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One of the Earliest Announcements of Independence
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A bound volume containing a remarkable issue—one of the most historic magazines ever printed.

July 2.  This day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the UNITED COLONIES FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.

DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. The Pennsylvania Magazine; Or American Monthly Museum for January-July, 1776. Philadelphia: Robert Aitken. [5]-344pp.

Inventory #21422.99       Price: $48,000

These issues are the final seven from the only American magazine published in America during the Revolutionary crisis. With maps and other rare woodcut illustrations.

As the publisher reports, the June issue was slightly delayed due to a paper shortage. “To our Correspondents. Hermes came too late for insertion this month.  Our customers will excuse us, though the day of publication be sometimes delayed: The great difficulty we have procuring printing paper, renders it impossible for us to publish always on the first Wednesday of the month [July 3].”

This delay would have left just enough time for the last-minute addition of one of the very first reports of Independence. It was likely published on July 4 to 6; had it been any later, it would have been able to include or at least mention the full text of the July 4th Declaration of Independence (which appears in the July issue, published in the first few days of August.)

The full text of the Declaration appears on pp. 328-330, followed by the Constitution of New Jersey approved July 2, the Constitution of Virginia approved July 5, and a summary of the Constitution of Connecticut. There are also military notices from Canada, South Carolina, and Washington at New York. Other highlights include an address from the House of Commons to the King of England lamenting “the condition of our unhappy fellow subjects in America; seduced from their allegiance by the greatest misrepresentations” (February), a graphic account of the siege and capture of Boston by the Continental Army, accompanied by General Washington’s letter to Brig. General Stirling that “we are now in full possession” of the town (March), Phillis Wheatley’s Ode to Washington (April), a report on the Virginia House dissolving itself and instructing its delegates in the Continental Congress to vote for independence, as well as a resolution issued from Congress calling for each colony that has yet to do so to separate itself from England and form its own state government (May).

Including two in-text engravings, and one folding map, “A New Map of North and South Carolina and Georgia” with old repairs and paper loss to the Bottom outer edge of the map. Lacks the four engraved plates and one of the engraved maps. No frontal material was issued for this volume, hence there never were pages 1-4, and this volume starts with page 5, as issued.


Condition: Later three-quarter calf in antique style, with contemporary marbled boards. Toning and scattered old foxing and dampstains. In the January 1776 issue, pages 5-6, the cover/contents page of and the Meteorological Diary are supplied in facsimile. In the July 1776 issue, the Declaration pages (p328-30) are fine, but the final pages (p343-44) are supplied in facsimile.


Historical Background

Conceived by printer and bookseller Robert Aitken, best known for his work for the Continental Congress, the Pennsylvania Magazine was launched in January 1775. Soon enough, Aitken found himself needing an editor. For £50 a year, he hired Thomas Paine, who had only arrived in America in December 1774. Paine served as editor from February through July or August 1775. While serving as editor, Paine also became a major contributor, sometimes under the pseudonym “Atlanticus,” and at others with no by-line. He wrote prolifically on many topics, including descriptions of inventions, and most of the magazine’s revolutionary-era political material. According to John Tebbel, in The American Magazine: A Compact History (New York, 1969), “Paine (and Aitken) did not permit The Pennsylvania Magazine to be simply a propaganda organ. It contained a wide variety of other pieces, and enough original material to make it outstanding among magazines of the century.”


Selected contents

January 1776 (pp. 5-52)
Eyewitness account of the Burning of Norfolk, Virginia. “The cannonade of the town began about a quarter after three yesterday, from upwards of one hundred pieces of cannon, and continued till near ten at night, without intermission... Under cover of their guns they landed and set fire to the town in several places near the water, though our men strove to prevent them all in their power, but the houses near the water being chiefly of wood; they took fire immediately, and the fire spread with amazing rapidity.”More on Tory Lord Dunmore’s treacherous attack.

The Attack on Quebec is reported in two pages of letters from Canada, reporting on the action and listing casualties. Gen. Richard Montgomery was killed in the attack, and Benedict Arnold’s leg was splintered by a shot.

Report from Long Island that Col. Heard and a detachment of minutemen captured some of the principal Tories in Queen’s County, and put the others to flight.

“Dr. Benjamin Church’s Traitorous Letter to an Officer in Boston.”

