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By Nancy L. Rhoden & Ian K. Steele

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Forster, who supplies the title for this series and this volume, might have been pleased to make the introductions. In these diverse biographies, modern readers can find the opinions of contemporaries on the causes of the American Revolution, its meaning, and its legacies. Particularly evident are dramatically different views on many revolutionary values, including liberty, independence, and freedom. By examining these biographies, can we discern the “ideological origins” of the American Revolution, those central ideas that launched and sustained the Revolutionary War?

Benezet was primarily addressing English-speaking audiences, and he paid special attention to the English colonies of Jamaica and Barbados. He described the white indentured servants of Barbados and argued that Europeans were as suitable as Africans for labor in the tropics. He quoted the rector of St. Lucy Parish in Barbados, who believed that if there were any inadequacies among blacks in the arts or in the “common affairs” of life, it was attributable to lack of education and the “depression of their spirits by slavery”21 rather than to any lack of natural ability.

Brookes, Friend Anthony Benezet (London, 1937), 5. 2. Anthony Benezet, Short Observations on Slavery, Introductory to Some Extracts from the Writing of the Abbé Raynal on that Important Subject (Philadelphia, 1781), 11–12. 3. Jean R. Soderlund, Quakers and Slavery: A Divided Spirit (Princeton, NJ, 1985), 17. 4. , 18. 5. Anthony Benezet, A Caution and Warning to Great Britain and Her Colonies in a Short Representation of the Calamitous State of the Enslaved Negroes in the British Dominions. Collected from Various Authors, and Submitted to the Serious Consideration of All, and More Especially of Those in Power (Philadelphia, 1766), 16.

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