Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 3: The Word Rebel

     On February 3, 1776, Oliver Wolcott wrote to Samuel Lyman that King George III’s ministers “intend to offer special Pardons upon the Points of Bayonets, but I think We are not well disposed to receive their Graces in that Manner.” 
     Wolcott remarked, “I think the Word Rebel is not made quite so free a use of by their High Mightinesses of late but I more fear their Temporary Moderation than their Arms.  Common Sense Operates pritty well, but all Men have not common Sense.”

     In the course of America’s War of Independence, American Revolutionaries realized that cruelty by British forces and menacing language from British leaders convinced many Americans to support the efforts of the Continental Congress.  The 
Temporary Moderation Wolcott observed might reverse the momentum toward independence. The term rebel was an offensive word for an illegal combatant.  
    Thomas Paine wrote the pamphlet Common Sense to encourage Americans to declare their independence.  As other Americans did in 1776, Wolcott seems to be using “Common Sense” as a synonym for independence.  
     Oliver Wolcott was a Connecticut delegate to the Second Continental Congress.  Wolcott's son of the same name served as United States Secretary of the Treasury from from 1795 to 1800.  For more on Connecticut lawyer and later Massachusetts state legislator Samuel Lyman, please visit the entry on Lyman at Wikipedia.  
     For the full text of Wolcott's letter, please visit the Library of Congress web site, A Century of Law Making for a New Nation: U. S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1785 and locate Oliver Wolcott to Samuel Lyman, Philadelphia, 3 February 1776, in Paul H. Smith, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789, 26 vols. (Washington: Library of Congress, 1976-2000): volume 3: 191.  
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