Voices of the American Revolution
In the years preceding the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, many American colonists expressed opposition to Great Britain’s policies toward the colonies, but few thought seriously about establishing an independent nation until late in the imperial crisis. Throughout the years of controversy beginning in the 1760s, Americans expressed a variety of opinions about the legitimacy of open acts of resistance and rebellion, which intensified as armed resistance began in April 1775. On both sides of the issue, perspectives and motivations were diverse. Among those who favored resistance, for example, not all would go so far as to advocate full-scale rebellion against Great Britain or national independence for the United States. The debate, moreover, was not a static one, and its terms shifted over time; by 1776 many colonists found themselves advocating positions undreamed of a decade earlier.
In this lesson, you will work to make informed analyses of primary documents illustrating the diversity of religious, political, social, and economic motives behind competing perspectives on questions of independence and rebellion. Making use of a variety of primary texts, the activities will help you to “hear” some of the colonial voices that, in the course of time and under the pressure of novel ideas and events, contributed to the American Revolution.
Your assignment will be to read ten documents from the lists below. Each document must come from a different perspective. You should use two documents from each group to write your essay. You will then write a three to five page essay in which you compare and contrast what the Revolution meant to different groups in society.
Feel free to include any other sources, but the majority of your paper must be based on primary sources from the time period.
You will also need to footnote what documents you are using in Chicago Manuel style. Any word processor should help you make footnotes. Please use the following link to complete your footnotes in the correct style.
Your paper should be double spaced and in 12 point font.
A. Religious Perspective
• Jonathan Mayhew — http://www.lawandliberty.org/mayhew.htm
• Jacob Cushing — http://www.consource.org/document/divine-judgments-upon-tyrants-by-jacob-cushing-1778-4-20/
• John Wesley — http://www.consource.org/document/a-calm-address-to-our-american-colonies-by-john-wesley-1775/
• Samuel Sherwood — http://www.consource.org/document/scriptural-instructions-to-civil-rulers-by-samuel-sherwood-1774-8-31/
• Samuel Sherwood — http://www.consource.org/document/the-churchs-flight-into-the-wilderness-an-address-on-the-times-by-samuel-sherwood-1776-1-17/
B. Loyalist Perspective
• Poem — http://www.historywiz.com/primarysources/pausingamericanloyalist.htm
• Charles Inglis — http://www.historywiz.com/primarysources/pausingamericanloyalist.htm
• Songs — http://www3.sympatico.ca/goweezer/theshack/songs.htm
• Song — http://www.royalprovincial.com/history/music/voasong.shtml
C. Rebel Perspective
• Patrick Henry — http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/patrick.asp
• George Washington — http://gwpapers.virginia.edu/topics/american-revolution/
• Thomas Paine — http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/D/1776-1800/paine/CM/sensexx.htm
D. African American Perspectives
• Felix’s Petition — http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2h22t.html
• Boston King’s Memoir — http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2h1584t.html
• James Ottis — http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part2/2h18t.html
E. Official and Legal Perspectives
• George Mason — http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/virginia.htm
• Declaration of the Casues and Necessity of taking Up arms — http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/D/1751-1775/war/causes.htm
• Declaration of Independence — http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/declaration_transcript.html
• Charlotte Town Resolves — http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/D/1751-1775/independence/ctr.htm