Mercy wrote early drafts of this work near the time of the events described, and completed the work about four years before it appeared. She explains the delay as due to health problems, temporary bouts of blindness, and grief at the death of one of her children..
NB -- Mercy writes in the third person
even when dealing with events involving her immediate family.
James Otis (early advocate of the rights of the colonies) was
her brother, James Warren (speaker of the Massachusetts House
of Representatives) was her husband, and Winslow Warren
(would-be diplomat) was her son.
"Troubled on every side perplexed, but not in despair, Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." St. Paul
In conformity to the act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, "An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;" and also to an act, entitled "An act supplementary to an act, entitled, 'An act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of maps, charts, and books, to the authors and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned;' and extending the benefits thereof to the arts of designing, engraving, and etching historical and other prints."
N. Goodie, Clerk of the District of
A true copy of record. Attest: N. Goodale, clerk
As circumstances were collected, facts related, and characters drawn, many years antecedent to any history since published, relative to the dismemberment of the colonies, and to American independence, there are few allusions to any later writers.
Connected by nature, friendship, and every social tie, with many of the first patriots, and most influential characters on the continent; in the habits of confidential and epistolary intercourse with several gentlemen employed abroad in the most distinguished stations, and with others since elevated to the highest grades of rank and distinction, I had the best means of information, through a long period that the colonies were in suspense, waiting the operation of foreign courts, and the success of their own enterprising spirit.
The solemnity that covered every countenance, when contemplating the sword uplifted, and the horrors of civil war rushing to habitations not inured to scenes of rapine and misery; even to the quiet cottage, where only concord and affection had reigned; stimulated to observation a mind that had not yielded to the assertion, that all political attentions lay out of the road of female life.
It is true there are certain appropriate duties assigned to each sex; and doubtless it is the more peculiar province of masculine strength, not only to repel the bold invader of the rights of his country and of mankind, but in the nervous style of manly eloquence, to describe the blood-stained field, and relate the story of slaughtered armies.
Sensible of this, the trembling heart has recoiled at the magnitude of the undertaking, and the hand often shrunk back from the talk; yet, recollecting that every domestic enjoyment depends on the unimpaired possession of civil and religious liberty, that a concern for the welfare of society ought equally to glow in every human breast, the work was not relinquished. The most interesting circumstances were collected, active characters portrayed, the principles of the times developed, and the changes marked; nor need it cause a blush to acknowledge, a detail was preserved with a view of the transmitting it to the rising youth of my country, some of them in infancy, others in the European world, while the most interesting events lowered over their native land.
Conscious that truth has been the guide of my pen, and candor, as well as justice, the accompaniment of my wishes through every page, I can say, with an ingenious writer, "I have used my pen with the liberty of one, who neither hopes nor fears, nor has any interest in the success or failure of any party, and who speaks to posterity -- perhaps very far remote."
The sympathizing heart has looked abroad and wept the many victims of affliction, inevitably such in consequence of civil feuds and the concomitant miseries of war, either foreign or domestic. The reverses of life, and the instability of the world, have been viewed on the point in both extremes. Their delusory nature and character, have been contemplated as becomes the philosopher and the Christian: the one teaches us from the analogies of nature, the necessity of changes, decay, and death; the other strengthens the mind to meet them with the rational hope of revival and renovation.
Several years have elapsed since the historical tracts, now with diffidence submitted to the public, have been arranged in their present order. Local circumstances, the decline of health, temporary deprivations of sight, the death of the most amiable of children, "the shaft flew thrice, and thrice my peace was slain," have sometimes prompted to throw the pen in despair. I draw a veil over the woe-fraught scenes that have pierced my own heart. "While the soul was melting inwardly, it has endeavored to support outwardly, with decency and dignity, those accidents which admit of new redress, and to exert that spirit that enables to get the better of those that do."
Not indifferent to the opinion of the world, nor servilely courting its smiles, no further apology is offered for the attempt, though many may be necessary, for the incomplete execution of a design, that had rectitude for its basis, and a beneficent regard for the civil and religious rights of mankind, for its motive.
The liberal-minded will peruse with candor, rather than criticize with severity; nor will they think it necessary that any apology should be offered for sometimes introducing characters nearly connected with the author of the following annals; as they were early and zealously attached to the public cause, uniform in their principles, and constantly active in the great scenes that produced the revolution, and obtained independence for their country, truth precludes that reserve which might have been proper on less important occasions, and forbids to pass over in silence the names of such as expired before the conflict was finished, or have since retired from public scenes. The historian has never laid aside the tenderness of the sex or the friend; at the same time, she has endeavored, on all occasions, that the strictest veracity should govern her heart, and the most exact impartiality be the guide of her pen.
If the work should be so far useful or entertaining, as to obtain the sanction of the generous and virtuous part of the community, I cannot but be highly gratified and amply rewarded for the effort, soothed at the same time with the idea that the motives were justifiable in the eye of Omniscience. Then, if it should not escape the remarks of the critic, or the censure of party, I shall feel no wound to my sensibility, but repose on my pillow as quietly as ever --
"While all the distant din the world
Rolls o'er my grotto, and but soothes my sleep."
Before this address to my countrymen is closed, I beg leave to observe, that as a new century has dawned upon us, the mind is naturally led ot contemplate the great events that have run parallel with and have just closed the last. From the revolutionary spirit of the times, the vast improvements in science, arts, and agriculture, the boldness of genius that marks the age, the investigation of new theories, and the change in the political, civil, and religious characters of men, succeeding generations have reason to expect still more astonishing exhibitions in the next. In the mean time, Providence has clearly pointed out the duties of the present generation, particularly the paths which Americans ought to tread. The United States form a young republic, a confederacy which ought ever to be cemented by a union of interests and affection, under the influence of those principles which obtained their independence. These have indeed, at certain periods, appeared to be in the wane; but let them never be eradicated, by the jarring interests of parties, jealousies of the sister states, or the ambition of individuals! It has been observed, by a writer of celebrity [Paley's Moral Philosophy], that "that people, government, and constitution is the freest, which makes the best provision for the enacting of expedient and salutary laws." May this truth be evinced to all ages, by the wise and salutary laws that shall be enacted in the federal legislature of America!
May the hands of the executive of their own choice, be strengthened more by the unanimity and affection of the people, than by the dread of penal infliction, or any restraints that might repress free inquiry, relative to the principles of their own government, and the conduct of its administrators! The world is now viewing America, as experimenting a new system of government, a FEDERAL REPUBLIC, including a territory to which the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland bear little proportion. The practicability of supporting such a system has been doubted by some; if she succeeds, it will refute the assertion that none but small states are adapted to republican government; if she does not, and the union should be dissolved, some ambitious son of Columbia, or some foreign adventurer, allured by the prize, may wade to empire through seas of blood, or the friends of monarchy may see a number of petty despots, stretching their scepters over the disjointed parts of the continent. Thus by the mandate of a single sovereign, the degraded subjects of one state, under the bannerets of royalty may be dragged to sheathe their swords in the bosoms of the inhabitants of another.
The state of the public mind appears at present to be prepared to weigh these reflections with solemnity and to receive with pleasure an effort to trace the origin of the American Revolution, to review the characters that effected it, and to justify the principles of the defection and final separation from the parent state. With an expanded heart, beating with high hopes of the continued freedom and prosperity of America, the writer indulges a modest expectation that the following pages will be perused with kindness and candor: this she claims both in consideration of her sex, the uprightness of her intentions, and the fervency of her wishes for the happiness of all the human race.
Mercy Warren, Plymouth, Mass., March,