American Revolution Vs Civil War Essay Questions

September 15, 2012.Category: Revolution Term Papers

We tend to take the American Revolution for granted.  It was inevitable.  It was a good thing.  But here is an interesting research project: Was the American Revolution really necessary? 

Most people know that the American Revolutionary War happened because the people of the American Colonies, who considered themselves citizens of the British Empire, grew dissatisfied with the taxes being imposed on them by Britain’s Parliament.  Although they didn’t like paying the taxes, they were less concerned about the money than the fact that they had no way of debating them via political process—America had no elected members of Parliament to represent their interests.  “Taxation without representation!” was the rallying cry of independence-minded American political leaders in the years preceding the Revolutionary War.

Americans believed that, as British subjects, they deserved a voice in the decisions of their government.   The “rights of Englishmen” had been assured by various British constitutional documents, including the Magna Carta of 1215 and Britain’s Bill of Rights of 1689.  This fact, when combined with the influence of European philosophers such as John Locke and Voltaire (who had espoused republican and liberalistic ideals of democratic government), caused Americans to become increasingly outraged by the British government, who they considered “tyrannical.”

The political unrest caused by Parliament’s new taxes has been described as either the cause or the excuse for the Rebellion, depending on the viewpoint of the historian.

So the obvious question becomes: “If the American Colonists’ outrage over their lack of representation in Parliament was causing a rebellion, why didn’t the British government diffuse the situation by granting the American Colonies some degree of representation?”

Good question! After all, Britain’s interest in America was immense.  The American Colonies, with almost 3 million people at the time of the Revolutionary War, represented nearly a third of the British Empire’s total population. Fifty percent of British shipping was involved in trade with the Americas.  At least one fourth of Great Britain’s manufactured goods were exported to America.  The American Colonies’ land mass was over four times larger than that of the British Isles—and the North American continent many times that.

Parliament never gave serious consideration to granting her American Colonies representation.   If it had, they could have significantly weakened the colonist’s “taxation without representation” argument—and may have delayed or prevented the Revolution.  But instead of trying to prevent war by treating the colonists as people with the rights of Englishmen, both Parliament and the King considered them second class citizens, and once the fighting began—mere rebels.

Topics that could be researched in the answer to the question are: British Navigation Acts, British-American trade before the Revolutionary War, Acts of Parliament regarding American Colonies, William Pitt the Elder, King George III and the American colonies, Taxation without representation, rights of Englishmen.  A starting point is the Outline of the American Revolution.


Tags: American, American revolution, Britain, essay, essays, King George III, Parliament, research paper topics, Term paper topics, War

I. Content: Concept--There are numerous similarities and differences between the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War.

II. Prerequisites: The student should be able to describe both the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War in terms of basic information about causes, leaders, locations, parties involved, weaponry, number of  casualties, duration , strategies used, and outcomes.

III. Instructional Objective: When requested, the student will describe three similarities and three differences between the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War.

The similarities must include direct reference to at least three of the following:
A. leadership--both sets of leaders were predominantly dedicated, focused, and inspiring to their men.
B. causes of the wars--both wars were waged in the name of unity, the American Revolutionary War for unity of the colonies of America, and the Civil War for the unity (preservation) of the Union.
C. where they were fought--both wars were fought on American soil.
D. who fought whom--in both wars, Americans did fight fellow Americans; in the case of the American Revolutionary War, Patriots fought Loyalists (as well as the British); in the case of the American Civil War, Americans from the North fought Americans from the South.
E. duration--both wars were relatively short, less than ten years each ( American Revolutionary War dates are debatable; some say 1776-1781, while others say1776-1783. The American Civil War lasted from April 1861 to April 1865).
F. outcome of the wars--unity of our nation was the main result of  both wars.

The differences must include direct reference to at least three of the following:
A. leadership--both American and British leaders served during the American Revolutionary War (along with mercenaries from France and elsewhere); only American leaders served during the American Civil War.
B. causes of the wars--the American Revolutionary War was fought for independence from Britain and unity of the colonies, while the American Civil War was fought for the preservation of the union and over states vs. national powers of government and the issue of slavery.
C. location--the American Revolutionary War was fought within the thirteen original colonies, however, the American Civil War was fought in the South ( primarily in the middle to southeastern United States), only a few battles were fought in the North (the northeastern U.S.).
D. parties involved--the American Revolutionary War involved primarily two groups of people, the British and their loyal colonists (i.e. Loyalists), against the American revolutionists (i.e. Patriots) with the aid of some mercenaries, and to some degree, the French. The American Civil War involved primarily two groups of people, the North (northern citizens, some freed slaves and some escaped slaves) and the South (southern citizens and some slaves).
E. weaponry--the American Revolutionary War involved rudimentary weapons which lent themselves to hand-to-hand combat and close range fighting (e.g.. swords, knives, bayonets, pistols, rifles, and cannons). The American Civil War however involved far deadlier weaponry. Though the same weapons were used in both wars, during the American Civil War, they were more advanced, easier and faster to use, much more accurate and easily repaired due to the fact that many had interchangeable parts.
F. number of casualties-- many thousands died in the American Revolutionary War, however more died in the American Civil War than in all the wars America has entered into since its inception.
G. duration--the American Revolutionary War lasted by some accounts five years, but if the actual treaty marks the end, then it lasted seven years. The American Civil War however lasted four years.
H. strategies--during the American Revolutionary War, numerous strategies were employed as each side became better acquainted with the strengths and weaknesses of the other. The Patriots relied on “guerrilla” tactics, while the British seemed to hold onto the “traditional” style of fighting (all in a line, organized, easily spotted, dressed in red...) Strategy was particularly difficult for the Patriots as their army was not comprised of soldiers in the traditional sense, instead it had random numbers of colonists with widely varying levels of military skills in its ranks at any one time. British strategies, though sometimes effective, were often ineffective against Patriots familiar with the land and able to blend in with the scenery! During the American Civil War, the North used the Anaconda plan which included trying to keep the war in the south, use blockades to prevent access to help from the sea, and to weaken and invade the South. The South planned to defend its territory, with the support of Britain and France, until the North tired of the war.
I. outcomes of the wars--the American Revolutionary War ended with Britain releasing its American colonies and with the establishment of the United States of  America. The American Civil War ended with far greater devastation, yet with the Union intact. The 13th Amendment soon followed, officially abolishing slavery.