Even though they had formed the resolution, as I before hinted, of fortifying Bunker’s hill; which, together with the cowardice of the clumsy Col Gerrish, and Col. Scammon, were the lucky occasion of their defeat.  This affair happened before my return from Philadelphia. We lost 165 killed then, and since dead of their wounds: 120 now lay wounded, their chief will recover: They boast you have 1400 killed and wounded in that action. You say the rebels lost 1500, I suppose with equal truth. The people of Connecticut are raving in the cause of liberty... Make use of every precaution, or I perish.” (p49)

Dr. Benjamin Church (1734-1778) was the Chief Physician and Director General of the Continental Army’s Medical Service from July to October 1775. He was prominent in the Boston’s Sons of Liberty movement before the war. Through the interception of the letter published here, Church was found to have been sending secret information to General Thomas Gage, the British commander, and was tried and convicted of “communicating with the enemy.”

Selections from the antislavery poem, The Dying Negro, first published in 1773, by English writers Thomas Day and John Bicknell (36-38).

Curst be the winds, and curst the tides that bore

These European robbers to our shore!

O be that hour involv’d in endless night,

When first their streamers met my wond’ring sight!” (p36)

Historical Background

The Dying Negro was one of the earliest direct literary attacks on slavery and the slave trade. This review, including excerpts from the powerful poem, marked an important event in American antislavery history. English attorneys John Bicknell (1746-1787) and Thomas Day (1748-1789) first wrote The Dying Negro in 1773, based on a recent incident in London. A black servant of a Captain Ordington had intended to marry a white fellow-servant, but he was detained on Ordington’s ship in the Thames. Faced with being sold into servitude in the Americas, the slave shot himself.

This poignant poem gave voice to the frustrations of English abolitionists over the lax enforcement of the ruling by Lord Mansfield in a case brought by abolitionist Granville Sharp. Although it did not end slavery in England, Mansfield’s ruling in Somerset v. Stewart (1772) declared that the common law of England and Wales did not recognize slavery and prohibited anyone from removing a person against his or her will. This poem illustrated precisely that fate in the form of a suicide note from a black servant to his intended wife, faced with the prospect of being transported to the Americas to be sold as a slave. It expresses his final thoughts before he died, from his capture on the coast of Africa to his years of servitude, the love he found for a fellow servant, the prospect of being separated from her, and his desire to be remembered.

Bicknell and Day expanded and revised The Dying Negro into a second edition in 1774, and Day added a long introduction dedicating the poem to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Bicknell and Day prepared a third revised edition published in 1775. The text reviewed in The Pennsylvania Magazine is likely the second edition, as the selections differ from the revised third edition. The review includes approximately one quarter of the text of the full poem.


February 1776 (pp. 55-104)

House of Commons Address to the King: “Permit us, Sir, to assure your Majesty, that we have long lamented the condition of our unhappy fellow-subjects in America; seduced from their allegiance, by the grossest misrepresentations, and the wicked and most insidious pretences, they have been made the instruments of the ambition and traiterous designs of those dangerous men, who have led them step by step to the standard of rebellion, who have now assumed the powers of sovereign authority, which they exercise in the most despotic and arbitrary manner, over the persons and properties of this deluded people.” (p91)

General Schuyler’s account of this expedition to Tryon County.” More than nine pages on Schuyler’s movements in New York’s Mohawk Valley, and his report of a speech delivered by a deputation of Mohawks to him in Schenectady. (p92-104)

The Mohawks said, “We beg of you, brothers, to remember the engagement which was made with the Twelve United Colonies at our interview last summer, as we then engaged to open the path of peace, and to keep it undefiled from blood.... You assured us, brothers, that if any were found in our neighborhood inimical to us, that you would consider them as enemies.” (p93)

Schuyler responded, “Brothers, in a little time we may be called upon to go and fight against our enemies to the eastward, who are employed by the King’s evil counsellors, and can you think it prudent that we should leave a set of people, who are our enemies, in any part of the country, in such a situation as to be able to destroy our wives and children, and burn our houses in our absence? Would you leave your wives and children in such a situation?” (p96)

Historical Background

On December 30, 1775, the Continental Congress ordered General Philip Schuyler to go to Tryon County in northern New York to pacify the area, which was then under the influence of loyalist baronet, Sir John Johnson. Working with local patriot militia, Schuyler made a treaty with Native Americans in the area and disarmed Johnson’s loyalists in January 1776. By mid-1776, most of the loyalists in Tryon County had fled to Canada. The Mohawks were one of the four Iroquois nations that allied with the British during the American Revolutionary War.

Includes “Method of Manufacturing Gun-Powder,” an excerpt from a recently published Chemical Dictionary. (p68-69)


March 1776 (pp. 105-152)
The Siege and Capture of Boston in lengthy action report:

Cambridge, March 6. The Continental army, assisted by a large body of militia, are carrying on the siege of Boston with great vigour....

