A New Nation

"The American war is over; but this is far from being the case with the American revolution…"
-Benjamin Rush, 1783

With the hard-fought establishment of the United States of America, the Revolutionaries succeeded in gaining independence. But then came the immense task of creating a nation founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As you conclude your journey, watch as the new nation–born of the War for Independence– begins its own.

Upon the defeat of the British at Yorktown and the signing of the Peace of Paris in 1783, the young United States had its freedom, but also the massive task of creating one nation from thirteen disparate, former colonies. Learn how the nation emerged from war to create a republican society that ensured that political authority came from the people in these last two galleries. From the critical period following the war to the Peace of Paris to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, follow the debates and gain new perspectives on the challenges that the young nation faced at the end of the eighteenth century.

An Incomplete Revolution

While the Revolutionary War won independence for the United States from Great Britain, its promises of freedom and liberty were not for all. Women, Native Americans, free and enslaved African Americans still did not gain the same liberties as land-owning, white men.

While the republican ideals of the American Revolution amplified the political debate over slavery, yet it also resulted in its expansion to the west and increased brutality for the enslaved as a whole. The unfinished business of the American Revolution would continue to haunt the nascent nation as it moved towards the Civil War.

Highlights

The Revolution’s Veterans

Come face-to-face with America’s first “greatest generation” through their photographs. Many veterans suffered after the war, as the new nation neglected their war heroes. The last known Revolutionary War veterans died shortly after the Civil War, still many had their photograph taken.

Republican Motherhood

After the Revolutionary War, Americans believed that education was the best way to secure their republic. In the early United States, educating boys and girls as citizens became a major focus of home life. As teachers of these important civic lessons, women gained new political responsibilities. “Republican mothers” were to raise virtuous children and educate them as citizens. Try your hand at an early American stitching lesson through an interactive “sampler” station.

Symbols of the American Republic

In the 1760s, American homes and public places were filled with objects that bore images of King George III, the royal coat of arms, and British military heroes. By the 1790s, the same kinds of objects displayed symbols of the new American republic and its heroes. View original artifacts bearing early symbols of the United States of America, including the “Federal Eagle”–derived from the Great Seal of 1782—and Revolutionary leaders. The most popular–George Washington–replaced George III on tavern signs, drinking mugs, and water buckets.

A “Rising Sun”

Assume George Washington’s role as President of the Constitutional Convention and sit in a reproduction of the “Rising Sun” chair.  As the Convention’s work closed, Franklin announced: “I have . . . often in the course of the session . . . looked at that [sun] behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting: but now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising sun and not a setting sun.”