A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

For Teachers » Core Concepts

CONCEPT 9

Documents reflect the personalities, perspectives and agendas of their creators.

How does who I am influence what I say and how I act?

To understand a document fully, students must understand everything they can about the context of that document: the circumstances of the author, the nature of the audience, the situation in which the document was written. We can’t fully understand the significance of the Boston Massacre without understanding the contrasting approaches of cousins John and Samuel Adams. We can’t understand Boston’s leading position in resistance to Britain without understanding the tensions that existed between leading colonial figures. History doesn’t happen to people; people make history.

    GOALS:

    As a result of using this website, students will understand that...
  • the biases of the creator intentionally or unintentionally affect every document created
  • different creators will produce different accounts of the same event based on their own motivations, interpretations and perspectives
  • documents promoted for public consumption often promote a specific agenda

    OBJECTIVES:

    Students demonstrate their understanding of this concept by...
  • identifying pertinent documents:
    • finding at least two documents from the Coming of the American Revolution website
    • explaining how they illustrate this goal
  • interpreting the documents
    • conducting a Document Analysis (see Document Analysis Worksheet)
    • answering Questions to Consider writing and discussion prompts) at bottom of each document description
  • investigating the significance and interconnections of the documents
    • following one or more of the Further Exploration research assignments and project suggestions at bottom of each document description
    • drawing conclusions backed by evidence from documents and introductory essays
  • answering the following Framing Questions (drawn directly from the stated Goals above) based on those conclusions and that evidence collected from the documents:
    • How is “creator bias” reflected in any five documents that you select pertaining to one of the topical areas? Explain the bias for each and possible reasons for it?
    • How and why do the accounts differ for any one event you choose to select for one topical area? Use five specific document created by different people to answer this question
    • Compare a broadside or newspaper account of that same event with a private letter or journal account: what is the purpose of each?

Documents

The Sugar Act

"Our Trade is most Greviously Embarrassed"
Extract of a letter from one of the council of Boston, in New-England, to a merchant in London.
"Extract of a letter from one of the council of Boston, in New-England, to a merchant in London."
Article from page 2 of The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston-Newsletter, number 3143, 17 May 1764.

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"We … declare our just expectations"
Boston, May 28. At a Meeting of the Freeholders ...
"Boston, May 28. At a Meeting of the Freeholders ..."
Article from page 2 of The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News-Letter, Number 3145, 31 May 1764.

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Becoming the "richest people upon earth"
Americus (in the New-York Papers) writes ...
"Americus (in the New-York Papers) writes ..."
Article from page 2 of The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News-Letter, number 3150, 5 July 1764

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The "exclusive Right of the People"
Letter from Thomas Cushing to Jasper Mauduit, 17 November 1764
Letter from Thomas Cushing to Jasper Mauduit, 17 November 1764

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The Stamp Act

A Tax not too Burdensome
Letter from Thomas Whately to John Temple, 14 August 1764
Letter from Thomas Whately to John Temple, 14 August 1764

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"Reprinting" Virginia's Resolves
From the Newport Mercury. Newport, June 24. Extract of a Letter from Gentleman in Philadelphia ...
"From the Newport Mercury. Newport, June 24. Extract of a Letter from Gentleman in Philadelphia ..."
Article from page 2 of The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, Number 535, 1 July 1765

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A Call for a Unified Response
From the Providence Gazette Extraordinary. The following is said to be a copy of the Resolutions of the Congress held at New-York ...
"From the Providence Gazette Extraordinary. The following is said to be a copy of the Resolutions of the Congress held at New-York ..."
Article from page 3 of The Massachusetts Gazette, number 0, 20 March 1766

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An Effigy Swings and a House Crumbles
Letter from Cyrus Baldwin to Loammi Baldwin, 15 August 1765
Letter from Cyrus Baldwin to Loammi Baldwin, 15 August 1765

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The Art of Persuasion
From the New-York Gazette of Nov. 7. To the Printer ...
"From the New-York Gazette of Nov. 7. To the Printer ..."
Article from page 1 of The Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser, Number 431, 18 November 1765.

