Sunday, June 16, 2019

Episode 101: British Land at Staten Island

The Americans were feeling pretty good about themselves in the spring and summer of 1776.  They had chased the British Army out of Boston in March, and then declared independence in July.  For the patriots, there was no more bickering over taxing authority in London.  The United States were now separate from the British Empire.

Britain, though, had no intent of letting this relationship go that easily.  After all, you don’t build a world empire by giving away an entire continent just because some rebels kill a few hundred of your soldiers.  King George and Lord North had spent the winter assembling the largest military force the Empire had ever sent overseas.

Adm Richard Howe (fromWikimedia)
You would think that they would be ready to kick off their military reconquest of North America by April or May when the spring military season normally began.  But for a few reasons, they ended up delaying the whole program.  Part of the problem was leadership.  Admiral Richard Howe had been positioning himself in Parliament to lead the expedition, but he wanted diplomatic power, not just military command.  The debate inside the ministry took months before they decided that although Howe would head a Peace Commission, he would have no authority to make any political concessions. He could only grant pardons.  Howe did not like the restrictions on his authority, and considered walking away.  But in the end, this was the mission of a lifetime.  Howe was going to save North America for the Empire.  He could not walk away from that.

Another reason for delay was the assembly of the army and a fleet to carry them.  Carrying tens of thousands of troops across the Atlantic was no easy task in 1776.  It would require hundreds of transport ships which the government needed to build, buy, or lease.  Producing or acquiring all the arms and equipment took time as well.  Britain wanted all of this to arrive at once.  They wanted shock and awe, not some slow military build up over time.

Finally, even after London had its army and navy ready to go, along with all the equipment, it faced a series of storms in the Atlantic that spring, that delayed passage of most of the fleet for several months.  As a result, the British would not be ready to do much of anything before mid summer.

By June, General William Howe in Halifax was itching to go.  It had been three months since he evacuated Boston and he was ready to redeem  himself.  On June 29, 1776 most of General Howe’s fleet reached the waters just off Sandy Hook, NJ, just south of New York City.  He had more than 100 ships carrying around 10,000 soldiers.  This looked pretty intimidating to the continentals and militia preparing to defend the city.  But it was only the first phase.  General Howe would await the arrival of his brother Admiral Howe, with a larger fleet, as well as General Henry Clinton and his army returning from the Carolinas.  Over the next month, the patriots in New York would simply watch the enemy fleet grow and grow and grow.

Staten Island

Howe was not yet ready to engage the enemy, but he also did not plan to leave his men stuck in ships for weeks while the awaited the remainder of the invasion force.  He landed his force on Staten Island, where his men could camp and forage for fresh food.

At the time, Staten Island was lightly populated, with less than 3000 people, and ruled by a handful of prominent families.  It tended to be loyalist.  While the patriots had been trying to round up loyalists in much of the region, as well as build defenses to oppose a British landing, they had pretty much left Staten Island alone.  Most of the islands had been under the guns of the small British fleet that had been in New York’s harbor for the previous couple of years.

On July 2, General Howe began to disembark his troops on Staten Island, facing no military resistance, only a miserable rain storm.  The army set up camp and waited.  Almost all of the 500 adult males on the island signed oaths of loyalty to the King. The locals happily sold food to the hungry army.

After a few weeks, one officer commented that the good food and comforts of the island had a noticeably good effect on the soldiers.  They seemed more energetic and in high morale.  According to the officer, one measure of this improvement was the increased number of rapes reported by locals against soldiers.  He noted that because the locals failed to bear these attacks with resignation, he got to hear quite a few interesting court martials.  Yes, comments like this would probably get any officer kicked out of the army today, but the army of the 1770’s still had a long way to go in sensitivity towards women’s issues.

In any event, the army was regaining its strength and vigor, and the rapes did not seem to create too much ill will among the locals, at least not any that would induce them to change sides.  Staten Island became a comfortable base of operations for the British.

Admiral Howe Arrives

About the same time General Howe was approaching New York, his brother Admiral Howe arrived in Halifax.  Having found that the General had already departed, Admiral Howe immediately set sail down the coast toward New York.

While en route, Admiral Howe attempted to work out a proclamation to encourage the patriots to surrender, accept a pardon and return to British authority.  Although he had no political concessions to offer, Howe relied on the threat of his military force to convince the rebels to give up their cause.  If one is faced with the destruction and confiscation of all property, the rape of one’s family, and possibly being hanged, accepting that Parliament can levy a three cent tax on a pound of tea does not seem that outrageous an alternative.

1776 Map of NY Harbor 
As I’ve mentioned before, some officers thought they should terrorize the populace until they submitted.  Howe thought otherwise. He believed that the mere sight of the military force would be intimidating enough.  The leaders had to show mercy and magnanimity so that the rebels would accept that surrender would not be so bad after all.

Howe had prepared not only a public proclamation, but wrote letters to the colonial governors (the Royal Governors, not these provincial leaders pretending to be governors), as well as to his friend Benjamin Franklin.  You may recall that Howe and Franklin had spent months trying to work out a peace deal in 1774 and 1775 before Franklin finally left England to returned to Pennsylvania.  Howe hoped his old friend would assist in bringing the conflict to a peaceful conclusion.

