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Revolutionary America. American victory in the Revolutionary War and the creation of the first independent government (aka AP Guidelines 4.3 & 4.4).

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revolutionary america

Revolutionary America

American victory in the

Revolutionary War and the creation

of the first independent government

(aka AP Guidelines 4.3 & 4.4)


John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence, 1795.The five man committee that drafted the Declaration formally submits their work to Congress in July 1776.

british advantages when the war started
British advantages when the war started
  • Britain had the best-equipped and most disciplined army in the world.
  • The British navy was unopposed at the outset of the war.
  • Their opponent struggled with organization initially, and Congress refused to invoke a draft or mandate army enlistments of more than one year.
american advantages when the war started
American advantageswhen the war started
  • The officer corps had gained a lot of experience from previous colonial wars.
  • Geography:
    • They enjoyed “home field advantage”;
    • The fighting encompassed thousands of square miles, with British supply lines extending across the Atlantic;
    • There was “no vital center whose conquest would end the war.”
the patriot forces
The Patriot Forces
  • “From an population of 350,000 eligible men, more than 200,000 saw action, though no more than 25,000 were engaged at any one time.” (OM, p. 203) About half of the forces served in the Continental Army, with the other half serving in Patriot militia companies.
  • An estimated 25,324 died during the war, including approximately 6,800 from wounds and 8,000 from disease.
the loyalists
The Loyalists
  • “Between a fifth and a third of the population, somewhere between half a million and a million people, remained loyal to the British crown. They called themselves Loyalists, but to Patriots were known as the Tories, the popular name for the conservative party in England, which traditionally supported the authority of the king over Parliament.” (OM, p. 206)

Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851.Commemorates the December 25, 1776 crossing that was the prelude to the Battle of Trenton.

  • The first year of the war did not go well for the Americans, which made the American victory at Saratoga on October 19, 1777 almost a must-win situation.
  • “It would be the biggest British defeat until Yorktown, decisive because it forced the nations of Europe to recognize that the Americans had a fighting chance to win their Revolution.” (OM, p. 208)
the articles of confederation
The Articles of Confederation
  • The first national government of the United States, adopted by the CC in November 1777.
  • What will the new government look like?
  • No national judiciary.
  • No separate executive branch.
  • Congress had sole national authority, but ratification and amendment required unanimous agreement.
  • No congressional authority to raise troops or impose taxes.
William Ranney, The Battle of Cowpens, 1845.Depicts the January 1781 defeat of Loyalist forces in South Carolina.

John Trumbull, Yorktown Surrender, 1797.Depicts the British surrender -- marching to the tune “The World Turned Upside Down” -- at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781.

treaty of paris 1783
Treaty of Paris (1783)
  • Actually a series of separate agreements between the U.S.(!), Britain, France, and Spain, signed at Versailles on September 3.
  • Britain agreed to recognize the U.S. as “free, sovereign & independent” and agreed to withdraw its troops “with all convenient speed.” (OM, p. 218)
  • The new western border was set at the Mississippi River, with Spain winning the return of Florida.

Benjamin West painting titled American Commissioners of the Preliminary Peace Agreement with Great Britain also sometimes referred to as Treaty of Paris(unfinished painting -- from left to right) John Jay, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin. The British commissioners refused to pose, and the picture was never finished.


John Trumbull, General George Washington Resigning His Commission, 1824.Washington submitted his resignation to Congress in Annapolis on December 23, 1783.


Gilbert Stuart, The Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, 1786After the Treaty of Paris, and in part because they had sided with the British during the Revolution, Brant led a large faction of Iroquois people north into Canada.

extending national authority over the west
Extending national authority over the West
  • Land Ordinance of 1785
    • Provided for the survey and sale of western lands.
    • Land was divided into townships composed of thirty-six sections of one square mile each.
extending national authority over the west1
Extending national authority over the West
  • Northwest Ordinance of 1787
    • Provided the model for territories to be admitted to the union as states.
    • Three to five states were to be carved out of the territory, admitted “on an equal footing with the original states in all respects whatsoever.”
    • Judges and a governor were initially appointed by Congress.
    • Slavery was prohibited!
extending national authority over the west2
Extending national authority over the West
  • Northwest Ordinance of 1787
    • Once population reached 5,000 citizens, they were able to choose their own representative assembly.
    • Once the population reached 20,000 residents, they could call a convention and establish a constitution and government of their own choosing.
    • Once the population was equal to the smallest of the original thirteen states, could apply for statehood.
the articles do matter
The Articles do matter!
  • Created a government that was able to help coordinate victory in the Revolutionary War.
  • Negotiated American independence!
  • Set forth an organized way to divide and sell land.
  • Set forth the process for the admission of new states.
  • But they will need to be “revised”…