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Safety Comes First
Letter from Archibald Kennedy to Cadwallader Colden (retained copy), 2 November 1765, and letter Cadwallader Colden to Archibald Kennedy (copy), 2 November 1765
Letter from Archibald Kennedy to Cadwallader Colden (retained copy), 2 November 1765, and letter Cadwallader Colden to Archibald Kennedy (copy), 2 November 1765

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Prosperity the End; Protectionism the Means
Letter from James Murray to John Murray (letterbook copy), 13 November 1765
Letter from James Murray to John Murray (letterbook copy), 13 November 1765

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The Cost of Resistance

The Formation of the Sons of Liberty

"Liberty and no Stamp-Act"
By several Vessels from Charlestown, South Carolina ...
"By several Vessels from Charlestown, South Carolina ..."
Article from page 2 of the Supplement to the Massachusetts Gazette, 21 November 1765. (The two-page supplement was published the same day as the four-page The Massachusetts Gazette, Number 0.)

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"Conducted to the General Satisfaction of the Publick"
Letter from Henry Bass to Samuel P. Savage, 19 December 1765
Letter from Henry Bass to Samuel P. Savage, 19 December 1765

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The Badge of Slavery
Boston, February 24. Last Week was taken up ...
"Boston, February 24. Last Week was taken up ..."
Article from page 3 of The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, number 569, 24 February 1766

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The Townshend Acts

"the excessive use of foreign superfluities"
At a Meeting of the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, legally assembled at Faneuil-Hall, on Wednesday the 28th of October 1767
At a Meeting of the Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the Town of Boston, legally assembled at Faneuil-Hall, on Wednesday the 28th of October 1767

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"the cause of one is the cause of all"
Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the inhabitants of the British colonies ...
"Letters From a Farmer in Pennsylvania, to the inhabitants of the British colonies ..."
Article (Letter 1) from pages 1-2 of The Boston Chronicle, Volume 1, Number 1, 21 December 1767

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"a dangerous innovation"
From the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the inhabitants of the British Colonies ...
"From the Pennsylvania Chronicle. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the inhabitants of the British Colonies ..."
Article (Letter 2) from pages 9-11 of the Supplement to the Boston Chronicle, Volume 1, Number 1, 21 December 1767

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"Ladies of the first quality"
We hear that there was held two or three evenings ago, an assembly of Ladies ...
"We hear that there was held two or three evenings ago, an assembly of Ladies ..."
Article from page 2 of The Massachusetts Gazette Extraordinary, Number 3351, 24 December 1767

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The Liberty Song
The Liberty Song.
"The Liberty Song."
Article from page 346 of The Boston Chronicle, Volume 1, Number 38, 29 August - 5 September 1768

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"Deprived of the Councils of a General Assembly"
Boston, September 14, 1768. Gentlemen, You are already too well acquainted with the melancholly [sic] and very alarming circumstances to which this province, as well as America in general, is now reduced ...
Boston, September 14, 1768. Gentlemen, You are already too well acquainted with the melancholly [sic] and very alarming circumstances to which this province, as well as America in general, is now reduced ...

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Non-Consumption and Non-importation

"Save your Money and Save your Country"
Messi'rs Green & Russell. Please to insert the following, and you'll oblige one of your constant Readers.
"Messi'rs Green & Russell. Please to insert the following, and you'll oblige one of your constant Readers."
Article from page 2 of The Boston Post-Boy & Advertiser, Number 553, 16 November 1767

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The Politics of Tea
Messieurs Edes & Gill, Please to insert the following, Tea! How I shudder at thy fatal Stream!
"Messieurs Edes & Gill, Please to insert the following, Tea! How I shudder at thy fatal Stream!"
Article from page 1 of The Boston-Gazette, & Country Journal, Number 698, 15 August 1768

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Boycott the Brazen Head!
William Jackson, an Importer; at the Brazen Head
William Jackson, an Importer; at the Brazen Head

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Trade Violators Exposed!
Summary of the Cargo of the Snow Pittt [sic] ...
"Summary of the Cargo of the Snow Pittt [sic] ..."
List from page 1 of The Boston Chronicle, Number 120, 17-21 August 1769

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"any trifling package"
Letter from Thomas Robie to Richard Clarke & Sons, 13 January 1770
Letter from Thomas Robie to Richard Clarke & Sons, 13 January 1770

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The Boston Massacre

Preston Speaks Out
Case of Capt. Thomas Preston of the 29th Regiment.
"Case of Capt. Thomas Preston of the 29th Regiment."
Article from pages 1 and 2 of the Supplement to the Boston Evening-Post, Number 1813, 25 June 1770

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Tories Strike First
A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston in New England
A Fair Account of the Late Unhappy Disturbance at Boston in New England

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A Sinister Plot?
A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston...
A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston...

