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Exploring the Bounds of Liberty: Political Writings of Colonial British America from the Glorious Revolution to the American Revolution. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. , which was one of the ships boarded during the Boston Tea Party, a political protest by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, a city in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the tax policy of the British government and the East India Company, which controlled all the tea imported into the colonies.” Used by permission © i Stock.com/duncan 1890. Description: Carmel, Indiana : Liberty Fund, Inc., 2018. Identifiers: LCCN 2017026534 | ISBN 9780865978997 (hardcover : alk.
Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pensilvania, New-Jersey, New-York, Connecticut, and Rhode-Island: Of Aquanishuonigy the country of the Confederate Indians comprehending Aquanishuonigy proper, their places of residence, Ohio and Tuchsochruntie their deer hunting countries, Couchsachrage and Skaniadarade, their beaver hunting countries, of the Lakes Erie, Ontario, and Champlain, . All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America 17 18 19 20 21 22 Names: Greene, Jack P., editor. Title: Exploring the bounds of liberty : political writings of colonial British America from the Glorious Revolution to the American Revolution / edited by Jack P. The most important of these writings have long been accessible to scholars, many of the principal pamphlets and newspaper writings of the Revolutionary era having been included in the collection edited by Charles Hyneman and Donald Lutz and published by Liberty Fund nearly three decades ago.1 Several other important collections have republished many of the significant writings for and against the Federal Constitution of 1787.2 As it has become more widely and easily available and thus familiar to more scholars, this literature has elicited considerable scholarly respect for its political precociousness, learning, and sophistication as well as for its relevance to the ongoing project, so central to the history of the West, of defining the nature of civil liberty and determining how best to cultivate and maintain it.
Yet, the impression remains that this literature somehow sprang, phoenix-like, out of the heads of geniuses, the revered founding fathers of the Revolutionary generation.
Geniuses many of the founders may have been, but their achievements in political analysis were built on a long and rich tradition of political writing.
Scholars have acknowledged the indebtedness of the founders to the great British and European legal and political writers, Edward Coke, John Locke, James Harrington, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Frances Hutchinson, David Hume, William Blackstone, and Baron Montesquieu, to name only the most prominent.3 What has largely escaped systematic analysis, however, is the rich and extensive political literature produced in and about colonial British America during the century the American Revolution.
In this discussion, apologists for settler resistance widely condemned the Crown’s use of prerogative power to stifle or curtail traditional English liberties in the colonies, while their opponents depicted colonial uprisings as violations of the existing political order and invitations, not to liberty, but to licentiousness.
At the very heart of these discussions was the question of how English people organized into and living in polities so remote from the parent state could enjoy the traditional liberties of Englishmen, and settler protagonists manifested a powerful determination both to inscribe those liberties into their new polities and to resist any efforts to deprive them of their most valuable inheritance, as they often said, in paraphrase of Sir Edward Coke.In this short general introduction, we can mention only a few of the most impressive examples of this literature.Published by an anonymous Virginian in London in 1701, metropolitan power and colonial liberty that would prove to be constant irritants in metropolitan-colonial relations until the American Revolution and, for those polities that remained in the British Empire after 1783, well beyond it.However, with the expansion of printing to most of the colonies during the last decade of the seventeenth century and the first three decades of the eighteenth century (part of the expansion of print culture that was taking place throughout the English-speaking world), political polemical literature published in America increased exponentially throughout colonial British America, from Britain’s southernmost colony in Barbados to its northernmost colony in Nova Scotia.Indeed, the number of imprints dealing with political questions increased in every decade after 1710 to become, by the 1750s, a veritable flood. Some of it appeared as essays in newspapers, some in sizable volumes, some in sermons, some in poetry, plays, and other belletristic writings, but most of it in pamphlets or short treatises of fewer than a hundred pages.In 1721, Jeremiah Dummer’s (Selection 20) brilliantly argued the colonial case for the sanctity of the charters on which the governments of several of the colonies depended for their immediate legal foundations.Later in the same decade, in (Selection 26), the Maryland lawyer and recent Irish emigrant Daniel Dulany used English jurisprudential thought and natural rights theory to fashion an effective case for the entitlement of Marylanders to the laws and liberties of Englishmen, a subject also canvassed with enormous learning in two New York pamphlets of 1734: William Smith, (Selection 41), Maryland’s only newspaper, subjected that colony’s constitution to an elaborate examination in which they explored in detail the relationship between balanced government and liberty and debated the concept of fundamental law.Already by the 1670s, colonial spokespersons were producing formal writings about political questions, a few of them published in New England, which had the only printing presses then in English America, but most of them published in London.Throughout the colonial era, colonials and metropolitans concerned with colonial questions continued to publish their political writings in London or elsewhere in Britain.Over time, this body of literature showed an increase in learning as well as in legal, political, and philosophical sophistication, and it produced a body of thought upon which spokespersons for the resisting colonies in the 1760s and 1770s could draw in their defense of colonial liberties from the encroachments of metropolitan power.For over a century, in formal political writing, they had effectively been testing, defining, and expanding the bounds of liberty in Britain’s overseas possessions.