Member Blogs > Read'Em Again BooksA Revolutionary Declaration of War - 31 July 2013

  • Wed, 31 Jul 2013 10:51:48    Permalink

    Our cause is just. Our union is perfect. Our internal resources are great, and, if necessary, foreign assistance is undoubtedly attainable. . .  We will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of liberties, being with one mind resolved, to die Freemen rather than live slaves.
     Im always on the lookout for interesting Americana, and recently I stumbled on a really wonderful piece.  It is a newspaperNew-England Chronicle: Or, The Essex Gazette, Volume VII, Number 365; From Friday, July 21, to Thursday, July 27, 1775.  Printed by Samuel and Ebenezer Hall in Stroughton Hall, Harvard-College, 1775containing A Declaration by Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, now met in General Congress at Philadelphia, Setting forth the Causes and Necessity of their taking up Arms.

    This is a very early printing of what amounted to the American colonies declaration of war upon Great Britain.  The declaration fills the entire first page of the paper and one column of the second. 

    Thomas Jefferson and John Dickenson.  A Declaration By the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in General Congress at Philadelphia, Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms. New-England Chronicle: or, The Essex Gazette, Vol. VII, No. 365. . . . Stoughton Hall, Harvard-College, Cambridge.  Printed by Samuel and Ebenezer Hall, 1775.  Protected by a custom-made blue leather folder with gilt lettering.   $22,750 Following the battles of Lexington and Concord, the Second Continental Congress convened on 10 May 1775 in Philadelphia to take charge of the war effort.  While in session, the British and colonists clashed again at Bunker and Breeds Hills.  Although the British were able to seize the high ground, they did so at the tremendous cost of nearly one-third their force including a disproportionate number of officers, causing their commander, General Clinton, to pyrrhically note in his diary that "A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America."

    When news of the battle reached Congress a week or so later, the convention appointed a committee of five to create a document that would explain why it was necessary for the colonists to have taken up arms.  After an initial draft prepared by John Rutledge was rejected, Thomas Jefferson and John Dickinson were added to the group, and Jefferson was tasked with creating a new draft.  There is some disagreement as to whether Jeffersons draft was found objectionable due to its style, radical nature, or (even as some have suggested) conciliatory tone. 

    Regardless, John Dickinson stepped in and made major revisions, which were accepted by the convention on 6 July 1775, identifying the most egregious of the acts taken by Great Britain.  Still, the declaration insisted that the colonies were not yet demanding independence, and it stated that they hae only taken up arms "in defence of the Freedom that is our Birthright and . . . [will] lay them down when Hostilities shall cease on the part of the Aggressors". 

    Apparently the Declaration was not initially issued as a government' publication, but rather it was first privately printed as a pamphlet in Philadelphia and then almost immediately reprinted in several newspapers.  These "early newspaper printings . . . are extraordinarily rare and do not often appear on the market.  Only one newspaper printing has appeared at auction in the last 30 years: a July 12, 1775 postscript to the "Pennsylvania Gazette, printed in Philadelphia, was sold in 1996" - see Bauman's Rare Books #66576.

    If youd like to see the document, Ill have it at my two August shows, provided it isn't purchased first.  Discounts, of course, to the trade.Oh, almost forgot to provide info about the next two shows.  Use the below links for location, times, and other details.Virginia Beach Antiques Show - 9-11 Aug 2013The Antiquarian Book Fair at the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show - 22-25 Aug 2013 

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