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A Bloody Massacre
The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regiment
The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston on March 5th 1770 by a party of the 29th Regiment

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A "Tragical Scene"
A Verse Occasioned by the late horrid Massacre in King-Street
A Verse Occasioned by the late horrid Massacre in King-Street

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An Eye for an Eye
On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers, Of the 5th of March, 1770
On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers, Of the 5th of March, 1770

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Justice Prevailed

The Formation of the Committees of Correspondence

A Committee is Born
Letter from Samuel Adams to James Warren, 4 November 1772
Letter from Samuel Adams to James Warren, 4 November 1772

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In Boston's Footsteps
Letter from Samuel Adams to James Warren, 27 November 1772
Letter from Samuel Adams to James Warren, 27 November 1772

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"Saviors of America"
Letter from Thomas Young to Hugh Hughes, 21 December 1772
Letter from Thomas Young to Hugh Hughes, 21 December 1772

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The Boston Tea Party

"You Are ... Political Bombadiers"
The following was dispersed in Hand Bills among the worthy Citizens of Philadelphia ...
"The following was dispersed in Hand Bills among the worthy Citizens of Philadelphia ..."
Article from page 2 of The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, Number 968, 25 October 1773

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The "True Sons of Liberty" Weigh In
Tradesmen's Protest against the Proceedings of the Merchants ...
Tradesmen's Protest against the Proceedings of the Merchants ...

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An Intrepid Exertion of Popular Power
342 Chests of Tea into the Sea
Boston, December 20. On Tuesday last the body of the people ...
"Boston, December 20. On Tuesday last the body of the people ..."
Article from page 3 of The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, Number [976], 20 December 1773

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Bostonians, Keep up your Courage
Tea, Destroyed by Indians
Tea, Destroyed by Indians

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The Coercive Acts

"we suffer in the common cause"
Gentlemen, The evils which we have long foreseen are now come upon this town and province ...
Gentlemen, The evils which we have long foreseen are now come upon this town and province ...

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"animosities run higher than ever"
Letter from John Andrews to William Barrell, 12 June 1774
Letter from John Andrews to William Barrell, 12 June 1774

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At a Town Meeting in Braintree
Thursday, June 30. Boston. Whereas scruples have arisen ...
"Thursday, June 30. Boston. Whereas scruples have arisen ..."
Article from page 3 of the Massachusetts Spy, Number 178, 30 June 1774

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An Act to Enforce Obedience
From the Supplement to the Pennsylvania Journal, June 29 All of the Printers ...
"From the Supplement to the Pennsylvania Journal, June 29 All of the Printers ..."
Article from page 2 of The Boston-Gazette and Country Journal, Number 1004, 11 July 1774

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Paying for the Tea
To the Printers of the Massachusetts Gazette ...
"To the Printers of the Massachusetts Gazette ..."
Article from page 2 of The Massachusetts Gazette: And The Boston Weekly News-Letter, Number 3693, 14 July 1774

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The First Continental Congress

Spirited Debates
"Arbitrary and Tyrannical Schemes"
A Dialogue, Between a Southern Delegate and His Spouse, on His Return from the Grand Continental Congress: A Fragment, Inscribed to the Married Ladies of America by their Most Sincere, and Affectionate Friend, and Servant, Mary V.V.
A Dialogue, Between a Southern Delegate and His Spouse, on His Return from the Grand Continental Congress: A Fragment, Inscribed to the Married Ladies of America by their Most Sincere, and Affectionate Friend, and Servant, Mary V.V.

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Colonists Rally Around Congress
A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress ...
A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress ...