Admiral Howe’s fleet encountered several patriot ships along the way.  His fleet captured a Nantucket whaler.  Howe released the ship and gave the captain a bottle of brandy to show his good intentions.  A day later, he encountered a ship smuggling goods in violation of the Prohibitory Act.  Again, Howe released the ship and allowed it to keep its cargo.  Howe attempted to give these captains copies of his proclamations to spread among the colonies.  However, no one wanted to take them.  They feared they might be prosecuted for collaborating with the enemy.

Unfavorable winds and poor weather slowed Admiral Howe’s approach to New York.  It also didn’t help that his navigator mistook Nantucket Island for Long Island, taking the fleet off course.  Finally on July 12, the first of Admiral Howe’s fleet would arrive at Staten Island.  Ships would continue to dribble in over the next few weeks.  But even with over 21,000 soldiers now, the Howe brothers continued to wait.  They were still expecting nearly 3000 more soldiers from General Clinton’s mission in the Carolinas as well as about 8000 Hessian mercenaries still on their way from Europe.  So the Howe Brothers sat and waited.

This also began a pretty familiar theme for the Howe offensives.  Neither Admiral Howe nor General Howe seemed in any hurry to defeat the rebels.  They moved slowly and methodically, to win their battles.  They never moved quickly or rashly to take advantage of surprise or confusion.  Remember, General Howe commanded the British attack at Bunker Hill.  He was not inclined to charge his men into an entrenched enemy and face another slaughter.  He preferred to move on the enemy using care to protect his advancing forces. Moving slowly against the enemy on their own terms meant that the British could be assured of victory.  It also usually meant that while they could win a battle, they could not capture the enemy.

Many have argued that the Howes did not want to win.  They generally favored the American cause and did not want to crush the colonists.  I don’t think they deliberately set out to lose the war, but they also did not seem intent on crushing the enemy either.  They seemed to think that, at some point, the rebellion would fall apart on its own after a series of battlefield losses.  They did not want a massacre that would create decades of resentment in the colonies.  Rather, if they could simply show the colonists that defeat was inevitable, and the terms of surrender were not so bad, that most of them would voluntarily return to the fold.  In hindsight, it was a poor strategy.  But at the time, it seemed reasonable to many.

Elizabeth Loring

Some have attributed another reason to General Howe’s slow pace to another reason.  While in Boston, Howe had met Elizabeth Loring.  Elizabeth or “Betsey” had married Joshua Loring, Jr., the son of a British naval officer.  By most accounts, Joshua Jr. was a dirt bag.  He had held a number of minor positions in the Massachusetts Government and had left Boston with the other Tories in the evacuation to Halifax.  Before the war, he had served as Sheriff in Massachusetts, during which time he got a reputation for ripping off suspected criminals and enriching himself.  During the British occupation of Boston and in Halifax, he made money supplying liquor to the British Army.  As a military contractor he had great incentive to ingratiate himself with General Howe.

Elizabeth Loring (from Geni)
Now, there are no verifiable records of the gossip of the day, but apparently Mrs. Loring had a bit of a reputation as a slut even before she met Howe in Boston. Some contend she had been a mistress of Dr. Joseph Warren, who died leading the patriots on Bunker Hill.  Mercy Otis Warren also wrote a play in 1772 that subtly made fun of her reputation for sleeping around.

Whatever her background, it seems that she began an affair with General Howe that became pretty open and notorious.  Her husband Joshua seemed to tolerate the affair, eventually being compensated with an appointment as Commissary of Prisoners.  The job had decent pay, but Loring enriched himself even more by embezzling money allocated for the feeding and care of American prisoners of war.  Loring grew rich while hundreds of prisoners literally starved to death.  General Howe, in turn, seemed willing to overlook these crimes against humanity as long as Loring let him enjoy sexual favors with his wife.

Partly, as the result of all this was that General Howe was in no hurry to see the war come to an end, when he would have to return home to his older wife.  Instead, he enjoyed long nights of attending shows, drinking, gambling, and sex.

Up the Hudson River

While the Howe brothers seemed in no real hurry to do much of anything, some of their junior officers were chomping at the bit.  On July 12, only a few hours before Admiral Howe arrived,  the 44 gun Phoenix, the 20 gun Rose and three smaller British ships, caught a favorable wind and sailed up the Hudson River, past Fort Washington and Fort Independence.  The Continentals had built these two forts with the specific intent of preventing the British from sailing up the river.

The patriot batteries fired on the ships, but inflicted only minimal damage to the rigging.  One sailor had to have a leg amputated.  The patriots did more damage to themselves.  The inexperienced artillery crews managed to blow up at least one gun.  They tried to load a powder charge without first swabbing the barrel.  As a result, the powder ignited from a spark still in the barrel from the previous shot, killing six members of the crew and seriously wounding several others.

Phoenix and Rose up the Hudson, 1776 (from Wikimedia)
According to some accounts, the crew had been getting drunk and hanging out at the whore houses at Holy Ground before they spotted the British ships, so in addition to their inexperience, their drunkenness may have contributed to the fatal accident.  The artillery crew was also commanded by an inexperienced 19 year old who had been a college student only a few months earlier.  Fortunately for Captain Alexander Hamilton, the Continental Army offered lots of second chances after poor performances like this.  His leadership would improve over time. The British returned fire, mostly hitting buildings in New York, killing and wounding several civilians.

