American Revolution: Indecision and Declaration
Indecision and Declaration
The war was on in earnest. Some delegates had come to the Congress already committed to declaring the colonies independent of Great Britain, but even many stalwart upholders of the colonial cause were not ready to take such a step. The lines were being more clearly drawn between the pro-British Loyalists and colonial revolutionists. The time was one of indecision, and the division of the people was symbolized by the split between Benjamin Franklin and his Loyalist son, William Franklin.
Loyalists were numerous and included small farmers as well as large landowners, royal officeholders, and members of the professions; they were to be found in varying strength in every colony. A large part of the population was more or less neutral, swaying to this side or that or else remaining inert in the struggle, which was to some extent a civil war. So it was to remain to the end.
Civil government and administration had fallen apart and had to be patched together locally. In some places the result was bloody strife, as in the partisan raids in the Carolinas and Georgia and the Mohawk valley massacre in New York. Elsewhere hostility did not produce open struggles.
In Jan., 1776, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet,
The Declaration of Independence is conventionally dated July 4, 1776. Drawn up by Thomas Jefferson (with slight emendations), it was to be one of the great historical documents of all time. It did not, however, have any immediate positive effect.
The British under Gen. William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, came to New York harbor. After vain attempts to negotiate a peace, the British forces struck. Washington lost Brooklyn Heights (see Long Island, battle of), retreated northward, was defeated at Harlem Heights in Manhattan and at White Plains, and took part of his dwindling army into New Jersey. Thomas Paine in a new pamphlet,
Sections in this article:
- Vincennes to Yorktown
- Foreign Assistance
- Saratoga and Valley Forge
- Indecision and Declaration
- War's Outbreak
- The First Continental Congress
- Causes and Early Troubles
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History