21H.112 | Spring 2006 | Undergraduate

The American Revolution


This section contains the required readings for the course, which are also presented by session.

Every effort was made to locate as complete information as possible for historical documents, and links to online sources were included where available.

Required Readings

Anderson, Fred. A People’s Army: Massachusetts Soldiers in the Seven Years War. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 1996. ISBN: 9780807845769.

Jensen, Merrill, ed. Tracts of the American Revolution. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2003, pp. 1763-1776. ISBN: 9780872206939.

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Any unabridged edition. Recommended edition: Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government. Edited by Peter Laslett. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988. ISBN: 9780521357302.

Maier, Pauline. From Resistance to Revolution: Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Resistance to Britain. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1992, pp. 1765-1776. ISBN: 9780393308259.

Morison, Samuel Eliot, ed. Sources and Documents Illustrating the American Revolution. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1965. ISBN: 9780195002621.

Shy, John. A People Numerous and Armed. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780472064311.

Wood, Gordon S. The American Revolution: A History. New York, NY: Modern Library Chronicles, 2002. ISBN: 9780679640578.

Readings by Session


Introduction and Historiography

Background: Society, Economy, Politics and Government, America and Britain

Wood. American Revolution. pp. xxiii-xv and 3-24.

Maier. From Resistance to Revolution. p. 26.

Anderson. A People’s Army. pp. vii-xi, 3-164, 185-210, and 222-23.

2 Background (cont.) and Ideology

Locke. Second Treatise of Government. Chapters 1-4, 8-13, and 17-19.

Maier. From Resistance to Revolution. pp. 27- 48.

3 Overview of the Independence Movement

Wood. American Revolution. pp. 27-44.

Maier. From Resistance to Revolution. pp. 51-157.

Start the readings for week 4.

4 Arguments and Actions, 1764-1770

Hopkins, Stephen. “Essay on Trade” (1764). In Tracts of the American Revolution.

-–. “The Rights of Colonies Examined” (later 1764). In Tracts of the American Revolution.

Dulany, Daniel. “Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies” (1765). In Tracts of the American Revolution.

Bland, Richard. “An Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies” (1766). In Tracts of the American Revolution. (Note the quotations from a British writer—Thomas Whately—that Bland includes).

Dickinson, John. “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania” (1768). In Tracts of the American Revolution.

Morison. Sources and Documents, pp. 14-24, which includes the Virginia Resolutions of 1765 and Soame Jenyns, “The Objections to the Taxation of our American Colonies by the Legislature of Great Britain, briefly consider’d” (London, 1765).

Note: It’s a good idea to read the pamphlets in chronological order. How did the American argument shift between the two Hopkins pamphlets, and between Dulany and Dickinson? If you can identify where an author is saying what everyone is saying and focus instead on what’s new, and on how the American position is developing (the British didn’t change much), you’ll be reading efficiently and intelligently. It might take some practice to get the hang of that. Be sure to take notes on each pamphlet immediately after finishing it or all of them will quickly melt together in your mind.

Accounts of the Stamp Act uprisings, the Sons of Liberty, and the Virginia Association of 1770.

5 From Resistance to Revolution, 1770-1776

Wood. American Revolution. pp. 47-62.

Maier. From Resistance to Revolution. pp. 161-296.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Summary View of the Rights of British America” (1774). In Tracts of the American Revolution, pp. 256-76.

Paine, Thomas. “Common Sense.” In Tracts of the American Revolution, pp. 400-446.

Morison. Sources and Documents. pp. 100-115 (Wilson, 1774), 116-25, and 137-48.

(The discussion will focus on the primary sources, particularly the three pamphlets in the assigned readings. What distinguishes Wilson and Jefferson from Dickinson’s “Farmer’s Letters”? Is Paine’s “Common Sense” a logical outgrowth of the line of argument American pamphlets had taken, or something else altogether? How exactly did Paine justify Independence? Was he convincing? Was he moving? More so than others? Why?)

6 Declarations of Independence; Loyalism

The English Declaration of Rights (1789).

American local resolutions on independence.

Mason, George. Draft of the Virginia Declaration of Rights. Pennsylvania Gazette, June 12, 1776.

Jefferson’s draft preamble for the Virginia constitution of 1776 (May-June 1776).

The committee or “Jefferson” draft of the Declaration of Independence, with Congress’s editings (June-July 1776). In Maier, Pauline. Appendix C of American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. New York, NY: Knopf, 1997, pp. 236-241. ISBN: 9780679454922.

The main focus of attention will be the draft Declaration with Congress’s editings. What did Congress do, and why? (You might also take a look at Morison’s version of the preamble to the Virginia constitution on p. 151 of Sources and Documents and see if you notice anything odd.)

