Boston revolutionary who organized Massachusetts' committees of correspondence to help sustain opposition to British policies. A delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, he continued to play a key role throughout the revolutionary and early national periods, later serving as governor of his home state.
Runaway slave and leader of the Boston protests that resulted in the "Boston Massacre," in which Attucks was first to die.
Royal governor of Virginia who, in 1775, promised freedom to runaway slaves who joined the British army.
British monarch during the run-up to the American Revolution, he contributed to the imperial crisis with his dogged insistence on asserting Britain's power over her colonial possessions.
British prime minister who fueled tensions between Britain and her North American colonies through his strict enforcement of navigation laws and his support for the Sugar and Stamp Acts.
Boston smuggler and prominent leader of the colonial resistance, who served as president of the Second Continental Congress. In 1780 he became the first governor of Massachusetts, a post he held with only a brief intermission until his death.
Royal governor of Massachusetts during the run-up to the Revolution, he misjudged colonial zeal during the Tea Act controversy and insisted that East India Company ships unload in Boston Harbor, thereby prompting the Boston Tea Party.
Marquis de Lafayette
French nobleman who served as major general in the colonial army during the American Revolution and aided the newly-independent colonies in securing French support.
Tory prime minister and pliant aide to George III from 1770 to 1782. His ineffective leadership and dogged insistence on colonial subordination contributed to the American Revolution.
Baron von Steuben
German-born inspector general of the Continental army, who helped train the novice colonial militia in the art of warfare.
British prime minister whose ill-conceived duties on the colonies, the Townshend Acts, sparked fierce protests in the colonies and escalated the imperial conflict.
Admiral de Grasse
French admiral, whose fleet blocked British reinforcements, allowing Washington and Rochambeau to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown.
Revolutionary war officer who, along with Benedict Arnold, fought British and Indian forces in frontier New York and Vermont.
Revolutionary war general turned traitor, who valiantly held off a British invasion of upstate New York at Lake Champlain, but later switched sides, plotting to sell out the Continental stronghold at West Point to the redcoats. His scheme was discovered and the disgraced general fled to British lines.
Mohawk chief and Anglican convert, who sided with the British during the Revolutionary war, believing that only a British victory could halt American westward expansion.
British general who led an ill-fated invasion of upstate New York, suffering a crushing defeat by George Washington at Saratoga.
George Rogers Clark
American frontiersman who captured a series of British forts along the Ohio River during the Revolutionary war.
British general during the Revolutionary War who, having failed to crush Greene's forces in South Carolina, retreated to Virginia, where his defeat at Yorktown marked the beginning of the end for Britain's efforts to suppress the colonial rebellion.
American printer, inventor, statesman and revolutionary. He first established himself in Philadelphia as a leading newspaper printer, inventor and author of Poor Richard's Almanac. He later became a leading revolutionary and signatory of the Declaration of Independence. During the Revolutionary War, Franklin served as commissioner to France, securing the nation's support for the American cause.
General in command of the Continental army in the Carolina campaign of 1781, the "Fighting Quaker" successfully cleared most of Georgia and South Carolina of British troops despite loosing a string of minor battles.
British general who, despite victories on the battle field, failed to deal a crushing blow to Washington's Continental army. By attacking Philadelphia instead of reinforcing General Burgoyne at Saratoga, he also inadvertently contributed to that crucial American victory.
Richard Henry Lee
Virginia planter and revolutionary, who served as a member of the Continental Congress. He first introduced the motion asserting America's independence from Britain, later supplanted by Thomas Jefferson's more formal and rhetorically moving declaration. He went on to become the first U.S. senator from Virginia under the new constitution.
Irish-born British army veteran, who served as a general in the Continental army during the Revolution. He joined Benedict Arnold in a failed attempt to seize Quebec in 1775.
British-born pamphleteer and author of Common Sense, a fiery tract that laid out the case for American independence. Later an ardent supporter of the French Revolution, he became increasingly radical in his views, publishing the anticlerical The Age of Reason in 1794, which cost him the support of his American allies.
Comte de Rochambeau
General in command of French forces during the American Revolution, he fought alongside George Washington at Yorktown.
American revolutionary and champion of states' rights, he became a prominent anti-federalist during the ratification debate, opposing what he saw as despotic tendencies in the new national constitution.
Revolutionary war veteran who led a group of debtors and impoverished backcountry farmers in a rebellion against the Massachusetts government in 1786, calling for paper money, lighter taxes and an end to property seizures for debt. Though quickly put down, the rebellion raised the specter of mob rule, precipitating calls for a stronger national government.
