When Rip falls asleep, the colonies are firmly under British control, the situation seems unlikely to change, life is slow-moving, and Rip enjoys visiting the Inn, where he can hang out on a bench under a portrait of George III and chit-chat about nothing in particular. By the time Rip wakes up again twenty years later, the Americans have fought a revolution and wrested control of the country from England.
When Rip gets back home, he finds everything has changed. He tries to return to his old haunt, the Inn, but discovers it is now the Union Hotel and filled with political activity. When a man asks him why he showed up at the "election" with "a gun on his shoulder," Rip is bewildered. He declares he is a loyal subject of the king. This makes the crowd turn on him in fury, denouncing him as a Tory and a spy. They are angry at him because they are now part of a Republic and don't serve the king. It is only when they understand that he is the long lost Rip Van Winkle that they start to understand that he is out of sync with the times.