Unit Study: The Revolutionary War
- Friday, January 04, 2013
When the topic of the Revolutionary War comes up, people begin to draw from their memory banks familiar events such as the Boston Tea Party, Paul Revere’s ride, or this statement, which was most famously associated with James Otis: “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” There is so much to learn about the American Revolution—I don’t know where to start! When The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine asked me to write on this subject, I almost said “Huzzah!” because this is one of my all-time favorite studies, and you will soon see why!
Wars don’t usually just start up out of nowhere. Trouble starts brewing long before a war or conflict begins. We can take a look at a timeline of events that led up to the war by going back to 1763, when the Thirteen Colonies were enjoying peace and prosperity after the end of the French and Indian War. At that time, the American Colonies were made up of people who were proud to be British subjects, and most of them lived on family farms, exporting agricultural goods through booming ports in cities such as New York and Boston, ports from which the colonies had shipped supplies for the British Empire’s military efforts during the war.
While the British king did appoint governors for each colony, for the most part the colonies were left alone to manage their own affairs. Far across the ocean, the British government intended to keep the growing American colonies under strict control. There was little industry in the colonies, so manufactured goods had to be imported from Britain. As a demonstration of their authority, the British required the colonies to pay increased taxes for keeping them “in the Empire.” This policy proved to be very unpopular in America, where colonists considered it a violation of their rights as Englishmen.
By 1772, the Colonies began to reject the authority of the Parliament that was governing them—without representation—from afar. The colonies began to establish their own form of government, beginning with the Committees of Correspondence. Then, with the development of their own Provincial Congress, the Thirteen Colonies became self-governing states that were formed with the intention of breaking free from the monarchy of the British Empire—culminating in 1774 with the First Continental Congress.
Britain responded by sending troops to impose Britain’s direct rule. In 1775, delegates from each “state” met at the Second Continental Congress, which raised armies, managed the war effort and strategies, appointed diplomats, and adopted the Declaration of Independence.
The famous “shot that was heard ’round the world,” fired on April 19, 1775, marks the first military engagement of the American Revolution in Lexington, Massachusetts. There were, however, other important events associated with the war that led up to the actual conflict, including these:
Passage of Acts—Molasses Act, Stamp Act, Townshend Act, Quartering Act, Sugar Act; the Boston Massacre; and the Boston Tea Party.
The Founding Fathers were strong advocates of republican values. Their values lead them to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires. This duty motivated them to be prepared and willing to fight for the rights and liberties of their countrymen.
For women, “republican motherhood” became the ideal, exemplified by Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren. The first duty of the republican woman was to instill republican values in her children and to avoid luxury and ostentation.
The war ended with an effective American victory in October 1781, followed by a formal British abandonment of any claims to the United States with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. General Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington in Yorktown, Virginia. Among the significant results of the Revolution was the creation of a democratically elected representative government responsible to the will of the people.
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