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Coming of the American Revolution: Document Viewer
Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

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Boston, April 20th, 1773. Sir, The efforts made by the legislative [sic] of this province ...

Boston, April 20th, 1773. Sir, The efforts made by the legislative [sic] of this province ...

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"divine spirit of freedom"
In March 1773 The Virginia House of Burgesses proposes the creation of an intercolonial committee of correspondence. The Massachusetts Assembly seconds Virginia's proposal and creates a committee of its own in May. Samuel Adams—an active member of the Boston Committee of Correspondence—becomes chair of the Massachusetts committee. As colonists and committees debate the notions of political freedom and slavery, their discussions only occasionally address the literal slavery of Africans and others throughout the colonies. In April, four slaves in Massachusetts, with possible assistance from Samuel Adams, draft a circular letter to the representatives of the General Court. Will their plea convince colonial leaders that the "divine spirit of freedom" should extend to all human beings?

Questions to Consider

1. In the second paragraph, the authors compare Spanish policy with English policy. Which policy do they think is best? For what reasons?

2. According to the last paragraph, what are the authors ultimately hoping to do? How?

Further Exploration

3. Select another petition from this website (link to examples here) and compare the language. What are some of the words and phrases used in both documents?

4. Imagine that you would like to petition an authority figure (like a parent or teacher) for a particular privilege like a later curfew or a longer lunch period. Select an issue and draft a persuasive petition. What arguments will you make? What references will you use to strengthen your argument?