"The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. 'Tis not the affair of a city, a country, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent--of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe."
Tom Paine, Common Sense (1776)
"The Revolution was in the Minds of The People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington."
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (1815)
"The American War is over, but this is far from being the case with the American Revolution. On the contrary, nothing but the first act of the great drama is closed."
Benjamin Rush (1787)
"The times grow hard,/poor people cry,/for want of money,/corn to buy."
Verse in a New York newspaper (1767)
"In about three hours from the time we went on board, we had thus broken and thrown overboard every tea chest to be found in the ship. . . ."
George Robert Twelves Hewes, Boston shoemaker & Tea Party participant (1834)
"I long to hear that you have declared an independancy--and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire that you would remember the Ladies. . ."
Abigail Adams to husband John (1776)
"On the commencement of actual war, the Women of America manifested a firm resolution to contribute as much as could depend on them, to the deliverance of their country."
An American Woman [Esther DeBerdt Reed] (1780)
"I have Don as much to Carrey on the warr as meney that Sett Now at ye healm of government & No Notice taken of me."
Rachel Wells, New Jersey widow, to Continental Congress (1786)
". . . as Slavery is the greatest, and consequently most to be dreaded, of all temporal calamities: So its opposite, Liberty, is the greatest temporal good, with which you can be blest!" Caesar Sarter, former slave, "Essay on Slavery" (1774)
"By what means this great and important alteration in the religious, moral, political, and social character of the people of the thirteen colonies, all distinct, unconnected, and independent of each other, was begun, pursued, and accomplished, it is surely interesting to humanity to investigate and perpetuate to posterity."
John Adams (1818)
“Americans were not born free and democratic in any modern sense; they became so—and largely as a consequence of the American Revolution.”
Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991)
REQUIRED READING This Syllabus
Misc. Photocopies (distributed in class or through the POs)
Rampolla, Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 3rd ed.
Brown, Major Problems in the Era of the American Revolution, 2nd ed
Raphael, A People’s History of the American Revolution
Morgan, The Birth of the Republic, 1763-1789, 3rd ed.
Ellis, What Did the Declaration Declare?
Royster, A Revolutionary People at War
Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party We will also make use of selected websites and A-V materials (times and places TBA)
COURSE DESCRIPTION Welcome. This course examines the social, political, cultural, and intellectual history of Revolutionary America (c. 1760-1800) through the eyes of the “Founding Fathers” as well as through those of Native Americans, African Americans, women, and white farmers and “mechanics.” Major topics include the imperial relationship with Britain; the language, ideology and culture of resistance and independence; the experience and outlook of Revolutionary soldiers; the development of American constitutionalism; and social conflict within both the colonies and new states. We will be especially concerned with (1) the origins and consequences (both short- and long-term) of the Revolution; (2) the points of unity and conflict among Americans between 1760 and 1800; and (3) the meanings assigned the Revolution by contemporaries and later Americans.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS The requirements for this course are straightforward. You are responsible for completing the assigned reading and writing on time and for viewing/listening to all required A-V materials at the scheduled times.
Reading and Conversing: Remember, this is a seminar, not a lecture course. You musttherefore come to class prepared to participate energetically and thoughtfully in a conversation (see definition below) about the assigned reading. Clearly this demands that you read steadily, carefully, and critically. Read all parts of each book (e.g., title page, table of contents, acknowledgments, preface, introduction, notes, bibliography, index). Probe the reading for both explicit and implicit meanings, as well as for assumptions and biases. Try to grasp and distinguish between an author’s main point and subordinate supporting points. Mark up the reading with questions/comments and record your reactions in a reading journal to which you can refer to refresh your memory. While I do not expect you to come to class with total recall or perfect understanding of what you have read, I do expect you to come with a basic understanding of an author’s argument and with critical (i.e., analytical) questions/observations in response to it. If, when you come to class, your mind draws a blank about the work(s) we are scheduled to discuss, or you must frantically thumb through pages of text to refresh your memory, you will not have prepared adequately. You will know that you have read carefully and critically when you are able (verbally and in writing) to provide accurate summaries of the readings, to discern similarities and differences across numerous sources, and to voice insightful questions and observations about what you have read.Finish the assigned reading at least one day in advance of class. Once you have finished, don’t simply lay the material aside and forget about it. Rather, review it and your notes as well, both the night and the morning before class. What assertions, what passages, have you marked as important, problematic, confusing, or interesting, and why? Careful reading of the sort expected in this seminar is skilled work that demands concentration, time, and patience. Similarly, a rich and stimulating conversation does not simply happen; it requires conscious and conscientious advance effort on the part of all participants! There may be occasional “pop” reading quizzes. They are a quick way for me to check how well you comprehend and keep up with the reading. To facilitate our conversations you will come to each meeting with two written discussion questions that grow out of the assigned reading for that week. In addition, each week two people will be responsible for posting at least three questions on the course discussion list by Noon on the Monday before we meet. Please print these posted questions and bring them to class along with the thoughts they have provoked. In all cases, strive for questions that are sophisticated rather than simplistic or naïve. Your questions should speak to interpretive rather than factual matters, offer evidence of your close reading of assigned texts, and pose problems worthy of serious and lively intellectual discourse. You will be asked to hand in your questions periodically. Note: Webster's (Third College Edition) defines conversation as "the act or instance of talking together; specif., familiar talk; verbal exchange of ideas, opinions, etc." Writing: This is a W course, and you will be required to complete three or four short (c. 4-5 pp.) essays, one or two brief (c. 2-3 pp.) exercises, several brief (c. 2 pp.) responses to websites, and a modestly-long (c. 15 pp.) primary source analysis based on selected primary sources of your own choosing (see attached assignment). You will revise the first draft of the long essay and rewrite one of the short essays in light of the criticism each receives from a peer reader and me.