For Washington, this was not only a huge embarrassment.  It proved that his defenses were worthless against the British Navy.  They could sail up behind his forces and cut off his line of retreat whenever they wanted.  He also had no idea what those ships planned to do.  Some rumors suggested they might be arming Tory regiments to launch an attack on Washington’s rear.  Others suggested they might be on a mission to destroy some American ships under construction further up river.  They might also be trying to open up lines of communication with General John Burgoyne’s forces who could be moving south over Lake Champlain to complete the British plan of sealing off New England from the rest of the colonies.

If fact, they had no real plans at all other than to test the American defenses.  The ship remained upriver for a few weeks,  The patriots maintained men along shore to oppose any attempts at landing.  After facing a failed patriot raid against the ships and a failed attempt at sending fire ships at them, the ships sailed back down the Hudson, leading to another minor firefight with the Continental artillery, before rejoining the main fleet off Sandy Hook.  They did succeed though, in proving to everyone that the American defenses were useless against the British naval domination of the rivers around New York.

Peace Negotiations

The day after Admiral Howe arrived in Staten Island, he began distributing his proclamations as a Peace Commissioner, promising pardons for all who would swear allegiance to the King and making vague and exaggerated claims that he could negotiate a peace and bring the violence to an end.  Howe was disappointed to hear the Americans had just declared independence, but still pushed forward with his plans to settle the dispute without further bloodshed.

General Washington used the opportunity to send General Howe a letter, objecting to the treatment of American prisoners, primarily those held in Canada.  These men were now prisoners of war of the independent United States, not criminals.

Admiral Howe then decided to send a letter under a flag of truce to “George Washington, Esq.”  Washington’s personal aid, Colonel Joseph Reed refused to accept the letter because it was not addressed to General Washington.  The British refused to recognize Washington’s commission and could not put his title on the message without tacitly accepting that he was a legitimate commander of a legitimate army.

Joseph Reed (from Geni)
A week later, on July 20, Howe sent his Adjutant General, Lieutenant Colonel James Patterson, under a flag of truce to meet with Washington to discuss prisoners.  The Americans blindfolded him and took him to meet with Washington.

There, Patterson attempted, once again, to hand deliver Howe’s letter, now addressed to George Washington, Esq, & etc. & etc.  This time, Washington himself refused to accept the letter without the proper title.  Patterson insisted the Admiral met no disrespect, and that the et ceteras were there to imply all appropriate titles.  Washington said that yes, they could mean anything and everything, but he would not even consider a negotiation until they recognized his proper title, which would implicitly mean recognizing American independence as well.

Washington went on to tell Patterson that he understood the Admiral’s only real power was to grant pardons.  No one wanted his pardons because they had not done anything wrong.  Also, if the British wanted to negotiate any sort of political solution, they needed to do that with the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, not a military general.  The meeting lasted several hours, and was apparently reasonably cordial.  But neither side seemed to be willing to do anything that would even begin any sort of peace talks.  By late afternoon, Patterson put on his blindfolded and was led back to the British ship waiting to carry him back to the fleet.

Howe did get his messages to Congress as well.  But they also seemed to fall on deaf ears.  Having committed to independence and with Howe having no real authority to offer any political reforms, Congress seemed in no mood to talk.  Benjamin Franklin received a private letter from Howe, which he had published in the newspapers along with his reply.  In his reply, Franklin noted that the relations had grown so poisoned between the British and Americans that neither could ever trust the other again as fellow subjects.  The only way the British could hope to govern America was to break the spirit of the people with the “severest tyranny”.   Clearly Franklin’s message was aimed more at Americans who were considering the negotiation option more than it was to Admiral Howe.  But it did make clear that the time for talk was over.  Only force of arms would decide anything going forward.

More Forces Arrive

With talks going nowhere, the Howes awaited the arrival of their remaining troops.  On July 31 and August 1, the fleet arrived from South Carolina with Admiral Peter Parker, General Clinton, and General Lord Cornwallis and 3000 regulars, following their defeat at Fort Sullivan in South Carolina.  On August 14 the fleet carrying 8000 Hessians arrived.  The soldiers disembarked at Staten Island following a long and difficult crossing.

By this time, the Howes had about 32,000 soldiers, 10,000 sailors and more than 400 ships already to attack New York and begin the reconquest of America.  With peaceful negotiations at an impasse, the Howes decided it was time to use their army.

Next Week: before we get to the invasion of Long Island, I want to move south again.  The British had failed to establish a base along the Carolina coast, but they had stirred up the Cherokee in the west to fight the patriots.  We will take a look at patriot attempts to crush the Cherokee uprising.

