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Competing Conceptions of Identity
AP U.S. History
Points Possible:
Laurel Smith

Use the documents listed in the chart below to answer the document-based
question. You can find all of these documents on the AP U.S. History Research
Library. You should spend about 15 minutes examining the documents and
planning out your answer and 45 minutes writing. Use the chart below to take
notes on each document. Note: You will not be graded on your notes, just on
your final essay.

Use your notes to address the document-based question below. Be sure to answer the
question directly and address all aspects of the prompt. Your essay should be five
paragraphs in length. Each paragraph should support and develop your thesis. In your
response you should:

 State a relevant thesis that directly addresses all parts of the question.
 Support the thesis or argument with evidence from all, or all but one, of the

 Incorporate analysis of all, or all but one, of the documents into your argument.

 Focus your analysis of each document on at least one of the following: intended
audience, purpose, historical context, and/or point of view.

 Support your argument with analysis of historical examples outside of the


Question: To what extent had the colonists developed a sense of their identity and
unity as Americans by the eve of the American Revolution? Use evidence from the
documents and your knowledge of the period to write a five paragraph essay.

~ By the end of the 18th century many colonists had developed a strong sense of American
identity. They had come to strongly resent the British and its attempts to increase its colonial authority.
Many events went into how the colonists thought about themselves and how they thought about the
rest of the world.

As the British government struggled to maintain control over the colonies, they enacted many
laws and regulations upon them. Including and possible the most frustrating for the colonists was the
taxes. The British placed large taxes on everything in the colonies to pay for their own expenses such as
the French and Indian war. These taxes were on everything from sugar and glass to paint and tea. Many
colonists felt that it was unfair for them to have to pay these taxes since they were passed in England by
Parliament and not by their own colonial governments. They did not want to pay these taxes because
they no longer felt that they were British citizens.

The more Britain tried to control the colonists the more they rebelled. With every new tax
placed upon the colonists they grew more restless and resentful. The people were growing very tired of
being pushed around and used for money by the British. As the tensions grew between the groups the
colonists united within themselves and shared the want for freedom. The French and Indian war taught
the American colonists that they could indeed unite and stand up for themselves. This was a huge
encouragement to them and greatly raised morale. The colonists became proud to be American and
yearned for liberty as was evident by Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me Death!” speech that he
gave in Virginia.

Henry’s speech was not meant just for those present, but for all American people. As his famous
saying, “Give me liberty, or give me death”, spread throughout the colonies, it inspired people to take
up arms and fight or what they believed in. They could no longer sit idly by as Britain treated them
unfairly. When it was finally time for the colonists to stand up and say that they were no longer going to
be a part of England, it took the citizens working together and having one unified idea of a nation to
rebel against the British. The colonists’ sense of self was tied to their nation as a whole and the rights
they believed they were entitled to and this was what got them to the point of revolution.
Thanks to many things in early American history the nation was founded on a strong sense of
pride and togetherness that is extremely valuable when creating a unified democracy.