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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shall endeavour to convince them, that the simple power of legislation may as effectually ruin the colonies as that of taxation. Let us borrow and improve upon a thought of our greatest enemy. Mr. G——lle tells us that internal and external taxes are the same in effect, and differ but in name. Mr. Pitt has indeed treated this opinion with so little attention, that he has only answered it by a general assertion—“that there is a plain distinction between taxes levied for the purposes of raising a
allegiance to the crown of Great Britain that is owing from his subjects born within the realm, and all due subordination to that august body, the parliament of Great Britain. That his majesty’s liege subjects in these Colonies are intitled to all the inherent rights and liberties of his natural-born subjects within the kingdom of Great Britain.” In their petition to the house of commons they thus express themselves: “It is from and under the English constitution we derive all our civil and
charters or temporary authorities, from the executive power of this community, except in the cases of Jamaica, New York, and the late acquisitions of Quebec, the Ceded Islands, and the Two Floridas, which were conquests made by this community upon foreign powers, and such of their subjects as remained were incorporated with us under our laws and obedience. And it cannot, we have seen, be pretended, that this obedience has been altered or released by charters or authorities from the executive
to, &c. the fifth Part of all Gold and Silver Ore to be obtained therein, “for and in Respect of all and all Manner of Duties Demands, and Services.” To this Grant was likewise added the sole and exclusive Power of Legislation, and of electing and constituting all Officers of Government, both Civil and Military, together with Authority to coin Money, make War and Peace with the Indians, and all other Privileges necessary for their distinct and independent Government: And the Colony of New
Nations. Now it must be considered, that they had very little either of Commerce or Manufactures; so that they soon became not only full, but overstocked; and having nothing but the Fruits of their own Ground to support them, they were obliged to send Colonies abroad. These Colonies went not to seek Wealth, but Food. So simple was their Taste of Life, that in the beginning of the Roman State, a Family was decently maintained upon one Acre and a Quarter of an Acre English. When Appius Clausus left