Parliamentarian who persuaded Britain to take a hard line in negotiations with the newly in de pendent United States, closing off American trade with the West Indies and continuing to enforce navigation laws. His approach prompted many Americans to call for a stronger central government, culminating in the 1787 Philadelphia convention.
American revolutionary, statesman and second president of the United States. One of the more radical patriots on the eve of the Revolution, Massachusetts-born he helped guide the Continental Congress toward a declaration of independence from Britain. From 1778 to 1788, he involved himself with international diplomacy, serving as minister to France, Britain and the Netherlands. After serving as Washington's vice president, he was elected president in his own right in 1796. his administration suffered from Federalist infighting, international turmoil, and domestic uproar over the Alien and Sedition Acts, all of which contributed to his defeat in the election of 1800.
Representative of the French Republic who in 1793 tried to recruit Americans to invade Spanish and British territories in blatant disregard of Washington's Neutrality Proclamation.
Revolutionary War soldier and first treasury secretary of the United States. A fierce proponent of a strong national government, he attended the Philadelphia convention and convincingly argued for the Constitution's ratification in The Federalist. As treasury secretary, he advocated the assumption of state debts to bolster the nation's credit and the establishment of a national bank to print sound currency and boost commerce.
Leading American revolutionary and diplomat, who negotiated the Treaty of Paris and later, the much- criticized Jay Treaty of 1794, which averted war with Britain but failed to address key American grievances. Jay also served as the first chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1789-1795, a post he left to become governor of New York.
Miami Indian chief whose warriors routed American forces in 1790 and 1791 along the Ohio frontier. In 1794, he and his braves were defeated by General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and were forced to cede vast tracts of the Old Northwest under the Treaty of Greenville.
King of France from 1774 to 1792, he, along with Queen Marie Antoinette, was beheaded during the French Revolution.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand
French foreign minister whose attempts to solicit bribes from American envoys in the infamous XYZ Affair prompted widespread calls for war with France.
Revolutionary war general and first president of the United States. A Virginia-born planter, he established himself as a military hero during the French and Indian War. He served as commander in chief of the Continental Army during the War of Independence, securing key victories at Saratoga and Yorktown. Unanimously elected president under the new national Constitution in 1788, he served two terms, focusing primarily on strengthening the national government, establishing a sound financial system and maintaining American neutrality amidst the escalating European conflict.
"Mad Anthony" Wayne
Revolutionary war soldier and commander in chief of the U.S. Army from 1792-1796, he secured the Treaty of Greenville after soundly defeating the Miami Confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
French Protestant dissenters, these people were granted limited toleration under the Edict of Nantes. After King Louis XIV outlawed Protestantism in 1685, many Huguenots fled elsewhere, including to British North America.
Edict of Nantes
Decree issued by the French crown granting limited toleration to French Protestants. Ended religious wars in France and inaugurated a period of French preeminence in Europe and across the Atlantic. Its repeal in 1685 prompted a fresh migration of Protestant Huguenots to North America.
coureurs de bois
Translated as "runners of the woods," they were French fur-trappers, also known as "voyageurs" (travelers), who established trading posts throughout North America. The fur trade wreaked havoc on the health and folkways of their Native American trading partners.
King William's War
War fought largely between French trappers, British settlers, and their respective Indian allies from 1689-1697. The colonial theater of the larger War of the League of Augsburg in Europe.
Queen Anne's War
Second in a series of conflicts between the European powers for control of North America, fought between the English and French colonists in the North, and the English and Spanish in Florida. Under the peace treaty, the French ceded Acadia (Nova Scotia), Newfoundland, and Hudson Bay to Britain.
War of Jenkins's Ear
Small-scale clash between Britain and Spain in the Caribbean and in the buffer colony, Georgia. It merged with the much larger War of Austrian Succession in 1742. Involved Spanish commander cutting off British captain Robert Jenkins's ear
King George's War
North American theater of Europe's War of Austrian Succession that once again pitted British colonists against their French counterparts in the North. The peace settlement did not involve any territorial realignment, leading to conflict between New England settlers and the British government.
French residents of Nova Scotia, many of whom were uprooted by the British in 1755 and scattered as far south as Louisiana, where their descendants became known as "Cajuns". These people were brutally conquered by the British.
