Item of the Day: History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America [1834]

Full Title: History of the War of the Independence of the United States of America. By Charles Botto. Translated from the Italian by George Alexander Otis, Esq. Sixth edition, in two volumes, revised and corrected. Vol. I. New-Haven: Published and printed by Nathan Whiting, [1834].

BOOK FIRST.

AMERICA, and especially some parts of it, having been discovered by the genius and intrepidity of Italians, received, at various times, as into a place of asylum, the men whom political or religious disturbances had driven from their own countries in Europe. The security which these distant and desert regions presented to their minds, appeared to them preferable even to the endearments of country and of their natal air.

Here they exerted themselves with admirable industry and fortitude, according to the custom of those whom the fervor of opinion agitates and stimulates, in subduing the wild beasts, dispersing or destroying pernicious or importunate animals, repressing or subjecting the barbarous and savage nations that inhabited this New World, draining the marshes, controlling the course of rivers, clearing the forests, furrowing a virgin soil, and committing to its bosom new and unaccustomed seeds; and thus prepared themselves a climate less rude and hostile to human nature, more secure and more commodious habitations, more salubrious food, and a part of the conveniences and enjoyments proper to civilized life.

The multitude of emigrants, departing principally from England, in the time of the last Stuarts, landed in that part of North America which extends from the thirty-second to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; and there founded the colonies of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, which took the general name of New England. To these colonies were afterwards joined those of Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, the two Carolinas, and Georgia. Nor must it be understood, that in departing from the land in which they were born, to seek in foreign regions a better condition of life, they abandoned their country on terms of enmity, dissolving every tie of early attachment.

Far from this, besides the customs, the habits, the usages and manners of their common country, they took with them privileges, granted by the royal authority, whereby their laws were constituted upon the model of those of England, and more or less conformed to a free government, or to a more absolute system according to the character or authority of the prince from whom they emanated. They were also modified by the influence which the people, by means of their organ, the parliament, were found to possess. For, it then being the epoch of those civil and religious dissensions which caused English blood to flow in torrents, the changes were extreme and rapid. Each province, each colony, had an elective assembly, which, under certain limitations, was invested with the authority of parliament; and a governor, who, representing the king to the eyes of the colonists, exercised also a certain portion of his power. To this was added the trial, which is called by jury, not only in criminal matters, but also in civil causes; an institution highly important, and corresponding entirely with the judicial system of England.

But, in point of religion, the colonists enjoyed even greater latitude than in their parent country itself; they had not preserved that ecclesiastical hierarchy, against which they had combated so strenuously and which they did not cease to abhor, as the primary cause of the long and perilous expatiation to which they had been constrained to resort.

It can, therefore, excite not surprise, if this generation of men not only had their minds imbued with the principles that form the basis of the English constitution, but even if they aspired to a mode of government less rigid, and a liberty more entire; in a word, if they were inflamed with the fervor which is naturally kindled in the hearts of men by obstacles which oppose their religious and political opinions, and still increased by the privations and persecutions they have suffered on their account. And how should this ardor, this excitement of exasperated minds, have been appeased in the vast solitudes of America, where the amusements of Europe were unknown, where assiduity in manual toils must have hardened their bodies, and increased the asperity of their characters? If in England they had shown themselves averse to the prerogative of the crown, how, as to this, should their opinions have been changed in America, where scarcely a vestige was seen of the royal authority and splendor? where the same occupation being common to all, that of cultivating the earth, must have created in all the opinion and the love of a general equality? . . .

 

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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, History, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States

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