Professor Freeman lays out the logic of American resistance to British imperial policy during the 1770s. Prime Minister Lord North imposed the Intolerable Acts on Massachusetts to punish the radicals for the Boston Tea Party, and hoped that the act would divide the colonies. Instead, the colonies rallied around Massachusetts because they were worried that the Intolerable Acts set a new threatening precedent in the imperial relationship. In response to this seeming threat, the colonists formed the First Continental Congress in 1774 to determine a joint course of action. The meeting of the First Continental Congress is important for four reasons: it forced the colonists to clarify and define their grievances with Britain; it helped to form ties between the colonies; it served as a training ground for young colonial politicians; and in British eyes, it symbolized a step towards rebellion. The lecture concludes with a look at the importance of historical lessons for the colonists, and how these lessons helped form a "logic of resistance" against the new measures that Parliament was imposing upon the colonies.
Reading assignment: Bailyn, Faces of Revolution, chapters 1-2, 8-9
The American Revolution entailed some remarkable transformations--converting British colonists into American revolutionaries, and a cluster of colonies into a confederation of states with a common cause--but it was far more complex and enduring then the fighting of a war. As John Adams put it, "The Revolution was in the Minds of the people... before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington"--and it continued long past America's victory at Yorktown. This course will examine the Revolution from this broad perspective, tracing the participants' shifting sense of themselves as British subjects, colonial settlers, revolutionaries, and Americans.
Course Structure: This Yale College course, taught on campus twice per week for 50 minutes, was recorded for Open Yale Courses in Spring 2010.