- - -

Next  Episode 102: Cherokee War in the South (Available June 23, 2019)

Previous  Episode 100 The Declaration of Independence

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Further Reading


British Forces Land at Staten Island, the New York Campaign Begins:

Joshua Loring, Jr - American Revolution’s Public Enemy Number One:

Washington Plays Hardball With the Howes, by John L. Smith, Jr. (JAR) (2015)

The Enigma Of General Howe, by Thomas Fleming, American Heritage, Vol. 15, Issue 2 (Feb. 1964):

Journal of HMS Phoenix, July-Aug 1776:

Journal of HMS Rose, July-Aug 1776:

Washington, George Memorandum of an Interview with Lieutenant Colonel James Paterson, July 20, 1776,

Letter from Lord Howe to Benjamin Franklin, June 20, 1776:

Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Lord Howe, July 20, 1776:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Bouton, Nathaniel (ed) State Papers: Documents and Records Related to the State of New Hampshire, Vol. 8, NH Legislature, 1874.

Carrington, Henry Battles of the American Revolution, 1775-1781, A.S. Barnes & Co. 1876.

Flick, Alexander C. Loyalism in New York During the American Revolution, New York, The Columbia University Press, 1901.

Force, Peter American Archives, Fifth Series, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Force, Peter American Archives, Series 5, Vol 2, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Johnston, Henry The Campaign of 1776 Around New York and Brooklyn, Long Island Historical Society, 1878.

Mather, Frederic The Refugees of 1776 from Long Island to Connecticut, 1913.

Tomlinson, Abraham; Dawson, Henry B. New York city during the American revolution : Being a collection of original papers (now first published) from the manuscripts in the possession of the Mercantile library association, of New York city by New York (N.Y.). Mercantile Library Association;
Privately printed for the Association, 1861.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Bliven, Bruce Under the Guns: New York, 1775-1776, New York: Harper & Rowe, 1972.

Daughan, George C. Revolution on the Hudson: New York City and the Hudson River Valley in the American War of Independence, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. 2016.

Ellis, Joseph Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013.

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

Gallagher, John J. Battle Of Brooklyn, 1776,  Da Capo Press, 1995.

Golway, Terry Washington's General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution, Henry Hold & Co. 2004.

McCullough, David 1776, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.

Schecter, Barnet The Battle for New York, New York: Walker Publishing, 2002.
* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Episode 100 The Declaration of Independence

Over the last two weeks I’ve discussed the vote for independence and the creation of the Declaration itself.  This really is the key document to the American Revolution and one that fundamentally changed the the world.  So I’m devoting a third week to this important topic.  This week, I want to go through the Declaration line by line and explain the significance of each part.  With that, let’s begin:
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
The July 4 date is the date Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration, although Congress added the very next line calling it unanimous a couple of weeks later after the New York delegation changed its vote so that all 13 colonies supported the Declaration.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Declaration of Independence (from Wikimedia)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
Ok, so this introduction summarizes quite well the idea of social contract theory.  Radical ideas first espoused by people like Thomas Hobbes, and later expanded by thinkers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  As the age of reason replaced medieval superstition, theorists could not simply rely on the idea that leaders were leaders because God ordained it, the so-called divine right of kings.

John Locke (from Wikimedia)
Under social contract theory, governments came into being because people needed rules and enforcement of those rules to bring order to society.  The people collectively give this power to a government, but when a government proves unwilling to serve the people in this goal, the people can dissolve it and create a new one.  Locke listed fundamental rights which government should protect: life, liberty, and property.  If government did not protect people’s lives, let them live freely and protect their property, it was not doing its job and needed to be replaced.

Jefferson famously replaced “property” with “pursuit of happiness” a term Locke used elsewhere, as did other political philosophers.  It is also a shortened version of what George Mason wrote in his Virginia Declaration of Rights, published a month earlier.  Jefferson never explained this alteration.  Some have theorized this was he did not want property to be seen as code words for protecting slavery.  It could also simply be that Jefferson was thinking more about the right of taxation, which does take property and is acceptable if the people consent to it through elected representatives.

The phrase seemed to work.  Jefferson then proceeds to explain that any government attempt to undermine these rights is justification for its replacement.

