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The war for American independence from Great Britain

The American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies (allied with France) which declared independence as the United States of America.

Events of Interest

19 Apr 1775, Battle of Concord, in Concord, Massachusetts


America's Two Just Wars: 1775 and 1861, by Murray N. Rothbard, The Costs of War, May 1994
Based on a talk given at the Mises Institute's Costs of War conference, Atlanta, 20-22 May 1994
The American revolutionaries, in separating themselves from Great Britain and forming their new nation, adopted the Lockean doctrine ... In making their revolution, then, the Americans cast their lot, permanently, with a contractual theory or justification for government ... These 13 separate republics, in order to wage their common war against the British Empire, each sent representatives to the Continental Congress, and then later formed a Confederation, again with severely limited central powers, to help fight the British.
Benjamin Franklin: The Man Who Invented the American Dream, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Apr 1997
Lengthy biographical essay, including a section on the posthumous publication and reaction to Franklin's Autobiography
Franklin had more to do with founding the American republic than anyone else. As American representative in London, he helped persuade Parliament to repeal despised Stamp Act taxes, giving America an additional decade to prepare for armed conflict with Britain. He was on the committee that named Thomas Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence. He went to France and secured military help as well as a formal alliance, without which America probably wouldn’t have won the Revolutionary War. He helped negotiate the peace with Britain.
The Bill of Rights: Searches and Seizures, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Freedom Daily, Oct 2004
Discusses general warrants (and the British case of Entick v Carrington) and writs of assistance in colonial America as precedents for the framing of the Fourth Amendment and the latter's imporance in the present
It was that type of fury against writs of assistance that helped fuel the Revolution, the conflict in which British citizens living in the New World took up arms against their own government. As Alan Barth ... put it in his book ... "Arbitrary arrest and arbitrary searches conducted under the infamous writs of assistance and general warrants were among the bitterest grievances against George III recited in the American Declaration of Independence. When they established their independence Americans were determined that no government of their own creation should ever engage in these forms of despotism."
Citizen Washington, by Ryan McMaken, 23 Feb 2001
Contrasts the good and bad policies and events during Washington's presidency with his achievements prior to taking office and cautions against confusing "great men and great presidents"
It is apparent that what Washington is really remembered for is the Washington of the Revolution. He is remembered as the man who crossed the ice-choked Delaware River on Christmas night to attack the Hessian mercenaries, and who shivered with his men at Valley Forge. He is remembered as the man who held the American army together even though many of his soldiers had to function without pay and without shoes. In short, Washington is most loved when he is remembered as a relatively powerless rebel fighting against a powerful and dangerous enemy. The Washington of legend is Washington the underdog ...
The Ethics of Voting: Part Two [PDF], by George H. Smith, The Voluntaryist, Dec 1982
An analysis of the State as an institution, the latter term being used "in a broad sense to designate a widely recognized and stabilized method of pursuing a social activity"
Two consequences of the American Revolution are important here: first, debts incurred during the war convinced many of the need for a centralized government with taxing power; second, with the British eliminated, there was no effective brake on the formation of a national State. The major competitor had been kicked out, and the field was clear for those who desired a State, provided it was not the British State. But a new State (especially one born in revolution against monarchy) faced the considerable problem of legitimacy. A solution was readily found in a written Constitution authorized by "the people."
Related Topics: Politicians, The State
The Failed Attempt to Leash the Dogs of War, by Bart Frazier, Freedom Daily, Dec 2006
Discusses provisions of the Constitution that were meant to prevent the United States from having a large, permanent military and becoming involved in warfare at the will of a single person
In order to keep the country out of senseless and unjust wars, the Framers wrote provisions ... that would make it difficult to enter into any but the most necessary of wars ... The men who drafted the Constitution knew war well. For one thing, they had just recently engaged in warfare themselves. Fighting the American Revolution against their own government over the course of eight years had a direct impact on many of them. Of course George Washington had led the American forces against the British, and many of the constitutional delegates had lost friends and property throughout the course of war.
Garet Garrett: Exemplar of the Old Right, by Justin Raimondo, The American Enterprise
Review of Garrett's The American Story (1955)
'The American Revolution,' he writes, 'was a pilot flame that leaped the Atlantic and lighted holocaust in the Old World. But its character was misunderstood and could not have been reproduced by any other people. It was a revolution exemplary.' ... Garrett's account of the tasks facing the victorious American revolutionaries: 'The immediate business was to create a national government; and many people demanding to know why that was necessary at all. Why couldn't they just go on being free?' ... 'the second imperative was to isolate the new nation from the malign influence of European politics and get its life into its own hands.'
