The American Revolution: A History in Documents

By Steven C. Bullock | Go to book overview

Chapter One
The Family
Quarrel
The Coming of the Revolution

In this 1765 political cartoon, the
American artist John Singleton
Copley uses a complicated series of
symbols to attack the Stamp Act.
On the right, the symbol of Britain,
Britannia, flies across the Atlantic.
She brings [Pandora's Box,] the
mythical origin of evil in the world,
representing the Stamp Act. Beneath
the Tree of Liberty lies America, por-
trayed as an Indian. The protectors
of Liberty, including Minerva (the
helmeted goddess of wisdom), try to
keep the tax from America, who is
already near death
.

In 1768, Benjamin Rush visited London. A physician and a professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia, Rush later became a leader in the Revolutionary movement and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But in 1768, he wanted to sit on the king's throne. He was visiting the meeting place of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British legislature, when he noticed it. His guide resisted Rush's request to try out the throne, but finally gave him permission. The experience, Rush explained to a friend later, was so overwhelming that he could not even think straight: [Such a crowd of ideas poured in upon my mind that I can scarcely recollect one of them.] The entire room made him feel [as if [he] walked on sacred ground.]

As Rush's overwhelming reactions suggest, the connection between Americans and their mother country had continued to be strong past the middle of the eighteenth century. Indeed, in many ways, the relationship was growing closer. The dramatic growth of population, settlement, and economy within the colonies meant that they traded more with Great Britain, and these trade routes also served as pathways by which ideas, fashions, and visitors moved between the center and the edges of the British empire. The American Revolution has often been seen as merely the final step in a process of separation. The experience of Rush and others suggests that in many ways the colonies were becoming more like Great Britain and more closely tied to it. Even after more than a century of American settlement, colonists still spoke of going to Britain as going [home.]

Despite Rush's deep emotional connection with Britain, however, his loyalty was not unconditional. When he entered the House of Commons, the other branch of the British legislature, he was at first

-17-

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