Transmitting Liberty

William Warner

in This Is Enlightenment

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780226761473
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226761466 | DOI:
Transmitting Liberty

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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This chapter argues that we can counteract the unreadable familiarity of one of the paradigmatic historical episodes of the Enlightenment—the American Revolution—by situating it within the history of mediation. The Boston Committee of Correspondence came to play its decisive role in the British imperial crisis through a series of consequential mediations: the institution by the Town of Boston of the committee as an interface for political mobilization; the rewriting of the ancient petition to authority as a popular declaration addressed to fellow citizens; and the interlinking of the towns of Massachusetts, and then the thirteen colonies, into a network that could declare independence from Britain and fight the war to uphold that declaration. It is these particular mediations that give form and historical force to the “ideas” that dominate most histories of both the American and French Revolutions: liberty, equality, the imperative to critique authority, and popular sovereignty, as well as what we assume to be a distinctly modern experimental and optimistic orientation toward the future.

Keywords: American Revolution; mediation; history; political mobilization; Massachusetts; independence; liberty; equality; sovereignty

Chapter.  7354 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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