All written work will be evaluated both for substance and style. Essays must be typed and double-spaced, using a 12-point font, with print as dark as this. All margins (top, bottom, left, right) should be set at 1”. Number your pages, beginning with the first page of text (i.e., do not count the cover sheet). Documentation of sources is required for all written work. In-text citations are acceptable for the short essays and exercises; endnotes and bibliography are required for the final paper (more on this as we proceed; see Rampolla’s Guide). Staple each assignment together with a cover sheet bearing your name, date of submission, and a title devised by you (don't simply repeat my generic titles). Remember to proofread, “spellcheck,” and correct your essay before submitting it. Essays that are sloppy or ignore the prescribed format will be returned unmarked. If resubmission is approved, corrected essays must be resubmitted within 24 hours. They will be penalized a full letter grade. Retain an extra copy of work submitted; remember when word processing to save a backup copy of your document on a diskette; be careful not to damage or lose diskettes; and consider printing a hard copy of your writing as you proceed. Attendance, Missed Work, Incompletes: Regular attendance and active participation in our conversations are minimum requirements of this seminar. Failure to meet these requirements may result in your being dropped from the course. Students who attend class but participate minimally or not at all will
receive an “F” for conversation. Late assignments will be penalized a full letter grade; missed
work will be graded “F.” There are no “excused absences” or “incompletes” in this course except under extraordinary circumstances and only by prior arrangement with me.
Evaluating Your Work: At the end of the semester I will weigh your work approximately as follows (grading is an art, not a science): writing, 70%; conversation, 30%. I am impressed by high levels of preparation and engagement in/with the course, as well as by extraordinary effort, though obviously results are no less important than effort. It is the clarity, depth, accuracy, honesty, and improvement of your work that concern me most. Completing an assignment and attending class are but required minimal first steps. Challenge yourself to participate energetically, thoughtfully, and regularly and to go beyond the obvious or trite in your thinking and writing.Note that each of you must complete the self-assessment form attached at the end of this syllabus and submit it with the final draft of your primary source analysis. You should review that form carefully now and again at mid-semester.
GENERAL TOPICS OF THE SEMINAR The Revolution Interpreted/Remembered (Our First Class and Our Last)
The Imperial Connection
Colonial Life on the Eve of Revolution
Origins of Resistance
The Language, Ideology, and Culture of Resistance and Independence
From Farmers to Minutemen: Revolution in the Countryside
The Urban Crowds: "From Rioters to Radicals"
The Empire Strikes Back (and Loses): Revolutionary War
The War, the Continental Army, and the Making of National Character
"Home Rule" v. "Who Shall Rule at Home"
“Outsiders” Inside: Loyalists, Indians, and African Americans
“Liberty’s Daughters”: Women and the Revolution
From Fourteen States to One Republic
Toward an Expansive Liberal Republic
READING ASSIGNMENTS (ch.=chapter; chs.=chapters) Note: For those weeks where one or more websites are listed, you are responsible for bringing to class a c. 2-page (typed, double-spaced) critical response to the site of your choice (or the single site listed). Before writing, play around with the site for, say, an hour. As you work out with it, ask yourself these questions and address them in your written response: Who (what individual[s] or organization) sponsors the website? Does it seem reliable? What can you learn from it about the topic(s) it covers? What material(s) on the site did you read/view, and what did you learn in the process? What are the strengths and limitations of the site based on your limited perusal? What did you find most interesting or provocative about the site, and why?
I am grateful to Professor Serena Zabin of Carleton College, whose online Syllabus for HIST 212, The American Revolution, directed me to most of the sites below.
SEPT. 11: Introductions: Photocopies; Raphael, pp. xi-9; Brown, pp. vii-25; Royster, pp. vii-xi;
Young, pp. 249-253, vii-xvii, 85-91, 180-207
Website: Liberty Perspectives: Global Village
Liberty: Chronicle of the Revolution
18: Morgan, pp. vii-xiv, Bibliographical Note (185-92), Important Dates (193-95), 1-42;
Brown, chs. 2-4;
Websites: Liberty Perspectives: Daily Life in the Colonies