Albany Congress (1754)

Albany Plan of Union (Historian of the State Department)

Join or Die cartoon (Teaching

Plan of union proposed by Benjamin Franklin (but not approved):
  • Supreme governor chosen by England
  • Supreme assembly represented by colonists.
  • Plan could possibly have averted Revolution.
  • Same plan later used with Canada and Australia.

New France

New France

French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), 1754-1763

Video: French and Indian War

Who was on each side in the war?
Really a French versus British war with Indian allies on both sides.

French began to encircle the British colonies.

French—from today's Canada—claimed the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley.

French established New Orleans to anchor the southern end of the Mississippi River.

French claimed the Pittsburgh area (originally called Fort Duquesne by the French, Fort Pitt by the British).

Three rivers come together at Pittsburgh: Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio

Various battles in the French and Indian War


George Washington's role in the war

Video (4:49)

Battle of Fort Necessity

Video: George Washington, General Braddock, and the Battle of the Monongahela

Battle of the Plains of Abraham/Battle of Quebec (1759)

This crucial British victory won the war.
*British victory at Quebec on the Plains of Abraham was the turning point. It was a major battle in history.

Quebec Politics: France vs. Britain - The Plains of Abraham

Both commanding generals were killed in the battle: Wolfe (British) and Montcalm (French)

Famous painting: The Death of Wolfe
Video explanation

Peace Treaty of Paris (1763)

Great Map!

France is entirely ousted from the North American continent
France will want to get back at Britain for this defeat
France will therefore be willing to help us win the American Revolution.

After the war, British colonists no longer feared a French threat.
Indians could no longer play European powers against one another.


Major themes along the Road to Revolution:
  • Development and spread of the colonial resistance movement
  • British actions
  • Colonists' responses

King George III (1760–1820)

New young king; various prime ministers.

Pontiac's uprising (1763)

Indian chief led Indian uprisings in the Ohio region to kick out colonists.
British troops unable to defend the frontier against him.

Good map

Pontiac's Rebellion ( | 5/7/1763))

Proclamation Line of 1763

Good map

Video: Proclamation of 1763

Proclamation Line of 1763 (Historian of the State Department)

British tried to keep colonists out of land west of Appalachian Mountains
British wanted to protect Indians
British wanted to slow down land speculation
But many colonists had already settled west of the Proclamation Line
They refused to respect the line.

Ideological conflicts between Britain and the North American colonies

a) Conflict over the nature of political representation

English view:
  • Parliament collectively represented the entire nation
  • Member of Parliament voted on best interests of nation not his district.
  • Virtual representation: colonists were represented even if not there in person

Colonists' views:
  • Advocated individual representation.
  • Legislator instructions
  • Represented only the regions that had elected them.

b) Conflicts over the role of a national government.

1. Colonists saw conspiracies in England that threatened to take away their liberties.

Colonists believed that a central government should have only limited authority over people.

Colonists felt the need for perpetual vigilance to ensure that monarchs do not corrupt and oppress the people, encroach on their liberty, and seize their property

2. Colonists believed that there was an important link between liberty and property rights:

  • Excessive and unjust taxation could take away personal freedom.
  • No taxation without representation idea, but more subtle.
  • Not so much the amount of taxation, but who did the taxing.

Sugar Act (1764)

Sugar Act (Massachusetts Historical Society)

New British Prime Minister George Grenville
He felt that colonists should pay a greater share of costs of empire.
Particularly pay back costs of French and Indian War.

American protests limited largely to New England merchants
Navigation Acts OK
Collection of revenue not OK

Currency Act (1764)

British merchants complained that Americans were paying their debts in inflated local currencies.

Currency Act outlawed colonial issues of paper money.

The Sugar and Currency Acts hit an economy already in the midst of depression.

Lacking any precedent for a united campaign against Parliament, Americans in 1764 took only hesitant and uncoordinated steps of protest.

Stamp Act (1765)

Stamp Act ((1765)

Stamp Act summary

Stamp Act (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Modeled on a law in effect in Britain for over a century.

