Create a dialogue: What could be said in this scene between people?
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Hostilities broke out between American colonists and the British in 1775 Outraged by British government; ports still being closed due to the Boston Tea Party, causing many Bostonians to lose their jobs As British troops filled the city, rumors accusing “redcoats,” the British, of robberies and murders through shops, inns, and other meeting places spread like wildfire
Sensing the tension, British Parliament ordered governor of Massachusetts to seize colonists’ military supplies 700 British soldiers were sent to destroy weapons collected in the town of Concord, about 18 miles from Boston Colonist Paul Revere and William Dawes learned of the British plan and rode to warn the colonial minutemen
When the British troops reached Lexington on their way to Concord, they found about 70 farmers and villagers blocking their path Colonists refused to lower their guns, a shot was fired, though no one knows which side fired first In the skirmish, British soldiers killed 8 colonists; later at Concord, the “redcoats” held off a sharp attack by more minutemen.
On their march back toward Boston, colonist fired at them from behind buildings, trees, and stone walls. The next day, about 300 British and 100 colonists were dead The British were completely humiliated that the colonists had been any match for them as professional soldiers
Moving Toward Separation News of the colonial attack spread through the American colonies When the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia one month later after the battles at Lexington and Concord, it immediately organized an army and named George Washington as military commander
Many colonists, however, still resisted the idea of declaring war on Great Britain. Congress tried once more to come to a peaceful compromise with Parliament and the king They sent a proposal, called the Olive Branch Petition, to King George III who refused the petition Peace seemed to be less and less likely making independence the best option
A Call to Part The most stirring arguments in favor of independence came from the pen of colonist Thomas Paine. Paine, who recently had come to the American colonies from Great Britain, wrote a pamphlet called Common Sense in January of 1776 In this pamphlet he called upon the colonists to break away from Great Britain. Paine promoted independence for economic, social, and moral reasons. Common Sense circulated widely and helped to convince thousands of American colonists that it was “time to part”
Congress sensed a changing mood in the colonies and assigned five of their best thinkers and writers to prepare a declaration of independence that would clearly state their resolution
The Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson, a Virginian, was the principal author of the colonists’ declaration of independence Jefferson valued the works of Enlightenment thinkers, especially John Lockes, and incorporated many of their ideas into the Declaration of Independence The Declaration stated that individuals have certain basic rights that cannot be taken away by any government
Focused on the concept of social contract, again Locke’s idea, the declaration announced that governments are created by agreements, or contracts between the rulers and those ruled If a ruler loses the support of the people by taking away basic rights, the people have a right to change the government through rebellion Also, the Declaration contained a list of ways Britain abused their power and concluded that “these United Colonies are and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States”
On July 4 th, 1776, Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence A few days later, George Washington had the declaration read to his troops to inspire them and give them hope as the war loomed ahead That night some of the troops joined a crowd of townspeople who pulled down a statue of George III
The War of Independence The Declaration of Independence made reconciliation with the British impossible The only course open to the colonists was a revolution (the violent overthrow of a government) British saw revolutionists as traitors which could result in death if they failed
War for Independence long and bitter Americans did not have an army that could face the British in the open field, but they did have a skillful general in Washington Also they had military help from the French who wanted revenge from their losses in the Seven Years’ War However, they did not enter until after America’s victory was certain
British had disadvantage of trying to fight a long-distance war Also they had to conquer entire country to win, while Americans only had to hold out until British admitted defeat The turning point came in October 1777 when France joined America, followed by Spain in 1779 In October 1781, Americans and French forced a British army to surrender at Yorktown Virginia
United States Government In 1783, Britain recognized America’s independence At first, the U.S. was a confederation (loose union of independent states) under the Articles of Confederation Its central government, however, was too weak to deal with national problems In 1787 the nation’s leaders met in Philadelphia wrote the Constitution of the United States, a strong, but flexible, framework for a new national government.
The Constitution The Constitution set up a federal system, in which political authority was divided between the national government and state governments It also provided for separation of powers among the national government’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches, an idea that came directly from Montesquieu. A system of checks and balances enabled each branch to limit the power of the other branches
Under the Constitution, the U.S. was a republic with an elected president instead of a hereditary monarch Elections held in 1789 made George Washington the first president Yet, at the time, only white males who met certain property qualifications could vote in elections. Among the groups excluded were women, African Americans, and Native Americans. Not until this century would the right to vote- and other civil rights-be extended to all adult Americans.
In 1789, however, the U.S. was closer to democratic rule than any other nation in the world That same year, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution in the form of ten amendments It affirmed the principle that people had basic liberties the government must protect These liberties included freedom of religion, speech and press, as well as the right to private property and to trial by jury As in the case of the vote, not all Americans at first had equal protection under the law but would later be included.
The Republic’s Significance The creation of the American republic proved that Enlightenment values could work in practice Furthermore, the Constitution was an example of a social contract based on the sovereignty of people, with separation of powers among government branches and guarantees for protecting natural rights
Since their writing, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence both have inspired peoples throughout the world seeking freedom from oppression In the 1700s and 1800s, many Europeans and Latin Americans appealed these American documents of liberty in ending absolute monarchy and creating new forms of government In the 1900s people in many lands throughout the world did the same in their struggles against empires and dictators.
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