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Related to American Revolution: Declaration of Independence, French Revolution
American Revolution,1775–83, struggle by which the Thirteen ColoniesThirteen Colonies, the,
term used for the colonies of British North America that joined together in the American Revolution against the mother country, adopted the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and became the United States.
..... Click the link for more information. on the Atlantic seaboard of North America won independence from Great Britain and became the United States. It is also called the American War of Independence.
Causes and Early Troubles
By the middle of the 18th cent., differences in life, thought, and interests had developed between the mother country and the growing colonies. Local political institutions and practice diverged significantly from English ways, while social customs, religious beliefs, and economic interests added to the potential sources of conflict. The British government, like other imperial powers in the 18th cent., favored a policy of mercantilismmercantilism
, economic system of the major trading nations during the 16th, 17th, and 18th cent., based on the premise that national wealth and power were best served by increasing exports and collecting precious metals in return.
..... Click the link for more information. ; the Navigation ActsNavigation Acts,
in English history, name given to certain parliamentary legislation, more properly called the British Acts of Trade. The acts were an outgrowth of mercantilism, and followed principles laid down by Tudor and early Stuart trade regulations.
..... Click the link for more information. were intended to regulate commerce in the British interest. These were only loosely enforced, however, and the colonies were by and large allowed to develop freely with little interference from England.
Conditions changed abruptly in 1763. The Treaty of Paris in that year ended the French and Indian WarsFrench and Indian Wars,
1689–1763, the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. and removed a long-standing threat to the colonies. At the same time the ministry (1763–65) of George GrenvilleGrenville, George,
1712–70, British statesman, brother of Earl Temple. He entered Parliament in 1741, held several cabinet posts, and in 1763 became chief minister.
..... Click the link for more information. in Great Britain undertook a new colonial policy intended to tighten political control over the colonies and to make them pay for their defense and return revenue to the mother country. The tax levied on molasses and sugar in 1764 caused some consternation among New England merchants and makers of rum; the tax itself was smaller than the one already on the books, but the promise of stringent enforcement was novel and ominous.
It was the Stamp ActStamp Act,
1765, revenue law passed by the British Parliament during the ministry of George Grenville. The first direct tax to be levied on the American colonies, it required that all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents, commercial bills, advertisements, and other papers
..... Click the link for more information. , passed by the British Parliament in 1765, with its direct demand for revenue that roused a violent colonial outcry, which was spearheaded by the Northern merchants, lawyers, and newspaper publishers who were directly affected. Everywhere leaders such as James Otis, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry denounced the act with eloquence, societies called the Sons of LibertySons of Liberty,
secret organizations formed in the American colonies in protest against the Stamp Act (1765). They took their name from a phrase used by Isaac Barré in a speech against the Stamp Act in Parliament, and were organized by merchants, businessmen, lawyers,
..... Click the link for more information. were formed, and the Stamp Act Congress was called to protest that Parliament was violating the rights of trueborn Englishmen in taxing the colonials, who were not directly represented in the supreme legislature. The threat of boycott and refusal to import English goods supported the colonial clamor. Parliament repealed (1766) the Stamp Act but passed an act formally declaring its right to tax the colonies.
The incident was closed, but a barb remained to wound American feelings. Colonial political theorists—not only radicals such as Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, Josiah QuincyQuincy, Josiah
, 1744–75, political leader in the American Revolution, b. Boston. An outstanding lawyer, he wrote a series of anonymous articles for the Boston Gazette in which he opposed the Stamp Act and other British colonial policies.
..... Click the link for more information. (1744–75), and Alexander McDougallMcDougall, Alexander
, 1731–86, American Revolutionary political leader and general, b. Islay, Inner Hebrides, Scotland. He was taken (1738) as a child to New York.
..... Click the link for more information. but also moderates such as John DickinsonDickinson, John,
1732–1808, American patriot and statesman, b. Talbot co., Md. After studying law in Philadelphia and in London at the Middle Temple, he developed a highly successful practice in Philadelphia.
..... Click the link for more information. , John AdamsAdams, John,
1735–1826, 2d President of the United States (1797–1801), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass., grad. Harvard, 1755. John Adams and his wife, Abigail Adams, founded one of the most distinguished families of the United States; their son, John Quincy
..... Click the link for more information. , and Benjamin FranklinFranklin, Benjamin,
1706–90, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer, b. Boston. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.
..... Click the link for more information. —asserted that taxation without representation was tyranny. The teachings of 18th-century French philosophers and continental writers on law, such as Emmerich de Vattel, as well as the theories of John LockeLocke, John
, 1632–1704, English philosopher, founder of British empiricism. Locke summed up the Enlightenment in his belief in the middle class and its right to freedom of conscience and right to property, in his faith in science, and in his confidence in the goodness of
..... Click the link for more information. , were implicit in the colonial arguments based on the theory of natural rightsnatural rights,
political theory that maintains that an individual enters into society with certain basic rights and that no government can deny these rights. The modern idea of natural rights grew out of the ancient and medieval doctrines of natural law, i.e.