The next section goes through the list of reasons why the King had violated the social contract with the colonists:
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
These are general objections to restrictions colonial legislatures had to face more often in recent years as London attempted to reign in colonial legislatures.  Although the King’s Privy Council had never rejected a bill of Parliament since before George I took power, George III’s Council had rejected colonial legislation on several occasions.  It also emphasizes the futility of attempting to govern from such a distance, where it could take months for messages to pass back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
This seems to be a dig at attempts to suspend colonial law making authority in colonies that objected to Parliamentary laws. The colonies had no representation in Parliament and could not relinquish legislative authority to that body.  Some have also said it is a criticism of the royal government’s failure to redistrict legislatures as populations move into western lands without representation in the colonial legislatures.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
Signing the Declaration (from Wikimedia)
This appears to be a direct attack at royal directives that forced the Massachusetts legislature to meet in locations other than Boston.  Virginia and South Carolina also had to meet in other locations as well.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. 
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
In the years leading up to war, royal governors repeatedly suspended legislative sessions and elections when it was clear those legislatures would vote on things with which the leadership in London disagreed.  This effectively left some colonies without representative government, sometimes for years.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
This criticized attempts by the crown to limit immigrants from outside of the British Empire from settling in the colonies, and also attempts to restrict settlements in western lands.  Colonists wanted to settle more lands and expand westward.  London did not want large numbers of people with traditional allegiances to other European powers settling in large numbers.  It also did not want westward expansion to provoke new was with Indian tribes.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers. 
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
For nearly a decade, London had attempted to have judges be appointed by royal governors and to have London pay their salaries.  Colonists saw this as an attempt to bias judges in favor of London.  This was one reason Massachusetts began Committees of correspondence, to see if London was undermining judicial control in other colonies as well.  It was one of those sneaky behind the scenes power grabs that put patriot leaders on high alert.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.
This is most likely a reference to the many tax collectors, customs officials, and other trade regulators that often cost more than the taxes they created.  Colonists also saw how British office holders often sucked up wealth in other colonies around the world. This included Bishops for the Anglican Church.  These created comfortable lives for well connected members of the British establishment, but left the colonies poorer overall.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
The most famous of these incidents was the British occupation of Boston beginning in 1768.  New York also had a fight over having to pay for soldiers they did not want.  Armies were necessary when there was an external threat.  Using them as law enforcement against the people was an act of tyranny.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
This fight went back at least as far as the French and Indian war, when British commanders simply did whatever they wanted, without feeling constrained to explain themselves to colonial legislatures, or even royal governors.  Civilian control, meaning local control of soldiers in their midst, was considered an absolute necessity.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
This seems to be a dig at the king for supporting the authority of the Parliament in London to legislate on behalf of the colonies.
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
Again, this is a reference to putting regulars in colonies that did not want them and which colonists had to support financially.  This was not just an issue of putting soldiers in individual homes.  Colonists did not was to support regular soldiers within their colonies, wherever the regulars slept.
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
This is a jab at one of the Coercive Acts, which ordered that colonial courts could not try soldiers for murder.  Such trials would be held back in London.
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
Britain had always barred direct trade between colonies and other countries outside the empire.  But with the outbreak of war, it has banned all colonial trade anywhere.  Such a blockade is generally considered an act of war.
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
This, of course, had been the rallying cry of protest since the Stamp Act of 1765.
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
Britain, of course, had moved many hearings to admiralty courts without juries.
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
Britain had threatened to send colonists to London for trial of certain crimes, though I’m not sure they ever actually did this until the war began.
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
This referenced the Quebec Act.  Britain had maintained many French laws and refused to introduce basic English principles of government, like juries and elected legislatures.  It then gave Quebec control over all western lands.  This expanded the size of a colony that had no basic liberties, thus preventing other colonies from settling those lands without giving up their rights as Englishmen.
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
This is a pretty direct reference to the Massachusetts Government Act, the 1774 coercive act which revoked the colonial charter and took away most power of self-government.
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
Again, this references the suspension of colonial legislatures when a royal governor did not like what they were doing. This seems to be a direct reference to the Declaratory Act which held that Parliament had the right to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever.  Also, of course, London seemed to bypass colonial legislatures and imposing its own rules on colonists on an ever expanding range of issues.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
In late 1775, following news of Lexington and Concord, the King declared the colonies in rebellion and outside his protection.  This effectively called on Parliament to go to war with the colonies.  The King’s decision to take Parliament’s side rather than broker a compromise was what led many moderates in the colonies to join the move for independence.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
Since the war began, the army and navy had of course engaged in open warfare, burning towns like Falmouth, Charlestown, and Norfolk.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
Although they had not been in battle yet, delegates were well aware that the King had paid German mercenaries to supplement the army that Britain was sending to America.  The idea that leader would hire foreigners to kill his own people was seen as an act of tyranny.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
Britain regularly captured merchant vessels and forced colonist sailors either to join the British Navy or be killed.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
Domestic insurrections is generally considered to be a reference to Virginia Governor Dunmore’s attempts to get slaves to oppose the rebellion in defense of the Crown.  This also references attempts by British Indian agents to get various tribes to support British efforts in the war.  The phrase “merciless Indian Savages” has been tagged as racist in recent years.  However, it does reflect the fear at the time that native tribes engaged in warfare tended to commit horrific acts against civilians and prisoners.  Yes, colonists often visited the same level of cruelty against natives.  But for the colonists at this time, this was a particularly scary element of warfare that they wished to avoid.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Colonies had been sending petition for many years, but of course made no progress with these.  This was Congress’ way of saying that we tried to settle this by appealing to the government, but got nowhere.  The refusal of leaders even to consider petitions and debate the problems was a sign that the government was not interested in the support of the people, but rather relied on the tyrannical use of force to control them.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
Colonies also made direct appeals to the English people.  They sometimes got results when the English, concerned about trade boycotts, encouraged Parliament to back down.  But in recent years, the British public did not seem terribly sympathetic.  As a result, they seemed to hold different interests and could not remain as a single people anymore.  Someday, they might be allies again, but never again one people.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
This final paragraph states very directly that for the above reasons, the colonies are now sovereign States with no political ties to Britain.  They would continue a war against what they now regarded as the foreign nation of Great Britain, and would seek the assistance of other countries to win that war.

In pledging their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, the delegates recognized they were putting everything on the line.  After this open challenge to who would be the sovereigns of North American settlements, there was no turning back.

With that the Continental Congress and America awaited Britain’s response.

Next week: the British begin landing the largest military force ever seen in America at Staten Island, New York.
- - -

Next  Episode 101: British Land at Staten Island (Available June 16, 2019)

Previous Episode 99: Declaring Independence

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Declaration of Independence (full text):

Declaration of Independence (annotated)

Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence:

Happy Independence Day: Which Day Is It?

