Lesson 7: Independence

Getting Started

As colonists resisted new taxes, restrictions on self-government, and the quartering of British troops in their communities, the Continental Congress met to address these concerns and manage the military conflict that had already begun. In fact, many began to think that the American colonies ought to break away from the British Crown altogether. It's important to remember that revolution was treason, punishable by the death. Breaking away from the British Crown was not something that the delegates to the Continental Congress undertook lightly, and the document that shares their reasons for breaking away from Britain would become one of the most widely read political documents in the world.

In this lesson, you'll explore some of the influences that culture may have had on independence, read the Declaration of Independence itself, and add a few more cards to your timeline.

Stuff You Need

  • Great Colonial Projects You Can Build Yourself! by Kris Bordessa
  • The Declaration of Independence and Other Great Documents of American History, 1775-1865 by John Grafton, ed.
  • We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History by Phillip Hoose
  • highlighter pen or a red marker, crayon, or colored pencil
  • scissors
  • tape or glue
  • timeline and timeline cards

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?
  • What challenges would the leaders of a movement toward independence face? What about the leaders of any newly independent society?

Things to Know

  • Colonial religion at the time of the Revolution was influenced by the First Great Awakening, a religious movement that emphasized emotional revival meetings and fiery preaching that focused on personal conversion experiences and the spiritual rebirth of individuals. Many people abandoned traditional denominations like the Anglican Church for growing denominations like the Methodists or Baptists that were less hierarchical and more in line with the ideas of the First Great Awakening.
  • Organized resistance to British policies and armed conflict began long before the colonies declared independence from Britain.
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, and the document was then edited by other members of Congress before it was finally approved.
  • The Continental Congress formally declared independence from Britain in July of 1775.


  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Describe the contributions of key personalities from the Revolutionary War era and assess their influence on the outcome of the war -- including Abigail Adams, John Adams, Wentworth Cheswell, Samuel Adams, Mercy Otis Warren, James Armistead, Benjamin Franklin, Bernardo de Gálvez, Crispus Attucks, King George III, Haym Salomon, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Paine, and George Washington. (SS)
  • Explain the issues surrounding important events of the American Revolution, including declaring independence; writing the Articles of Confederation; fighting the battles of Lexington, Concord, Saratoga, and Yorktown; enduring the winter at Valley Forge; and signing the Treaty of Paris of 1783. (SS)

Introducing the Lesson

In this lesson, your child will explore some of the influences that culture may have had on independence, read the Declaration of Independence itself, and add a few more cards to his timeline.
Reading and Questions
Materials: Great Colonial Projects You Can Build Yourself! by Kris Bordessa, We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History by Phillip Hoose
Read "Ann Green Winslow and Charity Clark: Spinning for Liberty" (starting on page 48) and "Christopher Seider and Samuel Maverick: Martyrs of the Revolution" (starting on page 50) in We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History by Phillip Hoose. Read Chapter 7 of Great Colonial Projects You Can Build Yourself! by Kris Bordessa. Next, answer the following questions.
  1. Why did the girls in Providence, Rhode Island, gather to spin and weave in 1766?
    They were protesting British taxes by making their own homespun cloth instead of having to buy cloth imported from England. This kind of boycott was very common in the 1760s and 1770s.
  2. Why do you think apprentices like Edward Garrick and Samuel Maverick got involved in the cause for independence?
    Answers will vary. Your child may realize that these were teenaged boys who were unpaid and often treated poorly or made to work very hard by the terms of their contracts, so they were already discontented. They also looked up to Revolutionary leaders, some of whom had been apprentices when they were young and who had run away from their masters. Apprentices may have also thought that they would have a better situation if the colonies gained independence.
  3. How would colonial people have sent letters to friends, family members, or business associates?
    At first, letters were passed from person to person as travelers moved between towns and colonies. Even after more formal networks for mail delivery were established, it could still take months for a letter to be delivered.
  4. What was Thomas Jefferson's background before he wrote the Declaration of Independence?
    Jefferson was born in Virginia and was a lawyer, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, and a plantation owner.