American Revolution: Documents Analysis
First assignment of semester 1
Causes of the American Revolution
Historical Context: The year 1763 marked the end of the French and Indian War, the final defeat of the French and their Native American allies in America. For America’s English colonists, this was a cause for great celebration and pride in their English identity. Expressions of English patriotism were widespread. But only twelve years later, these same American colonists found themselves locked in a bitter and violent conflict with the mother country that had so recently been the object of their proud respect. To this day, now over two hundred years later, the reasons behind this abrupt transition of England and its American colonies from allies to enemies are debated.Essential Question: Were the American colonists justified in waging war and breaking away from Britain?
Instructions: Students will read and answer review questions for the 4 documents below. Each document question
is worth 2 points. After reviewing the documents, students will answer a summary question in a short paragraph
using evidence from the documents and from their existing knowledge. The summary question is worth 6 points.
Document One (4 points)
That this kingdom has the sovereign, the supreme legislative power over America, is granted. It cannot be denied;
and taxation is a part of that sovereign power. It is one branch of the legislation. . . . Protection and obedience are
reciprocal. Great Britain protects America, America is bound to yield [give] obedience. If not, tell me when the
Americans were emancipated? When they want the protection of this kingdom, they are always ready to ask it. That protection has always been afforded them in the most full and ample manner. The nation has run itself into an immense debt to give them this protection; and now they are called upon to contribute a small share to the public expense.—George Grenville, Member of Parliament (January 14, 1766)
Question 1a: According to Greenville, why does Great Britain have a large debt? Who should help pay that debt?
Question 1b: Why does Parliament have the power to impose taxes on British colonies, according to Grenville?
Document Two (4 points)
Cresswell, a young Englishman, kept an account of his travels through the American colonies. The following
excerpts are dated October 19, 1774 and tell of his visit to Alexandria, Virginia.
Everything here is in the utmost confusion. Committees are appointed to inspect into the characters and conduct of every tradesman, to prevent them selling tea or buying British manufactures. Some of them have been tarred and feathered, others had their property burnt and destroyed by the populace…
The King Is openly cursed, and his authority set at defiance… Everything is ripe for rebellion. The New Englanders by their canting, whining, insinuating tricks have persuaded the rest of the colonies that the government is going to make absolute slaves of them.
Question 2a: How does Cresswell describe the state of the colonies?
Question 2b: Who did Cresswell blame for the growing antagonism between the British and the American
colonists?Document Three (4 points)
These excerpts are from Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, published in January 1776. This popular pamphlet helps to convince many Americans the conflict with England was beyond peaceful settlement and that independence was America’s only course.
I have heard it asserted by some, that as America has flourished under her former connection with Great Britain, the same connection is necessary towards her future happiness, and will always have the same effect. Nothing can be more fallacious than this kind of argument. I answer roundly that America would have flourished as much, and
probably much more, had no European power taken any notice of her. The commerce by which she hath enriched
herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe.
But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families.. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new World hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from EVERY PART of Europe.
Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.
Question 3a: Describe how Paine counteracts the argument that America has “flourished” under British rule.
Question 3b: According to Paine, why have the English immigrated to America?
Document Four (4 points)
These excerpts are from “The Declaration of Independence”, adopted by the Continental Congress of July 4, 1776.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations (unlawful seizures), all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Question 4a: How does this document describe King George?
Question 4b: According to the document, what happened when the colonists tried peaceful means of negotiation?Summary Question (7 points):
Answer the following question in a short paragraph using your knowledge of this topic and evidence from the
documents above. Your paragraph should be 5 sentences minimum.
Were the American colonists justified in waging war and breaking away from Britain?