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In this article, inhabitants of the thirteen colonies that supported the American Revolution are primarily referred to as "Americans," with occasional references to "Patriots," "Whigs," "Rebels" or "Revolutionaries." Colonists who supported the British in opposing the Revolution are usually referred to as "Loyalists" or "Tories." The geographical area of the thirteen colonies is often referred to simply as "America."

The American Revolution is the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen of Britainmarker's colonies in North America at first rejected the governance of the Parliament of Great Britain, and later the British monarchy itself, to become the sovereign United States of Americamarker. In this period the colonies first rejected the authority of the Parliament to govern them without representation, expelling all royal officials and setting up thirteen Provincial Congresses or equivalent to form individual self-governing states. Through representatives sent to the Second Continental Congress, they originally joined together to defend their respective self-governance and manage the armed conflict against the British known as the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783, also American War of Independence). The states ultimately determined collectively that the monarchy, by acts of tyranny, could no longer legitimately claim their allegiance. They then united to form one nation, breaking away from the British Empire in July 1776 when the Congress issued the Declaration of Independence, rejecting the monarchy on behalf of the United States of Americamarker. The war ended with effective American victory in October 1781, followed by formal British abandonment of any claims to the United States with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

The American Revolution commenced a series of intellectual, political, and social shifts in early American society and government. The development of republicanism in the United States was particularly significant, including installation of a representative government responsible to the will of the people, thus rejecting the prevalent plutocracies of the inherited aristocracies in Europe at the time. However, sharp political debates broke out over the level of democracy desirable in the new government, with a number of Founders fearing mob rule.

The basic issues of national governance were settled with the unanimous ratification in 1788 of the Constitution of the United States (written in 1787), which replaced the relatively weak Articles of Confederation (ratified 1781) that framed the first attempt at a national government. In contrast to the loose confederation, the Constitution established a relatively powerful federated government. The United States Bill of Rights (1791), comprising the first 10 constitutional amendments, quickly followed. It guaranteed many natural rights that were so influential in justifying the revolution, attempting to balance a strong national government with relatively broad personal liberties. The American shift to republicanism, and the gradually increasing democracy, caused an upheaval of the traditional social hierarchy, and created the ethic that has formed a core of political values in the United States.


The American Revolution was predicated by a number of ideas and events that, combined, led to a political and social separation of colonial possessions from the home nation and a coalescing of those former individual colonies into an independent nation.


The revolutionary era began in 1763, when the French military threat to British North American colonies ended. Adopting the policy that the colonies should pay an increased proportion of the costs associated with keeping them in the Empire, Britain imposed a series of taxes followed by other laws intended to demonstrate British authority, all of which proved extremely unpopular. Because the colonies lacked elected representation in the governing British Parliamentmarker many colonists considered the laws to be illegitimate and a violation of their rights as Englishmen. Additionally, British mercantilist policies benefiting the home country resulted in trade restrictions, which limited the growth of the American economy and artificially constrained colonial merchants' earning potential. In 1772, groups began to create committees of correspondence, which would lead to their own Provincial Congress in most of the colonies. In the course of two years, the Provincial Congresses or their equivalents rejected the Parliament and effectively replaced the British ruling apparatus in the former colonies, culminating in 1774 with the coordinating First Continental Congress.

In response to protests in Bostonmarker over Parliament's attempts to assert authority, the British sent combat troops. Consequently, the colonies mobilized their militias, and fighting broke out in 1775. First ostensibly loyal to King George III, Congress' repeated pleas for royal intervention with Parliament on their behalf only resulted in the states being declared "in rebellion", and Congress traitors. In 1776, representatives from each of the original thirteen states voted unanimously in the Second Continental Congress to adopt a Declaration of Independence, which now rejected the British monarchy in addition to its Parliament. The Declaration established the United States, which was originally governed as a loose confederation through a representative government selected by state legislatures (see Second Continental Congress and Congress of the Confederation).

The French signed an alliance with the United States government in 1778 that evened the military and naval strengths, later bringing Spainmarker and the Dutch Republic into the conflict by their own alliance with France. Although Loyalists were estimated to comprise 15-20% of the population, throughout the war the Patriots generally controlled 80-90% of the territory; the British could hold only a few coastal cities for any extended period of time. Two main British armies surrendered to the Continental Army, at Saratogamarker in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781, amounting to victory in the war for the United States. The Second Continental Congress transitioned to the Congress of the Confederation with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation earlier in 1781. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 was ratified by this new national government, and ended British claims to any of the thirteen states.

Liberalism, republicanism, and religion

John Locke's ideas on liberalism greatly influenced the political minds behind the revolution; for instance, his theory of the "social contract" implied that among humanity's natural rights was the right of the people to overthrow their leaders, should those leaders betray the historic rights of Englishmen. In terms of writing state and national constitutions, the Americans used Montesquieu's analysis of the "balanced" British Constitution.

A motivating force behind the revolution was the American embrace of a political ideology called "republicanism", which was dominant in the colonies by 1775. The "country party" in Britain, whose critique of British government emphasized that corruption was to be feared, influenced American politicians. The commitment of most Americans to republican values and to their rights, helped bring about the American Revolution, as Britain was increasingly seen as hopelessly corrupt and hostile to American interests; it seemed to threaten the established liberties that Americans enjoyed. The greatest threat to liberty was depicted as corruption—not just in London but at home as well. The colonists associated it with luxury and, especially, inherited aristocracy, which they condemned.

The Founding Fathers were strong advocates of republican values, particularly Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. which required men to put civic duty ahead of their personal desires. Men had a civic duty to be prepared and willing to fight for the rights and liberties of their countrymen and countrywomen. John Adams, writing to Mercy Otis Warren in 1776, agreed with the Greeks and the Romans in that "Public Virtue cannot exist without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics." He continued: "There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honour, Power, and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty. And this public Passion must be Superior to all private Passions. Men must be ready, they must pride themselves, and be happy to sacrifice their private Pleasures, Passions, and Interests, nay their private Friendships and dearest connections, when they Stand in Competition with the Rightsof society." For women, "republican motherhood" became the ideal, exemplified by Abigail Adams and Mercy Otis Warren; the first duty of the republican woman was to instil republican values in her children and to avoid luxury and ostentation.

Tom Paine's best-seller pamphlet Common Sense was published in 1776, after the Revolution had started. It was often read aloud in taverns, contributing significantly in maintaining popular support for the revolution, advocacy for separation from Britain, and recruitment for the Continental Army. Historians point to the enormous popularity of Thomas Paine's Common Sense in 1776, which expounded republicanism to audiences that apparently comprised most male citizens.

