While Rip van Winkle is sleeping, the American Revolution occurs. This revolutionary war took place from 1765-1783, so when Rip awakens the war has been over for two years.
This American War of Independence, as the British termed it, was waged after Americans began to feel oppressed by taxation without any representation and by British rulers--the king and the aristocracy--who did not exercise their authority for the "good of human society." The need to establish republican values of the inalienable rights of man and liberty and the necessity of protecting virtue formed the ideals of the American Revolution.
However, when Rip van Winkle returns to his village after twenty years, he is disturbed by the radical changes in social customs and political ideas. When he is accosted by some men, Rip becomes dismayed and declares,
"I am a poor quiet man, a native of the place, and a loyal subject of the King--God bless him!"
Of course, the anachronistic Rip does not realize the faux pas he has committed since before his sleep, King George III was in power. When the people hear this, they shout that Rip is "A Tory! a spy! a Refugee!" and they want to be rid of him.
Interestingly, however, through his character of van Winkle, Irving expresses a certain nostalgia for Colonial times. For, when Rip van Winkle observes those around him, he notices that people seem greatly changed in character.
There was a busy, bustling disputatious tone about it (the inn) instead of the accustomed phlegm and drowsy tranquility.
Rip van Winkle wishes for the days when he sat and conversed at the Inn, but it is not long before he takes his old place once more on the bench by the inn door.