Three aspects to remember:

Stamp Act required tax stamps on most printed material
Tax stamps had to be paid for in cash (scarce)
Violators would be tried in vice admiralty courts (no juries).

Video: Stamp Act Riots (1:00)
Destruction of Thomas Hutchinson's house

Protests against the Stamp Act

Colonists feeling their way on exactly how to protest British decisions that affected them.

a) James Otis:

How to combat certain acts of Parliament without questioning Parliament's authority over the colonies.
He concluded that colonists had to obey British laws.
Many Americans, therefore, reluctantly prepared to obey the Stamp Act.

b) Patrick Henry

Not all the colonists were resigned to paying the Stamp tax.
Patrick Henry did not agree with James Otis
He proposed the "Virginia Stamp Act Resolves"
These resolves protested Parliament's right to tax Americans without their consent.

c) Despite the uproar, most Americans wanted to remain loyal British subjects and were not yet arguing for independence.

Stamp Act Repeal (March 1766)

New British Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham

He repealed the Stamp Act not because he believed Parliament lacked the power to tax the colonies, but because he thought the law unwise and divisive.

Video: Repeal of Stamp Act

Declaratory Act (March 1766)

Linked to the repeal of the Stamp Act.
Dangerous implications for the colonists.

Key issue: Asserted Parliament's ability to tax & legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever."

Sons of Liberty

Colonial elites wanted to control the protests against unpopular laws.

They created an inter-colonial association, the Sons of Liberty, to protest the Stamp Act.

In subsequent U.S. history, groups who want to protest government action often will call themselves Sons of Liberty.

Video: Sons of Liberty

Sons of Liberty

Flip, a Trendy Colonial Cocktail

Green Dragon Tavern: Meeting place of Sons of Liberty

Samuel Adams; key member of the Sons of Liberty

Samuel Adams

Liberty Tree: symbolic location for Sons of Liberty in Boston

Liberty Tree

Liberty Tree

Tarring and Feathering

Bostonians paying the excise man cartoon
Tarring and feathering

Non-importation association

The first attempts to use an economic boycott to pressure British exporters to demand repeal of the Stamp Act

Non-consumption and non-importation (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Liberty Song; written by John Dickinson

Video: Liberty Song

Townshend Acts (1767)

Townshend Acts (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Video: Townshend Acts

1. British officials searched for new ways to generate revenue to help pay war debts from French and Indian War.

2. The passage of the Townshend Acts drew a swift response from the colonists, who were now less hesitant and better organized.

3. Townshend Acts provided as follows:
  • Duties on goods (glass, lead, paper, paints, and tea) imported from Britain to the colonies
  • Proceeds would pay salaries for some royal officials in the colonies
  • American Board of Customs Commissioners (based in Boston)
  • Added vice–admiralty courts in Boston, Philadelphia, and Charleston

Boston "Massacre" (5 March 1770)

British troops assigned to Boston to protect Customs Commissioners.
Tensions in a military garrison town: soldiers took local jobs
Was this a "massacre"?

Boston Massacre (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Video: Boston Massacre

Trial of British soldiers involved in Boston massacre: soldiers were defended by Patriot lawyer (and future US President John Adams)

Townshend Duties Repealed (12 April 1770)

Repeal (

Parliament revoked all the duties except that on tea. (This will be a cause of the Boston Tea Party)

All the other Townshend provisions remained in effect.

Committees of Correspondence

Committees of Correspondence (Massachusetts Historical Society)

They were used to widen the geographic scope of the Patriot resistance movement.

Boston Tea Party (1773)

Boston Tea Party (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Video: Boston Tea Party
[Has good material on Tea Act, Indian disguise]

Boston Tea Party: Eyewitness account by George Hewes

Tea Act (May 1773)

Tea Act

Video: Tea Act of 1773

1. Monopoly: British East India Company sell off surplus tea to America
2. Patriots were making money smuggling tea from Holland.
3. Patriots feared precedent of paying even a small tax on tea.