Dissenting (i.e. Protestant, non-Church of England) churches of the day were the “school of democracy” President John Witherspoon of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton Universitymarker) wrote widely circulated sermons linking the American Revolution to the teachings of the Hebrew Bible. Throughout the colonies dissenting Protestant congregations (Puritan, Congregationalist, Baptist, and Presbyterian) preached Revolutionary themes in their sermons, and organized their congregations as the basic unit of Revolutionary War politics while others, especially Church of England members, supported the King. Religious motivation for fighting tyranny reached across the board to rich and poor, men and women, frontiersmen and townsmen, farmers and merchants.

The classical authors read in the Enlightenment period taught an abstract ideal of republican government that included hierarchical social orders of king, aristocracy and commoners. It was widely believed that English liberties relied on the balance of power between these three social orders, maintaining the hierarchal deference to the privileged class. Historian Bernard Bailyn notes, "Puritanism … and the epidemic evangelism of the mid-eighteenth century, had created challenges to the traditional notions of social stratification” by preaching that the Bible taught all men are equal, that the true value of a man lies in his moral behavior, not his class, and that all men can be saved."

Incendiary British legislation

The Revolution was predicated by a number of pieces of legislation originating from the British Parliament that, for Americans, were illegitimate acts of a government that had no right to pass laws on Englishmen in the Americas who did not have elected representation in that government. For the British, policy makers saw these laws as necessary to rein-in colonial subjects who, in the name of economic development that was designed to benefit the home nation, had been allowed near-autonomy for too long.

Navigation Acts

The British Empire at the time operated under the mercantile system, where economic assets, or capital, are represented by bullion (gold, silver, and trade value) held by the state, which is best increased through a positive balance of trade with other nations (exports minus imports). Mercantilism suggests that the ruling government should advance these goals through playing a protectionist role in the economy, by encouraging exports and discouraging import, especially through the use of tariffs. Great Britain regulated the economies of the colonies through the Navigation Acts according to the doctrines of mercantilism. Widespread evasion of these laws had long been tolerated. Eventually, through the use of open-ended search warrants (Writs of Assistance), strict enforcement of these Acts became the practice. In 1761, Massachusettsmarker lawyer James Otis argued that the writs violated the constitutional rights of the colonists. He lost the case, but John Adams later wrote, "American independence was then and there born".

In 1762, Patrick Henry argued the Parson's Cause in Virginia, where the legislature had passed a law and it was vetoed by the King. Henry argued, "that a King, by disallowing Acts of this salutary nature, from being the father of his people, degenerated into a Tyrant and forfeits all right to his subjects' obedience".

Western Frontier

The Proclamation of 1763 restricted colonization across the Appalachian Mountainsmarker as this was designated an Indian Reserve. Regardless, groups of settlers continued to move west and lay claim to these lands. The proclamation was soon modified and was no longer a hindrance to settlement, but its promulgation and the fact that it had been written without consulting colonists angered them. The Quebec Act of 1774 extended Quebecmarker's boundaries to the Ohio River, shutting out the claims of the thirteen colonies. By then, however, the settler Americans had little regard for new laws from London; they were drilling militia and organizing for war.

Taxation without representation

By 1763, Great Britain possessed vast holdings in North America. In addition to the thirteen colonies, twenty-two smaller colonies were ruled directly by royal governors. Victory in the Seven Years' War had given Great Britain New France (Canada), Spanish Florida, and the Native American lands east of the Mississippi River. In 1765 however, the colonists still considered themselves loyal subjects of the British Crown, with the same historic rights and obligations as subjects in Britain.

The British did not expect the colonies to contribute to the interest or the retirement of debt incurred during the French and Indian War, but they did expect a portion of the expenses for colonial defense to be paid by the Americans. Estimating the expenses of defending the continental colonies and the West Indiesmarker to be approximately £200,000 annually, the British goal after the end of this war was that the colonies would be taxed for £78,000 of this amount. The issues with the colonists were both that the taxes were high and that the colonies had no representation in the Parliament which passed the taxes. Lord North in 1775 argued for the British position that Englishmen paid on average twenty-five shillings annually in taxes whereas Americans paid only sixpence (the average Englishman, however, also earned quite a bit more while receiving more services directly from the government). Colonists, however, as early as 1764, with respect to the Sugar Act, indicated that “the margin of profit in rum was so small that molasses could bear no duty whatever.”

The phrase "No taxation without representation" became popular in many American circles. London argued that the colonists were "virtually represented"; but most Americans rejected this.

1764 - new taxes

In 1764, Parliament enacted the Sugar Act and the Currency Act, further vexing the colonists. Protests led to a powerful new weapon, the systematic boycott of British goods. The British pushed the colonists even further that same year by also enacting the Quartering Act, which stated that British soldiers were to be quartered at the expense of residents in certain areas.

Stamp Act 1765

In 1765 the Stamp Act was the first direct tax ever levied by Parliament on the colonies. All newspapers, almanacs, pamphlets, and official documents—even decks of playing cards—were required to have the stamps. All 13 colonies protested vehemently, as popular leaders such as Patrick Henry in Virginia and James Otis in Massachusetts, rallied the people in opposition. A secret group, the "Sons of Liberty" formed in many towns and threatened violence if anyone sold the stamps, and no one did. In Boston, the Sons of Liberty burned the records of the vice-admiralty court and looted the elegant home of the chief justice, Thomas Hutchinson. Several legislatures called for united action, and nine colonies sent delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York Citymarker in October 1765. Moderates led by John Dickinson drew up a "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" stating that taxes passed without representation violated their Rights of Englishmen. Lending weight to the argument was an economic boycott of British merchandise, as imports into the colonies fell from £2,250,000 in 1764 to £1,944,000 in 1765. In London, the Rockingham government came to power and Parliament debated whether to repeal the stamp tax or send an army to enforce it. Benjamin Franklin made the case for the boycotters, explaining the colonies had spent heavily in manpower, money, and blood in defense of the empire in a series of wars against the French and Native Americans, and that further taxes to pay for those wars were unjust and might bring about a rebellion. Parliament agreed and repealed the tax, but in a "Declaratory Act" of March 1766 insisted that parliament retained full power to make laws for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever".

Townshend Act 1767 and Boston Massacre 1770

In 1767, the Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which placed a tax on a number of essential goods including paper, glass, and tea. Angered at the tax increases, colonists organized a boycott of British goods. In Boston on March 5, 1770, a large mob gathered around a group of British soldiers. The mob grew more and more threatening, throwing snowballs, rocks and debris at the soldiers. One soldier was clubbed and fell. All but one of the soldiers fired into the crowd. Eleven people were hit; three civilians were killed at the scene of the shooting, and two died after the incident. The event quickly came to be called the Boston Massacre. Although the soldiers were tried and acquitted (defended by John Adams), the widespread descriptions soon became propaganda to turn colonial sentiment against the British. This in turn began a downward spiral in the relationship between Britain and the Province of Massachusetts.

