According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, propaganda is "the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person." The American Historical Association provides more details in its description of war propaganda, which is utilized by opposing forces to unify the...
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, propaganda is "the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person." The American Historical Association provides more details in its description of war propaganda, which is utilized by opposing forces to unify the citizens of a nation, demoralize the enemy, and maintain good will among allies. During the American Revolution, both the Americans and the British used propaganda extensively to further their causes.
For the Americans, for instance, one of the main means of spreading propaganda about the war was newspapers. Circulations were much lower than they are now, of course, but when new editions of newspapers were printed, men would gather together in taverns, meeting houses, and private homes to read them together. George Washington understood the power of the printed word and had Congress authorize the New-Jersey Journal, an official army-controlled paper that could oppose the negative propaganda of loyalist newspapers being distributed by British sympathizers in Philadelphia and New York. Other newspapers that stirred up opposition to the British were the Providence Gazette and the Boston Gazette.
Americans also spread anti-British and pro-revolutionary propaganda through pamphlets, letters, speeches, songs, posters, demonstrations, church meetings, and assemblies. Benjamin Franklin in particular created artwork, cartoons, and articles, sometimes exaggerated, about the savagery of the British, the honor of service under Washington, and the risk to freedom of capitulation to the British. Franklin also spread propaganda of British war atrocities overseas, which helped to strengthen the American alliance with the French.
Prominent in America's propaganda campaign was the righteousness of the struggle for freedom. Slogans such as "No Taxation Without Representation" and "Liberty or Death" served to incite people to rebel against the British.
There was also widespread propaganda on the British side. As mentioned above, some newspapers in America were loyalist and represented the British cause as righteous. London newspapers twisted facts to show that the British were victorious in battles that were actually won by Americans. American naval commander John Paul Jones was depicted in British newspapers as a pirate.
We can see, then, that during the American Revolution propaganda was used extensively by both sides to promote their disparate viewpoints.