Book Title
Give Me Liberty!: An American History 6th Edition

978-0393418248 Chapter 5

September 18, 2020
CHAPTER 5 The American Revolution,
This chapter concentrates on the events leading up to the American Revolution and on the war itself. Beginning with
the 1765 rioting at the home of Massachusetts lieutenant governor Thomas Hutchinson by an angry mob in response
to the Stamp Act, the chapter explains how a crisis in Anglo-American relations grew from taxation policies rooted
in Britain’s need for increased revenue because of the Seven Years’ War. Believing that the Stamp Act was a direct
infringement on their liberty, many colonists reacted with indignation and violence. The ensuing decade was fraught
with similar calls for an end to the British “enslavement” of the colonists and the rise of opposition groups such as
the Sons of Liberty. When war broke out in 1775, independence was not a clear goal of the Continental Congress.
Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was crucial in educating the common people about their natural right to freedom
I. Introduction
A. Thomas Hutchinson’s home was attacked by protesters of the Stamp Act in 1765.
B. Protests in British North America launched the Age of Revolution, which lasted a half century in the
Western world.
C. Revolution is a dynamic process whose consequences no one can anticipate.
II. The Crisis Begins
A. Consolidating the Empire
1. Prior to the Seven Years’ War, London had loosely tried to regulate some of the colonies’ economy.
a. Various acts forbade colonial manufacturing of items like hats, wool, and iron and trading for
molasses with the French Caribbean.
b. Navigation Acts
2. After the Seven Years’ War, London insisted that the colonists play a subordinate role to the mother
country and help pay for the protection the British provided.
B. Taxing the Colonies
1. The Sugar Act of 1764 and the Revenue Act threatened the profits of colonial merchants and aggravated
an economic recession.
C. The Stamp Act Crisis
1. The Stamp Act of 1765 was a direct tax on all sorts of printed materials.
a. This was the first time in British North American history that taxes were used to raise revenue.
D. Taxation and Representation
1. American leaders viewed the British empire as an association of equals in which free settlers overseas
enjoyed the same rights as Britons at home.
2. Patrick Henry led the opposition by proposing four resolutions approved by Virginia’s House of
decided to strike for independence.
6. Most colonists continued to believe that their liberties were safer inside the British empire.
E. Liberty and Resistance
1. No word was more frequently invoked by critics of the Stamp Act than “liberty”:
2. Colonial leaders prevented the Stamp Act’s implementation.
3. A Committee of Correspondence was created in Boston and other colonies to exchange ideas about
F. Politics in the Streets
1. The Sons of Liberty were organized to resist the Stamp Act and to enforce a boycott of British goods.
2. A stunned Parliament repealed the Stamp Act but issued the Declaratory Act.
a. The new act stated that Parliament could pass future colonial taxes.
G. The Regulators
1. Two groups in the Carolinas were known as Regulators in the 1760s.
2. The South Carolina Regulators consisted of wealthy backcountry residents who protested their
underrepresentation in the colonial assembly and the lack of local governments.
III. The Road to Revolution
A. The Townshend Crisis
1. The 1767 Townshend Act imposed taxes on imported goods.
a. Parliament believed colonists agreed with taxes used to regulate trade.
2. By 1768, colonies were again boycotting British goods.
3. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania
B. Homespun Virtue
1. Rather than relying on British goods, colonists relied on homespun clothing; use of American goods
came to be seen as a symbol of American resistance.
a. Women, who spun and wove at home, were Daughters of Liberty.
2. Chesapeake planters owing money to British merchants favored the homespun goods.
3. Urban artisans strongly supported the boycott.
C. The Boston Massacre
1. The March 1770 conflict between Bostonians and British troops left five Bostonians, including a mixed-
race sailor named Crispus Attucks, dead.
a. John Adams defended the soldiers in court. Seven were found not guilty, and two were convicted of
b. Paul Revere’s inaccurate engraving stoked anger throughout the colonies.
D. The Tea Act
1. The East India Company was in financial crisis, and the British government decided to market the
company’s Chinese tea in North America.
2. The Tea Act was intended to aid the East India Company and to help defray the costs of colonial
3. On December 16, 1773, colonists threw more than 300 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.
E. The Intolerable Acts
1. London’s response to the Bostonians’ action was swift and harsh. The so-called Intolerable Acts:
a. Closed the port of Boston until the tea was paid for
2. The Quebec Act granted religious toleration for Catholics in Canada and extended its southern boundary
to the Ohio River.
IV. The Coming of Independence
A. The Continental Congress
1. Boston issued the Suffolk Resolves, which urged Americans not to obey new laws, to withhold taxes,
and to prepare for war.
2. To resist the Intolerable Acts, a Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia in 1774.
B. The Continental Association
a. The Committees of Safety enlarged the “political nation.”
C. The Sweets of Liberty
1. By 1775, talk of liberty pervaded the colonies, including people of German heritage.
2. As the crisis deepened, Americans increasingly based their claims not simply on the historical rights of
Englishmen but on the more abstract language of natural rights and universal freedom.
a. John Locke’s theory of natural rights
b. Thomas Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America
a. Cannon from Fort Ticonderoga
3. The Second Continental Congress raised an army and appointed George Washington its commander.
E. Independence?
1. That the goal of this war was independence was not clear by the end of 1775.
2. Opinions varied in the colonies as to the question of independence.
3. Voices of Freedom (Primary Source document feature)
a. A portion of Loyalist minister Samuel Seabury’s pamphlet, “An Alarm to the Legislature of the
Province in New-York” (1775), provides a counterargument to American independence.