Tea Act 1773

This 1846 lithograph has become a classic image of the Boston Tea Party

In June 1772, in what became known as the Gaspée Affair, a British warship that had been vigorously enforcing unpopular trade regulations was burned by American patriots. Soon afterwards, Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts reported that he and the royal judges would be paid directly from London, thus bypassing the colonial legislature.

On December 16, 1773, a group of men, led by Samuel Adams and dressed to evoke American Indians, boarded the ships of the government-favored British East India Company and dumped an estimated £10,000 worth of tea on board (approximately £636,000 in 2008) into the harbor. This event became known as the Boston Tea Partymarker and remains a significant part of American patriotic lore.

Intolerable Acts 1774

An American version of London cartoon that denounces the "rape" of Boston in 1774 by the Intolerable Acts

The British government responded by passing several Acts which came to be known as the Intolerable Acts, which further darkened colonial opinion towards the British. They consisted of four laws enacted by the British parliament. The first was the Massachusetts Government Act, which altered the Massachusetts charter and restricted town meetings. The second Act, the Administration of Justice Act, ordered that all British soldiers to be tried were to be arraigned in Britain, not in the colonies. The third Act was the Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston until the British had been compensated for the tea lost in the Boston Tea Party (the British never received such a payment). The fourth Act was the Quartering Act of 1774, which allowed royal governors to house British troops in the homes of citizens without requiring permission of the owner.

American political opposition

American political opposition was initially through the colonial assemblies such as the Stamp Act Congress, which included representatives from across the colonies. In 1765, the Sons of Liberty were formed which used public demonstrations, violence and threats of violence to ensure that the British tax laws were unenforceable. While openly hostile to what they considered an oppressive Parliament acting illegally, colonists persisted in numerous petitions and pleas for intervention from a monarch to whom they still claimed loyalty. In late 1772, after the Gaspée Affair, Samuel Adams set about creating new Committees of Correspondence, which linked Patriots in all thirteen colonies and eventually provided the framework for a rebel government. In early 1773 Virginia, the largest colony, set up its Committee of Correspondence, on which Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson served.

In response to the Massachusetts Government Act, Massachusetts Bay and then other colonies formed provisional governments called Provincial Congresses. In 1774, the Continental Congress was formed, made up of representatives from each of the Provincial Congresses or their equivalents, to serve as a provisional government. Standing Committees of Safety were created in each colony for the enforcement of the resolutions by the Committee of Correspondence, Provincial Congress, and the Continental Congress. In North America British colonies that did not have responsible government did not join the Continental Congress, but remained loyal to the Crown; they included Quebecmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, Newfoundland, Bermudamarker, West Florida and East Florida.

Factions: Patriots, Loyalists and Neutrals

The population of the Thirteen Colonies was far from homogeneous, particularly in their political views and attitudes. Loyalties and allegiances varied widely not only within regions and communities, but also within families and sometimes shifted during the course of the Revolution.

Patriots - The Revolutionaries

At the time, revolutionaries were called 'Patriots', 'Whigs', 'Congress-men', or 'Americans'. They included a full range of social and economic classes, but a unanimity regarding the need to defend the rights of Americans. After the war, Patriots such as George Washington, James Madison, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay were deeply devoted to republicanism while also eager to build a rich and powerful nation, while Patriots such as Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson represented democratic impulses and the agrarian plantation element that wanted a localized society with greater political equality.

The word "patriot" refers to a person in the colonies who sided with the American Revolution. Calling the revolutionaries "patriots" is a long-standing historical convention, which began by 1773.

Class differences among the Patriots

Historians, such as J. Franklin Jameson in the early 20th century, examined the class composition of the Patriot cause, looking for evidence that there was a class war inside the revolution. In the last 50 years, historians have largely abandoned that interpretation, emphasizing instead the high level of ideological unity. Just as there were rich and poor Loyalists, the Patriots were a 'mixed lot', with the richer and better educated more likely to become officers in the Army. Ideological demands always came first: the Patriots viewed independence as a means of freeing themselves from British oppression and taxation and, above all, reasserting what they considered to be their rights. Most yeomen farmers, craftsmen, and small merchants joined the patriot cause as well, demanding more political equality. They were especially successful in Pennsylvania and less so in New England, where John Adams attacked Thomas Paine's Common Sense for the "absurd democratical notions" it proposed.

Loyalists and neutrals

While there is no way of knowing the actual numbers, historians have estimated that about 15-20% of the population remained loyal to the British Crown; these were known at the time as "Loyalists", "Tories", or "King's men". They were outnumbered by perhaps 2-1 by the patriots; the Loyalists never controlled territory unless the British Army occupied it. Loyalists were typically older, less willing to break with old loyalties, often connected to the Church of England, and included many established merchants with business connections across the Empire, as well as royal officials such as Thomas Hutchinson of Boston. The revolution sometimes divided families; for example, the Franklins. William Franklin, son of Benjamin Franklin and Governor of New Jersey remained Loyal to the Crown throughout the war and never spoke to his father again. Recent immigrants who had not been fully Americanized were also inclined to support the King, such as recent Scottish settlers in the back country; among the more striking examples of this, see Flora MacDonald.

Most Native Americans rejected pleas that they remain neutral and supported the king. The tribes that depended most heavily upon colonial trade tended to side with the revolutionaries, though political factors were important as well. The most prominent Native American leader siding with the king was Joseph Brant of the Mohawk nation, who led frontier raids on isolated settlements in Pennsylvania and New York until an American army under John Sullivan secured New York in 1779, forcing the Loyalist Indians permanently into Canada.

Some African-American slaves became politically active and supported the king, especially in Virginia where the royal governor actively recruited black men into the British forces in return for manumission, protection for their families, and the promise of land grants. Following the war, many of these "Black Loyalists" settled in Nova Scotiamarker, Upper and Lower Canada, and other parts of the British Empire, where the descendants of some remain today.

A minority of uncertain size tried to stay neutral in the war. Most kept a low profile. However, the Quakers, especially in Pennsylvania, were the most important group that was outspoken for neutrality. As patriots declared independence, the Quakers, who continued to do business with the British, were attacked as supporters of British rule, "contrivers and authors of seditious publications" critical of the revolutionary cause.

