2 colonists had comparable identities – however one felt compelled to stay loyal, the opposite to insurgent

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2 colonists had comparable identities – however one felt compelled to stay loyal, the opposite to insurgent

By the early 1750s, two males within the British colony of Rhode Island – Martin Howard and Stephen Hopkins – had comparable backgrounds and led strikingly comparable lives. They knew one another, have been each supporters of libraries with profitable authorized careers, and have been politically energetic.

Their writings within the 1760s show that they have been each assessing the political relationship between the North American colonies and Britain.

Each males claimed that they felt actually British – however from their shared id they arrived at violently opposing conclusions.

My historic analysis into Rhode Island’s politics and economics in the course of the colonial interval has discovered these two males’s approaches to the problems of the day are a microcosm of the choices confronted by 1000’s of British colonists on the eve of the American Revolution.

And they’re a lesson about how what may seem like widespread values about shared political and cultural identities can at instances serve not as a bridge becoming a member of folks collectively however a wedge driving them aside.

Within the 1750s, Martin Howard served as librarian at Newport’s Redwood Library.
ajay_suresh by way of Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Parallel paths

The tales of Martin Howard and Stephen Hopkins start as mirror pictures of one another, together with rising up in Rhode Island.

Howard labored as an legal professional in his hometown of Newport. The Newport Mercury newspaper chronicles his many civic and political actions. He served as Overseer of the Poor, Smallpox Inspector, and within the Rhode Island Basic Meeting. Within the early 1750s, he served because the librarian at Newport’s Redwood Library. And he was certainly one of two males elected to symbolize Rhode Island on the 1754 gathering of representatives from the northern colonies referred to as the Albany Congress.

Hopkins, for his half, grew to become a justice of the peace in Scituate, Rhode Island, in 1730, and served a number of phrases as Rhode Island’s governor within the mid-18th century. In 1753, he was a founding member of the Windfall Library Firm. And he was the opposite Rhode Island consultant on the Albany Congress in 1754.

Within the early 1760s, their paths might need appeared carefully aligned. However then, in 1763, all the pieces modified.

That yr, the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ Struggle – identified within the American colonies because the French and Indian Struggle, and referred to as “the primary world conflict” by historian and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. On the finish of a multinational battle spanning continents and oceans, Britain took over virtually all of France’s territory and commerce in North America and India. However the triumphant empire had incurred monumental money owed to fund its conflict effort.

Looking for to repay its money owed and develop its North American affect, the British Parliament handed the Sugar Act in 1764 and the Stamp Act in 1765.

These legal guidelines imposed vital tax burdens on colonists, although they’d no representatives in Parliament to voice their issues. Howard’s and Hopkins’ reactions to those legal guidelines marked a key section of division between them, and throughout colonial North America.

Dueling pamphlets

Most political exercise within the late 18th-century Anglo-American world was fueled by non-public teams who advocated for a variety of causes.

Howard was a founding member of the Newport Junto, which supported each the Sugar and Stamp acts and advocated for Rhode Island to come back below better Parliamentary management. Hopkins supported the free coalition of organizations collectively referred to as the Sons of Liberty who campaigned in opposition to imperial taxation.

Many members of those teams turned to the printing press to succeed in audiences throughout the Atlantic world. Rhode Island had two printing presses: Howard printed his concepts by way of the Franklin-Corridor press in Newport, whereas Hopkins used the Goddard press in Windfall.

A detailed learn of the pamphlets printed by Howard and Hopkins within the mid-1760s exhibits they each invoke their widespread Anglo-American heritage – however just one would ultimately come to the conclusion that it was essential to sever that hyperlink.

A printed cover of an 18th century pamphlet.

Stephen Hopkins made his case on this 1764 pamphlet in regards to the American colonies’ relationship with Britain.
Brown College Library

For instance, in November 1764, Hopkins printed a pamphlet entitled “The Rights of the Colonies, Examined.” It started with the premise that as a result of he was a British topic, he was entitled to all of the related rights and privileges these topics held. To him, that included the precise to have a voice in Parliamentary deliberations about colonial taxation, as a result of he lived in Britain’s North American colonies.

Lower than two months later, in January 1765, Howard printed a reply: “A Letter from a Gentleman at Halifax to his Good friend in Rhode Island, Containing Remarks Upon a Pamphlet Entitled ‘The Rights of the Colonies, Examined.’” Like Hopkins, he started with the premise that as a result of he was a British topic, he was entitled to all of the related rights and privileges. However in Howard’s view, this didn’t embrace a proper to vote in Parliamentary elections: Not all British folks might vote, even when they lived in Britain.

A cut up primarily based on shared id and values

The distinctions between the rhetoric of Hopkins and Howard are consultant of these between most British North American colonists within the 1760s. Howard and others who wished to stay topic to the crown continued, by the top of the American Revolution, to consider that their rights have been untrammeled. Against this, Hopkins and the opposite proponents of revolution with Britain would come to consider within the mid-1770s that the one approach to protect their rights and privileges was to interrupt away utterly from the UK.

It was a revolution, however those that sought to interrupt from Britain did in order a method of preserving their British id. This seeming contradiction helps illustrate why teams of people that shared Anglo-American id and heritage fought on each side of a violent conflict to protect their divergent views of that id and heritage.

The story of Hopkins and Howard ends on both aspect of a divide as geographic because it was political, with Howard in everlasting exile in London, and Hopkins, having signed the Declaration of Independence, dwelling within the Rhode Island city the place he was born – within the smallest of the British North American colonies, which had develop into the smallest state in the US of America. Nonetheless, the commonalities between them stay as vital because the variations, and actually understanding their story requires conserving each components in thoughts.


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