The Road to Independence

The Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people...
–John Adams, 1818

The rumblings of the American Revolution began more than a decade before the “shot heard ‘round the world” ignited America’s War for Independence. Discover through seven galleries how the American Colonists–most of them content and even proud British subjects–became Revolutionaries as the roots of rebellion took hold. See how conflict over Native American lands and western settlement created the first rumblings of American discontent.

Start your journey through one of the most exciting and dramatic stories ever told by exploring a massive, interactive map of the North American continent. Uncover the diverse populations of native peoples, European groups, and hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans who inhabited the powerful and expansive British Empire – which included what would ultimately become the United States of America – in 1763.

How did the American Colonies evolve into an independent nation? As unrest grew, the term “American Liberties” began appearing in newspapers and other printings around the colonies. Dive into the tumult imposed by the Stamp Act, Townsend Duties, and Intolerable Acts through interactives that introduce the roles that printing and propaganda played in the Revolution. Investigate what it meant to gain independence in a hands-on interactive where you can touch such evocative symbols of liberty as a liberty pole and liberty cap.

Watch Congress issue the transformative Declaration of Independence—one of the most important documents ever written—on July 4. In an immersive theater that recreates the panels, furniture and feeling of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, view the unfolding debate and decision-making from your own Windsor chair as delegates to the Continental Congress passionately debate the break from England and the King. Then read the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson and the list of twenty-seven grievances the Continental Congress levied at the King from authentic printings of the Declaration of Independence.

Boston’s Liberty Tree

In one of the Museum’s captivating immersive environments, stand beneath the branches and lanterns of a life-size reproduction of the Boston Liberty Tree, a large elm tree where the first stirrings of revolt were discussed and debated. Liberty Trees became gathering places for the Sons and Daughters of Liberty, groups of men and women who rebelled against British tyranny.

Highlights

Rule Britannia!

Before the stirrings of rebellion took hold, the colonies were a proud part of the expanding British Empire. The Royal cypher “GR” (for Georgius Rex – Latin for George the King) was everywhere in colonial America–appearing on drinking mugs, iron firebacks, punch bowls, and military items. Examine these objects that express Americans’ affection for their king and the British military heroes of the colonial wars, including items with the GR cypher, everyday objects with depictions of General Wolfe and Admiral Vernon, and objects with the British Royal Coat of Arms.

King George's Statue

Experience the streets of New York City in 1776 as Americans, prompted by enthusiasm following the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence to Washington’s Army, tore down the giant statue of George III on a horse in lower Manhattan. Walk into this immersive scene and ask, what made the colonists so angry with the king? What in the Declaration of Independence inspired Americans to tear down King George’s statue?

Women and Liberty

Learn how the words of the Declaration of Independence immediately helped fuel the aspirations for personal liberty of ordinary Americans. Explore the story of Elizabeth Freeman, an enslaved woman who sued for her freedom on the basis that she was entitled to natural rights. Learn about how the first anti-slavery society in the history of the world emerged in revolutionary Philadelphia. Hear Abigail Adams call for independence while her windows rattle in Boston with the explosions of British cannon, and then hear her compelling call for women to have a place in the new American government, a visionary promise left unfulfilled for more than a century.

Writing State Constitutions

See original examples of the first state Constitutions, adopted in 1776. Though rarely the focus of public history, these underappreciated documents established the precedent for modern government creation. They were the first written constitutions of independent government in the history of the world. If Americans had accomplished nothing else with the American Revolution, these constitutions made their movement one of the most important in the human political history.