In Chapter 6, we consider the tasks the American patriots had to accomplish in order to achieve victory in the Revolutionary War. The first section, Government by Congress and Committee, concerns the ideological and political task of transforming the resistance movement into a coalition supporting independence. Several factors made achievement of this task possible:
1. the process by which delegates were elected to the First Continental Congress;
2. the presence of respected political figures at the Congress;
3. the ability of the Congress to allow debate among divergent interest groups in the formulation of a compromise policy;
4. the election of committees of observation and inspection at the local level as a means by which to enforce the Continental Association; and
5. the emergence of popularly elected provincial congresses to take over the reins of colonial government.
The interaction of these factors leads to the conclusion that independence was being won at the local level. Such an occurrence made American victory not only possible but likely.
However, as noted in Contest in the Backcountry, settlers pouring into the region of Kentucky came into conflict with Indians in that area just as the Revolutionary War began
Transforming the resistance movement into a coalition supporting independence also involved defeating potential internal enemies. Congress, recognizing that settlers pouring into the region of Kentucky would likely support the side that best served their interests, acted to protect those settlers from Native Americans. Although Congress recognized the potential threat of Native Americans to the patriot cause and, as a result, sought Indian neutrality, in the end a lack of unity prevented the Native American threat from materializing. Patriot policies, built on a broad popular base, were also effective in isolating the loyalist minority and in defusing them as a potential threat. Moreover, although slaves were drawn to the British side as the side that could offer them freedom, they never became a real threat because: (l) blacks did not rally to the British side as much as expected, and (2) southern patriots were successful in manipulating white fears concerning a slave conspiracy.
In the section War and Independence, we see how the political and ideological tasks confronting the patriots converged. The British frame of reference toward the war becomes clear through the context of the early skirmishes at Lexington and Concord. At this time, the Second Continental Congress assumed responsibility for organizing the American war effort and selected George Washington as commander of the Continental Army. The discussion of Washington?s background, beliefs, and war strategy suggest that his selection was an additional reason for eventual American victory.
As both sides prepared to deal with the military tasks of the war, the ideological war continued to rage. Decisive American victory in this realm was largely due to the efforts of Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. These men so eloquently defined the American cause that they established principles that aided the war effort and served as a solid base on which the new republic was founded.
In the last sections of the chapter, the military task of defeating the British takes center stage. The discussion of the northern and southern campaigns shows the importance of these factors in the patriot victory:
1. the false assumptions on which the British based their strategy;
2. the battlefield errors of the British;
3. Washington"s strategy of avoiding decisive losses;
4. the almost unlimited reservoir of man and woman power available to the American side;
5. the commitment to the patriot cause that developed among the officers in the Continental Army;
6. American perseverance and resourcefulness;
7. American policies that effectively swayed the populace to the patriots? side; and
8. the Franco-American alliance of 1778.
The chapter ends with a discussion of the Battle of Yorktown, the final skirmishes of the war, the impact of the war on the Indians, and the Treaty of Paris.THEMES
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.
Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789 (American Memory: Library of Congress)
Contains 274 documents, including extracts from the journals of Congress, resolutions, proclamations, committee reports, and treaties.
The Founders' Constitution
Includes the full text of the US Constitution along with primary sources that illustrate the reasoning behind this crucial document
Thomas Jefferson: A Film by Ken Burns (PBS Gateway Site)
PBS does an excellent job of providing resources about Jefferson, including discussions of his legacy.
The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
This comprehensive collection includes 83,000 images and approximately 27,000 documents that reflect Jefferson's broad range of interests. It also includes a timeline of Jefferson's life.
George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
This site includes the largest single collection of original Washington documents in the world (65,000).