Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor: The Forging of American Independence, 1774-1776
Richard R. Beeman
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In Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor, acclaimed historian Richard R. Beeman examines the grueling twenty-two-month period between the meeting of the Continental Congress on September 5, 1774 and the audacious decision for independence in July of 1776. As late as 1774, American independence was hardly inevitable—indeed, most Americans found it neither desirable nor likely. When delegates from the thirteen colonies gathered in September, they were, in the words of John Adams, “a gathering of strangers.” Yet over the next two years, military, political, and diplomatic events catalyzed a change of unprecedented magnitude: the colonists’ rejection of their British identities in favor of American ones. In arresting detail, Beeman brings to life a cast of characters, including the relentless and passionate John Adams, Adams’ much-misunderstood foil John Dickinson, the fiery political activist Samuel Adams, and the relative political neophyte Thomas Jefferson, and with profound insight reveals their path from subjects of England to citizens of a new nation.
A vibrant narrative, Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor tells the remarkable story of how the delegates to the Continental Congress, through courage and compromise, came to dedicate themselves to the forging of American independence.
resolved that the time had come for “us therefore to take care of ourselves.” Joseph Hewes of North Carolina, who as recently as December of 1775 had been among those urging further attempts at peacemaking, had clearly changed his mind as well. Upon hearing news of the passage of the Prohibitory Act, he admitted that he could no longer see any “prospect of a reconciliation; nothing is left now but to fight it out.” And of course John Adams could only say “I told you so.” As if he needed any
easily equals her superb skills as a student of history. My full-time literary agent, good friend and part-time psychotherapist, John Wright, continues to support all of my efforts at all times. Through his high intelligence, erudition and “old school” knowledge of the publishing business, John has helped me at every stage in this project, both as an insightful critic and an effective advocate. I look forward to working with John in many more projects still to come. The dedication of this book
“Speech to the Committee on Rights,” Sept. 8, 1774, Smith, Letters, 1: 51–54; see also Samuel Ward’s Diary, Sept. 9, 1774, ibid: 1: 59. 20. Duane, “Speech to the Committee on Rights,” Sept. 8, 1774, Smith, Letters, 1: 51–54. See also Edward Alexander, A Revolutionary Conservative: James Duane of New York (New York, 1938), pp. 100–101. 21. “Notes of Debates,” Sept. 8, 1774, Adams, Diary, 2: 128–131. 22. Adams, Autobiography, 3: 308–309. 23. Ibid. 24. John Adams to Abigail Adams, Oct. 9,
poorly disciplined, the force of Henry’s personality, combined with the passion of his public performance, would enable him to develop into one of the most successful lawyers in all of Virginia. After talking his way through his bar exam, Henry immediately set about building a successful law practice, traveling great distances to try cases in the counties of Goochland, Louisa, Hanover, Albemarle, Chesterfield and even distant Cumberland, where disputes among the rapidly growing and litigious
Johnson, Patrick Henry and John Rutledge to draft a petition to the king way back on October 1. The men elected were not only among the most prestigious and outspoken members of the Congress but also represented a rough geographical balance north to south. Sometime before October 21, Patrick Henry tried his hand at writing a draft of the petition. But whatever Henry’s oratorical skills, he was a failure, both on this and subsequent occasions, as a writer. Although there is no written record of