After the war, the great majority of the 450,000-500,000 Loyalists remained in America and resumed normal lives. Some, such as Samuel Seabury, became prominent American leaders. Estimates vary, but about 62,000 Loyalists relocated to Canada (46,000 according to the Canadian book on Loyalists, True Blue), Britain (7,000) or to Florida or the West Indiesmarker (9,000). This made up approximately 2% of the total population of the colonies. When the Loyalists left the South in 1783, they took thousands of blacks with them as slaves to the British West Indies.


Several types of women contributed to the American Revolution in multiple ways. Like men, women participated on both sides of the war. Among women, European Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans also divided between the Patriot and Loyalist causes.

While formal Revolutionary politics did not include women, ordinary domestic behaviors became charged with political significance as patriot women confronted a war that permeated all aspects of political, civil, and domestic life. They participated by boycotting British goods, spying on the British, following armies as they marched, washing, cooking, and tending for soldiers, delivering secret messages, and in a few cases like Deborah Samson fighting disguised as men. Above all, they continued the agricultural work at home to feed the armies and their families.

The boycott of British goods required the willing participation of American women; the boycotted items were largely household items such as tea and cloth. Women had to return to spinning and weaving—skills that had fallen into disuse. In 1769, the women of Boston produced 40,000 skeins of yarn, and 180 women in Middletown, Massachusetts, wove of cloth.

A crisis of political loyalties could also disrupt the fabric of colonial America women’s social worlds: whether a man did or did not renounce his allegiance to the king could dissolve ties of class, family, and friendship, isolating women from former connections. A woman’s loyalty to her husband, once a private commitment, could become a political act, especially for women in America committed to men who remained loyal to the king. Legal divorce, usually rare, was granted to patriot women whose husbands supported the king.

Other participants

France and Spain

Spainmarker and Francemarker were traditional enemies of Britain and looked for revenge. In early 1776, France set up a major program of aid to the Americans, and the Spanish secretly added funds. Each country spent 1 million "livres tournaises" to buy munitions. A dummy corporation run by Pierre Beaumarchais concealed their activities. Americans obtained some munitions through Hollandmarker as well as French and Spanish ports in the West Indiesmarker.

Native Americans

The great majority of the 200,000 Native Americans east of the Mississippi distrusted the colonists and supported the British cause. The British provided funding and guns to attack American outposts. Some Indians tried to remain neutral, seeing little value in participating yet again in a European conflict. A few supported the American cause.

The British provided arms for the Indians, under Loyalist leadership, to raid frontier settlements from the Carolinas to New York, threatening to massacre the settlers, especially in Pennsylvania. The most prominent was Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, who led a band of 300 Indian warriors and 100 white loyalists in 1778 and 1780 multiple attacks on small settlements in New York and Pennsylvania. In 1776 Cherokee war parties attacked all along the southern frontier.

While the Indians could launch raids with up to 100 warriors, they could not mobilize enough forces to fight a major invasion of thousands of soldiers, so the Americans sent invasion armies against the Cherokees in 1776 and 1780. In 1779 Washington sent General John Sullivan with four brigades of Continental soldiers to drive the Iroquois out of upstate western New York. There was little combat but Sullivan systematically burned 40 (empty) Indian villages and, most important, destroyed about 160,000 bushels of corn that comprised the winter food supply. Facing starvation the Iroquois permanently fled to the Niagara Falls area and to Canada, where the British fed them.

At the peace conference the British abandoned their Indian allies, and the Americans took possession of all the land west of the Mississippi and north of Florida. Calloway concludes:
Burned villages and crops, murdered chiefs, divided councils and civil wars, migrations, towns and forts choked with refugees, economic disruption, breaking of ancient traditions, losses in battle and to disease and hunger, betrayal to their enemies, all made the American Revolution one of the darkest periods in American Indian history.

The British, however, did not give up their forts in the west until 1796 and kept alive the dream of one day forming a satellite Indian nation in what is now the Ohio to Wisconsin part of the Midwest. That hostile goal was one of the causes of the War of 1812.


African Americans, both men and women, understood Revolutionary rhetoric as promising freedom and equality. These hopes were not realized. Both British and American governments made promises of freedom for service and some slaves attempted to better their lives by fighting in or assisting one or the other armies. Starting in 1777 abolition occurred in the North, usually on a gradual schedule with no payments to the owners, but slavery persisted in the South and took on new life after the cotton gin lowered prices, increasing demand, expanding the plantation system to grow it, and requiring exponentially larger numbers of workers to pick it.

During the Revolution, efforts were made by the British to turn slavery against the Americans, but historian David Brion Davis explains the difficulties with a policy of wholesale arming of the slaves:

Davis underscored the British dilemma: "Britain, when confronted by the rebellious American colonists, hoped to exploit their fear of slave revolts while also reassuring the large number of slave-holding Loyalists and wealthy Caribbean planters and merchants that their slave property would be secure". The colonists accused the British of encouraging slave revolts.

American advocates of independence were commonly lampooned in Britain for their hypocritical calls for freedom, while many of their leaders were slave-holders. Samuel Johnson observed "how is it we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the [slave] drivers of the Negroes?" Benjamin Franklin countered by criticizing the British self-congratulation about "the freeing of one Negro" (Somersett) while they continued to permit the Slave Trade.

In the North, slavery was first abolished in the state constitution of Vermont in 1777, in Massachusetts in 1780, and New Hampshire in 1784. Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island adopted systems of gradual emancipation during these years, freeing the children of slaves at birth. All the northern states passed laws to end slavery, the last being New Jersey in 1804. Slavery was banned in the Northwest Territories, but no southern state abolished it.

During the Revolution, some African American writers rose to prominence, notable Phyllis Wheatley, who came to public attention when her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral appeared in London in 1773, while she was still a domestic slave in Boston. Kidnapped in Africa as young girl and converted to Christianity during the Great Awakening, Wheatley wrote poems combining piety and a concern for African Americans.

Military hostilities begin

The Battle of Lexington and Concordmarker took place April 19, 1775, when the British sent a force of roughly 1000 troops to confiscate arms and arrest revolutionaries in Concordmarker. They clashed with the local militia, marking the first fighting of the American Revolutionary War. The news aroused the 13 colonies to call out their militias and send troops to besiege Bostonmarker. The Battle of Bunker Hillmarker followed on June 17, 1775. While a British victory, it was made a victory by heavy losses on the British side; about 1,000 British casualties from a garrison of about 6,000, as compared to 500 American casualties from a much larger force.

The Second Continental Congress convened in 1775, after the war had started. The Congress created the Continental Army and extended the Olive Branch Petition to the crown as an attempt at reconciliation. King George III refused to receive it, issuing instead the Proclamation of Rebellion, requiring action against the "traitors".

In the winter of 1775, the Americans invaded Canada. Richard Montgomery captured Montrealmarker but a joint attack on Quebecmarker with the help of Benedict Arnold failed.