French and Indian War (Seven Years' War)
Nine-year war between the British and the French in North America. It resulted in the expulsion of the French from the North American mainland and helped spark the Seven Years' War in Europe.
Intercolonial congress summoned by the British government to foster greater colonial unity and assure Iroquois support in the escalating war against the French.
Trained professional soldiers, as distinct from militia or conscripts. During the French and Indian War, British generals, used to commanding experienced regulars, often showed contempt for ill-trained colonial militiamen.
The "Great Commoner" leader who emerged to save Britain from distress during the French & Indian War. By focusing on Quebec-Montreal and choosing young leaders, he took Louisbourg from the French
Bloody campaign waged by Ottawa chief Pontiac to drive the British out of Ohio Country. It was brutally crushed by British troops, who resorted to distributing blankets infected with smallpox as a means to put down the rebellion.
Proclamation of 1763
Decree issued by Parliament in the wake of Pontiac's uprising, prohibiting settlement beyond the Appalachians. Contributed to rising resentment of British rule in the American colonies.
Political theory of representative government, based on the principle of popular sovereignty, with a strong emphasis on liberty and civic virtue. Influential in eighteenth century American political thought, it stood as an alternative to monarchical rule.
Eighteenth-century British political commentators who agitated against political corruption and emphasized the threat to liberty posed by arbitrary power. Their writings shaped American political thought and made colonists especially alert to encroachments on their rights.
Economic theory that closely linked a nation's political and military power to its bullion reserves. Mercantilists generally favored protectionism and colonial acquisition as means to increase exports.
Duty on imported sugar from the West Indies. It was the first tax levied on the colonists by the crown and was lowered substantially in response to widespread protests.
Required colonies to provide food and quarters for British troops. Many colonists resented the act, which they perceived as an encroachment on their rights. Enacted by prime minister George Grenville
Widely-unpopular tax on an array of paper goods, repealed in 1766 after mass protests erupted across the colonies. Colonists developed the principle of "no taxation without representation" which questioned Parliament's authority over the colonies and laid the foundation for future revolutionary claims. Enacted by prime minister George Grenville
Used to try offenders for violating the various Navigation Acts passed by the crown after the French and Indian War. Colonists argued that the courts encroached on their rights as Englishmen since they lacked juries and placed the burden of proof on the accused (guilty until proven innocent). Enacted by prime minister George Grenville
Stamp Act Congress
Assembly of delegates from nine colonies who met in New York City to draft a petition for the repeal of the Stamp Act. Helped ease sectional suspicions and promote intercolonial unity.
Boycotts against British goods adopted in response to the Stamp Act and, later, the Townshend and Intolerable Acts. The agreements were the most effective form of protest against British policies in the colonies.
Sons and Daughters of Liberty
Patriotic groups that played a central role in agitating against the Stamp Act and enforcing non-importation agreements.
Passed alongside the repeal of the Stamp Act, it reaffirmed Parliament's unqualified sovereignty over the North American colonies.
External, or indirect, levies on glass, white lead, paper, paint and tea, the proceeds of which were used to pay colonial governors, who had previously been paid directly by colonial assemblies. Sparked another round of protests in the colonies.
Clash between unruly Bostonian protestors and locally-stationed British redcoats, who fired on the jeering crowd, killing or wounding eleven citizens
committees of correspondence
Local committees started by Sam Adams and established across Massachusetts, and later in each of the thirteen colonies, to maintain colonial opposition to British policies through the exchange of letters and pamphlets.
Boston Tea Party
Rowdy protest against the British East India Company's newly-acquired monopoly on the tea trade. Colonists, disguised as Indians, dumped 342 chests of tea into Boston harbor, prompting harsh sanctions from the British Parliament.
Series of punitive measures passed in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, closing the Port of Boston, revoking a number of rights in the Massachusetts colonial charter, and expanding the Quartering Act to allow for the lodging of soldiers in private homes. In response, colonists convened the First Continental Congress and called for a complete boycott of British goods.
Allowed the French residents of Québec to retain their traditional political and religious institutions, and extended the boundaries of the province southward to the Ohio River. Mistakenly perceived by the colonists to be part of Parliament's response to the Boston Tea Party.
First Continental Congress
Convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen colonies that convened in Philadelphia to craft a response to the Intolerable Acts. Delegates established Association, which called for a complete boycott of British goods.
Non-importation agreement crafted during the First Continental Congress calling for the complete boycott of British goods.
Battles of Lexington and Concord
First battles of the Revolutionary War, fought outside of Boston. The colonial militia successfully defended their stores of munitions, forcing the British to retreat to Boston.