Locke, John Two Treatises of Civil Government, 1689:

Rousseau, Jean-Jaques The Social Contract, 1762:

Wolverton, Joe II In Pursuit of the "Pursuit of Happiness

Declaration of Independence, Lesson Plan

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Vol. 5, June 5 - Oct. 8, 1776, Gov’t Printing Office, 1904.

Becker, Carl L. Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas, Harcourt, Brace & Co. 1922.

Dwight, Nathaniel The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Harper & brothers, 1840.

Force, Peter American Archives, Fifth Series, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Goodrich, Charles A. Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Mather, 1840.

Linn, William The Life of Thomas Jefferson: Author of the Declaration of Independence, and Third President of the United States, Andrus, Woodruff, & Gauntlett, 1843

Lossing, Benson J. Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence. The Declaration Historically Considered, Evans, Stoddart & Co. 1870.

Tyler, Moses, C. The Literary History of the American Revolution, 1763-1783, Vol. 2, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1897.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Beeman, Richard R. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776, Basic Books, 2013.

De Bolla, Peter The Fourth of July: And the Founding of America, Harry N. Abrams, 2008.

Maier, Pauline American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, Knopf, 1997  (Book recommendation of the week).

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Episode 099: Declaring Independence

Last week we looked at the politics and voting for independence.  Today I want to take a closer look at drafting the document itself.  Most people regard the Declaration of Independence, along with the US Constitution as probably the most important documents from the founding of the United States.  The Declaration is America’s birth certificate, marking not only the date our country was founded, but providing an explanation as to why it should be founded.  The radical language of the document was so controversial, that the US State Department at one time banned its distribution at certain embassies, lest it encourage other countries to revolt against their leaders.

The Committee

As I said last week, in June 1776, after Richard Henry Lee introduced the resolution from Virginia that:
These United colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.
Congress put off a debate on that question so delegates could work with their local governments to get approval.  While some were trying to build the political consensus, Congress created a committee to begin drafting the actual declaration, so that they would be ready if and when the colony’s gave their approval.

Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson review a draft
of the declaration (from Wikimedia)
The Declaration Committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin, who supported independence but who came from Pennsylvania which still instructed delegates to oppose it, Roger Sherman of Connecticut who supported independence, Robert Livingston, of New York, who opposed independence, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia who also supported independence.  Jefferson had just returned to Philadelphia a few weeks earlier following the death of his mother.  He was one of the younger and quieter members of Congress, but also had a good reputation as an effective writer.

The committee discussed the matter and decided to have Jefferson put together a first draft.  At the time, no one really thought that drafting the declaration itself would be a big deal.  That is probably why they dumped the job on Jefferson as a junior member.  The big deal was voting for independence, not the actual wording on the piece of paper.  It would only be decades later when Jefferson used it to his political advantage that the drafting of the document took on more importance.  Also, to be fair, Jefferson’s ability to lay out the cause for independence in such an articulate and elegant way lent itself to raising the importance of the document.

Many years later, John Adams reminisced about circumstances of drafting the declaration.  You have to remember that by the time of this writing, Adams and Jefferson had been political rivals for many years and Adams had always seemed to resent how much credit Jefferson had received for his contribution to the declaration.  So Adams may have had cause to make himself sound more gracious and involved in the draft than he may actually have been.  In a letter from Adams, to Timothy Pickering, dated Aug. 6, 1822, Adams wrote:
You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson was placed at the head of the committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence? I answer: It was the Frankfort advice, to place Virginia at the head of everything. Mr. Richard Henry Lee might be gone to Virginia, to his sick family, for aught I know, but that was not the reason of Mr. Jefferson's appointment. There were three committees appointed at the same time, one for the Declaration of Independence, another for preparing articles of confederation, and another for preparing a treaty to be proposed to France. Mr. Lee was chosen for the Committee of Confederation, and it was not thought convenient that the same person should be upon both. Mr. Jefferson came into Congress in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, science, and a happy talent of composition. Writings of his were handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive upon committees and in conversation - not even Samuel Adams was more so - that he soon seized upon my heart; and upon this occasion I gave him my vote, and did all in my power to procure the votes of others. I think he had one more vote than any other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the next highest number, and that placed me the second. The committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draft, I suppose because we were the two first on the list. 
Thomas Jefferson
(from Wikimedia)
 The subcommittee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the draft. I said, 'I will not,' 'You should do it.' 'Oh! no.' 'Why will you not? You ought to do it.' 'I will not.' 'Why?' 'Reasons enough.' 'What can be your reasons?' 'Reason first, you are a Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason second, I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are very much otherwise. Reason third, you can write ten times better than I can.' 'Well,' said Jefferson, 'if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.' 'Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting.'
A meeting we accordingly had, and conned the paper over. I was delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially that concerning Negro slavery, which, though I knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, I certainly never would oppose. There were other expressions which I would not have inserted if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal, for I never believed George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always believed him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his official capacity, only, cruel. I thought the expression too passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a document; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect it afterwards, I thought it would not become me to strike it out. I consented to report it, and do not now remember that I made or suggested a single alteration.
We reported it to the committee of five. It was read, and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticized anything. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was reported, as I believe, in Jefferson's handwriting, as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter of it, as I expected they would; but they obliterated some of the best of it, and left all that was exceptionable, if anything in it was. I have long wondered that the original draft had not been published. I suppose the reason is the vehement philippic against Negro slavery.
As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before. The substance of it is contained in the declaration of rights and the violation of those rights in the Journals of Congress in 1774. Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted and printed by the town of Boston, before the first Congress met, composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams.
Notice that last paragraph where Adams adds a jab at Jefferson about how unoriginal the declaration was.  Many of Jefferson's opponents had criticized Jefferson's lack of originality and the fact that he borrowed heavily from other contemporary writings.  Jefferson addresses this criticism by agreeing with it in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee dated May 8, 1825:
This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.
Jefferson claimed he did not rely on any particular documents while working on his first draft in June 1776.  But he was in regular correspondence with colleagues in Virginia who were working on the Virginia Constitution and Bill of rights.  In fact, Jefferson was rather upset that many of the more senior members of the delegation had returned to Virginia for the important work on the State Constitution, while Jefferson was stuck in Philadelphia doing this side work. As a result, we see a great many similarities between these documents.