..... Click the link for more information. . The colonials claimed that Parliament had the sovereign power to legislate in the interest of the entire British Empire, but that it could only tax those actually represented in Parliament.
Trouble flared when the Chatham ministry adopted (1767) the Townshend ActsTownshend Acts,
1767, originated by Charles Townshend and passed by the English Parliament shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act. They were designed to collect revenue from the colonists in America by putting customs duties on imports of glass, lead, paints, paper, and tea.
..... Click the link for more information. , which taxed numerous imports; care was taken to levy only an "external" or indirect tax in the hope that the colonials would accept this. But this indirect tax was challenged too, and although the duties were not heavy, the principle was attacked. Incidents came in interrupted sequence to make feeling run higher and higher: the seizure of a ship belonging to John HancockHancock, John,
1737–93, political leader in the American Revolution, signer of the Declaration of Independence, b. Braintree, Mass. From an uncle he inherited Boston's leading mercantile firm, and naturally he opposed the Stamp Act (1765) and other British trade
..... Click the link for more information. in 1768; the bloodshed of the Boston MassacreBoston Massacre,
1770, pre-Revolutionary incident growing out of the resentment against the British troops sent to Boston to maintain order and to enforce the Townshend Acts. The troops, constantly tormented by irresponsible gangs, finally (Mar.
..... Click the link for more information. in 1770; the burning of H. M. S. GaspeeGaspee
, British revenue cutter, burned (June 10, 1772) at Namquit (now Gaspee) Point in the present-day city of Warwick on the western shore of Narragansett Bay, R.I. The vessel arrived in Mar.
..... Click the link for more information. in 1772.
The First Continental Congress
The repeal of the Townshend Acts in 1770 did no more than temporarily quiet the turmoil, for the tax on tea was kept as a sort of token of Parliament's supremacy. Indignation in New England at the monopoly granted to the East India Company led to the Boston Tea PartyBoston Tea Party,
1773. In the contest between British Parliament and the American colonists before the Revolution, Parliament, when repealing the Townshend Acts, had retained the tea tax, partly as a symbol of its right to tax the colonies, partly to aid the financially
..... Click the link for more information. in 1773. Despite the earnest pleas of William Pitt the elder (see Chatham, William Pitt, 1st earl ofChatham, William Pitt, 1st earl of
, 1708–78, British statesman, known as the Great Commoner. Proud, dramatic, and patriotic, Chatham excelled as a war minister and orator. He was the father of William Pitt.
..... Click the link for more information. ) and Edmund BurkeBurke, Edmund,
1729–97, British political writer and statesman, b. Dublin, Ireland. Early Writings
After graduating (1748) from Trinity College, Dublin, he began the study of law in London but abandoned it to devote himself to writing.
..... Click the link for more information. , Parliament replied with coercive measures.
These (and the Quebec ActQuebec Act, 1774,
passed by the British Parliament to institute a permanent administration in Canada replacing the temporary government created at the time of the Proclamation of 1763.
..... Click the link for more information. ) the colonials called the Intolerable ActsIntolerable Acts,
name given by American patriots to five laws (including the Quebec Act) adopted by Parliament in 1774, which limited the political and geographical freedom of the colonists.
..... Click the link for more information. , and resistance was prompt. The Sons of Liberty and individual colonials were already distributing statements of the colonial cause to win over merchant and farmer, worker and sailor. Committees of correspondence had been formed to exchange information and ideas and to build colonial unity, and in 1774 these committees prepared the way for the Continental CongressContinental Congress,
1774–89, federal legislature of the Thirteen Colonies and later of the United States in the American Revolution and under the Articles of Confederation (see Confederation, Articles of).
..... Click the link for more information. .
The representatives at this First Continental Congress, except for a few radicals, had not met to consider independence, but wished only to persuade the British government to recognize their rights. A plan of reconciliation offered by Joseph GallowayGalloway, Joseph
, c.1731–1803, American Loyalist leader, b. West River, Md. Galloway was a prominent lawyer with an interest in commerce and in speculation in Western lands.
..... Click the link for more information. was rejected. It was agreed that the colonies would refuse to import British goods until colonial grievances were righted; those grievances were listed in petitions to the king; and the congress adjourned.
Before Congress met again the situation had changed. On the morning of Apr. 19, 1775, shots had been exchanged by colonials and British soldiers, men had been killed, and a revolution had begun (see Lexington and Concord, battles ofLexington and Concord, battles of,
opening engagements of the American Revolution, Apr. 19, 1775. After the passage (1774) of the Intolerable Acts by the British Parliament, unrest in the colonies increased. The British commander at Boston, Gen.
..... Click the link for more information. ). On the very day (May 10, 1775) that the Second Continental Congress met, Ethan AllenAllen, Ethan,
1738–89, hero of the American Revolution, leader of the Green Mountain Boys, and promoter of the independence and statehood of Vermont, b. Litchfield (?), Conn.