In March 1776, with George Washington as commander, the Continental Army forced the British to evacuate Boston, withdrawing their garrison to Halifax, Nova Scotiamarker. The revolutionaries were in control of governments throughout the 13 colonies and were ready to declare independence. While there still were many Loyalists, they were no longer in control anywhere by July 1776, and all of the Royal officials had fled.


In August 1775, the King declared Americans in arms against royal authority to be traitors to the Crown. The British government at first started treating captured rebel combatants as common criminals and preparations were made to bring them to trial for treason. American Secretary Lord Germain and First Lord of the Admiralty Lord Sandwich were especially eager to do so, with a particular emphasis on those who had previously served in British units (and thereby sworn an oath of allegiance to the crown).

Many of the prisoners taken by the British at Bunker Hillmarker apparently expected to be hanged, but British authorities declined to take the next step: treason trials and executions. There were tens of thousands of Loyalists under American control who would have been at risk for treason trials of their own (by the Americans) , and the British built much of their strategy around using these Loyalists. After the surrender at Saratogamarker in 1777, there were thousands of British prisoners in American hands who were effectively hostages.

Therefore no American prisoners were put on trial for treason, although most were badly treated and many died nonetheless, resulting in more deaths than every American battlefield and naval action fatality, combined. Eventually they were technically accorded the rights of belligerents in 1782, by act of Parliament, when they were officially recognized as prisoners of war rather than traitors. At the end of the war, both sides released their surviving prisoners.

Creating new state constitutions

Following the Battle of Bunker Hillmarker in June 1775, the Patriots had control of most of the territory and population; the Loyalists were powerless. In all thirteen colonies, Patriots had overthrown their existing governments, closing courts and driving British governors, agents and supporters from their homes. They had elected conventions and "legislatures" that existed outside of any legal framework; new constitutions were used in each state to supersede royal charters. They declared they were states now, not colonies.

On January 5, 1776, New Hampshiremarker ratified the first state constitution, six months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Then, in May 1776, Congress voted to suppress all forms of crown authority, to be replaced by locally created authority. Virginiamarker, South Carolinamarker, and New Jerseymarker created their constitutions before July 4. Rhode Islandmarker and Connecticutmarker simply took their existing royal charters and deleted all references to the crown.

The new states had to decide not only what form of government to create, they first had to decide how to select those who would craft the constitutions and how the resulting document would be ratified. In states where the wealthy exerted firm control over the process, such as Maryland, Virginia, Delawaremarker, New York and Massachusetts, the results were constitutions that featured:
  • Substantial property qualifications for voting and even more substantial requirements for elected positions (though New York and Maryland lowered property qualifications);
  • Bicameral legislatures, with the upper house as a check on the lower;
  • Strong governors, with veto power over the legislature and substantial appointment authority;
  • Few or no restraints on individuals holding multiple positions in government;
  • The continuation of state-established religion.
In states where the less affluent had organized sufficiently to have significant power—especially Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New Hampshire—the resulting constitutions embodied
  • universal white manhood suffrage, or minimal property requirements for voting or holding office (New Jersey enfranchised some property owning widows, a step that it retracted 25 years later);
  • strong, unicameral legislatures;
  • relatively weak governors, without veto powers, and little appointing authority;
  • prohibition against individuals holding multiple government posts;

Whether conservatives or radicals held sway in a state did not mean that the side with less power accepted the result quietly. The radical provisions of Pennsylvania's constitution lasted only fourteen years. In 1790, conservatives gained power in the state legislature, called a new constitutional convention, and rewrote the constitution. The new constitution substantially reduced universal white-male suffrage, gave the governor veto power and patronage appointment authority, and added an upper house with substantial wealth qualifications to the unicameral legislature. Thomas Paine called it a constitution unworthy of America.

Independence and Union

On January 10, 1776, Thomas Paine published a political pamphlet entitled Common Sense arguing that the only solution to the problems with Britain was republicanism and independence. In the ensuing months, before the allied states declared independence in unison in the name of the United States, the colonies had begun the process of creating their own constitutions to form sovereign states and some of them individually took the step to declare independence. Virginia, for instance, declared its independence from Great Britain on May 15, 1776. The war had been underway since April 1775, and until this point, the states had sought favorable peace terms; compromise was no longer a possibility, despite belated British efforts to come to a political resolution.

On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to prepare a draft declaration of independence. Thomas Jefferson, with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, brought the draft before Congress on June 28. On July 2, 1776, Congress voted the independence of the United States; two days later, on July 4, it adopted the Declaration of Independence, which date is now celebrated as Independence Day in the United States.

On June 12, 1776, the Second Continental Congress resolved to appoint a committee of thirteen to prepare a draft agreement on a governing constitution and a perpetual union of the states. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, commonly known as the Articles of Confederation or simply the Articles, formed the first governing document of the United States of America, based on a confederation type government. Of equal importance is the fact that the Articles combined the sovereign states into a perpetual Union. The Second Continental Congress approved the Articles for ratification by the States on November 15, 1777, and began operating under their terms. The Articles were formally ratified when the representatives of Maryland became the last to apply their signatures to the document on March 1, 1781. At that point, the Continental Congress was dissolved and on the following day a new government of the United States in Congress Assembled took its place, with Samuel Huntington as President.

Defending the Revolution

British return: 1776-1777

After Washington forced the British out of Boston in spring, 1776, neither the British nor the Loyalists controlled any significant areas. The British, however, were massing forces at their great naval base at Halifax, Nova Scotiamarker. They returned in force in July 1776, landing in New York and defeating Washington's Continental Army in August at the Battle of Brooklyn in one of the largest engagements of the war. The British requested a meeting with representatives from Congress to negotiate an end to hostilities, and a delegation including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin met Howe on Staten Island in New York Harbor on September 11. Howe demanded a retraction of the Declaration of Independence, which was refused, and negotiations ended until 1781. The British then quickly seized New York City and nearly captured Washington. They made the city their main political and military base of operations in North America, holding it until November 1783. New York City consequently became the destination for Loyalist refugees, and a focal point of Washington's intelligence network. The British also took New Jersey, but in a surprise attack in late December, 1776, Washington crossed the Delaware River into New Jersey and defeated Hessian and British armies at Trenton and Princetonmarker, thereby regaining New Jersey. The victories gave an important boost to pro-independence supporters at a time when morale was flagging, and have become iconic images of the war.

