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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write upon a Subject he does not understand? I am sure if I was a Merchant, I should reckon myself utterly unqualified for speaking on the Question which stands at the Head of my Paper. Actual Merchants are so ingrossed by the Gain or Loss of their own particular Branches, that it is impossible for them to perceive the Hurt or Benefit of the whole Body. These proceed upon general principles, on which any Man of common Understanding may write clearly, and those who are not Traders themselves must
mines and minerals; and a land whose rivers and adjacent seas are stored with the best of fish. In a word, no part of the habitable world can boast of so many natural advantages as this northern part of America. But what will all these things avail us, if we be deprived of that liberty which the GOD of nature hath given us. View the miserable condition of the poor wretches, who inhabit countries once the most fertile and happy in the world, where the blessings of liberty have been removed by the
contests. These contests require some arbitrator to determine them. The necessity of a common, indifferent and impartial judge, makes all men seek one; tho’ few find him in the sovereign power, of their respective states or any where else in subordination to it. Government is founded immediately on the necessities of human nature, and ultimately on the will of God, the author of nature; who has not left it to men in general to choose, whether they will be members of society or not, but at the
wholly fall to their share, it is what we may with the less reluctance grant, as we can with the less propriety refuse them: nor is there any reason to apprehend that they should be at all formidable to England, as their number might be properly limited, as those of Scotland were at the union. But here I am arguing upon a supposition of the absolute impracticability of this measure. Upon this view of the point in question, I still insist that the Americans, no less than the English, should
Versailles of May 1768 was seen as a significant blow to British power and prestige) was questioned by allies and adversaries alike. Especially in doubt was the system of triangular alliances with Holland and Austria that had effectively erected a barrier against French encroachment into the Low Countries for most of the eighteenth century. In this climate, Étienne François, duc de Choiseul (1719–1785), France’s chief minister, was able to detach both Holland and Portugal from their traditional