The American Revolution (1754–1781)

by: History SparkNotes

Key People

John Adams

A prominent Boston lawyer who first became famous for defending the British soldiers accused of murdering five civilians in the Boston Massacre. Adams was a delegate from Massachusetts in the Continental Congresses, where he rejected proposals for reconciliation with Britain. He served as vice president to George Washington and was president of the United States from 1797 to 1801.

Samuel Adams

Second cousin to John Adams and a political activist. Adams was a failed Bostonian businessman who became an activist in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. He organized the first Committee of Correspondence of Boston, which communicated with other similar organizations across the colonies, and was a delegate to both Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775.

Joseph Brant

A Mohawk chief and influential leader of the Iroquois tribes. Brant was one of the many Native American leaders who advocated an alliance with Britain against the Americans in the Revolutionary War. He and other tribal leaders hoped an alliance with the British might provide protection from land-hungry American settlers.

Benjamin Franklin

A Philadelphia printer, inventor, and patriot. Franklin drew the famous “Join or Die” political cartoon for the Albany Congress. He was also a delegate for the Second Continental Congress and a member of the committee responsible for helping to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

King George III

King of Great Britain during the American Revolution. George III inherited the throne at the age of twelve. He ruled Britain throughout the Seven Years’ War, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812. After the conclusion of the French and Indian War, his popularity declined in the American colonies. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson vilifies George III and argues that his neglect and misuse of the American colonies justified their revolution.

George Grenville

Prime minister of Parliament at the close of the French and Indian War. Grenville was responsible for enforcing the Navigation Act and for passing the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Currency Act, and Quartering Act in the mid-1760s. He assumed, incorrectly, that colonists would be willing to bear a greater tax burden after Britain had invested so much in protecting them from the French and Native Americans.

Patrick Henry

A radical colonist famous for his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Henry openly advocated rebellion against the Crown in the years prior to the Revolutionary War.

Thomas Hutchinson

Royal official and governor of Massachusetts during the turbulent years of the 1760s and early 1770s. Hutchinson forbade the British East India Company’s tea ships from leaving Boston Harbor until they had unloaded their cargo, prompting disguised colonists to destroy the tea in the Boston Tea Party.

Thomas Jefferson

Virginian planter and lawyer who eventually became president of the United States. Jefferson was invaluable to the revolutionary cause. In 1776, he drafted the Declaration of Independence, which justified American independence from Britain. Later, he served as the first secretary of state under President George Washington and as vice president to John Adams. Jefferson then was elected president himself in 1800 and 1804.

Thomas Paine

A radical philosopher who strongly supported republicanism and civic virtue. Paine’s 1776 pamphlet Common Sensewas a bestselling phenomenon in the American colonies and convinced thousands to rebel against the “royal brute,” King George III. When subsequent radical writings of Paine’s, which supported republicanism and condemned monarchy, were published in Britain, Paine was tried in absentia, found guilty of seditious libel, and declared an outlaw in England.

William Pitt, the Elder

British statesman who provided crucial leadership during the latter half of the French and Indian War. Pitt focused British war efforts so that Britain could defeat the French in Canada. Many have argued that without his leadership, Britain would have lost the war to the French and their allies.

Pontiac

A prominent Ottawa chief. Pontiac, disillusioned by the French defeat in the French and Indian War, briefly united various tribes in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys to raid colonists on the western frontiers of British North America between 1763 and 1766. He eventually was killed by another Native American after the British crushed his uprising. Hoping to forestall any future tribal insurrections, Parliament issued the Proclamation of 1763as a conciliatory gesture toward Native Americans and as an attempt to check the encroachment of white settlers onto native lands.

George Washington

A Virginia planter and militia officer who eventually became the first president of the United States. Washington participated in the first engagement of the French and Indian War in 1754 and later became commander in chief of the American forces during the Revolutionary War. In 1789, he became president of the United States. Although Washington actually lost most of the military battles he fought, his leadership skills were unparalleled and were integral to the creation of the United States.


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