Tea Party itself:

Tea destroyed worth almost $1 million.
Colonists refused to pay for the tea.

Eyewitness account by George Hewes

Coercive Acts (1774)

Called Intolerable Acts by the colonists

Coercive Acts (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Video: Coercive (Intolerable) Acts

Americans convinced British planned to take away their liberty.

Port of Boston closed to shipping until tea was paid for: "Lord North is closing the port of Boston."

a. Massachusetts Government Act

Altered the Massachusetts charter
Substituted an appointed council for an elected one
Increased the powers of the Governor
Halted most town meetings.

b. Justice Act

British officials would be sent to England for trial.

c. Quartering Act

British military commanders could house their troops in private dwellings.

Quebec Act (1774)

Intended to ease strains of British conquest of the former French colony.

Quebec Act map

Catholics granted greater religious freedom.
Representative assembly abolished.
Canada boundary extended to Ohio River.
Many American colonists coveted this land.

Results thus far in the arguments between the British government and the colonies:

Colonists worried over precedents of Coercive Acts and Quebec Act.
Both Acts made colonists fear that Britain had a deliberate plan to oppress the American colonies.

BUT: few people wanted to take hasty action.
Most patriots remained loyal to Britain and hoped for reconciliation
Colonists agreed to send delegates to Philadelphia to attend a Continental Congress to consider an appropriate response.


The American Revolution required patriot leaders to do three things :
  • Establish a coalition in favor of independence
  • Gain foreign recognition.
  • Triumph over the British army

First Continental Congress (Philadelphia, Sept 1774)

First Continental Congress (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Video: First Continental Congress

1. Declaration of Rights and Grievances
Colonists would obey normal laws of British Parliament
Colonists would not obey taxes in disguise (like Townshend Duties)

2. Continental Association
Boycott of English goods

3. Committees of Observation & Inspection
Committee members (7000) assigned to monitor boycott,
Became, in effect, the local leaders of the American resistance.

Provincial conventions :
Independence was being won at the local level, without formal acknowledgement and without much bloodshed.

Popularly elected congresses took over government in each colony

These conventions
  • a. elected delegates to the Second Continental Congress
  • b. organized militia units
  • c. gathered arms and ammunition
  • d. collected taxes

Choosing sides

1. Patriots (40% of population)

Americans who were against the British

Video: Loyalists and Patriots

To win, Patriots had to neutralize or defeat potential internal enemies.

Role of Religion in the American Revolution

Jonathan Mayhew wrote that "resistance to a tyrant was a glorious Christian dty."

2. Loyalists (20% of population)

Loyalists were Americans who remained loyal to the British:

  • British–appointed government officials
  • Merchants whose trade depended on British connections
  • Anglican (Church of England) ministers

100,000 loyalists left America, many to Canada

3. Neutrals (40% of population)

Those who tried to remain in the middle

  • Sincere pacifists (Quakers)
  • Those who supported whoever controlled their area
  • Those who simply wanted to be left alone

4. African–Americans

Slaves sought freedom by supporting the British.
British eventually took away 55,000 slaves
Colonies with highest slave %—less support for revolution.

5. Indians

Both British and patriots tried to keep Indians neutral
Indians bitter at aggressive expansionism of colonists
Most taking sides supported British—less threat than Patriots

British military planners made three erroneous assumptions :

1. Americans would not stand up to professional troops

2. English could fight a conventional war as they would in Europe

3. Military victory would be sufficient to win the struggle

Paul Revere's Ride (April 1775)

Paul Revere's Ride
Three riders were Paul Revere, Samuel Prescott, and Richard Dawes

Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 1775).

Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Video: Minute Men

Video: General Thomas Gage
Prior to Lexington

Good map in the Wikipedia account of the battle
[scroll 25% of the way down the screen]

Results: Colonial victory (note casualties and losses

Battle of Bunker Hill (June 1775)

Battle of Bunker Hill (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Results: Technically a British victory, but their casualties were huge.

