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American Identity DBQ

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The American Revolution was not a single event which sprung to being- it depended on the people of the American colonies. The identity and the unity these colonists would obtain during the last few decades before the Revolution were important in the eventually successful revolution. By the eve of Revolution, the colonists had established unique American identity- effects of the exclusively American ‘Great Awakening’ were still being felt, and American luminaries were discovered. Through the Committees of Correspondence and Continental Congress, a sense of unity began to emerge. However, some groups posed a threat to the idea of American unity- one major group being the Sons of Liberty.

A separate American identity was bound to appear at some point. America on the eve of revolution boasted the most diverse group of people in the world. The Great Awakening, which took place in the early 1700’s, further developed a tepid democracy in the colonies- more choice was given to the colonists on which religion they want to follow, whether it be the ‘New Lights’ or the old style, pre Awakening preachers. Another dimension was added as new types of people swarmed in to the colonies. It was obvious that there was diversity- a mix of French, Dutch, and English was totally unorthodox, and it created a new type of people (doc H). As the French and Indian War passed, and British taxes arrived, another example of this identity presented itself. The lack of representation in parliament, and the consequences for England, proved that the Americans did not want to be treated just like any old English town. The separation and diversity had resulted in a place which could not be properly represented by normal Englishmen in parliament (doc B).

This lack of connection showed how different the people in Britain’s colonies had become, and that they were more American at heart now than British. Despite all these signs pointing towards an American identity, evidence exists which begs to differ. The eventual rebellion could be blamed on just a few people who felt wronged by Britain- it was not necessary for a majority of colonists to unite against the British due to differing identities (doc F). Eventually, even though the American Revolution ended up being a minority movement, a large amount of people in the colonies had in fact developed an identity which was unlike any other in the world. While the revolution would go on to be a minority movement, an important fact is that a unique American identity was possessed by a majority of the people, and was not solely a trait of Revolutionaries.

Separation from England was never the first thought on the minds of the Founding Fathers. They valued the English as their brothers and protectors, and many said “God save the King” even after revolution had broken out. But despite this, many steps were taken in the direction of unity by the colonists. One early attempt was manufactured by Benjamin Franklin. His failed attempt at unity in the Albany Conference tried to put the combined strengths of several colonies into one to aid their survival (doc A). This never panned out, but it showed that the idea was surfacing and there were components of the idea. As the taxations from Britain arrived after the conclusion of the French and Indian war, tensions heightened. High tension leads to the Boston Massacre in 1770. The Boston Massacre was a very significant event which would unite the colonists of Boston. The news of the event, in the form of exaggerated propaganda, soon reached other colonies. Soon after the Massacre, the Boston port was closed down due to the Tea Party, organized by terrorist group Sons of Liberty.

From the reports of aid sent to Boston, it is apparent that there wasn’t a “USA! USA!” type of unity yet. In fact, the reports, which show that only 5 colonies offered aid to Boston, shed light on the fact that many people probably thought this to be a just punishment- they got what they deserved (doc G). Despite this, there were many people who really did want to spread the news of injustices by Britain. One such group was the Committees of Correspondence. This group united colonists by spreading anti-British propaganda and getting the news around. This made England look like a monster to many colonists. Eventually, as the injustices piled up, representatives of the colonies formed the Continental Congress. At their first meeting, this congress asked for peace with the British. But the importance of this Congress was that it was finally a meeting of the major leaders which made decisions. This proved that the colonies had the base for a new country. It is a major example of American unity directly before the Revolution (doc E).

The American Revolution was due in large part to the sense of identity and unity formed by Americans. This identity was found in the melting pot society and democratic way of life. The unity was apparent by the early attempts to unify and the successful propaganda attacks by the Committees of Correspondence. Eventually, these things would lead to a new country which had roots all over the world, which would be lead by the luminaries who had successfully used these unique American traits to successfully separate from Britain.

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