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Empire and Nation

Forrest McDonald

Publication Year: 2012

Two series of letters that have been described as "the wellsprings of nearly all ensuing debate on the limits of governmental power in the United States" are collected in this volume. The writings include Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania—the "farmer" being the gifted and courageous statesman John Dickinson and Letters from the Federal Farmer—he being the redoubtable Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. Together, Dickinson and Lee addressed the whole remarkable range of issues provoked by the crisis of British policies in North America, a crisis from which a new nation emerged from an overreaching empire. Dickinson wrote his Letters in opposition to the Townshend Acts by which the British Parliament in 1767 proposed to reorganize colonial customs. The publication of the Letters was, as Philip Davidson believes, "the most brilliant literary event of the entire Revolution." Forrest McDonald adds, "Their impact and their circulation were unapproached by any publication of the revolutionary period except Thomas Paine's Common Sense." Lee wrote in 1787 as an Anti-Federalist, and his Letters gained, as Charles Warren has noted, "much more widespread circulation and influence" than even the heralded Federalist Papers. Both sets of Letters deal, McDonald points out, "with the same question: the never-ending problem of the distribution of power in a broad and complex federal system." The Liberty Fund second edition includes a new preface by the editor in which he responds to research since the original edition of 1962.

Forrest McDonald is Professor of History at the University of Alabama and author also of E Pluribus Unum, among other works.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition

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pp. vii-viii

A minor problem arises in connection with the decision to reissue the classic essays in this volume, one that at first blush may seem not minor at all. Richard Henry Lee's authorship of the Letters from the Federal Farmer has been questioned. It had, indeed, been challenged even before my first edition appeared in 1962. William W Crosskey, an erratic and controversial constitutional historian, ...

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pp. ix-xvi

At first glance, it might seem that John Dickinson's Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania and Richard Henry Lee's Letters from the Federal Farmer have little in common beyond being epistles from negative-minded agrarians. Two decades and a Revolution separated their publication: Dickinson's Letters were published late in 1767, Lee's late in 1787. ...

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Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies

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pp. 1-86

My dear Countrymen,
I am a Farmer, settled, after a variety of fortunes, near the banks of the river Delaware, in the province of Pennsylvania. I received a liberal education, and have been engaged in the busy scenes of life; but am now convinced, that a man may be as happy without bustle, as with it. My farm is small; my servants are few, and good; I have a little money at interest; ...

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Observations Leading to a Fair Examination of the System of Goverment Proposed by the Late Convention; and to Several Essential and Necessary Alterations of it. In a number of Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican

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pp. 87-175

October 8, 1787.
Dear Sir, My letters to you last winter, on the subject of a well-balanced national government for the United States, were the result of free enquiry; when I passed from that subject to enquiries relative to our commerce, revenues, past administration, etc. I anticipated the anxieties I feel, on carefully examining the plan of government proposed by the convention. ...

A Note on the Type

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E-ISBN-13: 9781614878315
E-ISBN-10: 1614878315
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865972032

Page Count: 190
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None

OCLC Number: 62320131
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Empire and Nation

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Causes.
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- America -- Administration.
  • Great Britain -- Colonies -- America -- Economic policy.
  • United States. Constitution.
  • United States. Constitutional Convention (1787).
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