..... Click the link for more information. and his Green Mountain Boys, together with a force under Benedict Arnold, took Fort Ticonderoga from the British, and two days later Seth WarnerWarner, Seth,
1743–84, hero of the American Revolution, b. Roxbury, Conn. One of the group who, under Ethan Allen, resisted the New York claim to the New Hampshire Grants (now Vermont), he was outlawed by New York authorities.
..... Click the link for more information. captured Crown Point. Boston was under British siege, and before that siege was climaxed by the costly British victory usually called the battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775) the Congress had chosen (June 15, 1775) George WashingtonWashington, George,
1732–99, 1st President of the United States (1789–97), commander in chief of the Continental army in the American Revolution, called the Father of His Country. Early Life
He was born on Feb. 22, 1732 (Feb. 11, 1731, O.S.
..... Click the link for more information. as commander in chief of the Continental armed forces.
Indecision and Declaration
The war was on in earnest. Some delegates had come to the Congress already committed to declaring the colonies independent of Great Britain, but even many stalwart upholders of the colonial cause were not ready to take such a step. The lines were being more clearly drawn between the pro-British LoyalistsLoyalists,
in the American Revolution, colonials who adhered to the British cause. The patriots referred to them as Tories. Although Loyalists were found in all social classes and occupations, a disproportionately large number were engaged in commerce and the professions, or
..... Click the link for more information. and colonial revolutionists. The time was one of indecision, and the division of the people was symbolized by the split between Benjamin Franklin and his Loyalist son, William FranklinFranklin, William,
c.1730–1813, last royal governor of New Jersey; illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin. He grew up in Philadelphia, served in King George's War, and was (1754–56) comptroller of the general post office in Philadelphia.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Loyalists were numerous and included small farmers as well as large landowners, royal officeholders, and members of the professions; they were to be found in varying strength in every colony. A large part of the population was more or less neutral, swaying to this side or that or else remaining inert in the struggle, which was to some extent a civil war. So it was to remain to the end.
Civil government and administration had fallen apart and had to be patched together locally. In some places the result was bloody strife, as in the partisan raids in the Carolinas and Georgia and the Mohawk valley massacre in New York. Elsewhere hostility did not produce open struggles.
In Jan., 1776, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet, Common Sense, which urged the colonial cause. Its influence was tremendous, and it was read everywhere with enthusiastic acclaim. Militarily, however, the cause did not prosper greatly. Delegations to the Canadians had been unsuccessful, and the Quebec campaignQuebec campaign,
1775–76, of the American Revolution. The Continental Congress decided to send an expedition to Canada to protect the northern frontier from British attack and to persuade Canada to join the revolt against England. Late in Aug., 1775, Gen.
..... Click the link for more information. (1775–76) ended in disaster. The British gave up Boston in Mar., 1776, but the prospects were still not good for the ill-trained, poorly armed volunteer soldiers of the Continental army when the Congress decided finally to declare the independence of the Thirteen Colonies.
The Declaration of IndependenceDeclaration of Independence,
full and formal declaration adopted July 4, 1776, by representatives of the Thirteen Colonies in North America announcing the separation of those colonies from Great Britain and making them into the United States.
..... Click the link for more information. is conventionally dated July 4, 1776. Drawn up by Thomas Jefferson (with slight emendations), it was to be one of the great historical documents of all time. It did not, however, have any immediate positive effect.
The British under Gen. William HoweHowe, William Howe, 5th Viscount,
1729–1814, English general in the American Revolution; younger brother of Admiral Richard Howe.
..... Click the link for more information. and his brother, Admiral Richard HoweHowe, Richard Howe, Earl,
1726–99, British admiral; elder brother of Viscount Howe. He won early recognition in the Seven Years War for his operations in the English Channel.
..... Click the link for more information. , came to New York harbor. After vain attempts to negotiate a peace, the British forces struck. Washington lost Brooklyn Heights (see Long Island, battle ofLong Island, battle of,
Aug. 27, 1776, American defeat in the American Revolution. To protect New York City and the lower Hudson valley from the British forces massed on Staten Island, George Washington sent part of his small army to defend Brooklyn Heights, on Long Island.
..... Click the link for more information. ), retreated northward, was defeated at Harlem Heights in Manhattan and at White Plains, and took part of his dwindling army into New Jersey. Thomas Paine in a new pamphlet, The Crisis, exhorted the revolutionists to courage in desperate days, and Washington showed his increasing military skill and helped to restore colonial spirits in the winter of 1776–77 by crossing the ice-ridden Delaware and winning small victories over forces made up mostly of Hessian mercenaries at Trenton (Dec. 26) and Princeton (Jan. 3).
