Famous People of the American Revolution
John Adams. Lord North. George Washington. Thomas Paine. Benjamin Franklin. Who are the most influential people of the American Revolution Era? World History Edu presents a summary of the lives and major accomplishments of 10 most famous figures who played leading roles during the American Revolution, a landmark period (1765-1783) that saw 13 diminutive American colonies fight tooth and nail to secure full independence from Great Britain.
Having been appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental Army by Congress following the onset of the American Revolutionary War in 1775, George Washington (1732-1799) worked assiduously to inculcate sound discipline and fighting spirit into the men he commanded. He was able to galvanize both the political and military apparatus of the American colonies towards the all-important goal of securing full independence from Great Britain.
The General distinguished himself in a number of very crucial battles. And even though his army suffered some very serious defeats, the general never once contemplated throwing in the towel as he believed in bringing an end to the tyrannical reign of Great Britain.
General Washington, albeit with a slight numerical disadvantage, would continue fighting, securing a famous victory at the Battle of Trenton n 1776, which in turn lifted the spirits of Patriot forces who were allied with French forces. In the penultimate battle of Yorktown in 1781, Washington came out victorious against a fierce British force under the leadership of Lord Cornwallis.
Having won the Revolutionary War, Washington went on to serve as the president of the very important Constitutional Convention in 1787, which helped give birth to the Constitution of the United States.
In a unanimous vote by the Electoral College, the former Commanding General of the Continental Army was elected president of the United States of America. Thus, from 1789 to 1797, Washington served as the First gentleman of our nation and went on to lay a very firm foundation upon which our nation’s republican government has thrived for more than two centuries.
For his immeasurable efforts and a never-giving-up spirit throughout the American Revolutionary War, George Washington stands in a unique place in our nation’s history. It’s for this reason he is hailed as the “Father of the Nation”.
In 1976, he was posthumously awarded the General of the Armies of the United States – the most senior military rank in the United States Army. Washington, who is considered by many as one of the greatest presidents of our nation, is one of two people to hold that military honor. The other is John J. Pershing, who received his in 1919 for heroic efforts during World War I.
Read More: 12 Common Myths about George Washington
A Founding Father and the third US President, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) played a leading role throughout the American Revolution. He is credited with being one of the principal authors and drafters of the Declaration of Independence (1776), which is one of the most sacred documents of our nation.
The Virginia-born statesman, philosopher and lawyer first rose to acclaim by representing Virginia at the Continental Congress. He also served as the second Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781. Four years later, he was posted to Europe, where he served as the United States ambassador to France. Upon his return, he was appointed to serve as our nation’s first secretary of state in George Washington’s cabinet.
Famously known as the first Secretary of the Treasury, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) was a distinguished political philosopher, statesman, and lawyer. In addition to being a senior aide to General Washington during the Independence War, Hamilton, who was a brilliant economist, played a massive role in securing funding for American Revolutionary War debts.
During the American Revolutionary War, a young Hamilton served courageously as an artillery officer in the newly formed Continental Army. He famously fought in many battles, including distinguishing himself in the New York and New Jersey campaigns. As a result, he earned a call up to serve as General Washington’s senior aide.
During his time as Secretary of the Treasury in Washington’s cabinet, he helped found the financial system of the United States. One of his greatest achievements came when he established the nation’s first banks – the First Bank of the United States (charted in 1791) and the Bank of North America (charted in 1781). The former, which was allowed to have branches in multiple states, was tasked with stabilizing and improving the fledging nation’s credit, and to lend money to the federal government.
A promoter of the U.S. Constitution, Hamilton fought tirelessly for a stronger federal government. He is also credited with establishing the US Coast Guard and the New York Post newspaper.
King George III
Having inherited a vast empire from his father George II, King George III fought very hard to keep the American colonies under his dominion. He tasked his ministers to develop many measures to swiftly crush the dissent that started brewing in the colonies in the late 1760s.
George’s kingdom, which was still reeling from the very expensive Seven Years’ War it waged against France and its Native American allies, decided to levy direct taxes upon the American colonies in order to recoup some of the money it had spent during the war. However, Britain was in for the biggest shock in its existence. Inspired by Enlightenment philosophers, American colonists began agitating for greater representation, which in turn morphed into the American Revolutionary War.
Prior to the onset of the Revolutionary War in 1775, the colonists had sent many petitions to George III appealing for his intervention in the issue. George III, thinking that his British regulars stationed in the colonies could crush the dissent in no time, decided to ignore those appeals from the colonists and later rebel leaders. Instead George described the colonists as traitors to the Crown.
In the Declaration of Independence in 1776 by the Continental Congress, George III was referred to as tyrant who made the lives of the colonies unbearable. The King never acknowledged the independence of the colonies and instead responded by bolstering British troops presence in North America. It seemed George desired nothing more than to inflict the harshest form of punishment on the rebels.
Beginning around 1778, France’s political and military support of the colonies helped turn the tides against George and his British forces. Defeat at the siege of Yorktown in late 1781 caused home support for the war to wane. Additionally, George, having spent an enormous fortune in the war, ultimately accepted the defeat of his forces in North America. The British monarch then authorized for peace negotiations to begin, which culminated in the Treaties of Paris that resulted in Britain recognizing the United States of America as an independent nation.
