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Chapter 8
America Secedes from
the Empire,
I. Congress Drafts George Washington
• The Second Continental Congress meets in
Philadelphia on May 10, 1775:
– First most important single action—to select
George Washington to head the army:
The choice was made with considerable misgivings
He never rose above the rank of a colonel
His largest command had numbered only 20,000
Falling short of true military genius, he would actually
lose more pitched battles than he won.
I. Congress Drafts George
Washington (cont.)
• He was gifted with outstanding powers of leadership
and immense strength of character
• He radiated patience, courage, self-discipline, and a
sense of justice
• He was trusted and insisted on serving without pay,
however, keeping a careful list of expenses-$100,000.
• The Continental Congress chose more wisely
than it knew.
II. Bunker Hill and Hessian
• The war of inconsistency was fought for 14
months—April 1775 to July 1776—before
the fateful plunge into independence.
– Gradually the tempo of warfare increased:
• May 1775 Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold captured
garrisons at Ticonderoga and Crown Point in upper
New York
• June 1775 the colonists seized Bunker Hill
II. Bunker Hill and Hessian
Hirelings (cont.)
• July 1775 the Congress adopted the Olive
Branch Petition:
– It professed American loyalty to the crown and
begged the king to prevent further hostilities
– King George III slammed the door on all hope of
– August 1775 he proclaimed the colonies in
II. Bunker Hill and Hessian
Hirelings (cont.)
• The skirmishes were now out-and out treason, a
hanging crime
• Next he sealed arrangements for hiring thousands of
German troops
• George III needed the men
• Because most of the soldiers-for-hire came from the
German principality of Hesse, the Americans called all
the European mercenaries Hessians
• News of the Hessian deal shocked the colonists
• Hessian hirelings proved to be good soldiers.
III. The Abortive Conquest of Canada
• October 1775 the British burned Falmouth
(Portland), Maine:
– In autumn, the rebels daringly undertook a twopronged invasion of Canada
– A successful assault on Canada would add a 14th
colony and deprive Britain of a valuable base for
striking the colonies in revolt
– Invasion northward was undisguised offensive
III. The Abortive Conquest of
Canada (cont.)
• This broad stroke for Canada narrowly
missed success (Map 8.1)
– One invading column under General Richard
Montgomery pushed up the Lake Champlain
route and captured Montreal.
– At Quebec he was joined by the army of General
Benedict Arnold
– An assault on Quebec was launched on the day
of 1775. Montgomery was killed.
III. The Abortive Conquest of
Canada (cont.)
– Arnold was wounded in one leg.
– Bitter fighting persisted in the colonies:
• January 1776 the British set fire to Norfolk, Va.
• March 1776 they were forced to evacuate Boston
– In the South the rebels won two victories:
• February 1776 against some 15,000 Loyalists at
Moore’s Creek Bridge North Carolina
• June 1776 against an invading fleet at Charleston
IV. Thomas Paine Preaches Common
• Loyalty to the empire was deeply ingrained:
– Americans continued to believe they were a part
of a transatlantic community
– Colonial unity was poor
– Open rebellion was dangerous
– As late as January 1776 the king’s health was
being toasted—”God save the king.”
• They gradually were shocked into
recognizing the necessity to separate.
IV. Thomas Paine Preaches
Common Sense (cont.)
• 1776 Common Sense by Thomas Paine:
– One of the most influential pamphlets ever
– Began with a treatise on the nature of
– And that the only lawful states were those that
derive “their just powers from the consent of the
IV. Thomas Paine Preaches
Common Sense (cont.)
– As for the king, he was nothing but “the Royal
Brute of Great Britain”
– Within a week the astonishing total of 120,000
copies were sold.
– No where in the physical universe did the
smaller heavenly bodies control the larger one
– So why should the tiny island of Britain control
the vast continent of America?
IV. Thomas Paine Preaches
Common Sense (cont.)
• Paine tried to convince the colonists that
their true cause was independence rather
than reconciliation with Britain.
• Paine could thus be said to have drafted the
foundational document not only of American
independence, but of American foreign
policy as well.
