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America's History in the Making

Revolutionary Perspectives

Theme 2

Some African Americans, white women, and white yeoman farmers used political rhetoric to argue for their own rights; Loyalists and most Native Americans found little in these ideals to support their own interests.

We should not imagine that the residents of the thirteen colonies unanimously and enthusiastically took the side of the patriots—or, from the British point of view, insurrectionists—during the American Revolution. Political conservatives, merchants with strong ties to Great Britain, indigenous peoples, and slaves and poor farmers who distrusted any cause embraced by wealthy landowners commonly opposed the Revolution. A majority of colonists probably tried to stay neutral.

But, diverse types of people soon found reason to embrace the Revolution and its rhetoric. Self-preservation had something to do with this, as the patriots were adept at persecuting residents who showed insufficient enthusiasm for the cause or supported the British. Moreover, the ideas of the Revolution—Enlightenment principles of inalienable rights, and hints of political and social equality—appealed to poor farmers and laborers, white women, and African Americans.

Primary Sources


Text Artifact

Excerpted from To the Right Honourable William

Phillis Wheatley, "To the Right Honourable William, earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for North-America, &c, "Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral (1773). Courtesy the University of Oregon, http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/wheatley.html.

Text Artifact

Remember the Ladies Adams Correspondence, 1776

Letter from Abigail Adams to husband John Adams,
31 March 1776, http://www.masshist.org/adams/manuscripts_1.cfm#%23.

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