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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with Mischief, could not be imagined, a Forfeiture of their Rights would be couched under the Appearance of Privilege, &c.” We claim an Exemption from all Parliamentary Impositions, that We may enjoy those Securities of our Rights and Properties, which We are entitled to by the Constitution. For those Securities are derived to the Subject from the Principle that he is not to be taxed without his own Consent, and an Inhabitant in America can give his Consent in no other Manner than in Assembly.
which they had so lately acquired. Before science extended her happy influence over this rising nation, their progress in the paths of liberty was but slow and irregular—interrupted by events which they were too short sighted to foresee, and obstructed by revolutions which no human prudence could prevent. But, when their acquisition of knowledge, from a careful examination of the past, enabled them not only to regulate the present, but even to penetrate into the remote regions of future
ultimately shattered this grand empire and created the United States of America. The patchwork of territories now known as the first British Empire took shape over the course of the seventeenth century without the benefit of much in the way of central planning. The Crown simply chartered private companies, or granted proprietary rights to individuals, to create colonies that would promote the public interests of the realm. But by the second half of the century the English government began trying
contribute to our wealth and aggrandisement, and are wholly to be regulated and controuled by ourselves, in such manner as we think will best answer our present designs and purposes. But herein we are certainly mistaken. The increase of dominions and subjects, should only be a proportionable increase of wealth and power to the whole empire, and not the aggrandisement of one part of it at the expence of the other. A large empire, well connected, and equitably governed, has indeed many advantages;
chose to reserve to the colonies their own construction of the terms, while they hoped the people of England would be led to believe they agreed with them in theirs. An Englishman conceives due obedience to parliament to mean lawful obedience, or obedience to an act of parliament. The Colonies conceive the parliament to have no right to make laws for them; and due obedience to parliament is therefore, in their apprehension, no obedience at all. An Englishman, without treason, though perhaps not