Encampment where George Washington's poorly-equipped army spent a wretched, freezing winter. Hundreds of men died and more than a thousand deserted. The plight of the starving, shivering soldiers reflected the main weakness of the American army-a lack of stable supplies and munitions.
Second Continental Congress
Representative body of delegates from all thirteen colonies. Drafted the Declaration of Independence and managed the colonial war effort.
Battle of Bunker Hill
Fought on the outskirts of Boston, on Breed's Hill, the battle ended in the colonial militia's retreat, though at a heavy cost to the British.
Olive Branch Petition
Conciliatory measure adopted by the Continental Congress, professing American loyalty and seeking an end to the hostilities. King George rejected the petition and proclaimed the colonies in rebellion.
German troops hired from their princes by George III to aid in putting down the colonial insurrection. This hardened the resolve of American colonists, who resented the use of paid foreign fighters.
Thomas Paine's pamphlet urging the colonies to declare independence and establish a republican government. The widely-read pamphlet helped convince colonists to support the Revolution.
Declaration of Independence
Formal pronouncement of independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson and approved by Congress. The declaration allowed Americans to appeal for foreign aid and served as an inspiration for later revolutionary movements worldwide.
Declaration of the Rights of Man
Declaration of rights adopted during the French Revolution. Modeled after the American Declaration of Independence.
Sample treaty drafted by the Continental Congress as a guide for American diplomats. Reflected the Americans' desire to foster commercial partnerships rather than political or military entanglements.
Loose alliance of nonbelligerent naval powers, organized by Russia's Catherine the Great, to protect neutral trading rights during the war for American independence.
Treaty of Fort Stanwix
Treaty signed by the United States and the pro-British Iroquois granting Ohio country to the Americans.
Privately-owned armed ships authorized by Congress to prey on enemy shipping during the Revolutionary War. These ships, more numerous than the tiny American Navy, inflicted heavy damages on British shippers.
Treaty of Paris
Peace treaty signed by Britain and the United States ending the Revolutionary War. The British formally recognized American independence and ceded territory east of the Mississippi while the Americans, in turn, promised to restore Loyalist property and repay debts to British creditors.
Society of the Cincinnati
Exclusive, hereditary organization of former officers in the Continental Army. Many resented the pretentiousness of the order, viewing it as a vestige of pre-Revolutionary traditions.
To separate an official state church from its connection with the government. Following the Revolution, all states disestablished the Anglican Church to form the Protestant Episcopal Church, though some New England states maintained established Congregational Churches.
Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
Measure enacted by the Virginia legislature prohibiting state support for religious institutions and recognizing freedom of worship. Served as a model for the religion clause of the first amendment to the Constitution.
Willingness on the part of citizens to sacrifice personal self-interest for the public good. Deemed a necessary component of a successful republic.
Articles of Confederation
First American constitution that established the United States as a loose confederation of states under a weak national Congress, which was not granted the power to regulate commerce or collect taxes. The Articles were replaced by a more efficient Constitution in 1789.
Land Ordinance of 1785
Provided for the sale of land in the Old Northwest and earmarked the proceeds toward repaying the national debt. The land was to be divided into townships six miles square, each split into thirty-six sections of one-square mile each. The sixteenth section of each township was set aside for public schools
Northwest Ordinance of 1787
Created a policy for administering the Northwest Territories. It included a path to statehood and forbade the expansion of slavery into the territories.
Armed uprising of western Massachusetts debtors seeking lower taxes and an end to property foreclosures. Though quickly put down, the insurrection inspired fears of "mob rule" among leading Revolutionaries.
"Large state" proposal for the new constitution, calling for proportional representation in both houses of a bicameral Congress. The plan favored larger states and thus prompted smaller states to come back with their own plan for apportioning representation.
New Jersey Plan
"Small-state plan" put forth at the Philadelphia convention, proposing equal representation by state, regardless of population, in a unicameral legislature. Small states feared that the more populous states would dominate the agenda under a proportional system.
Popular term for the measure which reconciled the New Jersey and Virginia plans at the constitutional convention, giving states proportional representation in the House and equal representation in the Senate. The compromise broke the stalemate at the convention and paved the way for subsequent compromises over slavery and the Electoral College.
Laws that originate from court rulings and customs, as opposed to legislative statutes. The United States Constitution grew out of the Anglo-American common law tradition and thus provided only a general organizational framework for the new federal government.