A Summary View of the Rights of British America

A Summary View of the Rights of British America

A Summary View of the Rights of British America

A Summary View of the Rights of British America

Excerpt

In the July heat of 1774, at his uncompleted but already beloved Monticello, Thomas Jefferson labored at a document that would make him a marked man--favorably viewed by those in the vanguard of revolution in America and a potential target for charges of treason in Britain. He was a young man of thirty-one years, only two years married, but possessed of some ten thousand acres of land and more than a hundred slaves (and substantial debts incurred from his marriage). For five years he had been a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, representing Albemarle County, and he held other offices as well. Clearly he was already a member of the colony's political and social aristocracy, if not of the inner governing circle.

The document Jefferson labored at was published anonymously and without his permission at Williamsburg in August that same year. Entitled A Summary View of the Rights of British America. . . , it carried to one step short of revolution the debate that had been developing over the constitution of empire since the end of the French and Indian War. The British Parliament, Jefferson argued, had a right to legislate for the colonies in no case whatsoever. Eight years earlier, at the time of the repeal of the notorious Stamp Act, Parliament had boldly asserted its right to legislate for the colonies in all cases whatsoever. Were Jefferson's position to be adopted in the colonies, revolution would be averted only if Parliament backed down.

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