In 1777, as part of a grand strategy to end the war, the British sent an invasion force from Canada to seal off New England, which the British perceived as the primary source of agitators. In a major case of mis-coordination, the British army in New York City went to Philadelphia which it captured from Washington. The invasion army under Burgoyne waited in vain for reinforcements from New York, and became trapped upstate. It surrendered after the Battle of Saratogamarker, New York, in October 1777. From early October 1777 until November 15 a pivotal siege at Fort Mifflinmarker, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania distracted British troops and allowed Washington time to preserve the Continental Army by safely leading his troops to harsh winter quarters at Valley Forgemarker.

American alliances after 1778

The capture of a British army at Saratoga encouraged the French to formally enter the war in support of Congress, as Benjamin Franklin negotiated a permanent military alliance in early 1778, significantly becoming the first country to officially recognize the Declaration of Independence. William Pitt spoke out in parliament urging Britain to make peace in America, and unite with America against France, while other British politicians who had previously supported independence now turned against the American rebels for allying with a formerly mutual enemy.

Later Spain (in 1779) and the Dutch (1780) became allies of the French, leaving the British Empire to fight a global war alone without major allies, and requiring it to slip through a combined blockade of the Atlantic. The American theater thus became only one front in Britain's war. The British were forced to withdraw troops from continental America to reinforce the sugar-producing Caribbeanmarker islands, which were considered more valuable.

Because of the alliance with France and the deteriorating military situation, Sir Henry Clinton, the British commander, evacuated Philadelphia to reinforce New York City. General Washington attempted to intercept the retreating column, resulting in the Battle of Monmouth Court House, the last major battle fought in the north. After an inconclusive engagement, the British successfully retreated to New York City. The northern war subsequently became a stalemate, as the focus of attention shifted to the smaller southern theater.

The British move South, 1778-1783

The British strategy in America now concentrated on a campaign in the southern colonies. With fewer regular troops at their disposal, the British commanders saw the Southern Strategy as a more viable plan, as the south was perceived as being more strongly Loyalist, with a large population of recent immigrants as well as large numbers of African Americans expected to be at best actively pro-British, and at worst indifferent.

Beginning in late December 1778, the British captured Savannahmarker and controlled the coastline. In 1780 they launched a fresh invasion and took Charlestonmarker as well. A significant victory at the Battle of Camdenmarker meant that royal forces soon controlled most of Georgia and South Carolina. The British set up a network of forts inland, hoping the Loyalists would rally to the flag.

Not enough Loyalists turned out, however, and the British had to fight their way north into North Carolinamarker and Virginiamarker, with a severely weakened army. Behind them much of the territory they had already captured dissolved into a chaotic guerrilla war, fought predominantly between bands of Loyalist and American militia, which negated many of the gains the British had previously made.

Yorktown 1781

The siege of Yorktown ended with the surrender of a second British army, paving the way for the end of the American Revolutionary War
The southern British army marched to Yorktown, Virginiamarker where they expected to be rescued by a British fleet which would take them back to New York. When that fleet was defeated by a French fleet, however, they became trapped in Yorktown. In October 1781 under a combined siege by the French and Continental armies, the British, under the command of General Cornwallis, surrendered. However, Cornwallis was so embarrassed at his defeat that he had to send his second in command to surrender for him.

News of the defeat effectively ended major offensive operations in America. Support for the conflict had never been strong in Britain, where many sympathised with the rebels, but now it reached a new low.

Although King George III personally wanted to fight on, his supporters lost control of Parliament, and no further major land offensives were launched in the American Theatre.A final naval battle was fought on March 10, 1783 off the coast of Cape Canaveralmarker by Captain John Barry and his crew of the USS Alliance with three British warships led by HMS Sybil, who were trying to take the payroll of the Continental Army.

Peace treaty

The peace treaty with Britain, known as the Treaty of Paris, gave the U.S. all land east of the Mississippi River and south of the Great Lakes, though not including Florida (On September 3, 1783, Britain entered into a separate agreement with Spain under which Britain ceded Florida back to Spain.). The Native American nations actually living in this region were not a party to this treaty and did not recognize it until they were defeated militarily by the United States. Issues regarding boundaries and debts were not resolved until the Jay Treaty of 1795.

Immediate aftermath


Interpretations about the effect of the Revolution vary. Though contemporary participants referred to the events as "the revolution", at one end of the spectrum is the view that the American Revolution was not "revolutionary" at all, contending that it did not radically transform colonial society but simply replaced a distant government with a local one. More recent scholarship pioneered by historians such as Bernard Bailyn, Gordon Wood, and Edmund Morgan accepts the contemporary view of the participants that the American Revolution was a unique and radical event that produced deep changes and had a profound impact on world affairs, based on an increasing belief in the principles of republicanism, such as peoples' natural rights, and a system of laws chosen by the people.

Some historians, such as Daniel Boorstin, see the motivation for the revolution as primarily legal. The adherence of the colonists to the British constitution and what they viewed to be the tyrannical deprivation of English rights by the English Parliament, in concert with the failure of King George III to protect his subjects from such abuses, are what he sees as compelling the colonists to sever political ties with Great Britainmarker.

Loyalist expatriation

For roughly five percent of the inhabitants of the United States, defeat was followed by self-exile. Approximately 62,000 United Empire Loyalists left the newly founded republic, most settling in the remaining British colonies in North America, such as the Province of Quebec (concentrating in the Eastern Townships), Prince Edward Islandmarker, and Nova Scotiamarker. The new colonies of Upper Canada (now Ontariomarker) and New Brunswickmarker were created by Britain for their benefit.

Worldwide influence

After the Revolution, genuinely democratic politics, became possible. The rights of the people were incorporated into state constitutions. Thus came the widespread assertion of liberty, individual rights, equality and hostility toward corruption which would prove core values of republicanism to Americans. The greatest challenge to the old order in Europe was the challenge to inherited political power and the democratic idea that government rests on the consent of the governed. The example of the first successful revolution against a European empire, and the first successful establishment of a republican form of democratically elected government, provided a model for many other colonial peoples who realized that they too could break away and become self-governing nations with directly elected representative government.

In 1777, Moroccomarker was the first state to recognize the independence of the United States of America. The two countries signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship ten years later. Friesland, one of the seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, was the next to recognize American independence (February 26, 1782), followed by the Staten-Generaal of the Dutch Republic on April 19, 1782). John Adams became the first US Ambassador in The Haguemarker..

Since the Dutch Republic was at war with the United Kingdom at the signing of the treaty in 1782, it is often considered that Sweden was the first neutral sovereign power that recognized the United States of America. On April 3, 1783, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Count Gustaf Philip Creutz, representing the King of Sweden, and Benjamin Franklin, Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce in Paris, France. In the Treaty, they pledged, firm, inviolable and universal peace and a true and sincere friendship between the King, his heirs and successors, and the United States of America..