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Lexington and Concord

A Powder Alarm
John Rowe diary 11, 1-4 September 1774, pages 1901-1902
John Rowe diary 11, 1-4 September 1774, pages 1901-1902

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"Heaven avert the Storm"
Letter from Hannah Fayerweather Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 27 September 1774
Letter from Hannah Fayerweather Winthrop to Mercy Otis Warren, 27 September 1774

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Sketches of the Countryside
General Gage's Instructions, of 22d February 1775
General Gage's Instructions, of 22d February 1775

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Sounding the Alarm
Thomas Boynton journal, 19 April- 26 August 1775
Thomas Boynton journal, 19 April- 26 August 1775

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Bloody Butchery
A Bloody Butchery, by the British Troops; or the Runaway Fight of the Regulars
A Bloody Butchery, by the British Troops; or the Runaway Fight of the Regulars

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"Defend our Wives & Children"
In Congress, at Watertown, April 30, 1775
In Congress, at Watertown, April 30, 1775

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Testimony of the Midnight Rider
Paul Revere's deposition, fair copy, circa 1775
Paul Revere's deposition, fair copy, circa 1775

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The Militia Pleads Innocent
A Narrative, of the Excursion and Ravages of the King's Troops Under the Command of General Gage, on the nineteenth of April, 1775: Together with the Depositions ...
A Narrative, of the Excursion and Ravages of the King's Troops Under the Command of General Gage, on the nineteenth of April, 1775: Together with the Depositions ...

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The Second Continental Congress

"the die Is cast"
Letter (draft) from Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, [3] February 1775
Letter (draft) from Abigail Adams to Mercy Otis Warren, [3] February 1775

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A Spirited Manifesto
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in General Congress at Philadelphia
A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in General Congress at Philadelphia

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"Simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense"
Letter from John Adams to William Tudor, 12 April 1776
Letter from John Adams to William Tudor, 12 April 1776

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"The divine secret of politicks"
Thoughts on Government: Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies
Thoughts on Government: Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies

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Battle of Bunker Hill

"Masters of these heights"
A Plan of the Battle, on Bunkers Hill
A Plan of the Battle, on Bunkers Hill

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"orders to march"
Letter from William Prescott to John Adams, 25 August 1775
Letter from William Prescott to John Adams, 25 August 1775

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"no refreshment"
Letter from John Bromfield to Jeremiah Powell, 21 June 1775
Letter from John Bromfield to Jeremiah Powell, 21 June 1775

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"Charlestown’s dismal fate"
An Elegiac Poem, Composed On The Never-To-Be-Forgotten Terrible And Bloody Battle Fought At An Intrenchment On Bunker-Hill
An Elegiac Poem, Composed On The Never-To-Be-Forgotten Terrible And Bloody Battle Fought At An Intrenchment On Bunker-Hill

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"unitermitted danger"
Letter (draft) from John Quincy Adams to Joseph Sturge, March 1846
Letter (draft) from John Quincy Adams to Joseph Sturge, March 1846

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"heavy and severe fire"
Letter from J. Waller to unidentified recipient, 21 June 1775
Letter from J. Waller to unidentified recipient, 21 June 1775

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"The Bravery of the King’s Troops"
Boston, 26th of June, 1775: This Town was alarmed on the 17th Instant ...
Boston, 26th of June, 1775: This Town was alarmed on the 17th Instant ...

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"Bravery and Resolution"
Cambridge, June 22. Last Friday Night a Detachment from our Army ...
"Cambridge, June 22. Last Friday Night a Detachment from our Army ..."
Article from page 2 of The New-England Chronicle or the Essex Gazette, Volume VII, Number 360, 15-22 June 1775

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"the arrows of death"
Letter from Peter Brown to Sarah Brown, 25 June 1775
Letter from Peter Brown to Sarah Brown, 25 June 1775

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"the tears of the multitudes"
"poor and ignorant"
Battle of Bunker Hill: This Song was composed by the British after the engagement
Battle of Bunker Hill: This Song was composed by the British after the engagement

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Washington Takes Command of the Continental Army

"Preservation of Order and Good Government"
Proclamation by General William Howe (manuscript copy), 28 October 1775
Proclamation by General William Howe (manuscript copy), 28 October 1775

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"Snow too deep for the Cannon"
Henry Knox diary, 20 November 1775 - 13 January 1776
Henry Knox diary, 20 November 1775 - 13 January 1776

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"Shot & Shells thrown … into Boston"
Jeduthan Baldwin journal, 8 December 1775-14 March 1776
Jeduthan Baldwin journal, 8 December 1775-14 March 1776

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Declarations of Independence

"No Alternative Left"
Williamsburgh (Virginia) May 17 ...
"Williamsburgh (Virginia) May 17 ..."
Article from page 1 of The Boston-Gazette and Country Journal, Number 2001, 24 June 1776

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"For a Pencil"
"Cheers which rended the air"