According the Adams’ later account, Jefferson finished his first draft in just a day or two.  He had Adams and Franklin look at it before introducing it to the full Committee.  The Committee made a few changes to Jefferson’s draft, but largely sent it to Congress as written.  Congress, however, would want to make more changes.

Congress Makes Changes

On June 28, the Committee submitted the Declaration to Congress for review.  Congress made quite a number of edits. One of the most famous, or infamous, was the removal of a section condemning the King for the institution of slavery:
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither.  This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain.  Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce.  And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.
In the end, Congress removed this section.  Sure, some colonies had attempted to end or limit the slave trade, and the Privy Council in London did not allow it.  But many colonies happily supported slavery.  Many have pointed to the removal of this paragraph as the height of hypocrisy.  A document proclaiming the inalienable rights of man should not remove a passage condemning slavery.  But the reality was that the King had never forced slavery on the colonists.  The colonists had willingly participated.  Condemning the King for making them have slaves just seemed a little too far fetched.  Beyond that, there certainly was a hypocrisy among many delegates who supported the principles of equality and inalienable rights but who had no interest in extending those rights to the slaves who worked for them.

Congress made many other changes to wording, some to make other delegates happy, others to improve the flow of the document.  Jefferson was not happy about all the changes to his work.  He sent letters to many friends with his original draft, asking whether they preferred his version or the final version.

Congress continued to make a few minor alterations and deletions on July 2, 3, and the morning of the 4th.  Late in the morning of July 4, Congress approved the final wording of the declaration.

Distributing the Document

At the end of the day on July 4, the draft committee took the manuscript copy to John Dunlap, official printer to the Congress.  Keep in mind that what went to the printer was still a draft copy.  The final engrossed copy did not exist yet.

Dunlap Declaration (from Wikimedia)
Mr. Dunlap apparently worked through the night making an estimated 150-200 copies of the declaration for distribution. On the morning of July 5, Congress began distributing copies to various committees, assemblies, and to the commanders of the Continental troops.

The first public announcement came on Friday, July 5, when a German language paper in Philadelphia apparently scooped everyone to announce that Congress had adopted the Declaration.  The next day, July 6, the Philadelphia Evening Post published the full text of the Declaration.

The first known public reading did not come until Monday July 8, when Col. John Nixon of the Philadelphia Committee of Safety read the Declaration to a crowd in front of Independence Hall. According to local lore, with questionable authenticity, the State House Bell rang all day in celebration.  That bell later became known as the Liberty Bell.  That same day, public readings took place in Easton, Pennsylvania and Trenton, New Jersey.

On July 9, George Washington assembled his army in New York and read the Declaration of Independence to the soldiers and assembled civilians.  It provoked such excitement that a mob formed to tear down a statue of King George III.  Later they melted the lead from the statue to make bullets to fire back at the British Army.

About two weeks after its famous vote, Congress received word that New York, finally authorized its delegates to support independence, Congress made one final change, adding the line at the beginning of the Declaration, “The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”  It was only then, that the Congress ordered a formal engrossed copy that all the delegates could sign.

There is some question as to who actually wrote the words on the parchment that we today consider the original Declaration of Independence.  But based on handwriting analysis, most historians believe the draftsman was Timothy Matlack , of Pennsylvania. Matlack was, at the time, a clerk to the secretary of the Second Continental Congress, Charles Thomson.

Signing the Declaration by J. Trumbull (from Wikimedia)
With the engrossed version complete, Congress laid out the copy for signing on August 2.  John Hancock famously signed his name the largest and in the top center.  Several members who had approved the Declaration were absent. George Wythe signed on August 27. On September 4, Richard Henry Lee, Elbridge Gerry, and Oliver Wolcott signed. Matthew Thornton signed on November 19.  Delaware Delegate Thomas McKean did not sign at all in 1776.  It is not clear exactly when he got around to signing, but possibly not until 1781.  He had a good excuse for some delay.  After voting for independence McKean took up command of a militia to march off to defend New York against the British invasion.  But he was back in Congress by 1777. It is unclear why he did not get around to signing for another four years.

