The American Revolution: Writings from the Pamphlet Debate, Vol. 2 1773-1776 (Library of America, Volume 266)
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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 second of two volumes follows the course of the ultimate crisis that led from the Boston Tea Party to the final break, as the focus of debate turns from questions of representation and rights to the crucial issue of sovereignty. Here is a young Thomas Jefferson offering his radical Summary View of the Rights of British America; Samuel Johnson pronouncing Taxation no Tyranny and asking "How is that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negros?"; Edmund Burke trying to hold the empire together in his famous Speech on Conciliation; and Thomas Paine turning the focus of American animus from Parliament to king in the truly revolutionary pamphlet Common Sense. 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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But by this act all the French laws in being before the conquest are restored—Popery is established and provision is made for the legal support of the popish clergy by the collection of tythes.—Trials by jury are taken away, and the whole legislative power lodged in a council appointed by the king; what aspect this may have upon us shall be considered hereafter. Thus I have related the principal facts with respect to America on which the present grievances and dangerous prospects of the
British concession expressed in the Carlisle Commission of 1778—which was essentially the position Americans had suggested in 1774, that is, thirteen legislatively independent colonies tied only to the king. Better to grant America complete independence, they concluded, than to keep an empire in which only the king ruled. The following are the nine Resolutions contained in Mr. Burke’s Conciliatory Plan, which he offered for the consideration of the House of Commons. 1. “THAT the colonies and
before you to plead the same cause, without any other effect of time than that to the fire of imagination and extent of erudition, which even then marked him as one of the first literary characters of his age, he has added a consummate knowledge in the commercial interest of his country, formed by a long course of enlightened and discriminating experience. Sir, I should be inexcusable in coming after such a person with any detail, if a great part of the members who now fill the House, had not
patronage. 1729 Indian wars in the province of Carolina having exposed divisions between the colony’s northern and southern sections and the weakness of proprietary rule in both, the Crown buys out the Proprietors’ heirs and creates the separate royal colonies of North Carolina and South Carolina. 1732 Parliament grants a twenty-one-year charter to a group of trustees led by James Oglethorpe to found a colony between South Carolina and Spanish Florida. Conceived in part as a refuge for
maintain them?”19 Shall this primary end be frustrated by a political maxim intended to promote it? But from what source does this mighty, this uncontrouled authority of the House of Commons flow? From the collective body of the Commons of Great-Britain. This authority must therefore originally reside in them: For whatever they convey to their representatives, must ultimately be in themselves.20 And have those, whom we have hitherto been accustomed to consider as our fellow subjects, an absolute