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«Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC ...»

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Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools

and the UMBC Center for History Education.

Should the Colonies Have Revolted Against Great Britain?

Author: Lauren Catts, Hawthorne Elementary School; Elizabeth Getsinger, Westowne Elementary

School; Corjie Tarlton, Sparks Elementary School, Baltimore County Public Schools

Grade Level: Upper Elementary

Duration: 6 Days


At the time of the Revolutionary War, public opinion differed on whether the colonists should rebel against Great Britain. Some chose to remain loyal and thought America should remain part of the British Empire. Others wanted to break away and establish an independent nation. Many Native Americans, African Americans, and women were on both sides, but also had goals of obtaining individual rights. In this History Lab students will examine primary sources, including letters, pamphlets, paintings, political cartoons, agreements, speeches, treaties, and proclamations, to analyze the varying perspectives of white men, white women, African Americans, and Native Americans. They will synthesize historical evidence and make reasoned arguments to answer the overarching question, “Should the colonists have revolted against Great Britain?” History Standards National History Standards Era 3: Revolution and the New Nation (1754-1820s) Standard 1: The causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in forging the Revolutionary movement and the reasons for the American victory Historical Thinking Standards Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation A. Compare and contrast differing sets of ideas.

B. Consider multiple perspectives.

Common Core State Standards Reading Standards for Informational Text, Grade 5 Key Ideas and Details  Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

 Explain the relationship or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

Craft and Structure  Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas  Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgably.

Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

 Explain how an author uses reason and evidence to support particular points in a text identifying which reasons and evidence supports which point(s).

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity  By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Writing Standards, Grade 5 Text Types and Purposes  Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organization structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer’s purpose  Provide logically ordered reasons that are supported by facts and details  Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented

Speaking and Listening Standards, Grade 5:

Comprehension and Collaboration  Report on a topic or text or present an opinion, sequencing ideas logically and using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes: speak clearly at an understandable pace.

 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions.

Maryland State Curriculum Standards for Social Studies Standard 5.0 History Topic B: Emergence, Expansion and Changes in Nations and Empires Indicator 2. Analyze the growth and development of colonial America Objective C. Analyze the different roles and viewpoints of individuals and groups, such as women, men, free and enslaved Africans, and Native Americans during the Revolutionary period Topic C: Conflict Between Ideas and Institutions Indicator 1. Analyze the causes of the American Revolution Objective B. Examine the viewpoints of Patriots and Loyalists regarding British colonial policy after the Seven Years' War Standard 6.0 Social Studies Skills and Processes Topic D: Acquire Social Studies Information Indicator 1. Identify primary and secondary sources of information that relate to the topic/situation/problem being studied Objective B. Read and obtain information from texts representing diversity in content, culture, authorship, and perspective Topic F: Analyze Social Studies Information Indicator 1. Interpret information from primary and secondary sources Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

Objective C. Analyze a document to determine point of view Objective D. Analyze the perspective of the author Topic G: Answer Social Studies Questions Indicator 2. Use historic contexts to answer questions Objective A. Use historically accurate resources to answer questions, make predictions, and support ideas Objective C. Construct a sound historical interpretation Purpose In this History Lab students will analyze and synthesize historical evidence in order to make reasoned arguments to answer the overarching question: Should the colonists have revolted against Great Britain?

Students will:

 analyze primary and secondary sources and identify the perspectives of patriots, loyalists, white men, white women, Native Americans, and African Americans;

 classify and evaluate perspectives in order to answer the overarching question;

 determine which perspective best addresses the overarching question in determining whether the colonists should have revolted against Great Britain.

Topic Background At the time of the Revolutionary War, public opinion varied about whether the colonists should revolt against Great Britain. Those who encouraged revolt were called Patriots. Some wanted to remain loyal to Great Britain and were called Loyalists. Still others, due to their religious beliefs, remained neutral. The decision to support the revolution was complex for white men, white women, African Americans and Native Americans.

White men wrote most accounts on the lead-up to the American Revolution. Thomas Paine was an influential proponent of the revolution. Paine had come to the colonies from Great Britain in 1774 after meeting Benjamin Franklin. Perhaps because of his humble background, Paine developed strong feelings about government and society. Government, Paine argued, was a “necessary evil” required to protect society. He strongly believed that monarchies were unnatural, since all men were born equal. He did not believe that anyone should inherit power. By doing so, he argued, monarchs were prone to corruption, which led to war and bloodshed. In Common Sense, the most widely read pamphlet of its time, Paine stated his case in simple, strong language. It was a powerful piece of propaganda that generated enthusiasm for all-out revolution.

