Unity and Identity of the American Colonies

October 10, 2008
By Deanna Kovach, Charlotte, NC

The colonists had a highly developed sense of identity and unity as Americans by the eve of the revolution, but it took longer to attain colonial unity than a distinct identity. Many of the colonies were envious or suspicious of each other, which delayed colonial unity. These small barriers were removed when the colonists began fighting to preserve their rights and later began fighting for their independence from Great Britain.

Colonial unity, an ongoing struggle, was necessary for preserving freedom. It was imperative that the colonies put aside their differences and unite even during the French and Indian War when they were allies with the British. In 1754, the first year of the French and Indian War, Benjamin Franklin’s famous “Join or Die” cartoon was published in Philadelphia (Document A). The cartoon, which shows the colonies as part of a disbanded snake, seriously advised unification. Unity among all the American colonies during the French and Indian War, where the British and the American colonists fought the French and their Indian allies, was mandatory because a French victory in the New World would result in a loss of British superiority. The British dominance in the New World, which resulted from a British and American victory, helped pave the way for the colonists to have the opportunity to form their own nation and expand their territory.

The three-thousand miles of ocean between Great Britain and the American colonies combined with a long period of lax British rule, which allowed the colonists to experiment with democracy and self-rule, quickly gave the colonists a sense of identity as Americans. The presence of the Atlantic Ocean made it increasingly difficult for the British to have firm control over the colonists and the freedom that resulted from this leniency contributed to the formation of a distinctly American identity (since no other British subjects had as much freedom as the American colonists). Edmond Burke, a member of the House of Commons and a supporter of the colonies, noted in 1766 that “…The eternal Barriers of Nature forbid that the colonies should be blended or coalesce into the Mass…of this Kingdom.” (Document B). The “tyrant three thousand miles away” (Document D) attempted to have tighter control over the colonies by enacting the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Quartering Act, and the Declatory Act and quickened the unification of the American colonies, who felt like victims, against the British.

The colonists’ sense of identity and unity as Americans was further developed when they coalesced to fight the British. Many people who lived in the colonies were not English; they were German, Dutch, Swedish, Jewish, Scots-Irish, and French. Some people were a mixture of many different ethnic groups. This “mixed” group of people, which could not be found anywhere else in the world, that united to fight for their rights led to the creation of a separate identity (from Britain). The British thought that this “open Rebellion” was unjustifiable and that the colonists had no reason to turn against their mother country, who “…protected them against the Ravages of their Enemies…” (Document F). The American colonists insisted that they were still loyal to Great Britain (even though they fought against British troops at times) and did not want to “…dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted…” (Document E). They pledged their loyalty to Great Britain by sending the Olive Branch Petition to King George III in 1775. The rejection of this peace request led many American colonists, who only wanted to secure their rights, to desire complete independence (from Great Britain). The American colonists were willing to do anything to keep their rights, and in the end, they realized that they would have to unite and separate from Great Britain in order to be free. During this time, Richard Henry Lee, the fourteenth President of the Continental Congress, stated that “…all North America is now most firmly united and as firmly resolved to defend their liberties ad infinitum against every power on Earth that may attempt to take them away.” (Document C).The colonists had a well developed sense of identity and unity as Americans by the eve of the revolution since they were ready to form their own nation.

Many different factors led to a highly evolved sense of unity and identity among the colonists. War and British negligence and victimization resulted mainly in colonial unification, while (ethnic) diversity and the distance between Europe and North America resulted in a distinctively American identity. This unification and separate identity from Great Britain paved the way for the creation of a sovereign state.

Similar Articles


This article has 16 comments.

Great work! said...
on Oct. 14 2015 at 11:42 pm
This was a great poem! U caught the emotion behind the story and managed to portray it in a subtle yet powerful way! Keep on writing

WhySOMean? said...
on Oct. 9 2014 at 1:51 am
To Ishman. Why do you have to be so rude? Couldn't you rephrase your comments to be more constructive instead of insulting. Some people have to be so mean to others.

minnmauve said...
on Oct. 2 2014 at 10:08 pm
It may be true that you left some evidence out, but what matters is that you used good pieces of evidence to support your thesis and topic. It would have helped to bring in more info, especially outside info, but this essay still utilized great  evidence. 

Geronimo said...
on Oct. 7 2013 at 9:32 pm
Your point is a good one, while this article did have many good points, there were many facts you left out.

Ishman said...
on Oct. 3 2011 at 5:43 pm
Since I've blasted you twice now, let's continue. Think about every significant revolutionary event before the actual war. Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, the Continental Congress met in Pennsylvania, the writers of the Dec of Ind. all lived in or north of Virginia- the Carolinas had almost no role in the beginning parts of the revolution. Does that sound like unity or detatchment? Basically, because the Carolinas had almost no involvement with the revolution, they were not unified with the rest of the colonies.

Ishman said...
on Oct. 3 2011 at 5:33 pm
You didn't even mention the Galloway Plan of Union or the Albany Plan of Union. Really?

Ishman said...
on Oct. 3 2011 at 5:31 pm
You have a complete lack of outside information.

kittykat said...
on Sep. 25 2011 at 11:38 am
I am doing the exact same thing too! o.o

on Sep. 18 2011 at 9:57 am
rosaposa BRONZE, Orono, Minnesota
3 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Slow down, this night's a perfect shade of dark blue" Jack's Mannequin

this was soo good! im in APUSH right now and this was really cool to read!

missAlex178 said...
on Aug. 22 2011 at 11:55 pm
What was your overall score? This is really good!

on Oct. 23 2010 at 4:58 pm
thebushhippie PLATINUM, Sandown, New Hampshire
24 articles 0 photos 49 comments

Favorite Quote:
Leave behind your own footprints! :0)

Whoa....I am wicked impressed! How on earth did you live through writing about an incredibly boring topic??? Amazing job! Incredibly detailed, clear and organized! :0)

LCScheer said...
on Oct. 11 2010 at 5:32 pm
yes it is the 1999 AP US DBQ! i am working on it right now haha!

amybug said...
on Sep. 9 2010 at 5:24 pm
amybug, Penrose, Colorado
0 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Always remeber there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name." -The Avett Brothers

Great Job! It was really good! Please check out my work as well!

on Apr. 30 2010 at 8:51 pm
Sir-William BRONZE, 111111, Wisconsin
3 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A certain degree of neurosis is of inestimable value as a drive, especially to a psychologist." - Sigmund Freud

I disagree that the small barriers between the states/colonies ceased to exist once they began to fight. Many colonies refused to allow their soldiers to journey to other states to fight. After the war, each one had different tax rates, different moneys, etc.

MamaO said...
on Feb. 1 2010 at 1:27 pm
This was a really nice peice of writing. I liked it.

Mama L said...
on Feb. 1 2010 at 1:27 pm
I think it was really nice.

on Sep. 15 2009 at 8:35 am
Kymberlynn SILVER, Tucson, Arizona
5 articles 0 photos 3 comments
Great essay! Is this the 1999 AP US History DBQ essay?

Parkland Book