Two delegates, John Dickinson and Robert Livingston (who was on the committee to draft the document) never signed the Declaration at all.  Another delegate, Robert Morris, who had opposed independence in debate signed anyway saying "I am not one of those politicians that run testy when my own plans are not adopted. I think it is the duty of a good citizen to follow when he cannot lead."  Several other delegates who were not present for the voting on independence, nevertheless signed it at a later date.

No one from the Continental Congress, nor anyone else, every bothered to send a copy to the King nor anyone else in London.  Admiral Howe and General Howe, at the time with the British fleets off the coast of New York, sent two copies of the original Dunlap version back to London.  One was with a letter dated July 28 and the other dated August 11.  The letters don’t say how exactly the British Army received them, but it does say they fell into their hands by accident.  The Declaration was not a petition, nor was it specifically directed to any officials.  It was a declaration to the world that the former British colonies in North America were now free and independent states.  As such, they had no duty to inform anyone in London about their activities.

The Declaration

I will go into more detail next week on the details in the Declaration itself.  Congress made all sorts of declarations that have not been so memorable and repeated.  While the significance of independence was a big leap, Many delegates to the Congress did not consider the document itself to be that big a deal.  They considered the vote for independence to be a big deal, but the exact wording in the document itself, not so much.

It was, of course, Jefferson’s brilliant wording that made it such a memorable document.  When I quoted Jefferson a few minutes ago, he himself admitted that he was not putting down new ideas on paper.  These were ideas almost everyone in Congress already believed.  It was this widely held consensus that Jefferson sought to articulate in summary fashion.

As widely accepted as the principles were in America, however, these ideas were shocking to those in Europe.  Sure, many social contract theorists had spoken about these ideas in abstract.  But no one in Europe had seriously considered removing their monarchy and replacing it with a republic that would better implement the will of the people.

What made the document such a milestone in world history was the combination of being an articulate explanation of these ideals that were so radical to European ears, along with the fact that the Americans were actually in the process of implementing those ideas into a real government.  This was the concept that made the Revolution so revolutionary.

It seems though, that no one at the time seemed even to dream of its future impact on the world.  For the moment, they saw it as an important document that formally announced the goal of independence and which would hopefully assist in the war effort.

Next week: We will take a closer look at the actual words in the Declaration, and what they mean.

- - -

Next  Episode 100: The Declaration of Independence

Previous Episode 98: Voting for Independence

Click here to donate
American Revolution Podcast is distributed 100% free of charge. If you can chip in to help defray my costs, I'd appreciate whatever you can give.  Make a one time donation through my PayPal account. Also, see the very bottom of this page to see how you can support this podcast by making purchases you would make anyway on Amazon.  Thanks, Mike Troy

Click here to see my Patreon Page
You can support the American Revolution Podcast as a Patreon subscriber.  This is an option for people who want to make monthly pledges.  Patreon support will give you access to Podcast extras and help make the podcast a sustainable project.  Thanks again!

Further Reading


Declaration of Independence (full text):

Jefferson’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence:

Happy Independence Day: Which Day Is It?

Heintze, James The Declaration of Independence: First Public Readings:

George Washington Reads the Declaration of Independence:

9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence:

Declaration Fact Sheet:

PODCAST Covart, Liz “Episode 141, A Declaration in Draft” Ben Franklin’s World (online recommendation of the week)

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Vol. 5, June 5 - Oct. 8, 1776, Gov’t Printing Office, 1904.

Becker, Carl L. Declaration of Independence: A Study in the History of Political Ideas, Harcourt, Brace & Co. 1922.

Dwight, Nathaniel The Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Harper & brothers, 1840.

Force, Peter American Archives, Fifth Series, Vol 1, M. St. Claire Clarks, 1837.

Goodrich, Charles A. Lives of the Signers to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Mather, 1840.

Linn, William The Life of Thomas Jefferson: Author of the Declaration of Independence, and Third President of the United States, Andrus, Woodruff, & Gauntlett, 1843

Lossing, Benson J. Lives of the Signers of the Declaration of American Independence. The Declaration Historically Considered, Evans, Stoddart & Co. 1870.

StillĂ©, Charles The Life and Times of John Dickinson, 1732-1808,  Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1891.

Tyler, Moses, C. The Literary History of the American Revolution, 1763-1783, Vol. 2, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1897.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Beeman, Richard R. Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776, Basic Books, 2013.

De Bolla, Peter The Fourth of July: And the Founding of America, Harry N. Abrams, 2008.
 (Book recommendation of the week).

Ellis, Joseph What did the Declaration Declare? St. Martin's Press, 1999 (Book recommendation of the week).

Fleming, Thomas 1776: Year of Illusions, New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1975.

McCullough, David John Adams, Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Ryerson, Richard Alan The Revolution Is Now Begun: The Radical Committees of Philadelphia, 1765-1776, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1978.

* This site is a registered Amazon Associate.  Please help support this site by purchasing any of these books, or any other Amazon product, via the links on this site.  If you start by clicking on a book link above and then browse to buy something completely different on Amazon, American Revolution Podcast will get credit for your purchase.