On Tuesday the whole army were assembled at their proper posts, to act as circumstances required.  It was expected that Gen. Howe would send out such force as he would judge competent to dislodge our men from Dorchester hill; if he had done so, we were prepared to push into Boston from Cambridge with 4000 men.... Our works on Dorchester hill was by this time in such great forwardness that they could not attack them with any probability of success; so they returned to Boston.... we can plainly discover, they are now dismantling their fortifications, and in getting ready to go off. Next day a flag came to the lines, and delivered a petition from the Select men of Boston, with the consent of Gen. Robinson, to Gen. Washington, praying that he would not destroy the town.” (p148)

General Washington’s letter to Brig. Gen. Lord Sterling announces the British have departed Boston: “I have the pleasure to inform you, that in the morning of the 17th inst. Gen. Howe, with his army, abandoned the town of Boston without destroying it, an event of much importance, which must be heard with great satisfaction; and that we are now in full possession.” (p148-49)

Extract of a letter from Brig. Gen. James Moore on the early Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge near Wilmington, North Carolina, where patriots defeated Scottish loyalists early in the war. (p149)

The complete Continental Congress Resolution to outfit armed vessels to prey on British shipping:

Whereas the petitions of these United Colonies to the King for the redress of great and manifold grievances have not only been rejected, but treated with scorn and contempt; and the opposition to designs evidently formed to reduce them to a state of servile subjection, and their necessary defence against hostile forces actually employed to subdue them, declared rebellion: And whereas an unjust war hath been commenced against them, which the commanders of the British fleets and armies have prosecuted and still continue to prosecute with their utmost vigor and in a cruel manner, wasting, spoiling, and destroying the country, burning houses and defenceless towns....

Resolved, That the Inhabitants of these Colonies be permitted to fit out armed vessels to cruise on the enemies of these United Colonies.” (p150)

List of officers chosen to lead the Pennsylvania Regiments against the Redcoats. (p152)


April 1776 (pp. 153-200)

Slave Poet Phillis Wheatley’s letter and poem to General Washington on his selection as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army.

Such, and so many, moves the warrior’s train.

In bright array they seek the work of war,

Where high unfurl’d the ensign waves in air.

Shall I to Washington their praise recite?

Enough thou know’st them in the fields of fight.

Thee, first in peace and honors—we demand

The grace and glory of thy martial band.

Fam’d for thy valour, for thy virtues more,

Hear every tongue thy guardian aid implore!


Proceed, great chief, with virtue on thy side,

Thy ev’ry action let the goddess guide.

A crown, a mansion, and a throne that shine,

With gold unfading, Washington! be thine.”(p193)

The complete printing of Phillis Wheatley’s poem to General George Washington, including her letter of introduction dated October 26, 1775. Washington was so moved by the gesture that he invited Phillis to meet him at his camp in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which she apparently did in March 1776 (Washington’s original letter to Wheatley is housed in the Library of Congress Collection). The letter and poem are also important as documentation of Wheatley’s strong feelings for the American cause against the British—again another major contribution of one of the most prominent African Americans during the Revolutionary War era.

The letter of the introduction reads, in full:


I have taken the freedom to address your Excellency in the enclosed poem, and entreat your acceptance, though I am not insensible of its inaccuracies. Your being appointed by the Grand Continental Congress to be Generalissimo of the Armies of North America, together with the fame of your virtues, excite sensations not easy to suppress. Your generosity, therefore, I presume, will pardon the attempt. Wishing your Excellency all possible success in the great cause you are so generously engaged in, I am,

Your Excellency’s most obedient humble servant,

Phillis Wheatley.

Providence, Oct. 26, 1775.

His Excellency Gen. Washington.  (p193)

Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784) was born in West Africa and sold into slavery at the age of seven or eight and transported to North America. The Wheatley family of Boston bought her and taught her to read and write. They also encouraged her poetry when they recognized her talent. In 1773, she became the first African American woman to publish a book of poetry, her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, and she was emancipated soon afterward. She married in 1778, but her husband was imprisoned for debt in 1784, and she fell into poverty and died of illness later that year.

The Address of the Hon. Council and House of Representatives, to his Excellency George Washington, Esq.; General and Commander-in-Chief of the Forces of the United Colonies.” The address concludes, “may future generations, in the peaceful enjoyment of that freedom, the exercise of which your sword shall have established, raise the richest and most lasting monuments to the name of Washington!”  With Washington’s reply. (p194-95)

Bunker Hill Aftermath - “The body of Major General Warren was found about three feet underground on Bunker’s hill. It was afterwards carried to Boston, and on the 8th instant was re-interred with all the honours due to his rank.” (p195)

On April 8, one thousand Continental troops take possession of Governor’s Island and New York City began to fortify “in the strongest manner, and is under the regulations of a garrisoned town.” (p196)

The large fold-out map of the Chesapeake Bay area has been removed.