Video: Battle of Bunker Hill

Second Continental Congress

Convened in May 1775 at Philadelphia

Second Continental Congress (Massachusetts Historical Society)

a. Became the inter colonial government during American Revolution
b. Authorized the printing of money
c. Established a committee to supervise relations with foreign countries
d. Created the Continental Army
e. Washington, from the South, appointed commanding general

Washington takes command of the Continental Army

Washington as Commander (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Video: George Washington bio

Thomas Paine: Common Sense (Jan 1776)

a. Wildly popular book
b. Helped Americans accept the idea of separation from Britain
c. Advocated creation of an independent republic
d. Downplayed benefits of links to mother country
e. Insisted Britain had exploited colonies unmercifully
f. Americans hated Parliament, but thought King was sympathetic
g. Paine disagreed:
h. King was a royal brute
i. King only pretended to care for the colonist's welfare

Video: Thomas Paine and Common Sense


Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)

Declaration of Independence (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Declaration of Independence in historical context

a. Noted committee members: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin
The two other members were Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston

Jefferson was chosen to draft the Declaration

a. He wrote well

He had recently drafted the Virginia state constitution

b. Colonists no longer could accept legitimacy of Parliament

c. Declaration concentrated on King George III as the villain

The King had attempted to destroy representative government.

The King oppressed Americans by excessive force.

d. All men are created equal: principle to live up to

e. Signers of the Declaration at great risk: treason.

John Hancock's big signature: "King won't need his spectacles"

Lineup of opponents during the war itself :

a. War took place on several levels

Regular troops: British against Patriots

Irregular troops: Partisan warfare (Patriots versus Loyalists)

b. Fighting moved chronologically from North to South:
  • New England
  • Middle colonies
  • Southern colonies

Continental army

a. Never numbered more than 18,500 men
b. Included black (5,000) troops
c. Short–term militiamen helped in their own area
d. Women traveled with the army

Who: wives and widows of poor soldiers
Doing what: cooks, nurses, and launderers

Valley Forge: Patriot winter camp (close to Philadelphia)

Video: Valley Forge

Time for needed training (Baron von Steuben)

Video: Baron von Steuben

Video: 10 things you may not know about the Marquis de Lafayette

Washington "crossed the Delaware" River (26 December 1776)

Attacked Trenton and won a surprising victory
These victories cheered American spirits

Video: Battle of Trenton

Video: German Hessians (mercenaries working for the British army)

Battle of Saratoga (September 1777)

Battle of Saratoga (Today in History, Library of Congress)

a. British invaded New York to cut off New England from rest of colonies
b. British General Burgoyne surrendered 6,000 troops
c. American victory led to French recognition of American independence

Video: Surrender at Saratoga and Treaty with France

Video: Benedict Arnold: hero of Saratoga

Video: Daniel Morgan led an elite force of Patriot snipers at Saratoga

Franco–American Treaty of Alliance (1778)

Treaty of Alliance with France 1778 (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Treaty of alliance brought France into war on American side:

a. Americans had mixed feelings
b. France had been major enemy in past
c. French were Catholic
d. But French were anxious to avenge their defeat in the French and Indian War

French help was critically important to the overall Patriot victory against the British.

Marquis de Lafayette was crucial to the French assistance

Video: 10 things you may not know about the Marquis de Lafayette

Treason of Benedict Arnold (21 September 1780)
Officers developed intense commitment to the revolutionary cause

Arnold betrayed the cause (

Fighting moved to the south

British had taken key cities in the North:
  • Boston
  • Newport, Rhode Island
  • New York City (their headquarters for most of the war)
  • Philadelphia

But still the British were not stopping the Patriots

British thought they would have better success in the South

Battle of Charleston (South Carolina) (1780)

Results were the reverse of Saratoga.

Americans surrendered 5,000 troops to the British.