Related Topic: Garet Garrett
Give Me Liberty [PDF], by Rose Wilder Lane, 1936
Originally published as an article titled "Credo" in the Saturday Evening Post; describes her experiences in and history of Soviet Russia and Europe, contrasting them with the history of the United States, emphasizing the individualist themes
Along the Atlantic coast [of this continent], between wilderness and sea, are scattered little English colonies. Not all the colonies rebel against England. Canada remains loyal to the King, and among the others only Virginia and Massachusetts have any real heart for the fight. The war drags along, a little frontier war fought with valor by a few rebels and neglected by England, whose vital interests are elsewhere. An excursion of French gunboats helps decide the issue. Peace is signed, and thirteen colonies without a common interest do not know whether to unite or to be separate nations.
History Lesson Lost, by Sheldon Richman, 6 Oct 2006
Discusses the Articles of Confederation, based mostly on The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 (1940) by Merrill Jensen
The upshot is that the contending groups — the "radicals" and the "conservatives" — had different economic and political interests and thus different views about independence from Great Britain. When British usurpations made independence an imperative even for many conservatives, these groups disagreed about how the new nation should be governed ... Jensen writes, "The interpretation of the Revolution is often confused by the insistence that all revolutionists were radicals. Probably most radicals were revolutionists, but a large number of revolutionists were not radicals ..."
UpdHow Empires Bamboozle the Bourgeoisie, by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Mises Daily, 28 Oct 2006
Speech at the Mises Institute Supporter's Summit; comments on two issues related to the U.S. population reaching 300 million: what kind of economy is needed to support that population and do all these people need to live under the same central government
School kids are taught that the basis of the American Revolution was the desire of the colonies not to be ruled by a King. But this is a superficial view. It is also misleading to say that the colonists were driven to revolution by taxes or trade monopolies. These were both symptoms of a larger reality that had begun to dawn on them, namely that they were capable of self-government and that therefore the empire was imposing a wholly unnecessary despotism on them. They didn't need to be ruled by some far-flung government on the other side of the world. They could rule themselves ...
How I Became a Libertarian, by Mary Ruwart, 14 Dec 2002
Dr. Ruwart recounts some key moments in her path to libertarianism and anarchism, from Swamp Fox to Atlas Shrugged to Morris and Linda Tannehill; reprinted in Walter Block's I Chose Liberty (2010)
[A]t the tender age of seven, ... I fell madly in love with Walt Disney's rendition of General Francis Marion. This legendary Southern freedom fighter harassed the British during the Revolutionary War and became known as the elusive Swamp Fox ... After I had exhausted everything that the library had on the Swamp Fox, I began reading accounts of the American Revolution, just to gain a better understanding of what my hero had been up against. My history classes ... were disappointing, however. They dealt with prominent battles and dates and not with the true meaning of liberty.
Related Topics: Anarchism, Libertarianism
How Nationalism and Socialism Arose from the French Revolution, by Dan Sanchez, 12 Apr 2017
Examines how three crucial ideas (liberalism, nationalism and socialism) emerged around the same time (18th and 19th century) and how they depended on the rise of the modern people's state
By the ... 1760s and 70s, the Lockean ideals of individual liberty and the people's state had crossed the Atlantic to the American colonies, where they became the creed of the founding generation ... [T]hey rose in resistance to an arbitrary tax regime ... King George had broken the terms and conditions of the social contract. So the American people no longer had any obligation to keep him on as their security provider. He was fired, and the Declaration of Independence was his pink slip. George didn't take his firing well, so it took the Revolutionary War to escort him off the premises.
Illegal Surveillance: A Real Security Threat, by James Bovard, 27 Feb 2006
Describes how the FBI, IRS and other agencies spied on Americans on both sides of the political spectrum during the 1960s and 1970s, and warns about the NSA wiretaps ordered by George W. Bush
Americans seem to have forgotten why the Founding Fathers prohibited government from spying on them. ... Federal Judge Gerhard Gesell, in a 1974 ruling on illegal Nixon administration searches, observed, "The American Revolution was sparked in part by the complaints of the colonists against the issuance of writs of assistance, pursuant to which the king's revenue officers conducted unrestricted, indiscriminate searches of persons and homes to uncover contraband." Unfortunately, the revolutionary spirit now animating Washington is fighting to replace the right to privacy with the right to intrude.
