Creating the Declaration of Independence
The American Revolution ushered in an age of democratic revolutions. Unlike many later revolutions, America’s war did not lead to unbridled violence and dictatorship but to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the peaceful transfer of political power between parties in 1801.
Cooperation and compromise distinguish the creation of the United States from more violent revolutions. Despite great uncertainties America’s founders pressed forward to independence and the creation of a federal republic. The Declaration of Independence became a lasting beacon for those seeking justice, human dignity, and self-government throughout the world.
View all items from Creating the Declaration of Independence »
Revolution of the Mind
The American Revolution emerged out of the intellectual and political turmoil following Great Britain’s victory in the French and Indian War. Freed from the threat of hostile French and Indian forces, American colonists were emboldened to resist new British colonial policies that raised issues of inequalities of power, political rights, and individual freedoms. People such as John Adams and Mercy Otis Warren believed that the British policies stimulated the minds of Americans to demand independence and expanded individual rights.
This revolution of the mind had physical consequences as Americans openly and sometimes violently opposed Great Britain’s new assertions of control. The right to representation, political independence, separation of church and state, nationalism, slavery, the closure of the Western frontier, increased taxation, commercial restrictions, use of the military in civil unrest, individual freedoms, and judicial review were some of the salient issues that boiled up in the revolutionary cauldron of Britain’s American colonies.
Read more about Revolution of the Mind »
The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington.
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, August 24, 1815
On April 19, 1775, Great Britain’s “Bloody Butchery” at Concord and Lexington opened an eight-year war for political independence and representative republican government in America. Despite facing Europe’s greatest military power, Americans found, in the words of George Washington, that “Perseverance and Spirit could work wonders” on the battlefield and in the diplomatic theater.
While creating national military forces and a confederated government, Americans won notable victories in battles at Boston, Saratoga, Trenton, Princeton, Cowpens, and Yorktown. Although both sides suffered the many horrific aspects of eighteenth-century warfare, America’s critical military victories and her determined diplomacy won her independence and a western empire in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.
Read more about Battle Joined »
Perseverance & Spirit have done Wonders in all Ages.
George Washington to Phillip Schuyler, August 20, 1775
Founded on a Set of Beliefs
The American republic was founded on a set of beliefs that were tested during the Revolutionary War. Among them was the idea that all people are created equal, whether European, Native American, or African American, and that these people have fundamental rights, such as liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and freedom of assembly. America’s revolutionaries openly discussed these concepts. Many Americans agreed with them but some found that the ideology was far more acceptable in the abstract than in practice.
Read more about Founded on a Set of Beliefs »
Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve the Connection between Great Britain and the American Colonies. . . .
John Hancock to George Washington, July 6, 1776
After eight years of war, the Treaty of Paris in 1783 recognized the independence of the United States and awarded it an enormous territory stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. However, the 1783 treaty created difficulties as well as opportunities for the new nation.
While American patriots celebrated, Americans loyal to the British government and slaves seeking freedom left with the British military forces. Britain’s Native American allies refused to surrender, and potentially hostile Spanish colonies became the southern and western neighbors of the United States. Prosperity remained elusive. Americans could determine their own destiny but the course of that destiny was uncertain.
Read more about Peace »
Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence.
George Washington, Address to Congress, December 23, 1783
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Abraham Lincoln, 1863