The American Revolution was the first wave of the Atlantic Revolutions that took hold in the French Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, and the Latin American wars of independence. Aftershocks reached Ireland in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and in the Netherlands.

The Revolution had a strong, immediate impact in Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France. Many British and Irish Whigs spoke in favor of the American cause. The Revolution, along with the Dutch Revolt (end of the 16th century) and the English Civil War (in the 17th century), was one of the first lessons in overthrowing an old regime for many Europeans who later were active during the era of the French Revolution, such as Marquis de Lafayette. The American Declaration of Independence had some impact on the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789.

The North American states' newly-won independence from the British Empire resulted in the abolition of slavery in some Northern states 51 years before it would be banned in the British colonies, and allowed slavery to continue in the Southern states until 1865, 32 years after it was banned in all British colonies.

National debt

The national debt after the American Revolution fell into three categories. The first was the $11 million owed to foreigners—mostly debts to France during the American Revolution. The second and third—roughly $24 million each—were debts owed by the national and state governments to Americans who had sold food, horses, and supplies to the revolutionary forces. Congress agreed that the power and the authority of the new government would pay for the foreign debts. There were also other debts that consisted of promissory notes issued during the Revolutionary War to soldiers, merchants, and farmers who accepted these payments on the premise that the new Constitution would create a government that would pay these debts eventually.The war expenses of the individual states added up to $114,000,000, compared to $37 million by the central government. In 1790, at the recommendation of first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Congress combined the state debts with the foreign and domestic debts into one national debt totaling $80 million. Everyone received face value for wartime certificates, so that the national honor would be sustained and the national credit established.

See also



  1. Wood (1992); Greene & Pole (1994) ch. 70
  2. Calhoon, "Loyalism and neutrality" in Greene and Pole, A Companion to the American Revolution (2000) p.235
  3. Charles W. Toth, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite: The American Revolution & the European Response. (1989) p. 26.
  4. page 101, Philosophical Tales, by Martin Cohen, (Blackwell 2008)
  5. Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967)
  6. Gordon S. Wood The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992) pp 174-5
  7. Gordon S. Wood The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1992) p 35
  8. Robert E. Shalhope, "Toward a Republican Synthesis," William and Mary Quarterly, 29 (Jan. 1972), pp 49-80
  9. Adams quoted in Paul A. Rahe, Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution. Volume: 2 (1994) P. 23.
  10. However, there is an alternative viewpoint presented by Michael Novak, a theologian. Novak argues that among the supporters of the American Revolution, it was from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, that most Patriots absorbed the beliefs and values that motivated them to rebel against Britain. Michael Novak, On Two Wings. Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding. Encounter Books, 2002. pp. 11-13, 84. Novak's views have not been endorsed by historians.
  11. Bonomi, p 186
  12. William H. Nelson, The American Tory (1961) esp p. 186
  13. Bonomi, p. 186, Chapter 7 “Religion and the American Revolution
  14. Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution 1992 p. 273-4, 299-300
  15. Bailyn, 1992 p.303
  16. Miller (1943)
  17. Greene & Pole (1994) ch 15
  18. Greene & Pole (1994) ch 11
  19. Middlekauff pg. 62.
  20. Miller, p.89
  21. Miller pg. 101
  22. William S. Carpenter, "Taxation Without Representation" in Dictionary of American History, Volume 7 (1976); Miller (1943)
  23. Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765-1776 (1972)
  24. Miller (1943) pp 353-76
  25. Greene & Pole (1994) ch 22-24
  26. Nash (2005); Resch (2006)
  27. Staff. Tory, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  28. Revolutionary War: The Home Front, The Library of Congress
  29. Calhoon, Robert M. "Loyalism and neutrality" in Greene and Pole, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (1991)
  30. Colin G. Calloway, The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities (1995)
  31. Hill (2007), see also
  32. Gottlieb 2005
  33. Greene & Pole (1994) ch. 20-22
  34. Carol Berkin, Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence (2005)
  35. Berkin (2005); Greene & Pole (1994) ch. 41
  36. Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (1997) ch. 4, 6; also see Mary Beth Norton, Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women (1980)
  37. Jonathan Dull, A Diplomatic History of the American Revolution (1985) pp 57-65; Edward F. Butler, "Spain's Involvement in the American Revolutionary War" The SAR Magazine Vol. 104 No. 1
  38. Greene and Pole (2004) chapters 19, 46 and 51; Colin G. Calloway, The American Revolution in Indian Country: Crisis and Diversity in Native American Communities (1995)
  39. Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin, Forgotten Allies: The Oneida Indians and the American Revolution (2007)
  40. see Barbara Graymont, "Thayendanegea," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  41. Tom Hatley, The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians through the Era of Revolution (1993); James H. O'Donnell, III, Southern Indians in the American Revolution (1973)
  42. Joseph R. Fischer, A Well-Executed Failure: The Sullivan Campaign against the Iroquois, July-September 1779 (1997).
  43. Calloway (1995) p. 290
  44. Dwight L. Smith, "A North American Neutral Indian Zone: Persistence of a British Idea" Northwest Ohio Quarterly 1989 61(2-4): 46-63
  45. Francis M. Carroll, A Good and Wise Measure: The Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783-1842, 2001, page 23
  46. Benjamin Quarles, The Negro in the American Revolution (1961)
  47. Davis p. 149
  48. Schama p.28-30 p. 78-90
  49. Weintraub p.7
  50. Schama p.75
  51. Hochschild p.50-51
  52. Morrisey p.35
  53. Harvey p.208-210
  54. Urban p.74
  55. Miller (1948) p. 87
  56. Onderdonk, Henry. "Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk and Kings Counties; With an Account of the Battle of Long Island and the British Prisons and Prison-Ships at New York". ISBN 978-0804680752
  57. Dring, Thomas and Greene, Albert. "Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship" (American Experience Series, No 8), 1986 (originally printed 1826). ISBN 978-0918222923
  58. John C. Miller, Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783 1948. Page 166.
  59. Nevins (1927); Greene & Pole (1994) ch 29
  60. Nevins (1927)
  61. Wood (1992)
  62. Greene and Pole (1994) ch 26.
  63. Greene and Pole (1994) ch 27.
  64. Greene and Pole (1994) ch 30;
  65. Schecter, Barnet. The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution. (2002); McCullough, 1776 (2005)
  66. Weintraub p.
  67. Mackesy, 1992; Higginbotham (1983)
  68. Jeffrey J. Crow and Larry E. Tise, eds. The Southern Experience in the American Revolution (1978)
  69. Henry Lumpkin, From Savannah to Yorktown: The American Revolution in the South (2000)
  70. Harvey p.493-95
  71. Harvey p.502-06
  72. Harvey p.515
  73. Harvey p.528
  74. Miller (1948), pp 616-48
  75. McCullough, David. John Adams. Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN-9780743223133
  76. Wood (2003)
  77. Van Tine (1902)
  78. Wood, Radicalism, p. 278-9
  79. Palmer, (1959)
  80. Palmer, (1959); Greene & Pole (1994) ch 53-55
  81. Palmer, (1959); Greene & Pole (1994) ch 49-52.
  82. Jensen, The New Nation (1950) p 379

