Betsy Ross Flag - Network Design

Protocols of Liberty: Communication, Innovation, and teh American Revolution [Book Banner from Title Page Image] Betsy Ross Flag - Network Design
William Warner [Author Name]
The University of Chicago Press [Publisher Name]
Overview [Link]
Introduction [Link]
Chapter 1 [Link]
Chapter 2 [Link]
Chapter 3 [Link]
Chapter 4 [Link]
Chapter 5 [Link]
Chapter 6 [Link]
Conclusion [Link]


The Invention of the Boston Committee of
Correspondence and the Popular Declaration

In fall of 1772, Boston Whigs faced a problem that they viewed as systemic. Previous efforts to use the one officially-sanctioned method of communication with the royal authorities in Whitehall or Westminster--the petition to authority to the King or Parliament--had failed. Many Whigs (like Samuel Adams and Isaiah Thomas) insisted that this vein of communication had been exhausted. This chapter describes the two politically consequential communication innovations that resulted from this impasse: the town of Boston’s institution, on November 2, 1772, of a standing committee of correspondence and that committee’s development of a new genre of political communication, the popular declaration. The chapter considers what I am calling "the Boston declaration" in several different ways: 1) as replacing the traditional petition to authority, which was addressed upward with humility to a person or institution of authority, with the public declaration, which was addressed outward to the towns of Massachusetts and ‘the world;’ 2) as articulating an expansive republican concept of liberty (what Quentin Skinner describes as the "neo-Roman theory of liberty"); and finally, 3) as a material text that serves as a political pamphlet, as a script for oral performance, and as a letter that invites the towns of Massachusetts into an open-ended two way "correspondence" with the Boston committee. This chapter argues that the communication dynamic set going by the Boston committee’s publication marks the beginning of the American Revolution.


Features of a Felicitous Petition
Faneuil Hall: the site of the Regular Meetings of the Boston Committee of Correspondences

Faneuil Hall

In delibrating patiently upon vexed political questions and in communicating their positions forcefully, Boston Whigs benefited from their possession of their own secure 'home.' In 1747, the town of Boston took possession of a fine new building, Faneuil Hall, named after its donor, Peter Faneuil. Built in the same brick Queen Anne style and nearly identical size to the Townhouse, Faneuil Hall served three purposes that enhanced the greatness and autonomy of the town. It housed a large well-regulated market (on its first floor), a large hall for Boston town meetings (on its second floor), and provided spaces for the town Selectmens’ meetings and the meetings of the Boston Artillery Company (on the third floor). It is from this building that many of the political initiatives of the Boston Whigs were planned and put into effect. The regular meeting place of the Boston Committee of Correspondence--on Tuesday evenings between 5 and 9PM--took place in the selectmen's chambers, which are visible in this illustration as 2 of the 4 dormer windows.
Faneuil Hall, 1789 (From the Massachusetts Magazine)
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