South Carolina appoints John Rutledge and others as delegates to Congress, and Georgia chooses Button Gwinnet and others. (p196)

Charleston and Savannah are fortified against British naval attacks. (p196)

On March 6, the Continental Congress passed a series of resolutions including,

Resolved, That no slaves be imported into any of the Thirteen United Colonies.” (p198)

Much more war news and proclamations of the Continental Congress in this historic issue.


May 1776 (pp. 201-248)

Independence is Coming
The Virginia House of Burgesses dissolves itself, and the convention votes for independence. An historic report from Williamsburg, then the capital of Virginia, states, “Forty-five members of the House of Burgesses met at the capitol, pursuant to their last adjournment; but it being their opinion, that the people could not now be legally represented according to the ancient constitution, which has been subverted by the King, Lords, and Commons of Great Britain, and consequently dissolved, they unanimously dissolved themselves accordingly... May 8. On Wednesday last, the Hon. Convention of this colony, came to the unanimous resolution or [of]giving instruction to our Delegates in Congress at Philadelphia, to propose a final separation of these Colonies from Great Britain, by declaring them free and independant states.” (p245-46)

Another historic report: “The Conventions of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New-York, the Assembly of Massachusett’s Bay and Connecticut, &c. have expressed similar resolutions with the Convention of Virginia.” (p246) The Continental Congress calls for each colony that has yet to do so, to separate itself from England and form its own state government. The full Resolution signed, in type by John Hancock. (p247)

The armed Continental schooner Franklin captures a large British ship carrying a huge stockpile of arms, ammunition, and supplies for the British Redcoats. (p245)

The King makes a deal with Prussia for thousands of Hessian soldiers for America. (p244-45)

A nine-page speech in the House of Commons by Gov. George Johnstone regarding the rights of Americans, unjust taxes, representation, the mismanagement of negotiations by the British, etc. (p235-44)

George Johnstone (1730-1787) was an officer of the Royal Navy who served as the first governor of West Florida from 1763 to 1767. Elected to Parliament in 1768, he opposed Lord North’s policies in America. He opposed the 1773 Tea Act, the closing of the port of Boston and the Quebec Act. He also opposed the slave trade. He felt that sending troops to America would be fruitless. In 1778, he served as a member of the abortive Carlisle Peace Commission, before returning to the Navy in 1779.


June 1776 (pp. 249-296)

Congress Declares Independence on July 2nd!

July 2. This day the Hon. Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.” (p296)

To our CORRESPONDENTS.  Hermes came too late for insertion this month.  Our customers will excuse us, though the day of publication be sometimes delayed: The great difficulty we have procuring printing paper, renders it impossible for us to publish always on the first Wednesday of the month.” (p296) Thus, this notice became one of the first reports of Independence in any publication. (The Pennsylvania Evening Post printed the resolution on the night of July 2; we don’t know of any other publication at the time.)

A description of a method of making paper, with the preface, “As Paper is become an article of considerable importance and scarcity, the following account of the manner of making paper in Japan, of the barks of shrubs and trees, may not be unacceptable to the public. From this hint, perhaps, some American artists may discover a similar method of manufacturing that useful commodity.” (p259-62)

The colony of South Carolina breaks away from Britain and establishes its own government - five full pages. “South Carolina In Congress, Whereas the British Parliament, claiming of late years a right to bind the North-American Colonies by law, in all cases whatsoever, have enacted statutes for raising a revenue in those colonies, and disposing of such revenue as they thought proper, without the consent, and against the will of the colonists....”  The Resolution goes on to say that the British have incited unrest, taken the property of colonists, and killed and wounded many in the civil war,“to effect the ruin and destruction of the colonies.” (p289-93)

New York breaks away from Britain.  A report headed, “In Provincial Congress, May 31,” details the separation of the Colony and election of new officials. (p294)

New Jersey resolves to stop paying the Colonial Governor, William Franklin. Lengthy report from Burlington with the Governor’s address and the Colonists’ reaction. (p294-95)

The Pennsylvania Delegation meeting in Philadelphia writes a Declaration against the King and England, proclaims itself independent, and resolves to raise companies of soldiers to defend its new freedom. (p296)

In the column immediately preceding the news, the text of Pennsylvania’s own declaration of independence reads in part: “Whereas George the Third... in violation of the principles of the British constitution, and of the laws of justice and humanity... We the Deputies of the people of Pennsylvania, assembled in full Provisional Conference for forming a plan for the executing the resolve of Congress of the 15th of May last, for suppressing all authority in this province derived from the crown of Great-Britain, and for establishing a government upon the authority of the people only, do in this public manner... unanimously declare our willingness to concur in a vote of the Congress declaring the United Colonies free and independentStates....” (p296)


Historical Background

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress, proposed a resolution calling for American independence. The Congress appointed a Committee of Five – John Adams, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson – to draft an appropriate message. Written primarily by Jefferson, with minor edits by Franklin and Adams, the draft was submitted to Congress on June 28.