Map 8-1 p135
V. Paine and the Idea of “Republicanism”
• Paine was calling for a republic:
– For the creation of a new kind of political society
where power flowed from the people
– In biblical imagery, he argued that all
government officials—governors, senators, and
judges—and not just representatives should
derive their authority from popular consent.
V. Paine and the Idea of
“Republicanism” (cont.)
• Paine was not the first to champion a
republican form of government:
– Greece and Rome revived in the 17th century
– Republicanism appealed to British politicians
critical of excessive power in the hands of the
king and his advisers
– The American colonists interpreted the royal
acts as part of a monarchical conspiracy.
V. Paine and the Idea of
“Republicanism” (cont.)
• Paine’s summons to create a republic fell on
receptive ears:
– New Englanders already had practiced a kind of
• In their town meetings and annual election.
• Most American considered citizen “virtue”
fundamental to any successful republican
V. Paine and the Idea of
“Republicanism” (cont.)
• Individuals in a republic:
– Needed to sacrifice their personal self-interest to
the public good
– The collective good of “the people” mattered
more than private rights and interests of
– Paine inspired his contemporaries to view
America as fertile ground for the cultivation of
such civil virtue.
V. Paine and the Idea of
Republicanism (cont.)
• Not all Patriots agreed with Paine’s ultrademocratic approach to republicanism:
– Some favored a republic ruled by a “natural
aristocracy” of talent
– They wanted an end to hereditary aristocracy, but not an
end to all social hierarchy
– They were conservative republicans who wanted the
stability of the social order.
• The contest of American republicanism
would continue for the next 100 years.
VI. Jefferson’s
“Explanation” of Independence
• On July 7, 1776, fiery Richard Henry Lee of
Virginia moved that “these United Colonies
are, and of right ought to be free and
independent states.” The motion was
adopted a month later on July 2, 1776.
– The passing of Lee’s resolution was the formal
“declaration” of independence by the colonies
– Technically this was all that was needed to cut
the British tie.
VI. Jefferson’s “Explanation” of
Independence (cont.)
• An inspirational appeal was needed:
– To enlist other British colonies in the Americas
– To invite assistance for foreign nations
– To rally resistance at home.
• Congress appointed a committee to prepare
a more formal statement:
– The task of drafting it fell to Thomas Jefferson
– He was fully qualified for it.
VI. Jefferson’s “Explanation of
Independence (cont.)
• The Declaration of Independence
– Formally approved by Congress on July 4, 1776
– It had universal appeal by invoking the “natural
rights of humankind—not just British rights
– He argued that the king had flouted these rights
the colonists were justified in cutting their ties
– He set forth a long list of the presumably
tyrannous misdeeds of George III
– The Declaration had a universal impact.
VII. Patriots and Loyalists
• The War of Independence was a war within a
– Loyalists—colonials loyal to the king who fought
the American rebels called “Tories” after the
dominant political factions in Britain
– Patriots—rebels who also fought the British
redcoats called “Whigs” after the opposition
factions in Britain.
VII. Patriots and Loyalists (cont.)
• The American Revolution was a minority
– Many colonists were apathetic or neutral
– The Patriot militias played a critical role
– The rebel militiamen appeared and took the task
of “political education” sometimes by coercion
– The ragtag militia units served as agents of
Revolutionary ideas.
VII. Patriots and Loyalists
• Loyalists:
– Numbered about 16 percent of the American
people, who remained true to their king
– Families often were split
– They were taught fidelity to the crown
– Many people of education and wealth, of culture
and caution, remained loyal
– More numerous among the older generation
– Included the king’s officers and beneficiaries.
VII. Patriots and Loyalists (cont.)
• Loyalists:
– They were the Anglican clergy and their
congregations notable exception was Virginia
– King’s followers entrenched in aristocratic New
York City and Charlestown, Quaker Pennsylvania
and New Jersey
– They were less numerous in New England
• Most numerous where Presbyterianism and
Congregationalism flourished.
VIII. The Loyalist Exodus
• Before the Declaration in 1776, persecution
of the Loyalists was relatively mild:
• Some were subject to brutality, tarring and feathering
and riding astride fence rails
• Harsher treatment began after the Declaration
• Were regarded as traitors
• Were roughly handled, some were imprisoned and a
few noncombatants were hung.
