The great influence of young women in the history of Revolution is most noted in the participation and works of Mercy Otis Warren. Mercy is hardly recognized in the 20th or 21st Centuries in any manner whatsoever yet she was significant in that from her youth through to the Constitutional period she was one of the guys. Without making this a pseudo-biography of Mercy, I will highlight a few points of her life and get to the chase of how she is an influencer and model for others in the theme of “People Are Policy’. I suggest that you reference the short biography on Mercy written in Wikipedia.
What I really appreciate about Mercy is that she was a close friend and colleague with Sam Adams along with her brother James. What a dynamic team they all made in fostering the Liberties of our Foundation. Mercy was a true activist and treated as an equal to her brother James, Sam Adams and her husband James Warren. “During the years before the American Revolution, Warren published poems and plays that attacked royal authority in Massachusetts and urged colonists to resist British infringements on colonial rights and liberties.[i]” She is a well noted Anti-federalist who penned the article titled, “Observations on the new Constitution, and on the Federal and State Conventions” 1788 by a Columbian Patriot [Mercy Otis Warren].
As an influencer with Sam Adams she helped to establish and foster the “Committees of Correspondence” writing that, “no single step contributed so much to cement the union of the colonies”. In the battle for true Liberty she once wrote, “Every domestic enjoyment depends on the unimpaired possession of civil and religious liberty”. Not only that, she was a “correspondent and advisor to many political leaders, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and especially John Adams, who became her literary mentor in the years leading to the Revolution. In a letter to James Warren, Adams wrote, “Tell your wife that God Almighty has entrusted her with the Powers for the good of the World, which, in the cause of his Providence, he bestows on few of the human race. That instead of being a fault to use them, it would be criminal to neglect them.”[ii]
What is most pressing that should be brought to the present time from this challenging contributor to the nations development? It may be her two volumes: “History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution interspersed with Biographical, Political and Moral Observations”. In the Forward to the published History, the author sets the work of Mercy in a manner that requires us in our present time to address what we are experiencing with Founders fervor and intent. The Forward comments: “Writing history was less a means of edification than a mode of exhortation. Narrative was a political and ethical performance, calculated to instill in a new generation a vigilance toward their liberties and to animate responsibility for their actions. History also provided an opportunity to define the terms—literally, the vocabulary—with which people could properly discuss politics and history.
In short, history was “philosophy teaching by examples,” as Lord Bolingbroke had written; it “inculcates images of virtue and vice,” and its proper task was to train people, especially young people, in “public and private virtue.” This was the eighteenth-century version of the classical “exemplary theory of history,” which swept the Revolutionary generation of historians and which accorded perfectly with Warren’s understanding of her proper role. If she frequently painted history in blacks and whites and with broad strokes, creating simple moral oppositions wherever possible, she did so in order to make utterly clear to the rising generation that the struggle never ended. She stated the lesson plainly near the end of the History. Once corruption begins among individuals, it will, left unchecked, become systemic. If that should ever happen in America, she exhorted, “let some unborn historian, in a far distant day, detail the lapse, and hold up the contrast between a simple, virtuous, and free people, and a degenerate, servile race of beings. . . .[iii]”
What Mercy brings to us in this history are the people who made policy and that policy matters as how a society will react if morality and virtue are void when true ideas of Liberty are also destroyed. The key points from this woman of the ages brings to us in her full work are as we just noted that: “Once corruption begins among individuals, it will, left unchecked, become systemic.” And as the Author of the Forward, Lester Cohen notes: “We read Warren in her History, constantly aware of the narrative voice that presents the world beyond the words. In doing so, we gain a purchase on the political, ethical, and philosophical assumptions that lie behind the language. Historical narrative thus becomes less a window than a mirror—a mirror that reflects its author’s values and expectations, and, if we read carefully, our own as well.[iv]”
The Mirror’s of History are before you so that you can become a part of the future which stands on moral principles, which hold the virtues of true Liberty, protected for posterity.
[i] Wikipedia contributors. “Mercy Otis Warren.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 10 May. 2017. Web. 25 May. 2017.
[iii] Volume 1 page 9
[iv] Volume 1 page 12