Pamphlets: The Blogs of Colonial America

I am reading The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, by Bernard Bailyn. It is a in-depth look at the pamphlets published in the years leading up to, and during the Revolutionary War. It occurred to me that these writings were much the same as many of the Blogs of our time.

The pamphlets were polemics seeking to convince through the various writing techniques of the time, the opposing side. They were quite spirited, and pointed. The writers often used satire, however Bailyn points out that other styles were used as well.

In addition to satire there is an abundance of other devices: elusive irony and flat parody; extended allegory and direct vituperation; sarcasm, calculated and naive. (1)

There is a similarity within blogs, but there is also a dissimilarity.  The American Pamphleteers were not destructive in their language. To be sure there were personal representations that might have been libelous in today’s terms, but in general they were persuasive polemics.

Their pamphlets convey scorn, anger, and indignation; but rarely blind hate , rarely panic fear. They sought to convince their opponents, not, like the English pamphleteers of the eighteenth century, to annihilate them. (2)

I see scorn, anger, and indignation in the Blogs of our era, but many do contain blind hate, panic fear, and vitriolic rhetoric mean to divide, not unite.  Many of the political Blogs, “News” Blogs, and religious Blogs are merely vehicles for the vomit of blind hate, fear, and wished-for destruction.  It pits opposing philosophical views against one another with no attempt to truly understand the position of the other side.  Misrepresentation and falsehood have replaced satire and scorn.  Exclusionary language has replaced indignation. There is more the language of anarchy than revision for the improvement of our society in them.

Anarchy was not the language exhibited in the polemic writing of Revolutionary Americans.  The pamphlets were a vehicle to persuade, not destroy.

The communication of understanding, therefore, lay at the heart of the Revolutionary movement, and its great expressions, embodied in the best of the pamphlets, are consequently expository and explanatory: (3)

In the relatively recent history of the Colonials, the French and Russians had undergone revolution.  The lives of thousands of people were changed drastically.  The Patriots saw themselves as deliverers of Providence.  John Adams wrote in the year of the Stamp Act. “America was designed by Providence for the theatre on which man was to make his true figure, on which science, virtue, liberty, happiness, and glory were to exist in peace.” (4)

The primary goal of the American Revolution was to conserve political liberty, not the overthrow of government. The rhetoric was not destructive, but persuasive in nature.

What was essentially involved in the American Revolution was not the disruption of society , with all the fear, despair, and hatred that that entails, but the realization, the comprehension and fulfillment, of the inheritance of liberty and of what was taken to be America’s destiny in the context of world history. (5)

(1) Bailyn, Bernard (2012-11-01). THE IDEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (Kindle Locations 311-312). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

(2) Bailyn, Bernard (2012-11-01). THE IDEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (Kindle Locations 426-427). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

(3) Bailyn, Bernard (2012-11-01). THE IDEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION   (indle Locations 431-432). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

(4) Bailyn, Bernard (2012-11-01). THE IDEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION  Kindle Locations 452-453). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

(5) Bailyn, Bernard (2012-11-01). THE IDEOLOGICAL ORIGINS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (Kindle Locations 435-437). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

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