Galloway, Joseph. “A Candid Examination of the Mutual Claims of Great Britain, And the Colonies” (1775). In Tracts of the American Revolution, pp. 350-399.

Chalmers, James. “Plain Truth” (1776). In Tracts of the American Revolution, pp. 447-488.

Norton, Mary Beth. “The Loyalist Critique of the Revolution.” In The Development of a Revolutionary Mentality. Library of Congress Symposium on the American Revolution, Washington, DC, 1972. Also published in The Development of a Revolutionary Mentality. Honolulu, HI: University Press of the Pacific, 2002. ISBN: 9781410201720.


The British View; Review

Midterm Exam

O’Shaughnessy, Andrew Jackson. “‘If Others Will Not Be Active, I Must Drive’: George III and the American Revolution.” Early American Studies 2, no. 1 (Spring 2004).
8 The Revolutionary War and the Peace of Paris

Wood. American Revolution. pp. 74-88.

Shy. A People Numerous and Armed. Chapters 4, 6-8, 10, (roughly pp. 81-115, 133-92, 213-44).

9 The First State Constitutions

Wood. American Revolution. pp. 65-70.

Morison. Sources and Documents. pp. 148-56, 162-77, and 206-08 (includes the first state constitutions of Virginia and Pennsylvania, both 1776, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom of October 1785).

The New York constitution of 1777 and the Massachusetts constitution of 1780.

Adams, John. “Thoughts on Government.” 1776.

10 “Liberty!”: A Sample of PBS’s Series on the American Revolution Reading holiday; go work on your papers. (But don’t skip class.)
11 The Confederation and the 1780s

Wood. American Revolution. pp. 70-74 and 91-150.

Morison. Sources and Documents. pp. 178-86, 203-08, and 208-33.

Jefferson, Thomas. “Query XIV.” From his Notes on the State of Virginia (written in 1781 and published in 1785). (Scroll down to the part where Jefferson discusses what he proposes to do with Virginia’s slave population, and why it couldn’t just stay in Virginia.)

Madison, James. “Vices of the Political System of the United States.” 1787.

Maier, Pauline. “The Revolutionary Origins of the American Corporation.” William and Mary Quarterly 50, no. 1 (January, 1993): 51-84. (3rd series.)

Bugbee, Bruce W. Genesis of American Patent and Copyright Law. Washington, DC: Public Affairs Press, 1967, pp. 84-131.

(Note: There’s no reason for you to master the details of American copyright law in the 1780s, but this material is, I believe, very helpful in “getting a handle” on what was going on in the United States in the aftermath of Independence. Most U.S. history textbooks mention at most the federal copyright law of 1790, but clearly that statute emerged from a flurry of earlier activity within the states. Why, all of a sudden in the late 1780s, were American legislators so open to granting copyrights and patents to authors and inventors? What kinds of devices were being patented? What do you suppose drove people to become so inventive? Most of the proposed devices came to nothing, but notice the name of Oliver Evans, a particularly prolific inventor who designed and built a grist mill that is generally considered the first fully automated American manufacturing operation. Finally, how does the view of the state legislatures here and in the article on corporations square with Madison’s view in “Vices”?)

12 The Philadelphia Convention of 1787 and the Constitution

Wood. American Revolution. pp. 151-58.

Morison. Sources and Documents. pp. 233-304.

Virginia and New Jersey plans.

13 Ratification

Wood. American Revolution. pp. 158-66.

Morison. Sources and Documents. pp. 305-62.

Maidson, James. “Federalist Paper No. 10.” 1787.

Mason, George. “Objections to This Constitution of Government.” October 1787.

“Amendments to the constitution proposed by Massachusetts, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York.” In Creating the Bill of Rights. Edited by Helen Veit. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991, pp. 14-28. ISBN: 9780801841002. Are these lists impossibly different? Are there any notable common elements?

And, to jump ahead a bit and consider whether the Antifederalists got what they wanted, read James Madison’s proposal for a federal Bill of Rights as presented to the House of Representatives on June 8, 1789, and the set of amendments Congress finally sent to the states for ratification in September 1789, in “Readings”. (The states failed to approve the first two of Congress’s proposed amendments by 1791. Did the rest really constitute a “bill of rights”?)

14 Conclusion: The Revolutionary Transformation

Brant, Irving. “Madison: On the Separation of Church and State.” William and Mary Quarterly 3 (1951): 3-24. (3rd series.)

Selections from the Adams correspondence and the writings of Judith Sargent Murray.

Edling, Max M. “Conclusion: The Constitution, The Federalists, and The American State.” In A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 219-29 and 313-14. ISBN: 9780195148701.

  Final Exam  

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2006