Imperium in Imperio, by Frank Chodorov, analysis, Jun 1950
Examines the theory of government espoused by James Madison, how property rights have regressed since then, and arguing that a States' Rights movement (meaning decentralization and local autonomy) should be focused on protecting property rights
[W]e might recall what John Adams, writing in 1818, said about the revolution. It was effected, he declared, "before the war commenced. The revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people." It was exactly what was in the hearts and minds of the people, their character, that constituted the opposition to nationalism in 1787 and explains why the Constitution put so many restrictions on the powers ... Above all things these Americans cherished freedom. They had come to it by way of hardship and it stuck to their ribs. Many of them were but a generation away from indentured servitude ...
Independence Day Propaganda, by Anthony Gregory, 4 Jul 2011
Argues that the American Revolution, albeit of a libertarian flavor, had several unsavory shortcomings both before and after 4 July 1776
There is a heroic side to the American Revolution, and surely no U.S. war since has been nearly as just in its cause. But the political shenanigans that led to war, the war itself, and its aftermath all deserve more criticism. Sadly enough, those who support the federal government ... are only as hypocritical as the colonists who tarred and feathered their antiwar countrymen in the name of liberty, ... the rebels who destroyed privately owned tea in the name of property rights, the Founders who waged a war against tyranny only to create a regime as formidable as King George's ...
Libertarians of Will, Intellect, and Action, by Murray N. Rothbard, Jul 1977
Keynote address to the Libertarian Party Convention; based on the "Turning Point, 1777/1977" convention theme, compares the American Revolution against the British with the contemporary libertarian situation versus the state
[T]he American Revolution did not end in 1776; in fact, the Revolution began a year before the official Bicentennial, in 1775, and it ended eight grueling years later, in 1783 ... The American revolutionaries set themselves a goal: to transform reality so as to bring the rhetoric of the Declaration into living practice. The American Revolution was the process of struggle by which the revolutionaries pursued their goal and achieved their victory ... The American revolutionaries pledged "their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" to their struggle for liberty and independence.
The life and times of Murray N. Rothbard, by Jim Powell
Full title: The life and times of Murray N. Rothbard, who showed why private individuals can do just about everything that needs to be done
Lengthy biographical essay
The traditional view was that the American Revolution was a struggle for liberty. But this interpretation was displaced by "progressive" historians ... How to explain all the pamphlets and newspapers articles ... written about liberty? ... Then in the 1960s, a number of historians claimed that the American Revolution was not about liberty but about a republican effort to promote civic virtue. But Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn affirmed that the American Revolution was primarily about ideas, and Yale historian Robert R. Palmer maintained that the American Revolution was radical.
The man who financed the American Revolution, by Jim Powell
Lengthy biographical essay of Robert Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence (and other founding documents) and financier of the Revolutionary War
On December 12th [1776], Congress fled Philadelphia as British forces approached ...
After Washington had surprised and routed the Hessians, mercenary soldiers recruited by the British and camped in Trenton, New Jersey, he appealed to Morris for funds with which to buy information about British troop movements ...
Congress enacted price controls [and] the result was chronic shortages. Hence, the misery of Washington's 12,000 soldiers at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania where, during the winter of 1777, they huddled in the cold without enough food, shoes or blankets as well as forage for horses.
Module 3: Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence
Third module of the Cato Home Study Course, includes link to listen or download audio program (two parts, 1:18:20 and 1:13:52), questions and suggested readings
The American Revolution is all too often confused with the War for Independence. As John Adams noted in a letter of 1815 to Thomas Jefferson, 'What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the Revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington. The records of thirteen legislatures, the pamphlets, newspapers in all the colonies, ought to be consulted during that period to ascertain the steps by which the public opinion was enlightened and informed concerning the authority of Parliament over the colonies.'
The Philosophy of Paine, by Thomas Edison, The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison, 7 Jun 1925
Edison laments the lack of interest in Paine's writings, outlines his life, discusses the main writings and encourages others to read him
In 'Common Sense' Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable. Washington recognized the difference, and in his calm way said that matters never could be the same again. ... It is probable that we should have had the Revolution without Tom Paine. Certainly it could not be forestalled, once he had spoken.
