbor from incoming shipments until the new colonists paid for the lost tea. The colonists nicknamed the series of acts Intolerable and Coercive Acts and then joined together in a quest for freedom from Britain's rule. The damage had been done and there was no other alternative. The thirteen colonies and Britain would go to war.

Battles of the Revolution

The official start to the American Revolutionary War was on April 19, 1775; however, there were several battles that occurred before that date. These battles helped pave the way for the official war that would last for eight years. Some of the most famous battles that took place during the American Revolutionary War include the Battles at Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord, Chelsea Creek, Germantown, Long Island, Ticonderoga, Saratoga, and Yorktown. The American Revolutionary War officially ended on September 3, 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed.

Important Revolutionary War Figures

Several people had important roles during the American Revolutionary War. An interesting fact is that before the war, America did not have an army or military force so they had to assemble one quickly. Shortly after the war ended, General George Washington would become the first president of the United States. Other important people involved in the American Revolutionary War include Thomas Jefferson (who became the third president), Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Benedict Arnold, John Adams (second president), Paul Revere, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry.

  • Demand for Revolution: Cerritos College looks at Thomas Paine and his role in the American Revolution.
  • Patrick Henry: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death: University of Minnesota Human Rights Library looks at Patrick Henry's famous document.
  • Betsy Ross: Kings Park Elementary School looks at the woman who sewed the nation's first American flag.
  • Patriot Women: Betsy Ross: PDF file that looks at Betsy Ross.
  • Biography of John Quincy Adams: The Cornell University Law School examines the life of John Quincy Adams.
  • Benedict Arnold: A Hero's Legacy Tarnished: article by the Villanova University about Benedict Arnold.
  • Samuel Adams: The Rights of the Colonist: Hanover College History Department shares historical texts from the American Revolution.

Outcomes of the War

There were several official treaties signed when the Revolutionary War ended on September 3, 1783. On that day the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, was signed between Great Britain and the U.S. Also on September 3, 1783, the Peace of Paris was signed between Great Britain, and the U.S. along with The Dutch Republic, France and Spain. Other important documents that resulted after the end of the American Revolutionary War include the Articles of Confederation, which was later replaced by the Constitution of the United States.

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