Americana

>With a nod to our current exhibits on Franklin, I hasten to resume blogging–many apologies for the long (10-day) silence; the press of events, as it were, quite overwhelmed me.

I notice in a recent catalog of an eminent antiquarian dealer a previously unknown letter by Franklin, dated May 7, 1773 and addressed to Abbe Morrellet. In this two-page letter (which anyone with $75,000 can have for their very own), Franklin expresses his growing concern over threats to American liberties. He distrusts the British, loves the French, and shares his thoughts on the subject: “I thank you for your caution against that sommeil [sleep] that usually precedes slavery. We Americans are at present much awake and upon our Guard, and I think we shall long preserve our liberties. Where they are no longer so, they do not deserve it.”

Along similar lines, just this afternoon I discovered a wonderful piece of Americana, printed in London over a year later. Admittedly incomplete, our 35 issues (of 91) of The Crisis, dated January to September 1775, is a find indeed. This weekly periodical, according to John Russell Bartlett, “is of great rarity, [and] contains a remarkable collection of papers attacking the ministry and the British government in terms of the greatest severity. Indeed, one can hardly believe that, in time of war, a publication of such a character would be tolerated.”

According to one reference, copies were burned by order of a vote of the House of Commons, by the hangman no less. Not too many survive (perhaps 30 libraries worldwide have copies in various states of completeness). Our first issue is the true first (Friday, January 20, 1775); it was re-issued the next day, on the 21st, presumably because it had sold out so quickly.

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