Saratoga and Valley Forge
In 1777 the British attempted to wipe out the flickering revolt by a concerted plan to split the colonies with converging expeditions concentrated upon the Hudson valley. Gen. William Howe, instead of taking part in it, moved into Pennsylvania, defeated Washington in the battle of Brandywine (Sept. 11), took Philadelphia, and beat off (Oct. 4) Washington's attack on Germantown. Meanwhile the British columns under Gen. John BurgoyneBurgoyne, John
, 1722–92, British general and playwright. In the Seven Years War, his victory over the Spanish in storming (1762) Valencia de Alcántara in Portugal made him the toast of London. He was elected to Parliament in 1761 and took his seat in 1763.
..... Click the link for more information. and Gen. Barry St. LegerSt. Leger, Barry,
1737–89, British officer in the American Revolution. In the French and Indian Wars he served at Louisburg (1758) and with Gen. James Wolfe at Quebec.
..... Click the link for more information. had failed (see Saratoga campaignSaratoga campaign,
June–Oct., 1777, of the American Revolution. Lord George Germain and John Burgoyne were the chief authors of a plan to end the American Revolution by splitting the colonies along the Hudson River.
..... Click the link for more information. ), and Burgoyne on Oct. 17, 1777, ended the battle of Saratoga by surrender to Gen. Horatio GatesGates, Horatio,
c.1727–1806, American Revolutionary general, b. Maldon, Essex, England. Entering the British army at an early age, he fought in America in the French and Indian War and served in the expedition against Martinique.
..... Click the link for more information. . The victory is commonly regarded as the decisive battle of the war, but its good effects again were not immediate.
The Continental army still had to endure the hardships of the cruel winter at Valley ForgeValley Forge,
on the Schuylkill River, SE Pa., NW of Philadelphia. There, during the American Revolution, the main camp of the Continental Army was established (Dec., 1777–June, 1778) under the command of Gen. George Washington.
..... Click the link for more information. , when only loyalty to Washington and the cause of liberty held the half-frozen, half-starved men together. Among them were three of the foreign idealists who had come to aid the colonials in their struggle—Johann KalbKalb, Johann
, 1721–80, American general in the Revolution, known generally as Baron de Kalb, b. Hüttendorf, Germany. He assumed his title for military reasons and as Jean de Kalb served France in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War.
..... Click the link for more information. , Baron von SteubenSteuben, Friedrich Wilhelm, Baron von
, 1730–94, Prussian army officer, general in the American Revolution, b. Magdeburg. He served in the Seven Years War and was a general staff officer. In 1762 he became an aide to Frederick the Great.
..... Click the link for more information. , and the marquis de LafayetteLafayette, or La Fayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de
, 1757–1834, French general and political leader. He was born of a distinguished family and early entered the army.
..... Click the link for more information. . At Valley Forge, Steuben trained the still-raw troops, who came away a disciplined fighting force giving a good account of themselves in 1778. Sir Henry ClintonClinton, Sir Henry,
1738?–1795, British general in the American Revolution, b. Newfoundland; son of George Clinton (1686?–1761). He was an officer in the New York militia and then in the Coldstream Guards.
..... Click the link for more information. , who had succeeded Howe in command, decided to abandon Philadelphia for New York, and Washington's attack upon the British in the battle of Monmouth (see Monmouth, battle ofMonmouth, battle of,
in the American Revolution, fought June 28, 1778, near the village of Monmouth Courthouse (now Freehold, N.J.). Gen. George Washington chose this location to attack the British troops, who were retreating from Philadelphia to New York City. Gen.
..... Click the link for more information. ) was cheated of success mainly by the equivocal actions of Gen. Charles LeeLee, Charles,
1731–82, American Revolutionary army officer, b. Cheshire, England. He first came to America to serve in the French and Indian War and took part in General Braddock's disastrous campaign (1755), in the unsuccessful campaign against Ticonderoga (1758), and in
..... Click the link for more information. .
The warfare in the Middle Atlantic region settled almost to stagnation, but foreign aid was finally arriving. Agents of the new nation—notably Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee, Silas DeaneDeane, Silas,
1737–89, political leader and diplomat in the American Revolution, b. Groton, Conn. A lawyer and merchant at Wethersfield, Conn., he was elected (1772) to the state assembly and became a leader in the revolutionary cause.
..... Click the link for more information. , and later John Adams—were striving to get help, and in 1777 Pierre de BeaumarchaisBeaumarchais, Pierre Augustin Caron de
, 1732–99, French dramatist. Originally a watchmaker, he rose to wealth and position among the nobility. His two successful comedies were Le Barbier de Séville (1775), the basis of an opera by Rossini, and
..... Click the link for more information. had succeeded in getting arms and supplies sent to the colonials in time to help win the battle of Saratoga. That victory made it easier for France to enter upon an alliance with the United States, for which Franklin and the comte de Vergennes (the French foreign minister) signed (1778) a treaty. Spain entered the war against Great Britain in 1779, but Spanish help did little for the United States, while French soldiers and sailors and especially French supplies and money were of crucial importance.
