“The American Revolution was the central event in American history,” says American Revolution Institute Executive Director Jack Warren. “It defined our nation. Its achievements are the common inheritance of all Americans, regardless of whether their ancestors fought at Bunker Hill or they just became citizens.”
The American Revolution Institute of The Society of the Cincinnati works to nurture an informed citizenry that can engage in responsible debate grounded in respect for our nation’s history and institutions. The Society of the Cincinnati is America’s oldest patriotic organization, founded by officers of the Continental Army and their French peers in 1783 to preserve the memory of the Revolution.
According to Warren, the Society created ARI in 2012 to ensure that “all Americans understand and appreciate the legacy of the American Revolution,” how the American republic was established, and how a distinctly American national identity was created, being guided by the principles of “liberty, equality, natural and civil rights, and responsible citizenship that have shaped our nation’s history.”
An authority on George Washington, Warren was an editor of Washington’s papers and is the author of The Presidency of George Washington and America’s First Veterans, which explores the experiences of Revolutionary War veterans during the seventy years following the American victory.
Warren says that ARI is “building a movement of like-minded Americans” who understand that the American Revolution was “a critical event in the development of freedom and the shaping of the modern world.” Though the country didn’t fully live up to its stated principles at its Founding, the American revolutionaries nevertheless hoped that the country would fulfill them eventually. They understood that “creating a truly free society would take many generations.”
ARI works to persuade students “to embrace their role as stewards of our great experiment in liberty and self-government, rather than regard themselves as victims of an oppressive society built on a history of injustice.” Warren singles out the New York Times’s 1619 Project, which he says spreads “deliberate misrepresentations about the Revolution” rather than more thoughtfully considering the story of early America, including slavery.
ARI is focused on three main goals: ensuring that the history and heroes of the American Revolution are taught in schools; preserving battlefields, books, manuscripts, art, and artifacts of the Revolution and encouraging their study; and promoting the memory, ideals, and legacy of the Revolution through exhibits and educational programs.
Located at the Anderson House, a 1905 mansion on Washington’s Embassy Row that also houses the Society of the Cincinnati, ARI hosts house tours; public lectures from distinguished scholars and historians such as David McCullough, Nathaniel Philbrick, and Rick Atkinson; and workshops and seminars for middle school and high school teachers.
ARI’s special collections library includes more than 50,000 primary source documents from the Revolutionary era, including broadsides, manuscripts, maps, rare books, artwork such as ceramics and glass, war armaments and equipment, medals, paintings and sculptures, and prints and photographs. A selection is available online, which is useful for students who can’t travel to our nation’s capital to see these items in person.
For teachers, ARI offers a multitude of resources, such as lesson plans on important Revolutionary Era figures and artwork depicting the American Revolution; Why America Is Free, a textbook on the Revolution; the “Revolutionary Choices” online game; a key introductory essay, “The American Revolution in One Lesson”; and a regularly updated blog. It also has resources that explain why teaching about battlefields such as Bunker Hill, Saratoga, and Yorktown is crucial for student civic education.
ARI also offers its unique traveling trunks—chests packed with historically reproduced clothing, along with artifacts and documents. The trunks can be shipped to any school in the nation and kept on hand for a week.
ARI features two temporary exhibits each year that provide an up-close look at the history of the Revolution. The current exhibit, “America’s First Veterans,” displays paintings, artifacts, prints, and documents that explore the postwar experiences of junior officers and enlisted men who helped win American independence.
Warren says that Revolutionary War heroes represent the “embodiment of virtues celebrated as characteristically American: courage and determination when confronted by a powerful adversary, endurance in adversity, loyalty to family, friends and comrades-in-arms, individual initiative and commitment to high ideals.” These virtues are needed today more than ever.
Mike Sabo is the editor of RealClear’s American Civics portal.