Not all white men agreed with Paine. James Chalmers, who was a wealthy landowner from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, published Plain Truth as a lengthy response and counter-argument to Common Sense. Written for the educated elite, many of whom were already Loyalists, the tract included both literary and historical references. Chalmers, a Loyalist officer, writing under the Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

pseudonym Candidus, was convinced that the American colonies would be ruined by breaking away from Great Britain. He believed that history had proven that democratic nations were unsuccessful because they were wrought with mayhem. The colonists, he thought, would be better off if they remained loyal to Britain to avoid a serious war. He did not trust the intentions of the French and believed that the colonies owed a great deal to their mother country.

White women of the period were conflicted as well. The war, which was not confined to a distant frontier, was particularly difficult and unnerving, and impacted their homes and neighborhoods.

Shortages of supplies and inflation required that women improvise and take on new responsibilities. Women in Patriot households participated in boycotts and protests. A group of genteel ladies launched a campaign to raise funds and supplies for the Continental Army. Some women took up arms to protect their children and homes. Others operated family farms and businesses, in addition to their household duties, while their husbands, fathers, and sons were away at war.

A number of white women worked directly for the Continental or for the British armies. Many women followed the men along the battlefield. While a distraction at times, women performed necessary tasks, such as cooking, laundering uniforms, and tending to the injured. Other women participated in military operations as couriers, conveying messages and supplies to the battlefield, and some even disguised themselves as men in order to fight in battle.

Women faced many dangers during the war. Loyalist women were targeted by gangs that looted their homes and terrorized them. Patriot women were tormented by British troops, who would force themselves into their homes, destroying everything in sight and taking valuable supplies.

Many women found themselves in the unfamiliar position as the head of their household, in charge of their family’s security for the first time.

Abigail Adams, wife to John Adams, an influential delegate to both the First and Second Continental Congress, and later the second President of the United States, was a prolific correspondent, who wrote frequently to her husband. Initially neutral at the onset of the war, Adams’ views evolved and she came to favor revolution, believing that a new government might be the best opportunity for women to gain equality and economic freedom. Her letters were a passionate and reasoned argument for the rights of women.

Native Americans and African Americans also hoped to benefit from the revolution and formation of a new government. Native Americans, who were primarily concerned with protecting their way of life, were not particularly interested in entering the war. Years of skirmishes and exploitation made them skeptical about pledging their allegiance to either side, but the British and Americans promised supplies, protection, and land in return for their assistance.

Their reluctance was warranted. The Proclamation Line of 1763 was an attempt by the British to curb expansion of white settlement onto Native American lands. Almost as soon as it was signed, it became clear that the Colonial government had no real interest in or power to enforce the law.

Land speculators and independent settlers were determined to move into western territory, regardless. In what would become a pattern, a new treaty was signed in 1768, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, which established yet another western boundary for white settlement.

Educational materials developed through the Baltimore County History Labs Program, a partnership between Baltimore County Public Schools and the UMBC Center for History Education.

Native Americans were not particularly concerned with sacrificing themselves for the cause of the revolution, but they were interested in the outcome. They wanted to preserve their way of life, protect their territorial integrity, and avoid political cooptation by either side. Native Americans made decisions about the war based on their regional and tribal concerns. By the end of the war, however, the offers of land and peaceful co-existence were never actually realized, leaving many tribal communities divided and weakened.

Similarly, enslaved African Americans had their own goals for the revolution. Their primary concern was in gaining their freedom. They, too, had to determine which side best served their interests.

At the time, abolitionist rhetoric was increasing and words like “tyranny” and “slavery” were used to describe British control over the colonies. The notion of inherent equality was discussed. Many African Americans were inspired and hopeful that the Revolution might bring about freedom and equality.

On November 7, 1775, John Murray, the fourth Earl of Dunmore and Royal Governor of Virginia, as well as a slaveholder, issued a proclamation offering freedom to any slave that joined the British Army. George Washington and members of the Continental Congress, many of whom also owned slaves, were reluctant to arm enslaved men or anger their owners. Instead, they allowed free blacks to join the Continental Army. Eventually slaves became part of the Patriot army as the need for soldiers increased. While most African-American soldiers and sailors participated in non-combat roles, some divisions saw combat. African Americans participated in the earliest battles at Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, and others.

Freedom, however, would elude African Americans during the Revolutionary period, even for those who allied themselves with the British. Many African-American soldiers succumbed to smallpox and fevers. British officers took others into personal service. Most were left to fend for themselves in the immediate aftermath of the war, only to be enslaved once more in the Southern states of the new independent American nation.

The diverse populations of the American colonies reveal the multiple perspectives on the Revolution. Gender, race, socio-economic status, and even religion, influenced and, in some instances, circumscribed people’s decisions to revolt or to remain loyal to Great Britain.

Reference List Berkin, Carol. 2006. Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence.

New York: Vintage Books.

Kaplan, Sidney and Emma Nogrady Kaplan. 1989. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Revised ed. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

Nash, Gary B. 2005. The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America. New York: Penguin Books.

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