Between 1775 and 1787, Americans struggled to win a war, make a peace, and create ideologically sound, stable governments on both the state and the national levels. By the end of the era, there was little doubt that they had accomplished the first two of their goals, but serious questions were being raised concerning the success of the last. Despite problems that would have stopped lesser men, George Washington and his army had been able to successfully keep the British at bay, winning when they could and losing as seldom as possible. Meanwhile, the Continental Congress, blessed with some remarkable diplomats, maintained a foreign policy the success of which can be seen in the Franco-American alliance of 1778 and the Treaty of Paris of 1783. But once the war ended, the government that the British threat had held together found that its member states' unwillingness to centralize power created more problems than it solved. Economic dislocation, exemplified by Daniel Shays and his followers, plagued the nation, as many thoughtful men searched for a way to transform Revolutionary rhetoric into reality and to restore order without sacrificing liberty.
Brinkley, Alan (2007). American history: A survey. New York, New York: McGraw Hill.
Toward Independence 1764-1783
1763 Peace of Paris ends French and Indian War. Proclamation of 1763 restricts westward settlement.
1764 Sugar Act (Revenue Act) increases colonial taxation and steps up enforcement.
1765 Stamp Act imposes direct sales tax in colonies. Colonists respond with Virginia Resolves, Stamp Act Congress, and boycotts.
1766 Parliament repeals Stamp Act.
1767 Townshend Revenue Act imposes new duties on imports into the American colonies.
1770 British troops fire on civilians in Boston Massacre.
1773 Colonists launch Boston Tea Party to protest British monopoly on tea.
1774 Parliament responds with the Coercive, or Intolerable, Acts.
The First Continental Congress meets to coordinate the colonial response.
1775 New England Restraining Act. Minutemen meet British army in Battles of Lexington and Concord. British surrender Fort Ticonderoga to colonial troops. Battle of Bunker Hill tests colonial troops. Second Continental Congress appoints George Washington to command Continental army.
1776 Thomas Paine's Common Sense moves Americans to demand independence. Congress approves Declaration of Independence on July 4.
1776?77 Battles of Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey. Washington spends the winter at Morristown, New Jersey.
1777-78 British invade New York from Canada. French recognize American independence. Spain enters the war on the American side. Washington spends the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.
1779-81 British strategy focuses on the southern colonies.
1781 Facing American and French forces, Lord Cornwallis surrenders at the Battle of Yorktown.
1783 British sign Treaty of Paris, granting U.S. independence and western lands.
American Diversity: Divisions between those who supported independence produced the major division in the population during the Revolution. Also, ethnic groups often divided along these lines. By the end of the war many Loyalists left for other parts of the British Empire.
Globalization: This period marks the first in which America engaged with the outside world as an independent political entity. From its appeal to the world in the Declaration of Independence to its alliances with European nations for financial and military aid, this era was a sharp break with its colonial past.
Politics and Citizenship: Politics in America was revolutionized on both the state and national level by the collapse of British government in America. State governments with written constitutions emerged, and America's first national government as an independent nation, the Articles of Confederation, helped pave the way for a more permanent political system.
Reform: The American Revolution produced dramatic social as well as political changes. The departure of many of the former elite, the Loyalists, opened up the political and social structures to new people. The relative positions of religious denominations shifted, and slave emancipation gained strength in northern states. Women joined in Revolutionary activity and assumed the role of "republican motherhood." Indians divided between the British and the patriots and in general found themselves in a weaker position.
War and Diplomacy: The Revolutionary War mobilized the entire population as no previous war had. George Washington played the prominent role in keeping an army in the field to resist British forces. Fighting a defensive war, the American forces finally outlasted the English political will to fight. America's alliance with France proved critical.
George, J. & Brown, J. (2007). AP achiever: Advanced placement american history exam preparation guide. McGraw Hill.
The British had many advantages in the war, including a large, well-trained army and navy and many Loyalists who supported the British Empire. But many white colonists were alienated by Lord Dunmore's promise of freedom to slaves who joined the royal army, and were inspired by Thomas Paine?s Common Sense. Excellent leadership by George Washington; the aid of such European nations as France; and tactical errors by British commanders contributed to the American victory. British strategy called for crushing the rebellion in the North. Several times the British nearly defeated the Continental Army. But victories at Trenton and Princeton, N.J., in late 1776 and early 1777 restored patriot hopes, and victory at Saratoga, N.Y., which halted a British advance from Canada, led France to intervene on behalf of the rebels. In 1778, fighting shifted to the South. Britain succeeded in capturing Georgia and Charleston, S.C. and defeating an American army at Camden, S.C. But bands of patriots harassed loyalists and disrupted supply lines, and Britain failed to achieve control over the southern countryside before advancing northward to Yorktown, Va. In 1781, an American and French force defeated the British at Yorktown in the war's last major battle.
1. About 7,200 Americans died in battle during the Revolution. Another 10,000 died from disease or exposure and about 8,500 died in British prisons.
2. A quarter of the slaves in South Carolina and Georgia escaped from bondage during the Revolution. The Northern states outlawed slavery or adopted gradual emancipation plans.
3. The states adopted written constitutions that guaranteed religious freedom, increased the legislature's size and powers, made taxation more progressive, and reformed inheritance laws.