Loyalist or Rebel: Perspectives on the Revolution

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Loyalist or Rebel: Perspectives on the Revolution

Although it can be hard to imagine, during the American Revolution, not all of the colonists were against a dominating Great Britain. Rather, many people did not want separation and there was a large pacifist Quaker population, especially in the city of Philadelphia. This lesson plan includes the primary sources of a prominent colonial military officer and a Quaker woman, both living in Philadelphia. Their stories allow students to see multiple perspectives from the American Revolution and consider its effects on American society.

The first source that students will work with is The Protest of the Committee of the Privates of the Military Association belonging to the City and Liberties of Philadelphia. This document is a list of demands made by the Military Association of Philadelphia concerning the election of brigadier generals in 1776. This source comes from the collection of Daniel Cunyngham Clymer, an officer of the Philadelphia Military Associates and a deputy commissary general of prisoners in the Continental Army during the Revolution. Language, ideals, and undertones of the American Revolution are present throughout this source.

The other source that students will work with consists of entries from Elizabeth Sandwith Drinker’s personal diary written in 1777. Drinker was a Quaker woman living in Philadelphia during the American Revolution. She writes about the daily life of women in the late 18th century, as well as the interaction between the Continental Army and the pacifist Quakers. Her diary offers a perspective that is not often seen in the traditional narrative.

Essential Questions

What role do multiple causations play in describing a historic event?
What role does analysis have in historical construction?


Students will be able to:

  • Analyze each of the primary sources to determine the point of view of the author.
  • Synthesize the information from both primary sources in order to answer questions about American society during the Revolutionary War.
  • Evaluate the way that history is recorded and passed down.

Suggested Instructional Procedures

  1. Teachers should begin this lesson with a focus question that can get students thinking about the American Revolution as more than just rebellious colonists against far-away Great Britain. A potential focus question could be: “What is the difference between a Revolution and a Civil War?” Students should write a short response and then share with a classmate.
    1. It is also important to discuss the ideas of the Revolution, such as, the grievances made by the colonists who wanted separation. Have students write down the reasons for separation such as taxes, no representation in government, etc. This should help set the tone that not all Americans were looking to break ties with Great Britain. As an added discussion, you can think about if people in certain occupations  might want separation and who benefited from having Great Britain in charge.
  2. Provide students with context prior to reading the sources. Both sources are typed; however, the Military Association papers use a scripted “s” that is easily confused with an “f.” The Drinker Diaries are an exact transcription, so they appear with the same misspellings and abbreviations as the original written version.
  3. Next, break the class into two groups and distribute one of the primary sources to each group.  As students read their primary source, ask them to consider the following questions
    1. Are the ideas of the American Revolution (for example: freedom from laws deemed unfair by the colonies and taxation without representation) present in this source?
    2. What is the point of view of the author? How do they seem to feel about the Revolution (upset, supportive, frustrated, etc.)? Make sure students cite specific examples in the text to back up their claims.
  4. As a class, create a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two primary sources. Ask students, “How do you think most colonists felt about the Revolutionary War?” and “How could occupation play a role in how colonists felt toward the Revolution?” Also, address phrases from the text such as:
    1. “Oaths of Allegiance to the Crown,” in the Eight Section of the Military Association Papers and “George the Enemy” in the Tenth Section
    2. “Jos’a Fishers Goods, and others, taken from them, by order of G. Washington” on the 24th day of Elizabeth Drinker’s Diary, and “should any be so wicked as to attempt firing ye Town, Rain which seems to be coming on, may Providentially, prevent it” on the 25th day.
    3. In pairs , have students write down how a man who owned a shipping company might feel differently about the Revolution in comparison to a housewife.
  5. To finish, ask students to consider why we as a nation would be more familiar with the account of the Revolution portrayed by the Military Association papers instead of the other? What can this tell us about the way that history is recorded? Do you think that gender is an important factor when considering the two accounts?
  6. Teachers can ask students to write a response to this at the end of class or for homework.


In the Military Association Papers

Arbitrarily: Without support and unrestricted by law

Charter: A written agreement that says how an organization will be run

Constituents: A voting member of a community or organization

Liege: Loyal

Pence: A British coin equal to one hundredth of a pound. The similar to an American Penny

Province: A territory or district

Sentiments: A feeling toward an event or situation

Shillings: A former British coin equal to one twelfth of a pound

Usurping: Taking a position illegally or by force

In the Elizabeth Drinker Diary 

Barnhill and Hysham: Colonial Soldiers

Corn Wallace: Refers to Charles Cornwallis, a leading British General during the American Revolution

Galloway: Refers to Joseph Galloway, a colonist who attended the First Continental Congress as a representative of Pennsylvania, was a moderate turned Loyalist, relocated to Britain after the war.

Gen’l Howe: Refers to William Howe, the Commander-in-Chief of all British forces during the American Revolution

Plundering: T violently steal goods and property during war time 

Providentially: Resulting from the actions of God

Ye: You