This chapter focuses on the American Revolutionthe factors that led the colonies to rebel, the battles of the war, and the impact the revolution had on American society.
Section 1 discusses how Britain's tightening controls increased tensions in the American colonies. Victory in the French and Indian War left Britain deeply in debt. British leaders, who thought the colonies should help shoulder the war debt, levied new taxes and issued new regulations designed to maintain British authority in the colonies. Angry colonists united in their opposition to the controls and formed patriotic groups such as the Sons of Liberty and the Daughters of Liberty. Colonists protested with pamphlets, demonstrations, boycotts, and even violence. Objecting to the Stamp Act, representatives from nine colonies filed a declaration stating that only colonists' political representatives had the right to tax them. Their protests forced British lawmakers to repeal the Stamp Act, but Parliament retaliated by reasserting its right to make laws for the colonies. The Townshend Acts, another series of regulations and taxes, soon followed. Colonists' resistance and increasing violence in the colonies finally forced Britain to repeal nearly all the Townshend Acts.
Section 2 details the events that led up to the colonists' declaration of independence from Britain. Even though the colonies enjoyed two years of peace, British policies continued to undermine colonial freedoms. Colonists formed the committees of correspondence to communicate with one another about British activities. Escalating colonial resistance provoked Britain to institute the Coercive Actsa set of laws that severely restricted Massachusetts and violated several English rights. In response, colonists formed the First Continental Congress and organized a boycott of British goods. Continuing to defy Britain, Massachusetts created a provincial congress and militia. British control weakened as other colonies did the same. In April 1775, a battle in Lexington signaled the start of the war. A few weeks later the Second Continental Congress met and formed the Continental Army. Resigned that compromise was unlikely, the Continental Congress took actions to defend its government. Meanwhile, a persuasive pamphlet convinced many colonists that the time had come to declare independence. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, signaling the beginning of the Revolution.
Section 3 explores the strategies and battles of the Revolutionary War. George Washington's inexperienced, poorly equipped band of soldiers seemed no match for the confident, well-trained British Army. The British plan to separate the New England states from the Southern states was hampered by their army's slow movement and their generals' failure to coordinate strategies. They successfully captured some important cities and kept Washington's troops on the move, but the British failed to surround American positions. Even though the bitter winter of 1777 devastated the Continental Army, an important victory in New York lifted Patriots' spirits and convinced France to send troops. Americans used surprise tactics and a stealthy militia to their advantage during the long struggle. The British economy suffered as Americans attacked British merchant ships. In 1781 Washington, supported by French troops and the French navy, surrounded the British at Yorktown, Virginia, and secured the British surrender.
Section 4 describes how the war changed American society. When the colonists severed ties with Britain, they established a republica form of government where the power resides with a body of citizens entitled to vote. John Adams advocated that separate branches of government would prevent tyranny by the majority. He also argued that the legislature should be divided into two housesthe senate and the assembly. Many states wrote new constitutions based on his ideas. States also attached lists of individuals' rights to their constitutions. Changes in American society reflected a key component of a republicthe idea that all citizens are equal under law. It became easier for white men to gain the right to vote, governments separated themselves from churches, and women made some social gains. While thousands of enslaved African Americans gained their freedom during the Revolution, loyalists found they had lost their position in American society. The states began to build a national identity reinforced by patriotic symbols, folklore, and art.