Reference works

  • Ian Barnes and Charles Royster. The Historical Atlas of the American Revolution (2000), maps and commentary
  • Blanco, Richard. The American Revolution: An Encyclopedia 2 vol (1993), 1850 pages
  • Boatner, Mark Mayo, III. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. (1966); revised 1974. ISBN 0-8117-0578-1; new expanded edition 2006 ed. by Harold E. Selesky
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory, and Richard A. Ryerson, eds. The Encyclopedia of the American Revolutionary War: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO 2006) 5 vol; 1000 entries by 150 experts, covering all topics
  • Greene, Jack P. and J. R. Pole, eds. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (1994), 845pp; emphasis on political ideas; revised edition (2004) titled A Companion to the American Revolution
  • Purcell, L. Edward. Who Was Who in the American Revolution (1993); 1500 short biographies
  • Resch, John P., ed. Americans at War: Society, Culture and the Homefront vol 1 (2005)

Primary sources

  • The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence (2001), Library of America, 880pp
  • Commager, Henry Steele and Morris, Richard B., eds. The Spirit of 'Seventy-Six: The Story of the American Revolution As Told by Participants (1975) (ISBN 0-06-010834-7) short excerpts from hundreds of official and unofficial primary sources
  • Dring, Thomas and Greene, Albert. Recollections of the Jersey Prison Ship (American Experience Series, No 8), 1986 (originally printed 1826). ISBN 978-0918222923
  • Humphrey, Carol Sue ed. The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800 Greenwood Press, 2003
  • Morison, Samuel E. ed. Sources and Documents Illustrating the American Revolution, 1764-1788, and the Formation of the Federal Constitution (1923). 370 pp online version
  • Onderdonk, Henry. Revolutionary Incidents of Suffolk and Kings Counties; With an Account of the Battle of Long Island and the British Prisons and Prison-Ships at New York. ISBN 978-0804680752


  • Bancroft, George. History of the United States of America, from the discovery of the American continent. (1854-78), vol 4-10 online edition
  • Cogliano, Francis D. Revolutionary America, 1763-1815; A Political History (2000), British textbook
  • Harvey, Robert A few bloody noses: The American Revolutionary War (2004)
  • Higginbotham, Don. The War of American Independence: Military Attitudes, Policies, and Practice, 1763-1789 (1983) Online in ACLS History E-book Project. Comprehensive coverage of military and other aspects of the war.
  • Hochschild, Adam. Bury the Chains: The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery (2006)
  • Jensen, Merrill. The Founding of a Nation: A History of the American Revolution 1763-1776. (2004)
  • Bernhard Knollenberg, Growth of the American Revolution: 1766-1775 (2003) online edition
  • Lecky, William Edward Hartpole. The American Revolution, 1763-1783 (1898), British perspective online edition
  • Mackesy, Piers. The War for America: 1775-1783 (1992), British military study online edition
  • Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789 (2005). The 1985 version is available online at online edition
  • Miller, John C. Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783 (1948) online edition
  • Miller, John C. Origins of the American Revolution (1943) online edition
  • Morrissey, Brendan. Boston 1775:The Shot Heard Around The World. Osprey (1993)
  • Schama, Simon. Rough Crossings: Britain, The Slaves and the American Revolution (2006)
  • Urban, Mark. Generals:Ten British Commanders who shaped the World (2005)
  • Weintraub, Stanley. Iron Tears: Rebellion in America 1775-83 (2005)
  • Wood, Gordon S. The American Revolution: A History (2003), short survey
  • Wrong, George M. Washington and His Comrades in Arms: A Chronicle of the War of Independence (1921) online short survey by Canadian scholar

Specialized studies

  • Bailyn, Bernard. The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Harvard University Press, 1967. ISBN 0-674-44301-2
  • Becker, Carl. The Declaration of Independence: A Study on the History of Political Ideas (1922) online edition
  • Samuel Flagg Bemis. The Diplomacy of the American Revolution (1935) online edition
  • Berkin, Carol.Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence (2006)
  • Breen, T. H. The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence (2005)
  • Crow, Jeffrey J. and Larry E. Tise, eds. The Southern Experience in the American Revolution (1978)
  • Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery n the New World. (2006)
  • Fischer, David Hackett. Washington's Crossing (2004). 1776 campaigns; Pulitzer prize. ISBN 0–195–17034–2
  • Greene, Jack, ed. The Reinterpretation of the American Revolution (1968) collection of scholarly essays
  • Kerber, Linda K. Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America (1979)
  • McCullough, David. 1776 (2005). ISBN 0-7432-2671-2
  • Morris, Richard B. ed. The Era of the American revolution (1939); older scholarly essays
  • Nash, Gary B. The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America. (2005). ISBN 0-670-03420-7
  • Nevins, Allan; The American States during and after the Revolution, 1775-1789 1927. online edition
  • Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800 (1980)
  • Palmer, Robert R. The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800. vol 1 (1959) online edition
  • Resch, John Phillips and Walter Sargent, eds. War And Society in the American Revolution: Mobilization And Home Fronts (2006)
  • Rothbard, Murray, Conceived in Liberty (2000), Volume III: Advance to Revolution, 1760-1775 and Volume IV: The Revolutionary War, 1775-1784. ISBN 0-945466-26-9.
  • Savas, Theodore and Dameron, J. David. A Guide to the Battles of the American Revolution. Savas Beatie LLC. El Dorado Hills. March 2006. ISBN 1-932714-12-X

  • Schecter, Barnet. The Battle for New York: The City at the Heart of the American Revolution. Walker & Company. New York. October 2002. ISBN 0-8027-1374-2
  • Shankman, Andrew. Crucible of American Democracy: The Struggle to Fuse Egalitarianism and Capitalism in Jeffersonian Pennsylvania. University Press of Kansas, 2004.
  • Van Tyne, Claude Halstead. American Loyalists: The Loyalists in the American Revolution (1902)
  • Volo, James M. and Dorothy Denneen Volo. Daily Life during the American Revolution (2003)
  • Wahlke, John C. ed. The Causes of the American Revolution (1967) readings
  • Wood, Gordon S. The Radicalism of the American Revolution: How a Revolution Transformed a Monarchical Society into a Democratic One Unlike Any That Had Ever Existed. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

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