Vincennes to Yorktown
The warfare had meanwhile shifted from the quiescent North to other theaters. George Rogers ClarkClark, George Rogers,
1752–1818, American Revolutionary general, conqueror of the Old Northwest, b. near Charlottesville, Va.; brother of William Clark. A surveyor, he was interested in Western lands, served (1774) in Lord Dunmore's War (see Dunmore, John Murray, 4th earl
..... Click the link for more information. by his daring exploits (1778–79) in the West, climaxed by the second capture of Vincennes, established the revolutionists' prestige on the frontier. Gen. John SullivanSullivan, John,
1740–95, American Revolutionary general, b. Somersworth, N.H. He was a lawyer and a delegate (1774–75, 1780–81) to the Continental Congress but is better remembered as a military leader.
..... Click the link for more information. led an expedition (1779) against the British and Native Americans in upper New York.
The chief fighting, however, was now in the South. The British had taken Savannah in 1778. In 1780, Sir Henry Clinton attacked and took Charleston (which had resisted attacks in 1776 and 1779) and sent Gen. Charles CornwallisCornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess
, 1738–1805, English general and statesman. He was commissioned an ensign in the British army in 1756 and saw service in Europe in the Seven Years War.
..... Click the link for more information. off on the Carolina campaignCarolina campaign,
1780–81, of the American Revolution. After Sir Henry Clinton had captured Charleston, he returned to New York, leaving a British force under Cornwallis to subordinate the Carolinas to British control.
..... Click the link for more information. . Cornwallis swept forward to beat Horatio Gates soundly at Camden (Aug., 1780), and only guerrilla bands under Francis MarionMarion, Francis
, c.1732–1795, American Revolutionary soldier, known as the Swamp Fox, b. near Georgetown, S.C. He was a planter and Indian fighter before joining (1775) William Moultrie's regiment at the start of the American Revolution.
..... Click the link for more information. , Andrew PickensPickens, Andrew,
1739–1817, American Revolutionary soldier, b. near Paxtang, Pa. He moved (1752) to South Carolina and took part (1761) in frontier warfare against the Cherokee.
..... Click the link for more information. , and Thomas SumterSumter, Thomas,
1734–1832, American Revolutionary officer, b. near Charlottesville, Va. He served with Edward Braddock (1755) and John Forbes (1758) in their expeditions against Fort Duquesne in the French and Indian War, and later he fought against the Cherokee.
..... Click the link for more information. continued to oppose the British S of Virginia.
Another low point had been reached in American fortunes. Bitter complaints of the inefficiency of the Congress, political conniving, lack of funds and food, and the strains of long-continued war had engendered widespread apathy and disaffection, and the British tried to take advantage of the division among the people. In 1780 occurred the most celebrated of the disaffections, the treason of Benedict ArnoldArnold, Benedict,
1741–1801, American Revolutionary general and traitor, b. Norwich, Conn. As a youth he served for a time in the colonial militia in the French and Indian Wars. He later became a prosperous merchant.
..... Click the link for more information. . Lack of pay and shortages of clothing and food drove some Continental regiments into a mutiny of protest in Jan., 1781.
The dark, however, was already lifting. A crowd of frontiersmen with their rifles defeated a British force at Kings Mt. in Oct., 1780, and Nathanael GreeneGreene, Nathanael,
1742–86, American Revolutionary general, b. Potowomut (now Warwick), R.I. An iron founder, he became active in colonial politics and served (1770–72, 1775) in the Rhode Island assembly.
..... Click the link for more information. , who had replaced Gates as commander in the Carolina campaign, and his able assistant, Daniel MorganMorgan, Daniel,
1736–1802, American Revolutionary general, b. probably in Hunterdon co., N.J. He moved (c.1753) to Virginia and later served in the French and Indian Wars and several campaigns against Native Americans.
..... Click the link for more information. , together with Thaddeus KosciuskoKosciusko or Kosciuszko, Thaddeus
, Pol. Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Košciuszko, 1746–1817, Polish general.
..... Click the link for more information. and others, ultimately forced Cornwallis into Virginia. The stage was set for the Yorktown campaignYorktown campaign,
1781, the closing military operations of the American Revolution. After his unsuccessful Carolina campaign General Cornwallis moved into Virginia to join British forces there.
..... Click the link for more information. .
Now the French aid counted greatly, for Lafayette with colonial troops held the British in check, and it was a Franco-American force that Washington and the comte de RochambeauRochambeau, Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de
, 1725–1807, marshal of France. He took part in the wars of King Louis XV and had been promoted to lieutenant general by 1780, when King Louis XVI sent him, with some 6,000 regulars, to aid General Washington in the
..... Click the link for more information. led from New York S to Virginia. The French fleet under Admiral de GrasseGrasse, François Joseph Paul, comte de
, 1722–88, French admiral. In 1781, in command of a French fleet sent to cooperate with the Continental forces in the American Revolution, he defeated a British naval force under Admiral Hood and captured Tobago.
..... Click the link for more information. played the decisive part.
Previously naval forces had been of little consequence in the Revolution. State navies and a somewhat irregular national navy had been of less importance than Revolutionary privateers. Esek HopkinsHopkins, Esek,
1718–1802, American Revolutionary naval hero, b. Scituate, R.I.; brother of Stephen Hopkins. He commanded a privateer in the French and Indian War, and in Dec., 1775, he was appointed commander in chief of the newly established Continental navy.