The Revolutionary War and the Destruction of the Continental, by Thomas Woods, Mises Daily, 11 Oct 2006
... the continental currency lost so much of its value that it became common to describe something as worthless by saying it was 'not worth a Continental.' Financing for the American War for Independence included loans and subsidies from the French government as well as the modest sums Congress received as a result of its requisitions upon the states. But paper money played a central role in Revolutionary War finance.
The Rocky Road of American Taxation, by Charles Adams, Mises Daily, 15 Apr 2006
Adapted from the author's For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization; examines tax resistance in colonial America up to the Jefferson presidency
No modern revolution was deeper rooted in taxation than the revolt of the Thirteen Colonies ... The American independence movement ... began in 1766 when colonial leaders met to protest British taxes under the Stamp Act. The Stamp Act Congress, as it was called, was the real birthplace of the United States ... In the end the Americans revolted when Parliament adopted the kind of taxation the colonists said they were willing to pay. You could justifiably say that the American Revolution occurred, not because we objected to taxes without representation, but because we objected to taxes, period.
The Scoundrel Robert Morris, by Doug French, The Free Market, Feb 1995
Robert Morris became the Superintendent of Finance during the last years of the war. Throughout the war, the government issued notes to pay for supplies. ... Morris, attempting to marshall support for federal taxes, used his position to stir up both the army (by not paying it), and public creditors (by ceasing all interest payments).
Thomas Paine—Passionate Pamphleteer for Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jan 1996
Biographical essay, highlighting Paine's writings in Common Sense, American Crisis, Rights of Man and Age of Reason
When Independence brought war, Paine enlisted ... and by year-end 1776 he was with General George Washington. The untrained, poorly paid Americans, typically serving for a year, were routed by well-trained British soldiers and ruthless Hessian mercenaries. Paine wondered how he could boost morale ... he began writing a new pamphlet ... [which was published] as an eight-page essay, American Crisis. On Christmas Day 1776, George Washington read it to his soldiers. ... Within hours, Washington's fired-up soldiers launched a surprise attack on sleeping Hessians in Trenton, giving Americans a much-needed battle victory.
Tom Paine's Revolution, by J. Brian Phillips, The Freeman, Apr 1989
Relates how Paine's Common Sense pamphlet managed to change public opinion during the American Revolution and hopes this may prove instructive for the modern freedom movement when dealing with the many who favor continuation of the status quo
Even after the Revolutionary War had begun, most ... Americans still considered themselves to be loyal British subjects, and were willing to continue to do so, if only the King would correct his most grievous transgressions. In early 1776—more than eight months after the Battle of Lexington—colonists suddenly began to support the idea of American independence. This dramatic change can be largely attributed to the work of one man: Thomas Paine.
Related Topic: Thomas Paine
War Is Peace and Other Things the Government Wants You to Believe [PDF], by Sheldon Richman, 8 Jun 2008
Transcript of speech given at The Future of Freedom Foundation's 2008 conference, “Restoring the Republic: Foreign Policy & Civil Liberties”, including audience questions
Here's a quote from [Arthur] Ekirch: "Once in the Continental Army the American soldier was often too deeply imbued with revolutionary ideas of individual liberty and equalitarian democracy to take kindly to strict military discipline." Right on. "... An even more serious threat to the maintenance of an army was the prevalence of desertion and mutiny among the soldiers." This is during the Revolution. "The extreme hardships and deprivations suffered by the army ... helped to explain the large number of such incidents which occurred in the years from 1777 to 1783 ..."
Washington, George (1732-1799), by Jonathan Rowe, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
In part because of the vast expenses of the French and Indian War, Britain had levied a string of new taxes on the American colonies, which angered the colonists. ... in June 1775, Congress unanimously chose [Washington] as Commander and Chief of the Continental Army. ... In November 1776, British General William Howe was successful in driving Washington's forces from New York. ... A crucial reversal of fortune came in 1778 when France entered the war in support of America's independence. ... The French army arrived in 1780 to help Washington secure victory ... at the Battle of Yorktown and ensure America's ultimate victory in the war.


HOWARD ZINN: "Holy Wars", by Howard Zinn, Democracy Now!, 11 Nov 2009
Talk given at Boston University, discussing the American "Holy Wars": the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and World War II
John Hospers: From 1776 to 1984, by John Hospers, 12 Jul 1984
Hospers compares the American Revolution to the scenes in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, as well as the year this talk was given and Huxley's Brave New Wold; presented at the Libertarian International conference in London
Related Topic: George Orwell

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "American Revolutionary War" as of 21 Oct 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.