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When Does the Revolution End?

13. When Does the Revolution End?

Battle of Lexington
This scene, from the frieze in the rotunda of the U.S. capitol building, depicts British Major Pitcairn on a horse, backed by British soldiers at the Battle of Lexington. This engagement is considered the beginning of the Revolutionary War, with "the shot heard round the world."

The United States was created as a result of the American Revolution, when thirteen colonies on the east coast of North America fought to end their membership in the British Empire. This was a bold, dangerous, and even foolish thing to do at the time, since Great Britain was the strongest country in the world. While American success in the Revolution seems obvious today, it wasn't at the time.

The war for American independence began with military conflict in 1775 and lasted at least until 1783 when the peace treaty with the British was signed. In fact, Native Americans in the west (who were allied with the British, but not included in the 1783 negotiations) continued to fight and didn't sign a treaty with the United States until 1795. The Revolution was a long, hard, and difficult struggle.

One Nation, Many Revolutions

Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence, authored by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, begins with arguably one of the most important statements in U.S. history.

Even among Patriots there was a wide range of opinion about how the Revolution should shape the new nation. For example, soldiers often resented civilians for not sharing the deep personal sacrifice of fighting the war. Even among the men who fought, major differences often separated officers from ordinary soldiers. Finally, no consideration of the Revolution would be complete without considering the experience of people who were not Patriots. Loyalists were Americans who remained loyal to the British Empire. Almost all Native American groups opposed American Independence. Slaves would be made legally free if they fled Patriot masters to join the British Army, which they did in large numbers. This section reviews diverse Revolutionary experiences that helped shape the nation in different ways.

A constant question for our exploration, as well as for people at the time, is what does the Revolution mean and when did it end? Have the ideals of the Revolution been achieved even today? One of our challenges is to consider the meaning of the Revolution from multiple perspectives.

On the Web
Minute Man
April 19, 1775 was a busy day in Revolutionary War history. Not only was this the day that shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, it was the day of the first singing of "Yankee Doodle!"
Loyalist soldier
The Loyalists didn't mince words when it came to their song lyrics: "May Congress, Conventions, those damned inquisitions, / Be fed with hot sulphur from Luciferís kitchens."
The Revolutionary War came to an end in the "City of Lights" -- when British representative David Hartley and an American delegation of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
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