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Overview & List of Documents

This treasury of firsthand accounts and other primary sources gives voice to the story of the American Revolution and continues the Ashbrook Center’s series of document collections covering major periods, themes, and institutions in American history and government. From James Otis’s insistence that British searches and seizures violated the principle that “a man’s house is his castle” to Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence, the arguments for American resistance to and separation from Great Britain emerge and escalate. Letters, diary entries, and other testimonials also highlight the War for Independence. From Lexington and Concord to Britain’s surrender at Yorktown and George Washington’s dramatic farewell as the Continental Army’s commander-in-chief, the conflict hinged not only on gaining territory but also on winning hearts and minds. Edited and excerpted to make the past more accessible to the present, each document features a brief introduction providing information about its author and placing it in context.

  • James Otis, Speech against Writs of Assistance (February 24, 1761)
  • James Otis, “Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved” (July 1764)
  • Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress (October 19, 1765)
  • John Dickinson, “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, No. 2” (December 10, 1767)
  • Charleston Nonimportation Agreement (July 22, 1769)
  • Deacon John Tudor, An Account of the Boston Massacre (March 1770)
  • Samuel Adams, “The Rights of the Colonists” (November 20, 1772)
  • “An Impartial Observer,” Account of the Boston Tea Party (December 1773)
  • Gouverneur Morris, “We Shall be under the Domination of a Riotous Mob” (May 20, 1774)
  • Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (July 1774)
  • Philadelphia Welcomes the First Continental Congress (September 16, 1774)
  • Joseph Galloway, Plan of Union (September 28, 1774)
  • The Association Enacted by the First Continental Congress (October 20, 1774)
  • “A. W. Farmer” (Reverend Samuel Seabury), A View of the Controversy Between Great-Britain and her Colonies… (December 24, 1774)
  • “Friend to America” (Alexander Hamilton), “The Farmer Refuted…” (February 23, 1775)
  • Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” (March 23, 1775)
  • John Andrews, Account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord (April 20, 1775)
  • John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (July 6, 1775)
  • Lancaster County Committee of Correspondence and Observation, Resolution Regarding Quaker Pacifists (July 11, 1775)
  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense (January 1776)
  • Stratford, Connecticut’s Thomas Gage—and Monmouth County, New Jersey’s Dunmore (May 30, 1776)
  • Abigail and John Adams, “Remember the Ladies” (March 31–May 26, 1776)
  • John Adams, Thoughts on Government, (April 1776)
  • George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights (June 12, 1776)
  • Thomas Jefferson, Draft of the Declaration of Independence (July 2–4, 1776)
  • Celebrations of American Independence in Boston and Watertown, Massachusetts (July 18, 1776)
  • Thomas Paine, The American Crisis (December 23, 1776)
  • Prince Hall, et. al., Massachusetts Antislavery Petition (January 13, 1777)
  • Private Hugh McDonald, The Continentals Encounter Civilians (December 1776–April 1777)
  • Generals Gates and Burgoyne on the Murder of Jane McCrea (September 2–6, 1777)
  • Articles of Confederation (proposed November 15, 1777; ratified March 1, 1781)
  • Private Joseph Plumb Martin, Foraging for Valley Forge (December 1777–April 1778)
  • John Laurens, Envisioning an African American Regiment (February 2, 1778)
  • Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette, List of Prints to Illustrate British Cruelties (ca. May 1779)
  • Eliza Wilkinson Encounters Redcoats in South Carolina (June 1779)
  • “Plain Truth,” “To the Traitor General Arnold” (September 25, 1781)
  • Dr. James Thacher, Account of the British Surrender at Yorktown (October 19, 1781)
  • Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1781–1784)
  • George Washington, The Newburgh Address (March 15, 1783)
  • Captain Samuel Shaw, An Officer’s Account of Washington’s Remarks (April 1783)
  • George Washington, Circular Letter to the States (June 8–21, 1783)
  • Treaty of Paris (September 3, 1783)
  • Petition of the Philadelphia Synagogue to the Council of Censors of Pennsylvania (December 23, 1783)
  • George Washington, Cincinnatus Reborn (December 23, 1783)