– There was no wholesale reign of terror.
VIII. The Loyalists Exodus (cont.)
• 80 thousand loyal supporters of King George were
driven out or fled
• Several hundred thousand were permitted to stay
• The estates of the fugitives were confiscated and sold
• Some 50 thousand Loyalist volunteers bore arms for
the British
• They helped the king’s cause by serving as spies, by
inciting the Indians, and by keeping Patriot soldiers
• Ardent Loyalists had their hearts in their cause.
IX. General Washington at Bay
• General Washington:
– Only mustered 18,000 ill-trained troops to meet
the British invaders at New York, March 1776
– Disaster befell the Americans at the Battle of
Long Island summer and fall of 1776
– Washington escaped to Manhattan Island, finally
reaching the Delaware River
– The Patriot cause was at low ebb and the rebel
remnants fled across the river.
IX. General Washington at Bay
– General William Howe, Washington’s adversary,
did not speedily crush the demoralized American
– Washington stealthily recrossed the Delaware
River at Trenton on December 26, 1776, he
surprised and captured 1,000 Hessians
– A week later he defeated a small British fleet at
– These two lifesaving victories revealed the “Old
Fox” Washington at his military best.
X. Burgoyne’s Blundering Invasion
• London officials adopted an intricate scheme
to capture the Hudson River valley in 1777:
– If successful it would sever New England from
the rest of the states and paralyze the American
• General John Burgoyne would push down the Lake
Champlain route from Canada
• General Howe’s troops would advance up the Hudson
and meet Burgoyne near Albany
X. Burgoyne’s Blundering Invasion
• A third smaller British force, under Colonel Barry St.
Leger, would come from the west by way of Lake
Ontario and the Mohawk
• British planners did not reckon with General Arnold
– Arnold came along the St. Lawrence River to the Lake
Champlain area where he assembled and outfitted a fleet of
floatable vessels
– His fleet was destroyed, but time had been won
– The result would have been the British recapturing Fort
– If Burgoyne would have started from Montreal he most
certainly would have succeeded in his venture.
X. Burgoyne’ Blundering Invasion
• General Washington transferred his army to
the vicinity of Philadelphia:
– There he was defeated in two pitched battles, at
Brandywine Creek and Germantown
• General Howe settled down in the lively capital and
left Burgoyne to flounder in upper New York
• Washington retired to Valley Forge
• Burgoyne was trapped with no possible advancement
and was forced to surrender his entire command at
Saratoga on October 17, 1777, to Gen. Horatio Gates.
X. Burgoyne’s Blundering Invasion
• Saratoga ranks high among the decisive
battles of both America and world history:
– The victory immensely revived the faltering
colonial cause
– Even more important, it made possible the
urgently needed foreign aid from France, which
in turn helped ensure American independence.
XI. Revolution in Diplomacy?
• France’s role in the Revolution:
– Hopefully France could regain its former position
and prestige in North America:
• Her loss in the Seven Years’ War rankled deeply
– America’s revolutionaries badly needed help in
her struggle to throw off the British:
• America needed to seal an alliance with France
against the common British foe.
XI. Revolution in Diplomacy?
• The rebellious Americans harbored
revolutionary ideas about international
– They wanted an end to colonialism and
– They strongly supported free trade and freedom
of the sea
– They wanted to support the rule of law to
arbitrate the affairs of nations.
XI. Revolution in Diplomacy?
• In the summer of 1776 the Continental
Congress drafted a Model Treaty:
– To guide the American commissioners who
would be dispatched to the French court
– John Adams, one of the chief authors, described
its basic principles:
• “1. No political connection. . . .2. No military
connection. . . .3. Only a commercial connection.”
• These were remarkable self-denying restrictions.
XI. Revolution in Diplomacy?
• Benjamin Franklin negotiated treaty in Paris:
– He was determined that his very appearance
should herald the diplomatic revolution
– He shocked the royal court
– Ordinary Parisians adored him as a specimen
of a new democratic social order
The British offered a measure to the effect of
American home rule in the empire.
