Lesson Plan: Overview

Why War? Causes of the American Revolution and South Carolina's Role

Grade Level: 8th
Proclamation by King George III of Great Britain, October 1763

Academic Standards

Standard 8-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Revolution—the beginnings of the new American nation and South Carolina’s part in the development of that nation.

8-2.1 Explain the interests and roles of South Carolinians in the events leading to the American Revolution, including the state’s reactions to the Stamp Act and the Tea Act; the role of Christopher Gadsden and the Sons of Liberty; and the role of the four South Carolina signers of the Declaration of Independence—Edward Rutledge, Henry Middleton, Thomas Lynch Jr., and Thomas Heyward Jr.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

P.  Locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps

S. Interpret and synthesize information obtained from a variety of sources—graphs, charts, tables, diagrams, texts, photographs, documents, and interviews

Essential Questions

1. Why did the American colonists seek to break away from England?

2. How did people react in the colonies, especially in South Carolina?

Historical Background Notes

The American Revolution has been studied and will continue to be studied in countless ways.  However intricate or simple, the lessons will always tell of the history of a nation that is arguably the most powerful and influential in the world today.  The lesson that follows this essay does not seek to introduce a myriad of details, facts, names and figures concerning the American Revolution.  Instead, this lesson seeks to create a framework for understanding the connections between colony and mother country thus helping students to understand the necessity of such a battle.  In addition, students will be introduced to South Carolina’s reactions in the series of events.  I hope to achieve a web of information that helps students bridge connections between colonists in South Carolina, colonists throughout America and governance throughout Europe.

The American Revolution was not fought based on the happenings of a single event or events occurring only in the colonies. There were a series of events over a century that led to the battle between Great Britain and Her colonies. The fight between Great Britain and the colonies began as a result of a series of wars that mostly took place in Europe, over European power struggles. The colonies named these wars King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, and King George’s War after the English monarchs in power at the time of each war. As Europe fought, the colonies controlled by the countries at war fought in response. Power changed hands many times throughout these wars, with England gaining more and more power in Europe and in America. The finale of these wars was fought on American soil over territory between France and Great Britain. The French and Indian War left Great Britain strapped for cash. When time came to develop the Ohio Valley which was won at the conclusion of the French and Indian War, Great Britain was pressed to raise the revenue needed to finance these new expeditions. This point in history is what most people consider to be the beginning of the problems between Great Britain and the colonies ( Wise Bauer, 2004, 120-135).

For the next twenty years, Great Britain passed a series of acts that created tension and unrest in the British colonies. Some of the acts included in this lesson are the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, the Quartering Act, the Declaratory Act, the Townshend Act, the Tea Act and the Intolerable Acts. The overall goal of these acts was to raise revenue to pay off war debts and finance future imperial pursuits. Colonists fiercely opposed these measures not because they had no allegiance to Great Britain but because they were usually not involved in the decisions Britain made on their behalf. The rally cry became “no taxation without representation”. Colonists took to the streets throughout America staging boycotts, writing news articles and sermons, and even rioting to protest the new laws imposed on them. What seems inevitable in hindsight was not the foremost intention of most colonists.  War was realized as Britain refused to share the political and economical power they were sure they could maintain over the colonies.

As colonists in Massachusetts set the tone for rebellion by speaking out against “taxation without representation” other colonies followed suit.  In South Carolina Governor Bull ordered a stop to the stamps delivered as a result of Britain’s Stamp Act. Raids took place in Charleston followed by rioting in protest of the stamps. Members of South Carolina’s legislative body passed the Stamp Act Resolutions to combat the problems occurring throughout the colony.  When colonists from Boston dumped British tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of the Tea Act, colonists in Charleston followed suit in their own small protest.  Actions in South Carolina reflected what was happening throughout the colonies (Weir 1966, p-222-243).

This lesson is designed to help students understand how global issues helped to change the course of history on a local level.  Students will examine the roles England played in global and local affairs and the effects of those actions in America.


Primary Sources

Hewes, George. Boston Tea Party: Eyewitness Account by a Participant, December 1773.  Available from PatriotResource.com (1999-2008). Retrieved November 12, 2008.

Independence Hall Association. The Declaration of Independence. July 4, 1776. Available from UShistory.org. Retrieved November 12, 2008.