..... Click the link for more information. had led a raid in the Bahamas in 1776, John BarryBarry, John,
1745–1803, U.S. naval officer in the American Revolution, b. Co. Wexford, Ireland. He went as a youth to Philadelphia, where he was a trader and a shipmaster.
..... Click the link for more information. won a name as a gallant commander, and John Paul JonesJones, John Paul,
1747–92, American naval hero, b. near Kirkcudbright, Scotland. His name was originally simply John Paul. Early Life
John Paul went to sea when he was 12, and his youth was adventure-filled.
..... Click the link for more information. was one of the most celebrated commanders in all U.S. naval history, but their exploits were isolated incidents.
It was the French fleet—ironically, the same one defeated by the British under Admiral Rodney the next year in the West Indies—that bottled up Cornwallis at Yorktown. Outnumbered and surrounded, the British commander surrendered (Oct. 19, 1781), and the fighting was over. The rebels had won the American Revolution.
The Treaty of Paris (see Paris, Treaty ofParis, Treaty of,
any of several important treaties, signed at or near Paris, France. The Treaty of 1763
The Treaty of Paris of Feb. 10, 1763, was signed by Great Britain, France, and Spain.
..... Click the link for more information. ) formally recognized the new nation in 1783, although many questions were left unsettled. The United States was floundering through a postwar depression and seeking not too successfully to meet its administrative problems under the Articles of Confederation (see Confederation, Articles ofConfederation, Articles of,
in U.S. history, ratified in 1781 and superseded by the Constitution of the United States in 1789. The imperative need for unity among the new states created by the American Revolution and the necessity of defining the relative powers of the
..... Click the link for more information. ).
The leaders in the new country were those prominent either in the council halls or on the fields of the Revolution, and the first three Presidents after the Constitution of the United StatesConstitution of the United States,
document embodying the fundamental principles upon which the American republic is conducted. Drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Constitution was signed on Sept.
..... Click the link for more information. was adopted were Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. Some of the more radical Revolutionary leaders were disappointed in the turn toward conservatism when the Revolution was over, but liberty and democracy had been fixed as the highest ideals of the United States.
The American Revolution had a great influence on liberal thought throughout Europe. The struggles and successes of the youthful democracy were much in the minds of those who brought about the French Revolution, and most assuredly later helped to inspire revolutionists in Spain's American colonies.
The stirring events of the country's birth have been often represented in U.S. literature. It has given dramatic material to playwrights from William Dunlap to Maxwell Anderson, to novelists from James Fenimore Cooper and William G. Simms to S. Weir Mitchell, Paul Leicester Ford, Kenneth Roberts, and Howard Fast. Older histories, still read for their literary value, are those of George Bancroft, John Fiske, and G. O. Trevelyan.
Countless excellent studies have been made of particular aspects and incidents; some examples are H. E. Wildes, Valley Forge (1938); R. B. Morris, ed., The Era of the American Revolution (1939); C. Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution (1941); L. Montross, Rag, Tag and Bobtail: The Story of the Continental Army (1952); C. Berger, Broadsides and Bayonets: The Propaganda War of the American Revolution (1961); A. Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (1966); and J. W. Tyler, Smugglers and Patriots (1986).
For works of more general interest, see C. H. McIlwain, The American Revolution: A Constitutional Interpretation (1923, repr. 1973); J. F. Jameson, The American Revolution Considered as a Social Movement (1926, new ed. 1961); J. C. Miller, Origins of the American Revolution (1943, new ed. 1959); C. R. Ritcheson, British Politics and the American Revolution (1954); L. H. Gipson, The Coming of the Revolution ("New American Nation" series, 1954); E. S. Morgan, The Birth of the Republic, 1763–89 (1956); H. S. Commager and R. B. Morris, ed., Spirit of 'Seventy-Six (1958); S. F. Bemis, The Diplomacy of the American Revolution (rev. ed. 1957); H. Peckham, The War for Independence (1958); R. R. Palmer, The Age of the Democratic Revolution (1959); B. Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967); R. B. Morris, The American Revolution Reconsidered (1967, repr. 1979) and The American Revolution, 1763–1783 (as ed., 1971); J. P. Greene, ed. The Reinterpretation of the American Revolution (1968); M. Jensen, The Founding of a Nation (1968); J. R. Alden, A History of the American Revolution (1969); G. S. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787 (1969, repr. 1998), The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992), The American Revolution (2002), Revolutionary Characters (2006), and The Idea of America (2011); D. Higginbotham, The War of American Independence (1971); P. Maier, From Resistance to Revolution (1972); S. G. Kurtz and J. H. Hutson, Essay on the American Revolution (1973); K. Silverman, A Cultural History of the American Revolution (1976, repr. 1987); T. Draper, A Struggle for Power (1995); A. J. O'Shaughnessy, An Empire Divided (2000) and The Men Who Lost America (2013); J. J. Ellis, Founding Brothers (2000), American Creation (2007), and Revolutionary Summer (2013); J. Rhodehamel, ed., The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence (2001); D. H. Fischer, Washington's Crossing (2005); D. McCullough, 1776 (2005); S. Weintraub, Iron Tears (2005); J. Rakove, Revolutionaries (2010); T. N. Breen, American Insurgents, American Patriots (2010); J. Ferling, Independence: The Struggle to Set America Free (2011); M. Jasanoff, Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary War (2011); K. Philips, 1775: A Good Year for Revolution (2012); C. Saunt, West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776 (2014); K. DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (2015).
