Lesson Plan

Lesson 3: Ending the War, 1783

Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown
Photo caption

Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown.

During the Revolutionary War there were several attempts made to end the fighting. The first offer of peace, which came from the Continental Congress in the summer of 1775, made no mention of independence, but asserted the loyalty of the king's American subjects. It was George III's rejection of this so-called "Olive Branch petition" that led to the Declaration of Independence, after which time Congress refused to consider any peace agreement that did not include full independence for the United States. But as in all wars, the course of peace negotiations was ultimately determined by what happened on the battlefield. Therefore, it was not until after the victory at Yorktown that Britain finally proved willing to agree to grant American independence.

In this lesson students will consider the various peace attempts made by both sides during the Revolutionary War. By reading a series of documents and comparing them with what was happening militarily at the time, students will gain an understanding of how peace came when it did, and why it took the form that it did.

Guiding Questions

How successful were the Americans in obtaining their goals in the Revolutionary War?

Learning Objectives

Describe the American peace feelers of 1775, and why the British rejected them.

Describe the British peace offers of 1776 and 1778, and why the Americans rejected them.

Explain why Britain was willing to grant American independence by 1782.

Articulate the main provisions of the 1783 Treaty of Paris.