Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Conscience of the American Revolution

"The rights of the individual should be the primary object of all governments"
~ Mercy Otis Warren

Mercy Otis Warren
Mercy Otis was born on September 14, 1728 in Barnstable, Massachusetts. Her father, James Otis, Sr., was colonel in the militia and a distinguished lawyer in Massachusetts. Early in her life, she began to write poetry and essays and argue politics with her brothers, James Otis, Jr. and Samuel Allyne Otis. Her father wanted her to excel, so she was tutored with her Harvard bound brothers.  

In 1754, Mercy married James Warren, who was a distant cousin and college friend of her brother, James. James Warren was impressed with her writing skills and encouraged her. By the time of the revolution, Mercy was a close friend of Abigail Adams and wrote to many founding fathers including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and John Adams. The latter wrote to her husband saying, “Tell your wife that God Almighty has entrusted her with the Powers for the good of the World, which, in the cause of his Providence, he bestows on few of the human race. That instead of being a fault to use them, it would be criminal to neglect them.”

James Warren
James Warren was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1766-1774 and 1775 and later became it's speaker. In 1775, He was president of the Provincial Congress and also paymaster-general. Mercy followed his progress with keen interest and between 1773 and 1775, she wrote two political plays, The Adulator and The Group. With the publication of these plays, she became the first American playwright.

In 1805, Mercy published the first history of the American Revolution, the controversial three-volume work,
History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution. President Thomas Jefferson ordered subscriptions for himself and his cabinet, but John Adams thought the history was a radical simplification of real events and was displeased with Mercy’s open criticism of him in the book. It led to a heated correspondence and a breach in their friendship that lasted until 1812.

Mercy was an Anti-Federalist and opposed the ratification of the Constitution. She advocated freedom of speech, freedom of press and trial by jury; all of which became part of the Bill of Rights. She was called the Conscience of the American Revolution and holds her place as a founding mother with other influential woman of the time such as Abigail Adams, Sarah Franklin Bache and Martha Washington. 
Mercy Otis Warren died in 1814 at the age of 86. A statue of her stands in Barnstable Massachusetts with the Bill of Rights in her upraised hand.  


1 comment:

  1. Wow, I've never heard of her. I'll have to see if I can find some of her works to read.