Pauline Maier, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of American History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), discusses several aspects of her book American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence. She reveals that the most stirring ideals for us today were an expression of the will of the people and the embodiment of the historical experiences of Americans, rather than the work of a single individual (Thomas Jefferson). She focuses particularly on the meaning and evolution of the phrase, "all men are created equal."
Most Americans know George Washington's December 1776 crossing of the Delaware from the famous painting by Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze. David Hackett Fischer, Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University and author of Washington's Crossing (2004), looks beyond the famous painting to the events of that tumultuous month. He follows the retreating American army from the Battle of Long Island down through New Jersey, as an American victory seemed more and more unlikely. Fischer emphasizes how Washington's great strengths allowed him to take advantage of conditions in December to win the Battle of Trenton and turn the tide of the war, rekindling the ailing Revolutionary cause.
New York University historian Nicole Eustace discusses the “tempest of emotion” that swept through the Age of Reason, epitomized by the earliest call for a full break between the American colonies and Great Britain, Thomas Paine’s passionate Common Sense.
For fire and water are not more heterogeneous than the different colonies in North America. Nothing can exceed the jealousy and emulation which they possess in regard to each other. . . . In short . . . were they left to themselves there would soon be a civil war from one end of the continent to the other, while the Indians and Negroes would . . . impatiently watch the opportunity of exterminating them all together.
Many students misconstrue the American Revolution as a period of unanimous support for independence from Great Britain. However, colonists generally considered themselves loyal British citizens, asserting rightful constitutional claims that had been previously established through their colonial charters or contracts. After the French and Indian War ended in 1763, many colonies saw their right of self-rule stripped away by Parliament as it exerted greater authority over its empire. In reaction to this attempt to...