Give Me Liberty: The Struggle for Self-Government in Virginia

Give Me Liberty: The Struggle for Self-Government in Virginia

Give Me Liberty: The Struggle for Self-Government in Virginia

Give Me Liberty: The Struggle for Self-Government in Virginia

Excerpt

None of the American colonies "will ever submit to the loss of those valuable rights and privileges which are essential to the happiness of every free state," George Washington wrote in October, 1774. Perhaps the British officer to whom he made this statement was startled to have him speak of the colonies as free. Yet at the time the American people were the freest in the world, freer even than the people of England. It was to defend this freedom, not to gain new rights, that the colonists rebelled against Great Britain. For decades they had been governing themselves, so when the British Ministry tried to govern them from London, they would not submit.

To understand what was in the minds and hearts of George Washington, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and the--other patriots, it is necessary to know how the colonies became selfgoverning. One must follow the political battles and hardearned victories of their fathers, and grandfathers, and greatgrandfathers in the colonial Assemblies.

This volume treats of the struggle for self-government in Virginia from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the Declaration of Independence. The story of the gradual lessening of the King's prerogative, of the weakening of the power of the Governor, of the emergence of the Assembly as the ruling body could be paralleled in other colonies. But it is of especial importance in Virginia, where was held the first representative Assembly in the New World, and which gave so many leaders to the American Revolution.

I wish to express my appreciation to my Alma Mater, the University of Virginia, for its award of a Thomas Jefferson Research Fellowship, without which this volume would not have been written.

THOMAS J. WERTENBAKER.

Princeton, N. J. April 1, 1957.

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