The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate, Vol. 1 1764-1772 (Library of America, Volume 265)
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For the 250th anniversary of the start of the American Revolution, acclaimed historian Gordon S. Wood presents a landmark collection of British and American pamphlets from the political debate that divided an empire and created a nation:
In 1764, in the wake of its triumph in the Seven Years War, Great Britain possessed the largest and most powerful empire the world had seen since the fall of Rome and its North American colonists were justly proud of their vital place within this global colossus. Just twelve short years later the empire was in tatters, and the thirteen colonies proclaimed themselves the free and independent United States of America. In between, there occurred an extraordinary contest of words between American and Britons, and among Americans themselves, which addressed all of the most fundamental issues of politics: the nature of power, liberty, representation, rights and constitutions, and sovereignty. This debate was carried on largely in pamphlets and from the more than a thousand published on both sides of the Atlantic during the period Gordon S. Wood has selected thirty-nine of the most interesting and important to reveal as never before how this momentous revolution unfolded.
This first of two volumes traces the debate from its first crisis—Parliament's passage of the Stamp Act, which in the summer of 1765 triggered riots in American ports from Charleston, South Carolina, to Portsmouth, New Hampshire—to its crucial turning point in 1772, when the Boston Town Meeting produces a pamphlet that announces their defiance to the world and changes everything. Here in its entirety is John Dickinson's justly famous Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, considered the most significant political tract in America prior to Thomas Paine's Common Sense. Here too is the dramatic transcript of Benjamin Franklin's testimony before Parliament as it debated repeal of the Stamp Act, among other fascinating works. The volume includes an introduction, headnotes, a chronology of events, biographical notes about the writers, and detailed explanatory notes, all prepared by our leading expert on the American Revolution. As a special feature, each pamphlet is preceded by a typographic reproduction of its original title page.
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throats, if they should presume to offer half the indignities to the officers of the French crown, which they have often, with impunity, done to those of the British. At present they enjoy, in general, the full benefit of the English laws and constitution. Nay, they have assemblies of their own to redress their grievances, and regulate their polity. Therein they exercise an authority little inferior to that of the British parliament. And indeed what they seem to struggle for is, to be set upon a
Americans can hardly be blamed; they sit uneasy under them; they can no more help their uneasiness, than deny the blood which glows in their veins, or be angry with the milk that was their first nourishment. This is not a dark abstruse point, but seems plain and essential to the very being of liberty. The sole question is, Is it, or is it not, the right of an Englishman not to be taxed where he is not represented? Can you be tired of being represented, O Britons! Is it consistent with the
said Province. And our Will and Pleasure is, and for us, our Heirs and Successors, we charge and command, that this our Declaration, shall henceforward, from Time to Time, be received and allowed before all our Courts, and before all the Judges of us, our Heirs and Successors, for a sufficient and lawful Discharge, Payment, and Acquittance; commanding all and singular our Officers, and Ministers of us, our Heirs and Successors, and enjoining them, upon Pain of our high Displeasure, that they do
to act with such Justice, Moderation, and even Indulgence, towards the Colonies, that, however they may hereafter have the Power, they may never have the Inclination, to violate the Conditions of their Connection and Dependence on Great Britain; and on this Subject I can, with Justice, adopt the Language of the Ambassador of the Privernates, who, when questioned by the Roman Senate concerning a Peace he was sent to sollicit, answered, “If the Terms you grant us be good, the Treaty will be
. . . answered] As recorded in Livy’s History of Rome, Bk. VIII, ch. 21. 18: JOSEPH WARREN, BOSTON MASSACRE ORATION 745.15–17 Quis talia . . . a lacrymis.] Virgil, Aeneid, II.6–8: “What Myrmidon or Dolopian, or soldier of stern Ulysses, could in telling such a tale refrain from tears?” Translation from Fairclough, Virgil: Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid I–IV, 295. 748.38–39 Omnes ordines . . . consentiunt.] From Cicero, Orations against Catiline, IV, sect. 9: “All ranks support the preservation of