SSUSH4 The student will identify the ideological, military, and diplomatic aspects of the American Revolution
4.a- Explain the language, organization, and intellectual sources of the Declaration of Independence; include the writing of John Locke and the role of Thomas Jefferson • The committee chosen by the Continental Congress in 1776 to draft the Declaration of Independence was not selected at random- Thomas Jefferson (Virginia) had already proven himself to be one of the most able and eloquent writers among the members of Congress. John Adams (Massachusetts) had been one of the earliest and most vocal advocates for independence, and Benjamin Franklin was as sage and acute as ever. • Jefferson did most of the writing- with some editing and advice from the others. What he produced was a document that asserted the independence of the American colonies with what amounted to a direct statement to King George III. • Jefferson drew heavily from political philosophy of the day to make his argument for independence. He especially drew from the work of John Locke and Montesquieu.
Language, Organization, and Intellectual Sources of the Declaration of Independence • The Declaration of Independence is comprised of four sections: 1) the Preamble, 2) a Declaration of Natural Rights, 3) List of Grievances, 4) Resolution of Independence • The Preamble explains and introduces the basic reasons (and political philosophy) underlying the decision for declaring independence from Britain. • The Declaration of Natural Rights expands on the political philosophy mentioned in the preamble. Both of these sections draw heavily from the Enlightenment-era political theories of John Locke- an English writer/philosopher of the late 17th/early 18th century. Locke’s Two Treatises on Government (1690) introduced ideas about the “natural” rights of man to life, liberty and property. • Locke also laid the foundation for the Social Contract theory of government later espoused by Rousseau. In its essence the idea of the Social Contract is that any government ultimately rules with the consent of the people being ruled. The implication then, is that when a government fails to meet the needs of its people-the government gets overthrown- and the people have the right to overthrow tyrannical governments. • Jefferson was also familiar with the writings of French philosopher Montesquieu. His 1748 work, The Spirit of Laws was a major influence on political thinkers of the day. This work would be even more important 11 years after the Declaration, as an inspiration to the United States Constitution. • The List of Grievances portion of the Declaration is just that: an item-by-item account of how Jefferson (speaking for the Congress) feels King George the III has wronged the American colonies. • T he Resolution of Independence asserts that the colonies were free from all political ties and allegiance to the British Crown- and that they could do all the things (prosecute war, conclude peace, make alliances, conduct commerce) that free and independent states do.
4.b- Explain the reason for and the significance of the French alliance and foreign assistance and the roles of Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette • Once the Declaration had been issued, one of the primary objectives of the Congress was to secure diplomatic recognition from other nations- most importantly, France. • France had been secretly aiding the American military effort early on, but they were unwilling at first to risk war with Britain by formally recognizing, aiding, and allying with the United States. • The Continental Congress sent Benjamin Franklin to the Court of Louis XVI to work at diplomatic recognition and direct military aid. The major turning point for the French followed news of the American victory at Saratoga, NY. Only when the French saw that the Americans had a chance to defeat the British were they willing to formally enter the war. • In February 1778 the United States negotiated its first two treaties with France- one extending formal recognition to the U.S., and one offering direct military aid with land and sea forces. The French contributions to the war effort gave the Americans the staying power they needed to wear the British down and eventually win the conflict.
Marquis de Lafayette • The Marquis de Lafayette was a young French nobleman when he came to America to offer his services to the Continental Army. He helped to train soldiers and later commanded American and French forces in numerous battles. • His impassioned support for the American cause won him the admiration of the people as a hero of the Revolution.
4.c- Analyze George Washington as a military leader; include the creation of a professional military and the life of a common soldier, and describe the significance of the crossing of the Delaware River and Valley Forge • George Washington’s reputation for even-headed leadership and daring military tactics had been established early in his career- in the opening battles of the French and Indian War. • Washington was an obvious choice to lead the Continental Army and the Congress gave him command in June 1775, following the creation of the Army after Lexington and Concord. • Early in the war, Washington and his Continentals lost several key battles- New York City, for example- which became the British headquarters throughout the war. • When the British forces moved toward Philadelphia in late 1776, Washington led his Army to intercept them. As winter set in, Washington again proved his daring by crossing the icy Delaware River on December 25, attacking the encamped Hessian forces at Trenton, then scattering British regiments at Princeton. These victories, although small, were important to boost morale and established George Washington as a hero to the then-struggling Revolution. • In the winter of 1777, Washington and the Continental Army established quarters at Valley Forge, NJ. This was the darkest hour for the army. Nearly 2500 men froze or starved to death- although morale was boosted by training from some European generals, including Lafayette, and a German (Prussian) Baron, Friedrich von Steuben.
Continental Soldier • By comparison to the British, the Continental Army had far less experience, men and supplies. Paying for soldiers’ wages and materiel was also a problem because the Congress had no power to tax the individual states to help pay for the war. Much of the war was paid through foreign and private loans. • Desertion and turnover was also a big problem for the Continentals. 230,000 men served in the Army through the Revolution, but rarely more than 20,000 at any one time. Many soldiers deserted their posts at planting and harvest time. • Local militias also contributed to the American war effort, especially in the backcountry. These militias had even less training than the Continentals, but were often successful using guerilla tactics to harass and delay supply lines to the British regiments in the field. • The life of a Continental soldier was grim: plagued by chronic lack of supplies, exposure to the elements, high desertion rates, and facing one of the best trained and equipped armies in the world
4.d- Explain Yorktown, the role of Lord Cornwallis, and the Treaty of Paris, 1783 • Although the British had captured Savannah Charlestown and Wilmington, much of the interior of the South remained out of British control. The leader of the British forces, Lord Cornwallis decided to invade Virginia to cut off the South entirely. • Much of Virginia fell without a struggle, but when a large American force led by Anthony Wayne arrived in Virginia, Cornwallis was forced to retreat to the coast to maintain his supply lines from the sea. • In the meantime, Washington and the Continentals were joined by 6000 French reinforcements. Washington initially intended to re-take New York with this force, but upon hearing from French allies that French ship were en route from the Caribbean, he marched to Virginia instead. • With the French fleet blocking British re-supply at sea, Washington joined the American forces already in Virginia to block Cornwallis’ retreat by land. Cornwallis had no choice but to accept defeat, and surrender his army of 8000 to Washington at Yorktown, in October of 1781.
Lord Cornwallis • Cornwallis was the general of the British forces when they were forced to surrender at Yorktown, in October 1781.
1783 Treaty of Paris • The agreement that formally ended the conflict between Great Britain and its former colonies, now officially recognized as the United States of America. John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay negotiated on behalf of the U.S. • Other terms included the return of Florida to the Spanish, and the return of several former French colonies in the Caribbean taken after the French and Indian War (Seven Years’ War).