Discuss the development of the revolutionary prose in America.


Discuss the development of the revolutionary prose in America.


American resistance to British domination of the English-speaking settlements of North America started actively in the early 1760s, ironically instigated by acts of omission and commission on the part of the British government itself. Initially, it tried to stop the westward movement of the colonials into the interior, for their migration produced burdensome Indian wars. Instead, the hr trade with the In was sought to be controlled directly from England through royal officials at centralised locations within the Indian territory west of the Appalachians. However, in 1763 the brilliant Indian leader Pontiac, angered at the autocratic and authoritarian way British officials exercised their power, set off a bloody war against the colonials in a desperate attempt to oust the British and win the return of the French. When he was finally defeated, chastened British officials established the Proclamation Line of 1763 along the crest of the Appalachians and decreed that the outraged colonials were not to go beyond it until a more effective Indian program was developed.

To tighten their regulation of imperial trade and raise within the colonies a revenue out of which the costs of their government could be borne, the British in 1764 passed the Sugar Act, the first law ever passed by Parliament specifically to raise money in the colonies. It placed new or higher duties on a wide range of imported products. Then came, in 1765, the fatefbl Stamp Act. It taxed all newspapers, pamphlets, licenses, commercial notes and bonds, advertisements, leases, legal papers, and other such documents. This was clearly levying taxes without getting the consent first of those taxed. A raging controversy erupted in the colonies. The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act struck, as it happened, right at the most powehl and articulate groups in the colonies: merchants, businessmen, lawyers, journalists, and clergy. They, of course, defined the situation entirely differently from the British. Taxation without consent! It was not to be borne. Liberty, freedom from oppression-that was the issue.


It was under the circumstances indicated above that American revolutionary prose developed and evolved. The historian David Ramsay has, as a matter of fact, accorded utter centrality to American revolutionary prose in recounting the saga of the American Revolution. ''In establishing American independence," he observes in The History of the American Revolution (1 789), "the pen and the press had merit equal to that of the sword." Ramsay's statement has at least two connotations. One, that the writings about historical events are as important in the representation of the events as the historical events then~selves, the writings about the American Revolution being no exception to this rule. Two, that writings inspirc events, even as Americans started to express their revolution much before they enacted it. As Robert A. Ferguson has remarked, Writing the thought inscribes the conception, which, in time, blurs the line of distinction between thought and act. Somewhere, a legitimate rhetoric of oppo:-,ition grows into the outrageous possibility of revolution. A paradigmatic text in this context i:s Jeremiah Dummer's A Defence of the New England Charters (1 72 1). Dummer, British agent for Massachusetts and Connecticut and an American lawyer in London, rejects all thought of colonial revolt as "ludicrous" in his "short digression" on the subject. and yet the rebel leader John Adams could properly call this parnpl~lethe handbook of the Revolution. As Adams told William Tudor in 18 18 'The feelings. the manners and principles which American Prose produced the Revolution, appear in as vast abundance in this work as in any that I have read."

Discuss the development of the revolutionary prose in America.

The role of satire in the Revolutionary era

Up until the Revolutionary era, the Puritans who had settled New England had a profound influence on what was printed in the colonies: nearly all publications centered on a religious topic of some sort. The Puritans frowned on dramatic performances, as well. But by the mid1700s, the Puritan influence was fading. In 1749 the first American acting troupe was established in Philadelphia. Seventeen years later, America’s first permanent playhouse was built in the same city; in 1767 the South wark Theatre staged the first play written by a native- born American, Thomas God frey’s (1736–1763) Prince of Parthia.the development of the revolutionary prose in America. By the mid-1760s, political writings by colonists were increasingly common and more and more forceful in nature. James Otis (1725–1783), a lawyer from Boston, published The Rights of British Colonists Asserted and Proved in 1764. And the hated Stamp Act, a tax law passed by the British in 1765, prompted an even greater outpouring of writing of a political nature. (Parliament, England’s lawmaking body, passed the Stamp Act to raise money from the colonies without receiving the consent of the colonial assemblies, or representatives.) the development of the revolutionary prose in America.

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