1754-1783: Law and Justice: Publications
1754-1783: Law and Justice: Publications
John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (London, 1765)—four articles originally published in a Boston newspaper in which Adams developed his view of the constitutional relationship between the colonists and the Crown. He started with the history of feudal law and traced the development of individual liberty since the Age of Enlightenment;
Adams, Novanglus, and Massachusettensis; or, Political Essays (Boston: Printed & published by Hews & Goss, 1819)—a series of twelve letters (published in a Boston newspaper between 23 January and 17 April 1775) in which Adams tried to propose a commonwealth status for the colonies, under the British Crown. He explored English constitutional history and principles of natural law to describe a possible framework for resolving the imperial crisis. A thirteenth letter in the series was never printed because the battles at Lexington and Concord on 19 April suspended most publishing in Boston;
John Almon, ed., A Collection of Tracts, on the Subject of Taxing the British Colonies in America, 4 volumes (London: John Almon, 1773);
Edmund Burke, Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies (New York: James Rivington, 1775)—the text of Prime Minister Burke’s speech in Parliament on 22 March 1775 was published immediately in London and later in New York;
John Dickinson, An Essay on the Constitutional Power of Great-Britain over the Colonies in America... (Philadelphia: Printed and sold by William and Thomas Bradford, 1774)—written for the benefit of the delegates to Pennsylvania’s 1774 convention to help justify resistance to parliamentary authority;
Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies (Philadelphia: Printed by David Hall and William Sellers, 1768; London: Printed by J. Almon, 1768)—twelve letters published in a Philadelphia newspaper attacking the Townshend duties as illegal because Parliament had no right to levy internal taxes on the colonies;
Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted: or, A More Impartial and Comprehensive View of the Dispute between Great-Britain and the Colonies... (New York: Printed by James Rivington, 1775)—Hamilton’s first national exposure resulted from this pamphlet. He argued that the conflict between England and the colonies could be resolved if England’s regulation of trade did not include an effort to raise revenue;
Francis Hargrave, An Argument in the Case of James Sommerset (Boston: E. Russell, 1774)—Sommerset was a slave from Virginia who, while in England with his master, escaped. When he was recaptured he petitioned for his freedom. The pamphlet summarizes the argument in which Hargrave, one of Sommerset’s lawyers, described why slavery was not lawful in England;
John Hodgson, The Trial of William Wemms, et al. (Boston: J. Fleming, 1770)—notes taken in shorthand at the trial of the eight soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre;
Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America... (Williamsburg: Printed for Clementina Rind, 1774; London: Printed for G. Kearsly, 1774)—instructions written by Jefferson for the Virginia Convention in August 1774 and published in pamphlet form and circulated by Patrick Henry at the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia;
James Otis Jr., The Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved (Boston: Printed and sold by Edes & Gill, 1764; London: Printed for J. Almon, 1765)—written while the Stamp Act was being debated in Parliament but before the statute was passed, this pamphlet denies Parliament’s right to tax the colonies;
Otis, Vindication of the British Colonies, Against the Aspersions of the Halifax Gentleman, in his Letter to a Rhode-Island Friend... (Boston: Printed and sold by Edes & Gill, 1765; London: Printed by J. Almon, 1769)—reflects a reversal of Otis’s view of a limit on the power of Parliament to tax the colonies;
Otis, A Vindication of the Conduct of the House of Representatives of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay (Boston: Printed by Edes & Gill, 1762)—one of the earliest statements of the principles that led to the Revolution. Begun as a protest against the royal governor’s incursion into the colonial assembly’s power to spend tax revenue, the pamphlet goes on to argue in favor of constitutional limits on the Crown;
Thomas Paine, Common Sense (Philadelphia: Printed and sold by R. Bell, 1776)—probably the single most influential publication of the era. Paine presented, in popular form, an exposition of his views on natural rights.
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