See also bibliographies by T. R. Adams (2 vol., 1980) and R. L. Blanco (1983).
(in Russian, War of Independence in North America of 1775-83), the revolutionary liberation war of the 13 British colonies in North America against British colonial domination, during which an independent state was established—the United States of America.
The American Revolution was prepared for by the entire preceding socioeconomic history of the colonies. The development of capitalism in the colonies and the formation of the North American nation contradicted the policy of the mother country, which considered the colonies a source of raw materials and a market. After the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) the British government intensified its pressure on the colonies, in many ways hindering the further development of industry and trade. The colonization of lands west of the Allegheny Mountains was prohibited (1763), and new taxes and customs duties were introduced, which were contrary to the interests of all the colonists. Separate, uncoordinated uprisings and disturbances, which later developed into war, began in 1767. There was no unity among the participants in the liberation movement. Farmers, artisans, workers, and the urban petite bourgeoisie, who made up the democratic wing of the liberation movement, linked their struggle against the colonial yoke with hopes for free access to land and political democratization. However, the leading position in the camp of the advocates of independence (Whigs) belonged to the representatives of the right wing. They expressed the interests of the upper strata of the bourgeoisie and plantation owners, who were seeking a compromise with the mother country. The opponents of the liberation movement in the colonies and the open supporters of the mother country were the Tories, or Loyalists. Among them were big land-owners as well as persons who were connected with British capital and administration.
The First Continental Congress of representatives from the colonies met in 1774 in Philadelphia and called for a boycott of British goods. At the same time, the congress attempted to reach a compromise with the mother country. During the winter of 1774-75 the first armed detachments of colonists arose spontaneously. In the first battles at Concord and Lexington on Apr. 19, 1775, the British troops suffered heavy losses. Soon 20,000 insurgents formed a so-called camp of liberty near Boston. In the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, the British again suffered serious losses.
On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress convened; the predominant influence in it was gained by the radical wing of the bourgeoisie. The congress proposed that all the colonies create new governments to replace the colonial regime. Regular armed forces were organized, and Washington was made commander in chief (June 15, 1775).
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the revolutionary Declaration of Independence, which was written by Jefferson. The declaration proclaimed the separation of the 13 colonies from the mother country and the formation of an independent state—the United States of America (USA). It was the first legal document in history that formally proclaimed the sovereignty of a people and the principles of bourgeois democratic liberties. The decrees on the confiscation of Loyalists’ property (1777) and lands belonging to the crown and the Anglican Church were very significant.
Military action during 1775-78 unfolded primarily in the northern part of the country. The British command endeavored to suppress resistance in New England, which was the center of the revolutionary movement. An American expedition to capture Canada did not achieve its intended goal. The Americans besieged Boston and captured it on Mar. 17, 1776. However, in August 1776 the British commander W. Howe inflicted a grave defeat on Washington’s troops in Brooklyn, and on September 15 he captured New York. In December the British Army inflicted another serious defeat on the Americans near Trenton. Although Washington soon succeeded in capturing Trenton and routing a British detachment at Princeton on Jan. 3, 1777, the position of the American army remained difficult.
The armies that were encountering each other in the American Revolution differed in their composition, equipment, and combat experience. The American insurgent army was initially an ill-trained and poorly organized people’s militia. However, the morale and political level of its soldiers, who were fighting for their own land and vital interests, was considerably higher than the British Army’s. By improving their tactics in waging war, the rebels were able to achieve important advantages. Avoiding major battles and cooperating with partisan detachments, the American army harassed the enemy with sudden thrusts. The American army was the first to use the tactics of an extended formation, against which the linear combat formation of the British proved powerless. At sea, where the British Navy prevailed, American ships also used the tactics of sudden raids, attacking British ships and carrying out campaigns near the shores of Great Britain.
The weakness of central authority in the republic played a considerable role in prolonging the war. The first constitution of the USA, the Articles of Confederation, which was adopted by the congress in 1777 and ratified by the states in 1781, preserved the sovereignty of the states on the most important questions. In addition, the War of Independence was a class struggle within the colonies themselves. Tens of thousands of Loyalists fought in the British Army. The bourgeoisie and plantation owners, who were leading the struggle for independence, were opposed to carrying out the democratic demands of the soldiers, farmers, and workers. The victory of the revolution was possible only because of the participation of the broad masses of the people. Among the poor of New England egalitarian demands ripened for a limit on property ownership and the introduction of ceiling prices on foodstuffs. The Negro people took an active part in the revolution, and Negro regiments were established.
