The Theme Is Freedom

The Theme Is Freedom

The Theme Is Freedom

The Theme Is Freedom

Excerpt

While I was getting together this collection of various writings of a more or less political complexion out of tattered back numbers of surviving and defunct publications and out of the already brittle pages of some of my own out of print books I kept thinking of Peletiah Webster's remark in the preface of his collection of Political Essays. "I cannot say I had all the success with these publications which I wished."

Peletiah Webster, whose greatest accolade while he lived was to be described in a note by Madison as an "obscure but able citizen," followed a somewhat unsuccessful career as a merchant in Philadelphia during the seventies and eighties of the eighteenth century. He was a Yale man, a cousin of the Noah Webster of primer and dictionary fame, and like so many studious young men from Connecticut in those days, started life as a preacher. He couldn't make a go of preaching and tried to support himself by a series of mercantile ventures. In the course of them he managed to be captured with his ship and cargo by the British off Newport and later when Howe occupied Philadelphia to be imprisoned by them as a patriot. When the redcoats abandoned the American metropolis Webster found himself in trouble with the redhot patriots for having done business there during the British occupation. Perhaps the origin of most of his difficulties lay in the fact that be was a man who gave more thought to the public interest than he did . . .

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