Revolutionary War

Events Leading Up to the War

In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, the relationships between Great Britain and the colonies were becoming tense.

Economic Relationships

  • Great Britain controlled trade

  • Great Britain taxed the colonies after the French and Indian War

  • The colonies traded raw materials for goods made in Great Britain

Political Relationships

  • Colonists had to obey British laws, which were enforced by colonial governors appointed by the king

  • A colonial legislature made laws for each colony but was monitored by the colonial governor

As Great Britain heavily taxed and expanded control over the American colonies, many colonists became dissatisfied and rebellious.

Great Britain’s Reasons for Taxing the Colonies

  • Great Britain wanted to remain a world power

  • Great Britain’s desire to remain a world power resulted in the French and Indian War, fought in the colonies

  • Great Britain imposed taxes, such as the Stamp Act, to raise money to pay the cost of the French and Indian War

  • The taxes also helped pay for the maintenance of British troops in the colonies

Sources of Colonial Dissatisfaction

  • The colonies had no representation in Parliament

  • The colonial governors were appointed by the king and had a lot of power

  • Great Britain had strict control over colonial laws

  • The colonies disliked the British taxes

  • The Proclamation of 1763, which followed the French and Indian War, restricted the westward movement of settlers

The Declaration of Independence

The colonists' dissatisfaction led to a desire for independence and a democratic government. Therefore, the Declaration of Independence was written to proclaim independence from Great Britain.

Key Concepts in the Declaration of Independence

  • People have “certain unalienable rights” (rights that cannot be taken away) to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

  • People establish governments to protect those rights

  • The government should get its power from the people

  • People have a right and a duty to change a government that violates their rights

The War

The American Revolution was fought between the colonies and Great Britain from 1775 to 1783.

Key Events

  • Boston Massacre (1770): colonists in Boston were shot by British soldiers

  • Boston Tea Party (1773): colonists threw tea into Boston Harbor to protest tea taxes

  • First Continental Congress (1774): delegates from all colonies except Georgia met to discuss problems with Great Britain and to promote independence

  • Battles at Lexington and Concord (1775): first armed conflicts of the war

  • Battle of Bunker Hill (1775): first major battle of the war

  • Approval of the Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776): the colonies declared independence from Great Britain

  • Battle of Saratoga (1777): this American victory was the turning point in the war and led the French to support the colonists

  • Surrender at Yorktown (1781): the colonial victory over British forces of Lord Cornwallis that ended the war

  • Signing of the Treaty of Paris (1783): Great Britain recognized American independence in this treaty

Key Individuals

  • King George III: British king during the Revolutionary War

  • Lord Cornwallis: British general who surrendered at Yorktown

  • John Adams: promoted the cause of independence

  • George Washington: Commander of the Continental Army

  • Thomas Jefferson: author of the Declaration of Independence

  • Patrick Henry: inspired colonial patriotism with his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech

  • Thomas Paine: wrote the pamphlet Common Sense, promoting American independence

  • Benjamin Franklin: member of the Continental Congress who helped gain French support for American independence

  • The Marquis de Lafayette: French nobleman who served in the Continental Army and worked with the king of France to send French troops, ships, and funds that helped the colonists win the war

  • Phillis Wheatley: enslaved African American who wrote poems and plays supporting American independence and who eventually gained her freedom

  • Paul Revere: patriot who made a midnight ride to warn colonists of British arrival

Colonial Advantages in the War

  • The colonists were defending their own land, principles, and beliefs

  • They had additional support from France

  • They had strong leadership