The British plan of military action in 1777 was to cut New England off from the other states. On Sept. 26, 1777, Howe captured Philadelphia, the capital of the USA. However, a British army under the command of J. Burgoyne, which was proceeding from Canada to join Howe, was surrounded, and it surrendered on Oct. 17, 1777, at Saratoga. The victory at Saratoga, which was won by American troops under the command of General H. Gates, improved the international position of the young republic. The USA managed to take advantage of the contradictions between Great Britain and other European powers. Sent to Paris as the representative of the USA, B. Franklin concluded a military alliance in 1778 with France—Great Britain’s colonial rival. In 1779, Spain joined the war against Great Britain. Russia took a friendly position toward the USA, and in 1780 it headed the so-called League of Armed Neutrality, which brought together a number of European countries who were opposed to Great Britain’s attempt to prevent neutral countries from trading with Britain’s enemies.
In June 1778, General H. Clinton, who had replaced Howe, abandoned Philadelphia. During 1779-81 the British shifted their military activity to the southern states, counting on the support of the plantation aristocracy. In December 1778 they captured Savannah, and in May 1780 they took Charleston. The talented general and former blacksmith N. Greene was made head of the southern American army. In fighting against the British troops Greene successfully combined the action of the insurgent army and the partisans. The British were compelled to withdraw their troops to the port cities. After a naval battle of Sept. 5-13, 1781, the French Navy cut the main British forces off from the sea at Yorktown. Washington surrounded them on land, and on Oct. 19, 1781, he forced them to surrender. Under the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1783, Great Britain recognized the independence of the USA.
The American Revolution was a bourgeois revolution that led to the overthrow of the colonial yoke and the formation of an independent American national state. The former prohibitions by the British Parliament and royal authority, which had hampered the development of industry and trade, were abolished. Also eliminated were the large estates of the British aristocracy, as well as vestiges of feudalism (fixed rent, entail, and primogeniture). In the northern states Negro slavery was limited and gradually eliminated. The transformation of the western lands, which had been expropriated from the Indians, into national property by the Ordinance of 1787 and their subsequent distribution created a base for the accumulation of capital. Thus, the essential prerequisites for the development of capitalism in North America were created. However, not all the problems that confronted the American revolution were resolved. Slavery was not abolished in the South, and a high property qualification for voters was maintained in all the states. The estates of Loyalists and western lands were distributed in large pieces, and they fell into the hands of speculators.
The American Revolution, which in its own time was the model of a revolutionary war, exerted an influence on the struggle of the European bourgeoisie against feudal absolutist regimes. Approximately 7,000 European volunteers fought in the ranks of the American army, including the Frenchmen the Marquis de Lafayette and H. Saint-Simon and the Pole T. Kosciuszko. During the Great French Revolution the insurgents made use of the organizational experience and revolutionary military tactics of the Americans. The victory of the North Americans in the American Revolution promoted the development of the liberation movement of the peoples of Latin America against Spanish domination. The revolution was hailed by the progressive people of many countries, including Russia, where A. N. Radishchev celebrated it in the ode “Liberty.”
REFERENCESMarx, K. Kapital, vol. 1, ch. 25. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23.
Engels, F. “Rabochee dvizhenie v Amerike.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Engels, F. F. A. Zorge, 31 dek. 1892. (Letter.) Ibid., vol. 38.
Engels, F. N. F. Daniel’sonu, 17 okt. 1893. (Letter.) Ibid., vol. 39.
Lenin, V. I. Novye dannye o zakonakh razvitiia kapitalizma v zemledelii, part 1: “Kapitalizm i zemledelie v Soedinennykh Shtatakh Ameriki.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 27.
Lenin, V. I. “Pis’mo k amerikanskim rabochim.” Ibid., vol. 37.
Lenin, V. I. “Agrarnaia programma sotsial-demokratii v pervoi russkoi revoliutsii 1905-1907 godov.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Ocherki novoi i noveishei istorii SShA, vol. 1. Moscow, 1960.
Foner, P. Istoriia rabochego dvizheniia v SShA, vol. 1. Moscow, 1949. (Translated from English.)
Foster, W. Negritianskii narod v istorii Ameriki. Moscow, 1955. (Translated from English.)
Fursenko, A. A. Amerikanskaia burzhuaznaia revoliutsiia XVIII v. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960.
Aptheker, H. Istoriia amerikanskogo naroda [vol. 2], Amerikanskaia revoliutsiia 1763-1783. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
The American Nation: A History, vols. 8-10. New York .
Bemis, S. F. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution. New York, 1935.
Hardy, J. The First American Revolution. New York, 1937.
Morais, H. The Struggle for American Freedom. New York, 1944.
Jensen, M. The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781-1789. New York, 1950.
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I. I. DEMENT’EV