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Revolutionary Figures

Created by:
Madeline Avery
Absegami High School

Pam Lawlor
Absegami High School

Barbara Langel
Absegami High School

Revolutionary Decision

Grade Level:
9 to 12


By the third quarter of the eighteenth century different viewpoints concerning the issue of independence from Britain circulated through the colonies. In this process, individual spokesmen emerged. This lesson plan will look at varying roles of individuals in shaping ideas about the American Revolution.

Historical Context

Until the mid-1700s, the vast majority of colonists were happy to consider themselves subjects of the British crown. They felt protected by their strong and wealthy mother country. Though each colony's governor held the power of the veto, local legislatures enjoyed a strong hand over daily affairs. Benjamin Franklin proposed the Albany Plan of 1754, a call for colonial unification in common defense. Delegates at the convention had unanimously approved the idea, which provided a theoretical basis for strong colonies joined around the hub of an organized central government. But the colonial legislatures and the Crown rejected it, fearing loss of power.

Over the next decades, the political beliefs of the colonists evolved quickly as Parliament increased taxes and tried to strengthen Britain's hold over America. Increasingly, talk turned from simple outrage at taxation to the embrace of radical ideas such as liberty and equality. By the time of the American Revolution, nearly one-third of the colonists had committed to Patriot resistance. Another one-third remained loyal to the king, while the remainder of the population were still undecided.


loyalism, patriotism, popular culture, political protest, bravery, and dedication.

Goals and Objectives:

After completing this activity, students will be able to:

1. Describe how three different groups thought about the role of government in the North American colonies.

2. Understand the difficulty in deciding between becoming a Loyalist or a Patriot.


STANDARD 6.4.E.1 (Social Studies Skills): Discuss the social, political, and religious aspects of the American Revolution, including key decisions leading to the Revolution, efforts by Parliament and the colonies to prevent revolution, the ideas of different religious denominations, and the economic and social differences of Loyalists, Patriots, and those who remained neutral.

Equipment, materials and other technology needed:

Short biographies of ordinary people of the American Revolution included in: 

"Loyalists Speak for Themselves"

Patrick Henry's "Give Me Liberty or Give me Death Speech"

Details of Activity

WARM UP/ENGAGEMENT(5 minutes): Ask students to consider the following scenario. After this year, they are going to attend the new high school that has just been built. Will they remain loyal to their present school, change their loyalty to the new school, or do they not care? Explain your answer.

FIRST ACTIVITY(10 minutes): Students are assigned an ordinary person of the revolution to determine if they were a Loyalist, Patriot, or undecided based on readings assigned to them.

SECOND ACTIVITY (15 minutes): Each group will work together to create a list explaining their reasons for declaring independence, remaining loyal to the crown, or remaining neutral.

THIRD ACTIVITY (15 minutes): Students will write their responses on the board in order to discuss the similarities and differences between the three groups.

Practice and Reinforcement

Students will analyze two primary source documents that cover both the Loyalist and Patriot perspectives. They will then make a short presentation to assess their understanding of the revolutionary figure assigned to them and how they relate to these two positions.


Kamar, John. Family historian. Provided information in 1994, accessed through genealogical records. 425-486-6500.

Loyalists Speak for Themselves, five Loyalist letters from 1775 to 1780 reprinted from G.N.D. Evans (ed.) Allegiance in America: The Case of the Loyalists (Addison-Wellesley Publishing, 1969).

National Archives. Letter concerning Captain John Armstrong to Federal Government written in 1999. Accessed in 1999.

New York Controller's Office. Records of Revolutionary War Service. March 22, 1852. Accessed in 1999.

Wirt, William. Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry . (Philadelphia) 1836, as reproduced in The World's Great Speeches, Lewis Copeland and Lawrence W. Lamm, eds., (New York) 1973.



Web Links:
For information on individuals and the Revolution.

Provides time line of events of the Revolution.

For more information about the Teaching American History Program click here