The Shot Heard Round the World

An engraving of the Battle of Lexington in 1775. (1)

This visual represents one of the landmark achievements in Proto-American history – the start of the American Revolution. The image is an engraving, depicting the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. Around 70 British minutemen arrived in Lexington, Massachusetts in the morning after receiving orders to capture American supplies. The colonists received information about it and moved their ammunition and weapons away before the British arrived. During the early hours of the day, a shot was heard. However, it is still not clear, which side fired it, but a skirmish followed suit between the locals and  and in the end, 8 Americans had died. The squadron moved to Concord, where they met another rebellious group, where in a clash 3 minutemen perished. T The clash at Lexington marked the start of the Revolutionary War. To add, the term was popularized by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1837 in his poem “Concord Hymn”, dedicated to the skirmish in Concord. He wrote:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1837


The origin of the conflict between England and the colony

During the Seven Years’ War, the United Kingdom and the colonies fought together against the French and the natives in America. However, there were some tensions against one another as Britain refused the colonies in the New World to build an army to fight against the French and the indigenous. The colonies were mostly autonomous and developed a sense of identity and independence while managing their affairs. At the end of the war, Britain had an enormous debt and to compensate the expenses, Britain imposed new taxes to the New World, such as the Stamp Act in 1765, where every printed page has a tax added with it. The colonies claimed that the approval of new government acts taxing the colonies in America was illegal, as there was no MP to represent the New World in the Parliament (taxation without representation). To add, Britain prohibited the expansion of the colonies in America with the government’s Proclamation of 1763, which angered many colonists. Also the religious differences between the regions for many years affected the relationship between the Colonies and mainland Britain.

Depiction of the Boston Tea Party in 1773. (2)

Boston Tea Party of 1773

As the taxes included tea, which colonists drank about 1.2 million pounds annually, Americans smuggled in Dutch tea and boycotted tea from the British East India Company. This led the company to near bankruptcy and the British government imposed the Tea Act in 1773, which allowed the British East India Company to sell tea to the colonies without custom fees and made importing tea from other nations illegal. however, the tea was still taxed at the harbor. As a consequence, many colonists, many belonging to the furtive mercantile organization The Sons of Liberty, dressed as Native Americans, threw 342 chests of tea from ships to the sea in Boston. The value of tea, weighing about 45 tons, is, in accordance to today’s currency, about one million dollars. No one was hurt and only one person was arrested, but King George III and the parliament passed many acts, known as the Coercive Acts, such as closing the Boston Harbor and declaring martial law in Massachusetts. This action would lead to the formation of the first Conventional Congress and eventually the Declaration of Independence.

Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776

The Declaration of Independence was a document declaring the 13 colonial states sovereign from the United Kingdom. It was compiled by a five-man committee, where John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson belonged. The document mostly written by Thomas Jefferson and the Continental Congress approved it. The Second Continental Congress adopted the document on July 4th, 1776. The principles of the document were that the 13 colonies formed a new nation – the United States of America.

The title page of the Declaration of Independence. (3)

Revolutionary War 1775-1783, reasons, outcome

After the Intolerable Acts in 1774, colonial governors, including George Washington and John Adams, gathered in Philadelphia to argue against the authority of the British rule in America, which is known as the First Continental Congress. The delegates issued a declaration of rights, mentioning the right of freedom for every citizen. Before the assembly of the Continental Congress in 1775, shots had been fired by British forces against local soldiers in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, which marked the start of the American Revolution. The British Crown sent many troops to America in a land invasion and the US appointed Washington as the commander of the newly formed Continental Army. Many battles were fought, such as the first defeat of British forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill and the turning point of the war in the Battle of Saratoga. In June 1778 the French openly joined the Americans in the war, hoping to revenge the defeat in the Seven Years’ War. The final defeat of the crown’s forces in Yorktown in 1781 marked the victory of the colonists, however the Treaty of Paris was not signed until 1783 to make peace between USA, and the United Kingdom, where the latter recognized the sovereignty of the United States. Another peace treaty was signed with France separately as well.

Articles of Confederation of 1781

The Articles of Confederation is a declaration ratified by the 13 colonial states. It was the first constitution of the US and it was signed by the states in 1781. The document allocated more power for the Congress, including giving the government to maintain the army, to make alliances and treaties and to coin currency. However, it did not allow the relieving of taxes. The Articles defined the name of the country as the United States of America.

Constitutional Convention of 1787

The Constitutional Convention was an assembly of the delegates of states in order to alter the Articles of Confederation. It was taking place at the Pennsylvania State House, where the Declaration of Independence was signed about 10 years earlier. The president of the symposium was voted George Washington, a national hero after commanding the troops in the Revolutionary War, who would later become the first President of the United States. Leading figures, such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison proposed a new structure of the government. Eventually, the convention decided on a bicameral government, where the lower chamber has a proportional representation and the upper chamber equal representation. It was a compromise between small states, who wished for influence in the governing of the nation, and larger states, who wanted more power to reign the nation. The decision was approved on July 16, 1787.

