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Humanities Libertexts

5.8: Primary Sources

  • Page ID
    9877
  • George R. T. Hewes, A Retrospect of the Boston Tea-party, 1834

    George R.T. Hewes wrote the following reminiscence of the Boston Tea Party almost 61 years after it occurred. It is likely that his memories included more than a few stories he picked up well after 1773. Nonetheless Hews provides a highly detailed account of this important event.

    Thomas Paine Calls for American independence, 1776

    Britons had long understood themselves as the freest people on earth, blessed with a limited monarchy and an enlightened parliament. Paine’s pamphlet offered a very different portrayal of the British government. His criticisms swept across the North American continent and generated widespread support for American independence.

    Declaration of Independence, 1776

    It is hard to overstate the significance of the Declaration of Independence. Designed as a measured justification for the severing of ties with Britain, the document has also functioned as a transformative piece of political philosophy. Most of the conflicts of American history from this point forward emerged from attempts to understand and implement what it means to believe “all men are created equal.”

    Women in South Carolina Experience Occupation, 1780

    The British faced the difficult task of fighting a war without pushing more colonists into the hands of the revolutionaries. As a result, the Revolutionary War included little direct attacks on civilians, but that does not mean that civilians did not suffer. The following account from Eliza Wilkinson describes the stress faced by non-combatants who had to face the British army.

    Abigail and John Adams Converse on Women’s Rights, 1776

    The American Revolution invited a reconsideration of all social inequalities. Abigail Adams, in this letter to her husband John Adams, asked her husband to “remember the ladies” in any new laws he may create. In his reply, John Adams treated this sentiment as a joke, demonstrating the limits of revolutionary liberty.

    American Revolution Cartoon, 1782

    Political cartoons provide insight into public opinion and the decisions made by politicians. These cartoons became an important medium for voicing criticism and dissent during the American Revolution. In this 1782 cartoon, the British lion faces a spaniel (Spain), a rooster (France), a rattlesnake (America), and a pug dog (Netherlands). Though the caption predicts Britain’s success, it illustrates that Britain faced challenges –and therefore drains on their military and treasury—from more than just the American rebels.

    Drawings of the Uniforms of the American Revolution, 1781

    American soldiers came from a variety of backgrounds and had numerous reasons for fighting with the American army. Jean-Baptiste-Antoine DeVerger, a French sublieutenant at the Battle of Yorktown, painted this watercolor soon after that battle and chose to depict four men in men military dress: an African American soldier from the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment, a man in the homespun of the militia, another wearing the common “hunting shirt” of the frontier, and the French soldier on the end.

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