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1 The Collision Of Cultures
2 Britain And Its Colonies
3 Colonial Ways Of Life
4 The Imperial Perspective
5 From Empire To Independence
6 The American Revolution
7 Shaping A Federal Union
8 The Federalist Era
9 The Early Republic
10 Nationalism And Sectionalism
11 The Jacksonian Impulse
12 The Dynamics Of Growth
13 An American Renaissance: Religion, Romanticism, And Reform
14 Manifest Destiny
15 The Old South
16 The Crisis Of Union
17 The War Of The Union
18 Reconstruction: North And South
19 New Frontiers: South And West
20 Big Business And Organized Labor
21 The Emergence Of Urban America
22 Gilded-age Politics And Agrarian Revolt
23 An American Empire
24 The Progressive Era
25 America And The Great War
26 The Modern Temper
27 Republican Resurgence And Decline
28 New Deal America
29 From Isolation To Global War
30 The Second World War
31 The Fair Deal And Containment
32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

The American Revolution - Document Overview

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The American Revolution began when colonists protested English acts that infringed upon the privileges granted them as British subjects. These protests became rebellion as the issue of privileges quickly became one of rights. As James Thacher, a young physician, wrote one January day in 1775, "In no country . . . is the love of liberty more deeply rooted, or the knowledge of the rights inherent to freemen more generally diffused, or better understood, than among the British American Colonies." Although loyal British subjects both in mother country and colonies could point out the benefits of living under the British constitution, once the discontented colonists determined that a corrupt imperial government threatened their natural rights, as well as their privileges as citizens, the resistance movement exploded into both a revolution and a war for independence.

It was a thrilling, multidimensional revolution, for in the course of destroying the fetters of empire and forging new national bonds, the revolutionaries grappled with novel ideas and institutions. They did not act upon or implement everything that was proposed, nor was everything that was initiated successful, but it was an exhilarating, exasperating, and sometimes scary time of experimentation.

There were revolutionaries of all sorts active in all facets of change—political, military, and social. Political revolutionaries lambasted loyalists and lauded separatists in their struggle for the allegiance of Americans. They also bickered, dickered, and philosophized their way through the establishment of new state and national governments. Militaristic revolutionaries focused their minds and might on winning the War for American Independence. Whether serving in the Continental Army or the state regiments and militia, they battled against foreign and domestic enemies. These two groups of revolutionaries, after many setbacks, met with success, but success brought with it both questions and challenges. Many of those challenges were delivered by those who also wanted to see a societal revolution. Social revolutionaries, from those who had only begun to question established hierarchies and conventions to those who wanted to overthrow them, presented some of the most troublesome issues of the era. While they helped initiate some changes—as soon seen in wider suffrage, an increase in private manumissions, the abolition of slavery in some states, and a greater separation between church and state—they did not meet with the same success as the other revolutionaries.

A major issue confronting the revolutionaries was how to act upon the words that initiated and described the new world they wanted to create. They voted in new state constitutions and governments; they took up arms to ensure independence; but many stopped short—some in humorous disbelief and others in horror—when some of their associates grabbed hold of the words and applied them literally and liberally. To many revolutionaries the formation of a republic based on the notion that all free, white, adult males were legally and politically equal was quite radical enough. Indeed, they were right—it was a radical change from what was practiced in most of the world. But others argued for a new order in that new world: for all men to be equal, neither creed nor color must matter. If "men" meant humankind, then gender must be irrelevant. But in this case, at that time, such a definition was too demanding: most revolutionaries were unable or unwilling to free themselves of the social and cultural constraints by which they defined their world. Even so, the words remained, and were—and are—dynamic elements of revolution in American history.


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