F. Common Sense
1. Thomas Paine published Common Sense in January 1776.
2. Criticizing monarchy and aristocracy, Paine called for a democratic system based on frequent elections
and a written constitution.
G. Paine’s Impact
1. Paine dramatically expanded the public sphere where political discussion took place.
2. He pioneered a new style of political writing, engaging a far greater audience than anyone before him.
3. His persuasions led the Second Continental Congress to sever the colonies’ ties with Great Britain.
H. The Declaration of Independence
1. The Declaration of Independence declared that Britain’s aim was to establishabsolute tyranny” over the
colonies, and, as such, Congress declared the United States an independent nation.
2. Jefferson’s preamble gave the Declaration its enduring impact.
I. The Declaration and American Freedom
1. The Declaration of Independence completed the shift from the rights of Englishmen to the rights of
mankind as the object of American independence.
a. The “pursuit of happiness” was unique and became the central element of American freedom.
J. An Asylum for Mankind
1. The idea of “American exceptionalism” was prevalent in the Revolution.
K. The Global Declaration of Independence
2. Numerous anticolonial movements, such as those in China after the revolution of 1911 and Vietnam in
1945, have modeled their own declarations of independence on America’s.
3. The Declaration’s principle that political authority rests on the will of “the people” has been influential
around the world.
V. Securing Independence
A. The Balance of Power
1. Britain had the advantage of a large, professional army and navy.
2. Patriots had the advantages of fighting on their own soil and a passionate desire for freedom.
B. Blacks in the Revolution
1. To American slaves, the War of Independence offered an unprecedented opportunity to seize freedom.
a. Many pursued this goal by fighting in one of the opposing armies.
2. George Washington accepted black recruits after Lord Dunmore’s proclamation offered freedom to
slaves who fought for the British.
C. The First Years of the War
1. The war initially went badly for Washington; many of his troops went home.
2. He managed a successful surprise attack on Trenton and Princeton.
a. The attack was inspired in part by Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis.
D. The Battle of Saratoga
1. The Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 gave the Patriots a victory and boost to morale.
a. The victory convinced the French to aid the Americans in 1778.
2. Winter of 17771778
a. The British were quartered in Philadelphia with plenty of supplies.
b. American troops, half of whom were immigrants or African-Americans, suffered at Valley Forge.
E. The War in the Borderlands
1. In the trans-Appalachian West, the war took on the character of a borderlands conflict.
E. The War in the South
F. Victory at Last
1. American and French troops surrounded General Cornwallis at Yorktown, where he surrendered in
October 1781.
2. The Treaty of Paris was signed in September 1783.
a. The American delegation was made up of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay.
b. In addition to independence, America was granted land in the frontier to the Mississippi River.
Explain why colonists felt that the Stamp Act violated their liberty.
How did the Stamp Act inadvertently serve to unite the colonies?
How and why did many colonists come to believe that membership in the British empire was a threat to their
freedom rather than the foundation of their freedom?
have done to appease the colonists and avoid conflict?
Discuss how the war affected slaves, depending on whether they fought for the British or the Americans. Also discuss
the war’s effect on the particular states where slaves lived. How do you think the slaves could have brought
themselves to fight for one side or the other?
How did the war impact Native American people on the borderlands?
In what ways did the war in the South differ from revolutionary fighting in the northern states?
American Revolution
This site was created by H-Net Humanities and Social Sciences from the generous support of the National Endowment for the
Humanities to serve as a complement to the official companion site to PBS’s Liberty! documentary series. Helpful sub-links
are “Essays” and “Resources.”
The American Revolution: Lighting Freedom’s Flame
A National Park Service website that provides a treasure trove of information on important places where revolution was
constructed, such as Independence Hall, Philadelphia. The site also includes information on ethnic minorities and women
during the Revolution.
Liberty! is a PBS documentary about the American Revolution that features dramatic readings from letters and diaries of the
period. The series includes “The Reluctant Revolutionaries,” “The Times That Try Men’s Souls,” and “Are We to Be a Nation?
Pictures of the Revolutionary War
This Web portal from the National Archives houses images (mostly engravings) from the Revolutionary War.
The Boston Massacre
This high-quality website from the Boston Massacre Historical Society offers useful insight into the Boston Massacre as well
as excellent pictures and time lines.
John Adams (HBO, 8 hours, 2008)
By far the best docudrama, or documentary, on the American Revolution and the role of Massachusetts Patriot leader John
Adams. The film stars Paul Giamatti and is sensitive to issues of race and gender.
Bullion, John. “British Ministers and American Resistance to the Stamp Act, October–December 1765.” William and Mary
Quarterly 49, no. 1 (1992): 89107.
Clodfelter, Mark. “Between Virtue and Necessity: Nathaniel Greene and the Conduct of Civil Military Relations in the South,
1780–1782.” Military Affairs 52, no. 4 (1988): 169175.
Fenn, Elizabeth A. Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 177582. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.
Horton, James Oliver, and Lois Horton. In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest among Northern Free Blacks,
17001860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Jayne, Allen. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence: Origins, Philosophy and Theology. Lexington, KY: University Press of
Kentucky, 1998.
Resch, John. Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment, and Political Culture in the Early Republic.
Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.
Taylor, Alan. American Revolutions: A Continental History, 17501804. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.
Wheeler, Richard. Voices of 1776: The Story of the American Revolution in the Words of Those Who Were There. New York:
Meridian, 1991.
1. England vs. America: Should revolution take place?
2. Small-group film analysis: The Patriot
Show a portion of the film The Patriot in class and ask students to form into small groups afterward to discuss the film. Ask them