Journal of His Majesty’s Council 12 November 1765. South Carolina Stamp Act Resolutions. S 171002. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Mount, Steve. The Declaration of Rights and Grievances. March 1774. Available from USConstitution.net. Retrieved November 12, 2008.

The Manhattan Rare Book Company.  Complete Collection of British Acts of Parliament, 1763-83 from Her Majesty’s Cabinet Office and Treasury Library.  Available from Theworldsgreatbooks.com and Manhattanrarebooks-americana.com. Retrieved November, 13, 2008.

Wilson, W. R. (2004).  Historical Narratives of Early Canada. The Royal Proclamation of 1763. Available from UpperCanadaHistory.ca. Retrieved November 13, 2008.

Proclamation of 7 October 1763.  Great Britain, Sovereign (1760-1820: George III). Constitutional and Organic Papers.  S 131006.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Secondary Sources

Steedman, Marguerite. “Charlestown’s Forgotten Tea-Party”. Georgia Review 1967 21 (2): 244-259.

Weir, Robert McColloch.  “ ‘Liberty and Property, and No Stamps’: South Carolina and the Stamp Act Crisis” (Ph.D. dissertation, Case Western Reserve University, 1966).

Wise Bauer, Susan. The Story of the World Wise: History for the Classical Child. Charles City, Virginia: Peace Hill Press, 2004.


Lesson Plans

1. Preparation for lesson: Divide students into groups of three. Introduce the lesson by explaining the difference between primary and secondary sources. Explain to students that they will be examining both types of documents over the next several days. You may want to have students look at the difference between a primary and secondary source as preparation for the actual lesson.(1/2 class period).

2. Pass out Primary Source Compilation Sheet. Model and explain how students will fill out the sheet when examining various documents. You may want to take the time to complete the first documents in the series with students so that they know exactly what is expected of them. (1/2 class period)

3. Present the “Setting the Stage” teacher-created presentation included in this packet. The presentation is automatic with narration. Give students the opportunity to ask questions after viewing the presentation. Lead students in a discussion about global affairs before the American Revolution. Ask: What major events were taking place in Europe 50 to100 years prior to the American Revolution? How did these events have an impact on the American colonies? (1 class period)

4. Arrange class with 7 stations. Place one primary source document at each station. Documents include transcriptions of Proclamation of 1763, Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Declaratory Act, Townshend Acts, Tea Act, and Quartering Act (see Tools and Primary Sources sections above). Have students visit each station to analyze the intent and purpose of each document. They should use the Primary Source Compilation Sheet to keep track of their analyses from each document. Groups should spend about 10 minutes at each station analyzing each document. Have students answer the following question in groups. How did each document have an impact on colonists? At the end of class lead students in a whole group discussion about the impact of Great Britain’s Acts on the colonies. (1 to 2 class periods)

5. Arrange class with six stations. Place one primary source document at each station. Documents include South Carolina Stamp Act Resolutions, Eyewitness Account of the Boston Tea Party, United Streaming video of the Charleston Tea Party, Dire Confusion, Declaration of the Rights of Man, Declaration of Independence (see Primary Sources and Tools section above). Have students visit each station to analyze each document. They should use the Primary Source Compilation Sheet to keep track of their analyses from each document. Groups should spend about 10 minutes at each station analyzing each document. Have students answer the following questions in groups. As far as you can tell from the document, what was the problem? How did colonists respond to the problem? Why do you believe they responded this way? At the end of class, lead the class in a whole group discussion summarizing the actions of people throughout the colonies and their reactions prior to the Revolutionary War. (1 to 2 class periods)

6. Show students SC textbook presentation, The Road to War in South Carolina. Give a brief lecture with the presentation information. Allow students to ask questions throughout the presentation to fill in any gaps that they may have in understanding. (1 class period)

Teacher Reflections

I gained a great deal of information and resources from the Midlands Summer Institute for teachers. As a native of Upstate South Carolina, I was unaware of the many resources including museums, tours, and homes that were available in the Midlands until the Summer Institute. I was also pleased to gained new resources in the form of books, copies of primary source documents and lesson plans that were ready for classroom use. Although I have used primary sources in the classroom, I gained knowledge of various types of local primary sources. During the content lectures, I was fully engaged through the use of interesting perspectives and comparison techniques. I was able to use information that I have learned in the past during lecture activities. Overall, I have become a more knowledgeable and better prepared teacher as a result of being a part of the Midlands Summer Institute.

