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Study Questions

The States United

  1. List the divisions within the Second Continental Congress, and give the aim of each faction. How did they attempt to gain their ends?
  2. How did the pamphlet Common Sense address the problem of the aim of the war, and what was its impact on American opinion?
  3. What were the philosophical roots of the Declaration of Independence, and what effect did the Declaration have on the struggle?
  4. What problems did the Americans face in providing the necessary supplies and equipment for the war and in paying for them?
  5. What were the American advantages in the struggle, and why was George Washington selected as the best person to make the most of these advantages?
  6. Identify and explain the two broad schools of interpretation that emerged as historians debated the origins of the American Revolution. On what points do these interpretations differ?

The War for Independence

  1. What were the initial setbacks in the war during 1776, and what was the significance of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton in this regard?
  2. What was the initial plan for the British campaign of 1777? How was this altered, and what effect did this alteration have on the outcome?
  3. What were the American diplomatic goals at the start of the war? What problems did they face, and what efforts were made to overcome them?
  4. How did the victory at Saratoga affect American diplomatic efforts? How did England and France respond to this news? What was the result?
  5. Why did the British decide to launch a campaign against the southern colonies in 1778? What advantages and disadvantages did each side have in this region?
  6. How was the campaign in the South conducted, and why was the victory at Yorktown so significant for the Americans?
  7. What were the provisions of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, and how did the treaty affect relations among the United States, France, and Spain?
  8. What problems did the Treaty of Paris of 1783 fail to solve? What problems did it create?

War and Society

  1. Who were the Loyalists? What elements in America remained loyal to the king, and for what reasons?
  2. What impact did the American Revolution have on Native Americans?
  3. How did the Revolution affect the way American women thought about their status, and what changes resulted from this new awareness?
  4. What changes did the Revolution produce in the structure of the American economy?

The Creation of State Governments

  1. What was it about the concept of a republican government that so appealed to Americans?
  2. How did Americans propose to avoid what they considered to be the problems of the British system they were repudiating?
  3. What were the characteristics of the state constitutions written during the early years of the struggle? How did they reflect the general spirit of the Enlightenment—the belief that freedom was the natural state of humanity?
  4. What impact did the Revolution have on slavery in New England? In the middle states? In the South?

The Search for a National Government

  1. What type of government did the Articles of Confederation create? What were its major features?
  2. How did the Treaty of Paris of 1783 fail to resolve, or in some cases help to create, strain among the United States, England, and Spain?
  3. What commercial arrangements did American shippers and traders want above all others after the war had ended? Why did they feel this was needed, and how successful were they in accomplishing their aims?
  4. What effect did the American westward movement have on diplomatic relations with Great Britain and Spain?
  5. How did the Confederation Congress attempt to resolve the problem of the status of western territory the states had ceded to the national government? Which interest groups favored which plans for the sale and distribution of land?
  6. What were the sources of the Confederation's postwar economic problems, and how did the government attempt to solve them? What were the results?
  7. How was paper money seen as a solution to the economic problems of one element in American society? Who opposed this and why?
  8. How did the actions of Daniel Shays and his followers relate to the economic problem of the Confederation period? What was the significance of the movement he led?







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