Unit 4: The American Revolution

Essential Questions

  • What are the political, economic, and social causes of the American Revolution?
  • How did public opinion evolve in regard to the movement for independence?
  • How did colonial protests against Britain escalate?
  • What specific British policies galvanized public opinion in the colonies?
  • What political systems were established in the colonies?
  • How did the American Revolution parallel the move toward self-government?
  • What were the major documents of the independence movement and how were they produced?
  • What was the military course of the Revolutionary War?
  • What role did leadership, commitment, and luck play in the American victory over the British?
  • What political, economic, and social issues brought people together against the British?
  • How did the Revolution change people's lives?
  • How have these political, economic, and social changes been interpreted by different analysts?
  • Was the American Revolution a "revolution" for all of the participants? Why or why not?


A. Economic factors

  1. Growth of mercantilism: triangular trade
  2. Rise of an influential business community in the colonies
  3. Cost of colonial wars against the French

B. Political factors

  1. The role of the British Civil War
  2. Periods of political freedom in the colonies
  3. Impact of the French and Indian War: Albany Plan of Union
  4. Political thought of the Enlightenment influenced prominent colonial leaders

C. New social relationships between European powers and the American colonies: development of a new colonial identity

D. New British attitude toward colonies following victory over France

  1. Colonies could not protect themselves
  2. Colonies were not paying a fair amount toward their support

E. New British policies antagonized many Americans

  1. Various acts of Parliament such as the Quebec Act
  2. New tax policies and taxes: Stamp Act and others
  3. Other acts of repression: Zenger case and others

F. Public opinion was shaped in different forums

  1. Political bodies
  2. Public display and demonstration
  3. Print media

G. Wide variety of viewpoints evolved

  1. Complete separation
  2. More autonomy for the colonies
  3. No change in status quo: the Loyalist position

H. The Revolution begins

  1. Early confrontations
  2. Important leaders
  3. First Continental Congress

I. The Second Continental Congress represented the first attempt to govern the colonies

  1. "Republican" government
  2. Request for state constitutions and political systems
  3. Asserting independence

J. A movement for independence evolved from the political debate of the day

K. Declaration of Independence

  1. Origins
  2. Content
  3. Impact
  4. Ideals embodied

L. Independence creates problems for New Yorkers

  1. Organizing new State government
  2. Economic problems
  3. Political factions
  4. Slavery
  5. Recruiting soldiers for the war

M. Strategies of the principal military engagements

  1. Washington's leadership
  2. New York as the object of strategic planning
  3. Evolution of the war from the North to the South: Lexington and Concord to Saratoga to Yorktown

N. Role of the Loyalists

  1. In New York City
  2. Colonists of Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island did not join the Revolution
    • Refuge for Loyalists
    • Staging ground for attacks on New York's patriots

O. The outcome of the war was influenced by many factors

  1. Personalities and leadership
  2. Geography: importance of various physical features
  3. Allocation of resources
  4. Foreign aid: funds and volunteers
  5. Role of women, blacks, and Native American Indians
  6. Haphazard occurrences of events: the human factor
  7. Clash between colonial authority and Second Continental Congress

P. On the national level

  1. Britain gave up claims to govern
  2. Slavery began to emerge as a divisive sectional issue because slaves did not receive their independence
  3. American economy was plagued by inflation and hurt by isolation from world markets

Q. In New York State

  1. The effects of the American Revolution on the Iroquois Confederacy
  2. Disposition of Loyalist property and resettlement of many Loyalists after the Revolution to Canada, thus changing the French/British balance
  3. A republican ideology developed which emphasized shared power and citizenship participation

R. In the Western Hemisphere

  1. Britain did not accept the notion of American dominance of the hemisphere
  2. The remaining British colonies in Canada strengthened their ties to Great Britain
  3. Many leaders in South America drew inspiration from American ideas and actions in their struggle against Spanish rule