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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ministerial tyranny. And that such a requisition should without reserve be complied with, is altogether obvious. For should the Americans be allowed herein a discretionary power, they will in fact be perfectly independent, and the sovereignty of England over them will be only a nominal one: because if they are at liberty to chuse what sums to raise, as well as the manner of raising them, it is scarcely to be doubted but their allowance will be found extremely short. And it is evident they may,
from the Connecticut and Rhode Island Charters, (for in both it is exactly the same,) which abundantly proves that the King then not only deemed these Colonies, without the Realm, but was sensible, that he had retained but little more than a nominal Sovereignty over them, and that he could no otherwise punish any Crimes or Misdemeanors committed by them, than by withdrawing his Protection from them, or putting them out of his Allegiance.—“We do hereby declare to all Christian Kings, Princes, and
makes us shudder to think, the late Measures of Administration may be productive of the like Catastrophe; which Heaven forbid!—Let us consider Brethren, we are strugling for our best Birth Rights and Inheritance; which being infringed, renders all our Blessings precarious in their Enjoyments, and consequently trifling in their Value. Let us disappoint the Men, who are raising themselves on the Ruin of this Country. Let us convince every Invader of our Freedom, that we will be as free as the
thirty-one-page edition by Alexander Purdie, publisher with John Dixon of The Virginia Gazette. It was reprinted in full in London in the January 1769 issue of the Political Register and Impartial Review of New Books and Almon issued an edition shortly thereafter. In 1773 it was included in the first volume of Almon’s four-volume Collection of Tracts on the Subjects of Taxing the British Colonies in America, and Regulating Their Trade. The present volume prints the complete text of the Purdie
382, 394, 403, 413, 550–51, 598, 603, 611, 636, 714, 719, 749, 783; and civil rights, 78–79, 603; and colonial assemblies/charters, 620–23, 626–27, 659; colonial compared with British, 128–30, 373, 619, 736; and emigration to America, 127, 317; freedom of conscience (religion), 74, 82, 317, 321, 441, 521, 553, 604, 767, 778–79, 782; freedom of the press, 749–50; freedom of speech, 60, 137–38, 521, 534; and independent judges, 458–60; infringement by Parliamentary power, 376–77, 394, 402, 410–11,