Documents in the colonial resistance movement leading to the American Revolution
The following four documents were all written in the era of the colonial resistance
movement leading to the American Revolution. What do these four documents tell us about how
the focus, goals, and/or arguments of the resistance movement changed during eleven years
between the Stamp Act and the Declaration of Independence?
Document #1: Benjamin Franklin is Questioned Before the British Parliament, 1765
Question: What was the temper of America towards Great-Britain before the year 1763?
Franklin: The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the Crown, and
paid, in all their courts, obedience to the acts of parliament. Numerous as the people are in the
several old provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons or armies, to keep them
in subjection. They were governed by this country at the expence only of a little pen, ink and
paper. They were led by a thread. They had not only a respect, but an affection, for GreatBritain,
for its laws, its customs and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly
increased the commerce. Natives of Britain were always treated with particular regard; to be an
Old Englandman was, of itself, a character of some respect, and gave a kind of rank among us.
Q.: And what is their temper now [since passage of the Stamp Act]?
Document #2: John Dickinson, Letters of a Farmer in Pennsylvania, (1767)
“All artful rulers who strive to extend their power . . . endeavor to give to their attempts
as much semblance of legality as possible. Those who succeed then may . . . go a little further,
for each new encroachment will be strengthened by a former. . . . A free people therefore can
never be too quick in observing, nor too firm in opposing the beginnings of alteration. . . .”
“Some persons may imagine the sums to be raised by [the Townshend Duties] are but
small, and therefore may be inclined to acquiesce under it. A conduct more dangerous to
freedom . . . [could] never be adopted. Nothing is wanted at home but a PRECEDENT, the force
of which shall be established, by the tacit submission of the colonies. . . If the parliament
succeeds in this attempt, other statutes will impose other duties. Instead of taxing ourselves, as
we have been accustomed to do, from the first settlement of these provinces, all our usual taxes
will be converted into parliamentary taxes . . .”
Document #3: Massachusetts Slaves Argue for Freedom in a petition to the Massachusetts
Provincial Assembly, 1773
Document #4: Thomas Paine argues for independence in Common Sense, 1776