Key People and Events
King George III
King George III was a British King during the Revolutionary Era. British Citizens living in England worshiped him and followed his every command. The colonists, on the other hand, hated him because he constantly taxed them without their consent and treated them very unfairly. He gave the colonists no representation in Parliament but still forced them to follow British rules! Colonists were also infuriated when King George III sent over Colonial Governors to watch over them and make sure they followed British rules and the Legislatures still remained under British control. These Governors also made sure the colonies were not producing their own manufactured goods because King George III wanted the colonies to remain dependent on Great Britain.
Patrick Henry was an outspoken member of the VA House of Burgesses. He is famous for his "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech. In this speech he states that he respects his liberty and values more than his own life. This man was also accused of treason, which means the act of working against the government. Patrick Henry played a key role in the American Revolution.
Paul Revere is a patriot who rode to warn the colonists about the arrival of the British. He also led the Boston Tea Party along with Samuel Adams to protest the tea tax. When they did this, they told the ships from Britain to go back because they didn't want the tea. The ships did not listen so they dumped the tea into the Boston Harbor. This was not successful though and the colonies ended up having to pay for the tea dumped in the Boston Harbor. In the image shown to the right, the artist has symbolically drawn a tea kettle into his hand to signify the Boston Tea Party.
The main role of George Washington in the Revolutionary Era was to serve as the Commander of the Continental Army. Washington was an outstanding leader and was very successful. His job was particularly hard because he had to turn blacksmiths and farmers into soldiers for battle. England, on the other hand, had trained militia with advanced weapons. George Washington constantly reminded his army of what they were fighting for and was able to lead them to victory.
Thomas Paine was a journalist who wrote the pamphlet Common Sense. He was the first person to openly write about asking Great Britain for independence and made it okay to talk about the subject. His pamphlet was very popular amongst the colonists. Click the picture to find out more about Thomas Paine.
John Adams championed the cause of independence. This means that he fought for or supported the thought of being free from Great Britain. He also took place in both the First and Second Continental Congress. This was a group that met to discuss colonial frustrations with Great Britain and to promote the idea of freedom. Adams also signed the Declaration of Independence. Click the picture to learn more about John Adams.
Phyllis Wheatley was a former slave who wrote poems and plays about independence and eventually earned her freedom. This was unusual because most slaves could not read nor write. However, Phyllis Wheatley carefully observed when the children in the family she worked for learned to read and write. Slowly but surely, she also learned how to do the same. When the family she worked for found out she could do this, they didn't report her or fire her. Instead, they encouraged her to continue and actually published some of her works.
Thomas Jefferson was the major author of the Declaration of Independence. He was also the youngest contributor to this famous document. Jefferson used ideas from philosophers in the past, such as John Locke, to promote the idea of independence. In the Declaration of Independence, he focused on four main ideas. The first one was that every person is born with some unalienable rights that cannot be taken away from them. This included life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The statement means that the government or another person cannot take away these rights because you receive them with birth. The second main idea that was stressed was that people established government to protect their rights. Government is only to make sure your unalienable rights remain that way. It is not meant to pose unreasonable taxes or conditions. Another point he mentioned was that the government derives its power from the people. This means that the people are the only ones that give the government power through their respect and cooperation. Lastly, Jefferson mentions that people have a right and duty to change a government that violates their rights. When he mentioned this, he also mentioned the brutal way King George III was treating the colonies. The statement means that when any form of government becomes violent or unreasonable, the people must change it in order to maintain peace and understanding between the government and the people. When Jefferson turned in his draft of the Declaration of Independence, it was so well written that only very minor changes were made.
Benjamin Franklin was a diplomat that played a key role in the American Revolution. He was a diplomat because he did not want to go to war with Great Britain and he felt that all problems with the country could be solved with thorough discussion and understanding. When he was convinced that going to war was the only solution to the controversy between England and the colonies, Benjamin Franklin became one of the main reasons for why the colonies won the war. Benjamin Franklin had a strong positive relationship with the French and was able to convince them to help the colonies in the war. He pointed out their previous successes like the Battle of Saratoga and was able to win them over. This was the turning point of the war. The French were promised a chunk of land and trade with the colonies if they won the war. Another notable point about Franklin is that he served in the Continental Congress. He also helped with the Declaration of Independence and changed the history of America dramatically.
Lord Cornwallis is most famously known for his surrender at Yorktown. He was a British general with excellent leadership skills and intelligence but did not carefully plan the visit to Yorktown. Before he went, he had promised the troops that there would be British ships waiting there for them with warm food and fresh uniforms. The troops were thrilled and joyously went. When they got there, the were unpleasantly surprised by the army of Commander George Washington. They were surrounded by the colonies' militia and had no choice but to surrender.