John Adams (1753-1826) was one of the most influential leaders of the American Revolution and Independence War. Adams worked with fellow Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson in encouraging the Continental Congress to issue the Declaration of Independence. He was a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the declaration document. Adams was a brilliant political mind and lawyer, and he used those abilities during the seven-year Revolutionary War against Great Britain. Following the United States victory over Britain, John Adams, along with John Jay, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Laurens, and William Temple Franklin, participated in peace negotiations with Great Britain in Paris in 1782. His contributed immensely in the drafting of the Peace Treaty in Paris of 1783.
Adams would go on to serve as the first vice president of the United States under George Washington from 1789 to 1797. A year later, he defeated his friend and rival Thomas Jefferson to become the second president of the United States, serving from 1797 to 1801.
Born in London on April 13, 1732, Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford, was the prime minister of Britain from 1770 to 1782. His time as prime minister was an extremely crucial one as it included majority of the years of the American War of Independence.
Lord North’s decisions during that period have been blamed as partly responsible for Great Britain’s loss of the American colonies. North’s hostile stance against the petitions made by the American colonies would morph into the infamous Boston Tea Party (in December 1773), an event that saw several tons of British tea dumped in the harbor in Massachusetts. North and his allies in Parliament then responded by passing a series of Coercive Acts (also known as the Intolerable Acts of 1774) that punished Bostonians severely for their actions. Unfortunately, those repressive tactics of North caused further agitations and skirmishes in the colonies. Steadily, more and more people came to join the cause of the colonists and rebels in pressing for full independence for the colonies.
The seven-year American War of Independence would see North and his military generals suffer defeat at the hands of the American forces. Following the crushing defeat at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, Lord North tendered his resignation on March 20, 1782. His departure ultimately paved the way for peace negotiations between the United States and Great Britain to begin.
Founding Father Samuel Adams (1722-1803) was an influential statesman, political philosopher and later 4th governor of Massachusetts. Like his second cousin and fellow Founding Father John Adams, Samuel Adams fought against Great Britain’s imposition of tax on the colonies without any form of representation in the British Parliament.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Adams and a number of influential businessmen and merchants had grown frustrated by Great Britain’s decision to use the colonies to raise revenue following the very costly Seven Years’ War against France. Adams called on Bostonians, particularly traders and merchants, not to cooperate with British officials. Adams was also against the forced housing of British troops in Boston.
Tensions between the British American colonies and British forces spiraled out of control and resulted in the Boston Massacre of 1770, a tragic event that saw British soldiers gun down five people. Incensed by Britain’s persistence, Adams and his political wing, the Sons of Liberty, helped set up a committee of correspondence to coordinate anti-British government efforts across the colonies.
A master propagandist, Samuel Adams published many anti-British colonial rule articles colonial newspapers to help recruit people to fight against Great Britain’s government. Following the passage of the Coercive Acts in 1774, Adams was again at the forefront. He and leaders from the various colonies established the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Adams and the delegates to the Congress first issued the Continental Association in 1774 to vehemently slam Great Britain’s continued use of repressive tactics against the colonies. In 1776, Samuel Adams was one of the signees of the Declaration of Independence, and thus helped nudge the United States further on the path to full independence.
Marquis de Lafayette
A renowned French military officer, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) fought on the side of the American colonies during the American Revolutionary War. The French aristocrat had very close ties with U.S. Founding Fathers like Hamilton, Jefferson and Washington.
Wholeheartedly believing in the ideals and cause of the American Revolution, Lafayette proved himself capable of leading on the battle field. This was evident in 1781 when he commanded a group of soldiers who kept British troops, under the command of British Army general Charles Cornwallis, at bay during the Battle of Yorktown.
For his untiring efforts in both the American Revolution and the French Revolution, Lafayette is generally regarded as a national hero in both the United States and France.
Founding Father and American polymath Benjamin Franklin chalked many political feats in addition to his scientific achievements. Franklin has been described as one of the most famous intellectuals of his era. He led the American Enlightenment society in pushing for unity among the colonies in the face of Great Britain’s undemocratic policies in the colonies.
A drafter and signer of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776, Benjamin Franklin rose to immense acclaim when he led efforts to get the British Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act of 1765.
During the American Revolution, Franklin helped build strong ties with France, a country that provided a lot of financial aid as well as political support to the American Revolutionaries. In effect, he acted as the spokesman for the American patriots. From 1779 to 1785, he served as the US ambassador to France. He was also a senior US diplomat to Sweden from 1782 to 1783.
Known for improving Franco-American relations, Benjamin Franklin was one of the most influential Founding Fathers of the United States. He is also remembered for urging his fellow politicians and statesmen to end slavery in America and integrate African Americans into the U.S. society.
Thomas Paine (1737-1809) is considered one of America’s Founding Fathers and an influential thinker of the American Enlightenment era. He is most known as the author of Common Sense (1776), the critical acclaimed pamphlet of the American Revolution. Thomas Paine, who was an English-born political theorist and philosopher, supported the cause of the American Revolutionaries with all his might and will.
Paine holds a distinguished place in the annals of American history because he championed many of the ideals of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His pro-revolutionary political pamphlets, particularly The American Crisis (1776–83) and Common Sense (1776), urged the colonies to fight on and bring an end to Great Britain’s reign of tyranny. His ability to use very clear and concise words allowed his works to instill a sense of patriotism among the American Revolutionaries.