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American Revolution

Selected and introduced by Robert M.S. McDonald


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.


Table of Contents

Documents Include:

  • John Dickinson, “Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, No. 2” (1767)
  • Deacon John Tudor, An Account of the Boston Massacre (1770)
  • “An Impartial Observer,” Account of the Boston Tea Party (1773)
  • Patrick Henry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” (1775)
  • John Andrews, Account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord (1775)
  • George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776)
  • Prince Hall, et. al., Massachusetts Antislavery Petition (1777)
  • Private Hugh McDonald, The Continentals Encounter Civilians (1777)
  • Generals Gates and Burgoyne on the Murder of Jane McCrea (1777)
  • Eliza Wilkinson Encounters Redcoats in South Carolina (1779)
  • “Plain Truth,” “To the Traitor General Arnold” (1781)
  • Petition of the Philadelphia Synagogue to the Council of Censors of Pennsylvania (1783)
  • George Washington, Cincinnatus Reborn (1783)