IV. Instructional Procedures: (*The lesson begins with the assumption that earlier in the school year, the students have progressed through American history, including the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War. Additionally, prior to this lesson, comprehensive reviews of both the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War were conducted.)
A. The teacher offers an assortment of paired words/phrases and asks the students to tell how the paired items are similar and different. (Pairs may include items such as: circle/square, morning/night, fear/joy, tree/city, the settlements at Jamestown/St. Augustine, Lincoln/Douglas.) This activity continues in four or five small groups as students consider and discuss word pairs given to them.
B. The teacher then encourages the students to analyze and name several of the various “angles” from which two items may be compared and contrasted...whether the items seem related or not.
C. The teacher requests that the students think back to the info. they learned related to the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War. The students are then asked to brainstorm assorted categories (i.e. “angles”) which would help organize that information. Their ideas are recorded on the board by the teacher, creating a “Modified T-chart” (please see attached example) to later be filled in with details from the two wars.
D. Next, with the teacher’s assistance, students complete one or two categories on the Modified T-chart, until it seems they have an understanding of the format of the chart. At that point, the students work in small groups to complete their team copy of the Modified T-chart. (To save time, a blank, poster sized copy of the Modified T-chart is provided.)
E. Once completed, the charts are shared and discussed with the remainder of the class.
F. The lesson concludes with a game. Three or four teams are formed, with an attempt to keep former small group teammates together. The first team selects a card from a set of large print game cards. The teacher then calls out the category written on the card and displays it for all to see. Categories include: leadership, causes of the wars, location, parties involved, weaponry, number of casualties, duration, strategies, or outcomes of the wars. Beginning with the first team, the teams take turns naming similarities/differences between the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War for the selected category, until all ideas are exhausted. From one to five points are awarded per answer as determined by the teacher (based on both the “completeness and correctness” of the answer and the ability of the team to answer in a timely fashion). The second team then selects a category card and the game continues in this manner until all categories are used. The team finishing with the most points wins. (*As the teacher awards 1-5 points for each answer, it’s important that an explanation is given to the students as to how the points were earned, or not earned, what information was good to include and what was confusing or left out.) All participants receive a mini treat and the winning team members receive a maxi treat.

V. Materials and Equipment: This lesson requires the following:
A. a set of idea cards to be used by the teacher with the whole class
B. five additional sets of idea cards to be used in small groups (cards must not include ideas from the teacher’s set of idea cards)
C. five poster sized copies of the T-chart (one for each small group) and five medium point markers with which to write on the posters.
D. a set of large print category cards including one of each of the following: leadership, causes of the wars, location, parties involved, weaponry, number of casualties, duration, strategies and outcomes of the wars.
E. 20 mini treats and 10 maxi treats from the treat jars (if necessary additional treats can be found in the mini and maxi treat jars).

VI. Assessment: The teacher will administer a written test which instructs the student to create a “Modified T-Chart” which must include descriptions of at least three similarities and three differences between the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War. The directions will include a comprehensive list of categories from which to choose in creating the chart. Accuracy, completeness and clarity of each description will determine each student’s score, as will following the directions (i.e. including at least three similarities and three differences and creating a neat, legible chart). Any similarities and differences included, beyond the three that were required, will be assessed in the same manner as the three required items.

VII. Follow-up Activities: Each student will be given the opportunity to review his/her graded test and then, together with the class, to discuss any questions he/she may have regarding the test. (Private “conference time” will also be available should any student prefer to speak individually with the teacher.)

Students who may have struggled with the recent test meet with the teacher during center time ( when the students in the class are independently or in small groups engaged in a variety of activities about the room). At this time, the teacher introduces a new way to understand how to compare and contrast the American Revolutionary War and the American Civil War. A Venn Diagram is used as a graphic organizer. Hula hoops are used as the overlapping rings of the diagram. Color coded cards are used to record ideas which are then placed in the rings as appropriate. The farthest left section represents facts unique to the American Revolutionary War, while the farthest right section represents facts unique to the American Civil War, and the center (overlapping) section represents facts shared by both wars. After sufficient practice and discussion, each participating student is given an opportunity to create his/her own Venn Diagram illustrating at least three similarities and three differences between the two wars. (* The successful, independent completion of the written version of the Venn Diagram may justify the adjustment of the student’s grade received on the original Modified T-Chart version of this test.)

VIII Self-Assessment: The teacher will compare the student responses on the Modified T-Chart, Tests (and/or Venn Diagram Tests conducted as part of the follow up activity) with the instructional objective. The teacher will determine whether unacceptable discrepancies exist between the intended and actual outcomes and if so, conduct further review, lessons, and practice as necessary. Also, the teacher will interview the class, asking which activities were most helpful and how else the lesson could have been modified to be even more effective.

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