XI. Revolution in Diplomacy?
– This was essentially what the colonials had asked
for—except independence:
• On February 6, 1778, France offered the Americans a
treaty of alliance
• The young republic concluded its first entangling
military alliance and would soon regret it
• The Treaty with France constituted an official
recognition of America’s independence
• Both allies bound themselves together to secure
America’s freedom and to terms with the common
XII. The Colonial War Becomes a
Wider War
• England and France came to blows in 1778,
and the shot fired at Lexington widened into
a global conflagration.
– Spain entered in 1779 as did Holland
– The weak maritime neutrals of Europe began to
demand their rights (see Table 8.1)
• Catherine the Great, Russia, led in organizing the
Armed Neutrality—it lined all remaining European
neutrals in an attitude of passive hostility toward
XII. The Colonial War Becomes a
Wider War (cont.)
• The war was fought not only in Europe and
North America, but South America, the
Caribbean and Asia
• The Americans deserve credit for keeping the war
going until 1778 with secret French aid
• Their independence was not achieved until the
conflict erupted into a multipower world war too big
for Britain to handle
• From 1778 to 1783 France provided the rebels with
guns, money, equipment and armed forces.
XII. The Colonial War Becomes a
Wider War (cont.)
– France’s entrance:
• Forced the British to change their basic strategy
• They counted on blockading the colonial coast and
commanding the seas
• Now the French had powerful fleets in American
• British decided to evacuate Philadelphia and
concentrate their strength in New York City
• In June 1778 the redcoats were attacked by
Washington but the battle was indecisive and
Washington remained in the New York area.
Table 8-1 p147
XIII. Blow and Counterblow
• 1780: French army of 6000 regular troops,
under commander Comte de Rochambeau
arrived in Newport
– But French gold and goodwill melted hard hearts
– No real military advantage came from the French
– 1780 General Benedict Arnold turned traitor.
– British planned to roll up the colonies in Loyalist
South (See Map 8.2).
XIII. Blow and Counterblow
– Georgia was ruthlessly overrun in 1778-1779
Charleston, South Carolina, fell in 1780
– Warfare intensified in the Carolinas
– 1781: American riflemen wiped out a British
detachment at King’s Mountain, then defeated a
smaller force at Cowpens
– In the Carolina campaign of 1781, General
Nathaniel Greene, a Quaker-raised tactician,
distinguished himself by his strategy of delay.
XIII. Blow and Counterblow
– Standing and retreating, he exhausted his foe,
General Cornwallis, in vain pursuit.
– The “Fighting Quaker” succeeded in clearing
most of Georgia and South Carolina of British
Map 8-2 p148
XIV. The Land Frontier and the Sea
• The West was ablaze during the war:
– Indian allies of George III were busy with torch
and tomahawk
– Fateful 1777 was known as “the bloody year” on
the frontier:
• Two nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Oneidas
and the Tuscarora, sided with the Americans
• The Senecas, Mohawks, Cayugas, and Onondagas
joined the British, encouraged by chief Joseph Brant,
who believed in a victorious Britain.
XIV. The Land Frontier and the Sea
Frontier (cont.)
• In 1784 the pro-British Iroquois were forced
to sing the Treaty of Fort Stanwix:
– First treaty between the United States and an
Indian nation
– Under its teams the Indians ceded most of their
XIV. The Land Frontier and the Sea
Frontier (cont.)
• In Illinois, the British were especially
vulnerable to attack:
• They held only scattered posts captured from French
• George Rogers Clark conceived the idea of seizing
these forts by surprise
• In 1778-1779 going down the Ohio River, he captured
in quick succession the forts Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and
Vincennes (see Map 8.3)
• Clark’s admirers argued that his success forced the
British to cede the region north of the Ohio River to
the United States at the peace table in Paris.
XIV. The Land Frontier and the Sea
Frontier (cont.)
• America’s infant navy:
– Navy under Scotsman John Paul Jones
• This tiny naval force never made a dent in Britain’s
thunderous fleets
• Its chief contribution was in destroying British
merchant shipping
• Thus carrying the war into the waters around the
British Isles.
XIV. The Land Frontier and the Sea
Frontier (cont.)
• The swift privateers:
– These craft were privately owned armed ships—
legalized pirates
– Specifically authorized by Congress to prey on
enemy shipping
– 1,000 American privateers responded to the call
of patriotism and profit, with about 70,000 men.
