Why did some colonial Virginians seek independence?

Lesson Plan

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Upper Elementary, Middle, High School


VS.4, VS.5, US1.5, US1.6, VUS.4, VUS.5

Demonstrating Comprehension; Comparing and Contrasting; Determining Cause and Effect; Using Information Sources; Organizing Information; Questioning and Critical Thinking Skills

This lesson also meets national standards for social studies.



Students will examine the underlying reasons that drove some colonists to seek independence from the King.

Essential question:

Why did some colonial Virginians seek independence?


Featured Sources

Source A: A Society of Patriotic Ladies political cartoon

Source B: Boston Tea Party lithograph

Source C: “Yorktown Tea Party” from the Virginia Gazette

Source D: Quote from Patrick Henry

Additional Materials

Transcription: “Yorktown Tea Party”

What were the Intolerable Acts? Essay

Trouble with Tea Graphic Organizer

Patrick Henry video


Step 1: Divide students into five content groups based on the following: Boston Tea Party, Yorktown Tea Party, Tea Overboard, The Coercive Acts, and Ladies of Edenton. Give each group 10-15 minutes to examine and discuss their source. During this time, float around the classroom to monitor progress.

Step 2: Divide the class once more, this time into teams. Make sure that each team has at least one member from the earlier content groups. Students should take turns presenting their material from the content group to their team, encouraging others to ask questions and make comments for clarification. Students can use the following questions as a guide:

How are they alike and how are they different? What prompted the colonists to dump their tea?

What were the results of the Boston tea dumping and the Virginia tea dumping?

Why do you think the responses were different?

Imagine you are a merchant during the Revolution; what are some incentives to obey the non-importation agreement? What are some incentives to disobey the agreement?

How do the actions of the Ladies of Edenton tie into this? What is the response to these women?


Ask a representative from each team to share with the class their team’s main takeaway from the sources, attempting to answer the question “Why did some colonial Virginians seek independence?”

Extension Activity — Class Discussion: Liberty or Death

Step 1: Project or hand out the following. You can allow a student to do a dramatic reading of the speech excerpt, or use the linked video (https://youtu.be/DbghWFMLyiA):

“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace — but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

~Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775

Step 2: Lead the class in a discussion surrounding this famous quote. Prompts:

Would you characterize Patrick Henry as a Loyalist or a Patriot? Why?

To whom is Henry referring when he says, “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?”

What is the purpose of Patrick Henry’s speech?

Based on the words in this speech, how would you describe Patrick Henry?