Nathanael Greene

Nathanael Greene (Today in History, Library of Congress)

He was a Quaker
He operated effectively in the South against the British militarily.
But he was much more than just a military man.
He showed tolerance for the problems of loyalists and Indians.

British Surrender at Yorktown (1781)

Cornwallis Surrender at Yorktown (Today in History, Library of Congress)

a. British General Cornwallis trapped on Tidewater peninsula

b. American and French armies surrounded him on land.

c. French navy defeated British rescue effort off Chesapeake Bay

d. Great American victory.

Video: Victory at Yorktown

e. Alexander Hamilton's bravery at Yorktown

Peace Treaty of Paris (1783)

American diplomats: Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay
Won a tremendous settlement for America

Video: Treaty of Paris (1783)

a. England recognized American independence
b. Britain kept Canada—but reduced to its original boundaries before Quebec Act
c. U.S. got all territory east of the Mississippi
d. Britain ignored territorial rights of its Indian allies
e. French GOT NOTHING out of the peace treaty

Articles of Confederation:

The first American constitution
Codified the way the Second Continental Congress operated
Government was unwieldy and inefficient

Like a League of Friendship
Compare it to the Confederacy during Civil War.
Compare it to U.S. participation in the United Nations.

Features of the Articles of Confederation:

1. No strong central government
2. Sovereignty and independence retained by states
3. One house in Continental Congress—each state had an equal vote
4. State control of Congressional delegation
  • Delegates selected by state legislatures
  • Delegates paid by states
  • Delegates had one-year terms, up to a maximum of 3 terms

5. Nine of thirteen states' votes required for normal legislation
6. All 13 states' votes needed to amend the articles itself
7. No separate executive branch to administer the government
8. No national-level court system
9. No power to levy taxes
10. No authority to regulate commerce
11. No strong, centralized military

Land Ordinance of 1785

Land to be surveyed in a regular grid pattern
Outlined process through which land could be sold to settlers
Land sales helped fund national government

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

Confederation Congress successful in one thing: legislation for Northwest Territory
Today's states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio

Abolished slavery in Northwest territory
Guaranteed freedom of religion within the territory
Defined how formal governments would be organized:
When 6,000 settlers: territorial status
When 60,000 settlers: apply for statehood
New states would join Union on equal footing with original thirteen

Why did we have what became known as the Constitutional Convention?

Many American leaders felt that the laws of the Confederation government were not adequate to run the country.

Shay's Rebellion (January 1787)

Convinced many political leaders that the nation's problems extended far beyond trade policy.
Massachusetts farmers angered by high taxes and the scarcity of money.
They took up arms to protest.
Led by Daniel Shays
Used same arguments Patriots had used against the British.
Was this protest a forerunner of similar revolts in other locations?

Video: Shays' Rebellion

Convention itself

Video: Introduction to the Constitutional Convention

Where: Philadelphia

When: May–Sept 1787

Delegates to the Federal (Grand) Convention are considered to be:
Founding Fathers
Framers of the Constitution

Key people who were not delegates at the convention
  • Thomas Jefferson (ambassador to France)
  • John Adams (ambassador to England)
  • Patrick Henry ("smelled a rat")

Procedural rules crucial to the outcome:

a. Absolute secrecy

b. OK to reopen questions

c. Only a majority vote of states required to approve provisions
[Bypassed the 9/13 rule of the Articles of Confederation]

James Madison—his vital role:

Well prepared: Studied comparative governments historically

Analyzed our existing government in his essay entitled "Vices of the Political System of the United States"

Took notes during entire Convention

Often called the "Father of the Constitution"
He later became the Fourth President of the United States

James Madison (Today in History, Library of Congress)

Virginia (Randolph) Plan

Goal: Replace the Articles of Confederation

Presented by Edmund Randolph of Virginia, but the creation of James Madison.

Large states liked this plan

Two–house legislature:

Lower house elected directly by the people
Upper house selected by the lower

Proportional representation in both houses

"National" executive with "supreme" powers
"National" executive to be chosen by legislature; (electoral college)

National judiciary—became basis of Supreme Court

Congressional veto over state laws.