The Summer Institute provided many tours throughout the course that were extremely enlightening and beneficial to me as a classroom teacher. I especially enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the State Museum and of the Department of Archives and History. I was surprised to see the expansive collection of materials housed by these two organizations. Just knowing that historical resources are readily available and relatively easy to access motivates me to want to incorporate these items more often. I have yet to introduce students to cultural institutions throughout the Midlands, but as I continue to teach, I definitely have plans to incorporate more of these resources into my lesson plans. My colleagues and I have plans to create an eighth grade field trip surrounding some of the cultural institutions introduced during this course. Our plans include taking students to the Lexington County museum to see what life may have been like for early settlers in South Carolina.  A visit to the Mann-Simons Cottage and Hampton-Preston Mansion would allow students to gain incite into life before and during the Civil War.  A visit to the State House would help students understand how government works.  Finally students are proposed to work at the Department of Archives to help them understand how they personally connect with South Carolina history.  These plans are currently in the works but offer an array of experiences using documents and artifacts from history.

As a classroom teacher, I have used primary documents. However, I have only used written documents and never with the intent of allowing the document to tell the story.  Through this summer’s course I was able to work through the process of planning a lesson around a primary source. In other words, I let the source be the focus of learning instead of it just being an addition to learning.  The goal of my lesson was to have students understand the basics of the American Revolution including the causes, and consequences.  The documents I used were intended to connect England and America and show students how global conflicts eventually lead to internal conflicts.  I also used documents like an eyewitness account of the Boston Tea Party and South Carolina’s Stamp Act Resolutions to show how people on a local level reacted to the events of the time.  These resources helped to frame a plan that allowed my students to think critically about history.

I attribute the structure of my lesson to the content lectures that I participated in as a student during the Midlands Institute.  The daily content lessons made me think of history in a way that is different from most of the history classes that I have taken.  During the course, I was able to make connections across time periods and events. Then I was able to put these events, people, and places together in uncommon ways.  For example, when we were required to write an essay based on information from the book Stono: Documenting and Interpreting a Southern Slave Revolt by Mark Smith, I was able to clearly see the connection between The Negro Act, Charleston School for Negroes and the Treaty of Paris of all things. I found that this method of instructions aligns with my beliefs as a teacher of history. I believe that history is a way to understand people and their behaviors. I also seek to have my students engage in this level of understanding about history. As a result, I thought that the best way to help students understand the essence of the American Revolution through primary documents was to teach the causes and consequences instead of the regular names and dates.

I approached this lesson with a grand plan that was large in scope. If I had this to do again, I would change many aspects of my lesson. First I would give myself more time to plan. Secondly, I would scale down the scope of my lesson. I would also keep in mind that the details of history although cumbersome and complicated at times, are a necessary evil. I have learned a great deal from embarking on this type of assignment. Most of the lessons that I learned came from my students. Many students, including the students participating in this lesson have never been exposed to this level of historical thinking and questioning. Therefore I needed to take baby steps with my students to get them to the point of understanding what was necessary for this lesson to be a success. In hindsight and even during the course of the lesson, I knew that things went horribly wrong. Despite the complete and utter failure of my grand plan, I do think students took away much needed information about the American Revolution. The one thing that most students cited in their work was the idea that the American Revolution was fought as a response to taxes imposed by Great Britain. The student work submitted as a part of this portfolio does not really show any local connection or much evidence of even evaluating sources related to South Carolina. By this point, I was forced to rely on the textbook resources to help students understand what was going on in South Carolina. If I had another year to do this, I would definitely attempt this lesson again but I would use knowledge of my students to guide which documents I chose and how I presented those documents. My lesson was designed for high school honors level students. I teach neither high school students nor honors level students. This was the greatest flaw as is evident by the quality of work that is submitted. Despite my experiences with this lesson, I have learned a great deal and will continue to work to perfect lessons like this in the future.

Student Assessment

Have students write an essay addressing the following question.  Why was the American Revolution fought?  How were colonists in South Carolina involved in pre-Revolutionary actions?

Examples of Students Work


Connie Geer
Columbia, South Carolina