George Washington addressing the Constitutional Convention of 1787. (4)

US Constitution and the Bill of Rights

The Constitution of the United States is a document signed by delegates of the states on September 17, 1787 during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The constitution sets the structure of the government and the three branches of governing – legislative, executive and judicial. It divides the power to the Congress and the president. The new structure of the government started to work on March 4, 1789 and the first president George Washington was inaugurated on April 30, 1789, when at least 9 of the original 13 states ratified the constitution. The constitution consists of 27 amendments and states basic rights for the citizens.

The Bill of Rights was drafted by James Madison and they are 10 amendments added to the constitution on December 10, 1791. Originally, Madison, a member of the House of Representatives, wanted to introduce 19 amendments to the constitution, while only 10 of them were actually added to the document. The Bill of Rights gives citizens fundamental rights, such as the freedom of speech, religion and the right to keep arms. Because of his efforts towards the writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, Madison earned the nickname “Father of the Constitution” and he became the fourth president of the US.

The role of George Washington

George Washington was a land surveyor in his early years. He used the acquired skills to guide troops as the first commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775. He was known to be a national hero with landmark achievements and victories in the siege of Boston and the attack in Trenton. Later he was elected as the first president of the United States in 1789, serving 2 terms from 1789 to 1797.

Portrait of George Washington. (5)

The role of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is the main author of the Declaration of Independence and was the governor of Virginia. He was an active member of the governing of Virginia and a talented writer. Although he was not present at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, he was informed of the recent news. In 1789, president Washington invited Jefferson to be the first Secretary of State and 7 years later, he became vice president in the Adams administration. In the presidential election in 1800, Jefferson was voted president after the House of Representatives had to broke the tie between him and Aaron Burr. His most famous achievement as a president was the purchase of Louisiana from France in 1803; the expansion doubled the size of the US. In his second term in office, he attempted to avoid the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. However, after an unpopular decision to halt foreign US trade, the USA joined in the war in 1812.

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson. (6)

Historical accuracy of the film

The movie “The Patriot” focuses on a pacifist farmer Benjamin Martin, who opposes “taxation without representation”, but does not support going to war against the UK. However, as his son wants to go to war, he is faced against a brutal general Tavington. The movie depicts the American Revolution era and I believe that the movie shows the battles and conditions of the opposing sides fairly well. However, I want to point out some inaccuracies related to the events in the film.

To start with, the movie is not rated R without a reason. The movie includes many terrible fighting scenes, where soldiers fly and body parts are torn away. There are many scenes in the movie, where the action takes place in the middle of a field, allowing narration to be commented. The movie shows various battles, both small and large, and how the so called “rules of war” were followed. But with so much violence something is bound to be made up. The scene, where Benjamin and his sons Nathan and Samuel fought 20 redcoats, was too superficial for me. The precision of the first-shooters and the hand combat of the father left me wondering, if Martin is an ordinary farmer or an American ninja.

To add, I feel that the political situation of America was not illustrated enough. A review mentions this issue: “So does some of the script, which wants to celebrate the glory of 1776 America, but ignores the less tidy aspect of its politics.” (7) The film only details the Charleston Assembly, where the government seems to be in perfect condition. Notwithstanding, the actual situation of the local politics were unorganized. In addition, the characters of the movie were based on real-life autobiographies, but the actions were not truly showed. For example, the protagonist Benjamin Martin is based on many militiamen, most notably Francis Maron, who earned the nickname “Swamp Fox”. The antagonist colonel Tavington is based on Banastre Tarleton, who was known for his cruel actions, but who lived a long life in England instead of dying on the battlefield.

To sum up, the program “The Patriot” gives a rather long overview of the Revolutionary War. With many bloody battle scenes and superhero-like characters, it is not hard to guess that the movie is not entirely historical. A critic concludes his review: “The Patriot reflects on nothing, except perhaps that the American Revolution was a golden opportunity for Mel Gibson to go postal.” (8) I totally agree with this sentence and for me, the film produces more wonderful effects in war scenes.

Used reviews

(7) Mitchell, E. ‘A Gentle Farmer Who’s Good at Violence’, 2000. The New York Times. Accessible at:
archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/library/film/062800patriot-film-review.html (Accessed 13.05.2019)

(8) Taylor, E. ‘The Patriot Game’, 2000. L.A. Weekly. Accessible at:
www.laweekly.com/film/la-weekly-movie-guide-the-intruder-10150528 (Accessed 13.05.2019)

Visual sources

(1) Picture of the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. Source: www.bostonteapartyship.com/the-shot-heard-round-the-world

(2) Depiction of the Boston Tea Party in 1773. Source: www.seriousfacts.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Featured-Image.jpg

(3) Declaration of Independence. Source: www.wdl.org/en/item/109/

(4) George Washington addressing the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Source: www.benjamin-franklin-history.org/constitutional-convention/

(5) Portrait of George Washington. Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b6/Gilbert_Stuart_Williamstown_Portrait_of_George_Washington.jpg

(6) Portrait of Thomas Jefferson. Source: upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b1/Official_Presidential_portrait_of_Thomas_Jefferson_%28by_Rembrandt_Peale%2C_1800%29%28cropped%29.jpg

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