New Jersey plan (Patterson Plan)

Goal: Just amend the Articles of Confederation

Small states liked this plan

One–house legislature
Each state would have an equal vote
Only a modestly stronger national government

Major disagreement over the two plans

Convention almost split up.

Great [Connecticut] Compromise (16 July 1787)

Convention had almost collapsed because of the large state/small state split over representation.

The Great Compromise reconciled the Virginia and New Jersey plans:
Key authors were Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth.

1. Lower House

Proportional representation
Members elected directly by the people

2. Upper house

Each state had two members
Equal votes per state (so they thought)
Elected by state legislatures (1916: direct election)

Three–Fifths clause

Issue of proportional representation now became a stumbling block to the delegates.

How to allocate lower house representation among the states?
This question divided states between slave/free rather than state size
Slaves to count as "three–fifths" of a person for representation
South gained power: House of Representatives & electoral college

Other constitutional protections for slavery

Congress prohibited from outlawing slave trade for twenty years
Fugitive slave clause: states must return runaways to masters.
National troops can help put down states' "domestic violence"


Decisions on presidential powers made in light of the presumed first president: George Washington.

Court system

Judicial powers not as fully outlined as legislative and executive.

Separation of powers

Power balancing power. Gridlock intentionally built in.

Checks and balances both horizontal and vertical:

Horizontal: President, Congress, and Supreme Court.

Vertical: Federalism—balance between national and state levels

Ratification (approval) Conventions:

Ratification of the Constitution required approval of nine states

Most state legislatures were only willing to revise the Articles

The question became: How to bypass the state legislatures.

The solution: State constitutional conventions—people selected convention delegates

Rationale: Since a constitution more important than normal legislation, it should not be passed by regular legislative process.

Two general groupings arose out of the ratification conventions:

a. Federalists:

Called themselves Federalists, not nationalists.
  • Wanted a strong national government
  • Supported the Constitution as drafted
  • Promised a Bill of Rights after ratification

b. Antifederalists:
  • Wanted strong state governments as chief protectors of individual rights
  • Opposed the Constitution as drafted
  • Demanded a Bill of Rights to protect individuals from national government

Federalist Papers:

Video: Federalist Papers (2:51)

1. Written primarily for the ratification battle in New York
2. Published anonymously (Publius)
3. Actually written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay
4. Classic of political theory
5. Original intent issue
6. What was in the mind of the Framers?
7. Plus Madison's notes

Two of the most famous of the Federalist essays:

Federalist 10

Federalist 51


We should not dismiss the views of the Antifederalists. Those views still have relevance today.

The term limits movement of the late twentieth century demonstrates that the Antifederalist message—keep your representatives on a short leash, otherwise you will lose your freedom—still resonates with the American people, because Antifederalism is very much part of the American political experience.

When we hear the claim that our representatives operate independently of the people, and that the Congress fails to represent the broad cross-section of interests in America, we are hearing an echo of the Antifederalist critique of representation.

When we hear that the federal government has spawned a vast and irresponsive administrative bureaucracy that interferes too much with the life of American citizens, we are reminded of the warnings of the Antifederalists concerning consolidated government.

They warn that, in effect, executive orders, executive privileges, and executive agreements will create the "Imperial Presidency." And they warn that an activist judiciary will undermine the deliberate sense of the majority.

The criticism that Americans have abandoned a concern for their religious heritage and neglected the importance of local customs, habits, and morals, recalls the Antifederalist dependence upon self-restraint and self-reliance. When we hear a concern for the passing of decentralization—old time federalism—we are hearing the Antifederalist lament.

Ratification (approval) vote:

The proposed Constitution was not overwhelmingly popular.

Debate in the state constitutional ratifying conventions was spirited.

Some state votes were close:
  • Massachusetts (187–168)
  • New Hampshire (57–46)
  • New York (30–27)
  • Virginia (89–79)

But the Constitution was ultimately approved!