– They captured some 600 British prizes, while
British captured merchantmen and privateers.
XIV. The Land Frontier and the Sea
Frontier (cont.)
• Privateering was not an unalloyed asset:
• It diverted manpower from the main war
• It involved Americans, including Benedict Arnold.
• Privateering was also good:
They did bring in urgently needed gold
Harassed the enemy
Raised American moral
Ruined British shipping
– Shippers and manufacturers wanted to end the
Map 8-3 p149
XV. Yorktown and the Final
• One of the darkest periods of the war was
1780-1781, before the last decisive victory:
– Government was virtually bankrupt
– It declared it would repay its debt at only 2.5
cents on the dollar
– Despair prevailed, the sense of unity was
withered, and mutinous sentiments infected the
XV. Yorktown and the Final
Curtain (cont.)
• British general Cornwallis was blundering
into a trap:
– After futile operations in Virginia, he fall back to
Chesapeake Bay at Yorktown:
• To await seaborne supplies and reinforcements.
• He assumed Britain would continue to control the sea
• It was during the period that the British naval
superiority was slipping away.
XV. Yorktown and the Final
Curtain (cont.)
• French actions:
– They were prepared to cooperate in a stroke
– Admiral de Grasse informed the Americans he
was free to join against Cornwallis at Yorktown
– Washington make a swift march, 300 miles, to
Chesapeake from New York
– Accompanied by Rochambeau’s French army,
Washington beset the British at land
– While de Grasse blockaded the sea.
XV. Yorktown and the Final
Curtain (cont.)
• Completely cornered, Cornwallis
surrendered his entire force of 7000 men on
October 19, 1781.
– George III planned to continue the struggle
– Fighting continued for a year after Yorktown,
with Patriot-Loyalist warfare in the South very
– Washington’s most valuable contributions was to
keep the languishing cause alive, the army in the
field, and the states together.
XVI. Peace at Paris
• Aftermath of the war:
Many Britons were weary of war
They suffered loses in India and the West Indies
The island of Minorca in the Mediterranean fall
Lord North’s ministry collapsed in March 1782
temporarily ending George III’s personal rule
• A Whig ministry , favorable to the Americans,
replaced the Tory regime of Lord North.
XVI. Peace at Paris
• American peace negotiators:
– Three were gathered at Paris: Benjamin Franklin,
John Adams, and John Jay:
• They had specific instructions to make no separate
• To consult with their French allies at all stages
• However, the American representatives chafed under
this directive, because they knew that it had been
written by a subservient Congress, with the French
Foreign Office indirectly guiding the pen.
XVI. Peace at Paris
• France was in a painful position:
• She had induced Spain to enter the war on her side,
promising to deliver British Gibraltar
• She coveted the immense trans-Allegheny area
• She desired an independent United States, trying to
keep the New Republic east of the Allegheny
• A weak America would be easy for Spain to manage in
promoting French interests and policy
• She was paying a heavy price to win America’s
independence and wanted her money’s worth.
XVI. Peace at Paris
– John Jay was unwilling to play the French game.
• He secretly made overtures to London
• London speedily came to terms with the Americans
• A preliminary treaty of peace was signed in 1782 the
final peace, the next year.
– The Treaty of Paris of 1783:
• Britain formally recognized the independence of the
United States
• Granted generous boundaries:
– From the Mississippi (west) to Great Lakes (north) Spanish
Florida (south).
XVI. Peace at Paris
• The Yankees retained the fisheries of Newfoundland
– American concessions:
• Loyalists were not to be further persecuted
• Congress was to recommend to the state legislatures
that confiscated Loyalists’ property be restored
• Debts long owed to British creditors had to be paid
• However, the debt promises were not carried out.
– British concessions:
• Had to accept defeat in North America
• Shut down the wage enable her to rebuild.
XVII. A New Nation Legitimized
• British terms were liberal:
– She gave the enormous trans-Appalachian area
– In spirit, the Americans made a separate
peace—contrary to the French alliance
– France was immensely relieved by the prospect
of ending the costly conflict
– America alone gained from the world-girdling
war and began their national career with a
splendid territorial birthright/priceless heritage.