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The Road to Independence

The Road to Independence: The Revolutionary Movement in New York, 1773--1777

Copyright Date: 1967
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    The Road to Independence
    Book Description:

    In this description and analysis of the organization of the revolutionary movement in New York, Bernard Mason focuses upon the intricate political alignments which the cause of independence created. He finds that the revolutionaries, contrary to the long-standing thesis, formed a decisive majority, although their effectiveness was hampered by vacillation and by a protracted struggle for leadership. Despite the timidity of the Whig leaders, the polemicists gave vent to their militancy and public attitudes tended to lead rather than follow those of the politicians. Moreover, independence was only half of the great question. Intertwined with it was the nature of the state government itself. Mr. Mason clarifies the confusion and obscurity which surrounded the creation of the first state constitution, pointing out the many alternatives which were widely discussed.

    Mason rejects Becker's thesis of class conflict as being a significant factor in New York, although it did have a muted and diffused role in shaping the structure of the revolutionary organization. The very nature of the strife with the parent nation did, however, open the doors of power to the middle class farmers, who were learning political self-reliance and independence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6357-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Bernard Mason
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-41)

    History has bequeathed to posterity a strikingly incongruous image of New York in the era of the American Revolution at which later generations have gazed in some perplexity. Here was a people who proposed the Continental Congress because they opposed an individual colony’s commercial boycott of Great Britain but who in that Continental Congress argued against an intercolonial stoppage of trade. Here was a people who patronized a zealous Whig press but whose largest newspaper was the most important Tory journal in the colonies. Here was a people who cheered tumultuously, and on the same day, both George Washington on...

  5. TWO Royal Influence in New York
    (pp. 42-61)

    Although the Continental Congress adjourned October 26, 1774, and published the Continental Association, the people of New York, except in the metropolis, reacted uncertainly and slowly to the general policies which that document set forth. Hesitation, indifference, and opposition became manifest in the rural counties when the Fifty-One circularized them in November to organize county committees of inspection. Only three counties—Albany, Ulster, and Suffolk—complied with the recommendation from their brethren in Manhattan. The Whigs in five counties, if they bestirred themselves at all, made no impression on the countryside; neither county committees nor district committees were forthcoming. The...

  6. THREE Division into Tory and Whig
    (pp. 62-99)

    When General Thomas Gage set his troops in motion for Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, he had no notion, of course, that he was constructing a species ofdeus ex machinafor the New York Friends of Liberty. The spur of the military confrontation enabled the Whigs to solve the internal problem of revolutionary committee organization and to elaborate a provincial system of district and county committees. This linkage of external and internal affairs was to recur in New York at critical moments in 1775 and 1776 and was to give a fillip to the revolutionary movement.


  7. FOUR Crystallization of the Revolutionary Spirit
    (pp. 100-133)

    When the fall and winter of 1775-1776 had run their course, the Whig leaders possessed a double reason for congratulating themselves. Elections in November registered approval of the First Provincial Congress and eliminated some of its less vigorous men.¹ And, military forces disarmed the menacing Tories in Queens, Richmond, and Tryon, who became more submissive to congressional authority.² However, there were other circumstances that prevented the appearance of complacency among the Whigs.

    Lowering transatlantic skies during these months induced growing anxiety among the Friends of Liberty. It was the season for harsh pronunciamentos from Whitehall as the ministry reacted vigorously...

  8. FIVE The Tide Sets for Independence
    (pp. 134-177)

    The irresolution of the First and the Second Provincial Congresses often tends to obscure the hardening of the opposition to Britain and the growth of sentiment for independence. Even in the dismal days of November when the First Provincial Congress collapsed, the press carried letters which expressed determined resistance to British measures. “Philo Patriae,” lecturing his readers on patriotism, heaped scorn on those who sold their talents to the ministry and on those who drew back in fear.¹ Although “The Monitor” confidently asserted that Britain would weary of fruitless endeavors and ultimately would concede, he also warned his country men...

  9. SIX Government Prior to the Constitution of 1777
    (pp. 178-212)

    The Provincial Congress was the nerve center of the revolutionary movement. Its formation greatly strengthened the Whigs in that it united under central direction the county and local committees who lacked overall authority. Since many of the leading patriots served in the Provincial Congress, the people looked to that body for direction. This support in turn enabled the provisional legislature to mobilize the citizenry and their resources. Furthermore, the Whigs now had the means to apply uniform policies throughout the counties. Equally important, the Provincial Congress could and did speak in the name of the whole colony, constituting the only...

  10. SEVEN Making Haste Slowly: Framing the Constitution
    (pp. 213-249)

    When the Fourth Provincial Congress opened its proceedings on July 9, the primary business of the day was not a constitution but the Declaration of Independence. The Provincial Congress promptly adopted resolutions that heartily endorsed the Declaration and that made New York the thirteenth colony to vote approval. The next day the delegates converted themselves from an illegal, revolutionary body into the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York; the Fourth Provincial Congress had but a fleeting life.

    If the people expected the Convention to plunge into the task of constructing new political foundations, they were disappointed. When...

  11. EIGHT Reconsiderations
    (pp. 250-253)

    Even though one cannot analyze statistically the Whig and Tory strength, the direction of events from 1774 to 1776 provides us with a crude index to the division of the people. After Lexington and Concord the New York Tories were unable to turn back or contain the upsurge of Whig opposition. The Tory failure was significant in two respects, as a commentary on the government’s weakness and as an indication of inadequate popular support for the Tories in the rural districts. Theoretically, the government possessed two advantages, power and prestige, but it was not able to maximize either one because...

    (pp. 254-257)
  13. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 258-264)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 265-279)