Lesson 6: Leading Up to Revolution

Getting Started

The American colonies grew from tiny settlements struggling to survive to economically successful communities in the decades after their early founding. During that time, the colonies had been allowed to govern themselves for the most part. Many colonies became royal colonies by the beginning of the 1700s, however, and by the middle of the 18th century, the British government began to exert greater authority over the colonies and considered ways of generating revenue from them.

In this lesson, you'll learn about how actions by the British government angered colonists, led to protests and, eventually, led to the Revolutionary War. You'll watch another episode of America: The Story of Us, write a review or trailer text for the episode, complete an activity about the actions of Parliament that angered colonists, and add to your timeline.

Stuff You Need

  • scissors
  • tape or glue
  • timeline and timeline cards
  • voice recorder* (Activity 1 - optional)

* - denotes an optional material that may or may not be needed

Ideas to Think About

  • Under what circumstances can one segment of a society legitimately separate itself from and become independent of the rest of that society?
  • What kinds of changes might make the idea of independence appealing or advantageous?

Things to Know

  • Several government actions were designed to raise revenue from the colonies either by requiring a direct tax on various goods, levying a heavy tax on non-British imports, or decreasing the tax on goods imported from Great Britain. The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act are both examples of these kinds of laws.
  • In response to some of these actions, many colonies practiced non-importation, or a refusal to import British goods. By boycotting British imports and either doing without those products or finding alternatives for them, colonists could effectively avoid taxes that were connected to the goods in question.
  • The British government also passed laws requiring the colonies to provide barracks and supplies to British troops stationed there and increasing taxes to pay for the military and governmental costs of colonial administration.
  • The Tea Act of 1773 reduced the tax on imported British tea, giving British merchants a major advantage in colonial markets. Colonists planned to boycott the tea or send the tea back to England without paying the tax. When royal officials insisted that the tax be paid, Boston residents disguised themselves, boarded the British ships, and destroyed the tea by throwing it into Boston Harbor. This act of protest became known as the Boston Tea Party.
  • The Coercive Acts or Intolerable Acts were a series of laws passed in 1774 intended to punish Massachusetts in response to the Boston Tea Party.


  • Trace the causes and effects of the Revolutionary War, and assess the impact of major events, problems, and personalities during the Constitutional Period in individual states and the new nation. (SS)
  • Understand significant political and economic issues of the revolutionary era. (SS)
  • Trace the events leading up to the Revolutionary War and evaluate their relative significance in the onset of hostilities, including the Proclamation of 1763, the Intolerable Acts, the Stamp Act, mercantilism, lack of representation in Parliament, and British economic policies following the French and Indian War. (SS)
  • Describe the relationship between the moral and political ideas of the Great Awakening and the development of revolutionary fervor. Describe how religion and virtue contributed to the growth of representative government in the American colonies. (SS)

Introducing the Lesson

In this lesson, your child will learn about how actions by the British government angered colonists and led to protests and, eventually, the Revolutionary War. She will watch another episode of America: The Story of Us, write a review or trailer text for the episode, complete an activity about the actions of Parliament that angered colonists, and add to her timeline.
Reading and Questions
You will watch Episode 2 ("Revolution") of the America: The Story of Us miniseries for this lesson in Activity 1. After you watch the episode, answer the following questions:
  1. What was Joseph Plumb Martin's background before joining the Continental Army?
    He was a farm boy who was inspired to serve under the command of General Washington.
  2. How did moving troops and fighting on the American frontier create problems for British troops?
    The British troops are constantly in hostile territory, and their actions in the backcountry created a lot of enemies. The British army was trained to do battle on open battlefields, but they were faced with American militia sharpshooters who knew the terrain and used tactics for which the British troops were unprepared.
  3. How did the involvement of the French navy change the war for American independence?
    The French navy's involvement meant that the British would have to fight the Americans on land and the French at sea.
  4. How did Von Steuben influence the training of the Continental Army?
    He introduced new weapons like the bayonet, new techniques, and a new attitude. The troops left Valley Forge much more ready to succeed on the battlefield.