Not all in Congress favored independence. George Read of Delaware voted against Lee’s resolution. Thomas McKean, another Delaware delegate, sent a message to Caesar Rodney (the third member of the Delaware delegation) to come quickly to Philadelphia to break their state’s tie. The 47-year-old Rodney received the dispatch on July 1 and proceeded to ride 80 miles non-stop from his home near Dover, Delaware, to Philadelphia. He arrived just in time to make the vote on Tuesday, July 2, 1776, when the Continental Congress took a decisive step by passing Lee’s resolution “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” With this brief resolution, the thirteen colonies severed their imperial bond with Great Britain.

The importance of the Congressional action was trumpeted by John Adams when, on Wednesday, July 3, he wrote to his wife Abigail that he considered July 2 the date of independence:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

In another letter of the same date, Adams again discussed the resolution for independence: “Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed.... You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d Us to this mighty Revolution.”

In the two days following the resolution of independence, Congress continued to struggle with the wording of the final Declaration. Though some revisions were made (in particular, striking the provision calling for abolition of the slave trade), it remained essentially Jefferson’s prose. On Thursday, July 4, the delegates of 12 of the 13 states agreed to the final text of the Declaration, pledging “to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” to uphold its principles. The approved manuscript, now lost, was no doubt signed by Continental Congress president John Hancock and secretary Charles Thomson. It was then taken to printer John Dunlap, we believe by John Adams. The first newspaper printing of the Declaration was the July 6, 1776 issue of the Pennsylvania Evening Post, published by Benjamin Towne. Dunlap’s paper, thePennsylvania Packet, did not print the Declaration until July 8.


July 1776 (pp. 297-344)

The Declaration of Independence, printed in full for the first time in a magazine. (p328-30)

(This July number of The Pennsylvania Magazine appeared in the first few days of August. The latest internal date, a death notice of July 29, appears in the last paragraph.)

Virginia breaks away from England and forms a commonwealth. Patrick Henry is appointed the first governor. Includes the complete text of the Virginia Resolution of grievances against Great Britain and the format of the new State Government. “Whereas George the Third, King of Great-Britain and Ireland… heretofore intrusted with the exercise of the kingly office in this government, hath endeavoured to pervert the same into a detestable and insupportable tyranny, by putting his negative on laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good....”(p333-36)

Interview between General Washington and Col. Patterson sent by Gen. Howe, July 20, 1776, on the treatment of prisoners of war. (p343-44)

Account of the Constitution of the Free and Independent State of Connecticut. (p336-38)

New Jersey breaks away from England passes a new Constitution, printed in full. (p330-33)

General Charles Lee letter from South Carolina—the battle of Sullivan’s Island—action details of Lee’s successful defense of Charleston against the British naval attack led by Generals Cornwallis and Clinton on Fort Moultrie: “About 2 o’clock on Friday, some of the (British) men cried out the Yankees had done fighting, others replied they were glad of it, for they never had such a drubbing in their lives; they had been told the Yankees would not stand two fires, but they never saw better fellows; all the common men in the fleet spoke loudly in praise of the garrison.” (p339-41)

Lengthy news from Canada where Arnold led his forces back, and Gen. Guy Carleton prepared his men for an advance on New England.  (p338-39)


The Pennsylvania Magazine: Or, American Monthly Museum (1775-1776) was a monthly periodical published in Philadelphia by Robert Aitken (1735-1802) from January 1775 to July 1776. Although he did not edit the first issue, Thomas Paine contributed the lead article, “The Utility of This Work Evinced,” explaining his vision for the new magazine. Paine edited and continued to contribute to the magazine from February to July or August 1775, and it soon became the most successful and widely read periodical yet published in America. The magazine provided a variety of literary fare and offered a publication outlet for many American authors. Many pieces seem to be politically neutral, but they actually provide anti-British allegories of current events. Paine’s work on The Pennsylvania Magazine, sometimes under the pseudonyms Atlanticus or Esop, developed his literary style and the accessible political language he used so effectively in Common Sense the following year. Paine and Aitken clashed over pay in the summer of 1775, and Paine left as editor; with Aitken as editor, the September 1775 and following issues had much less partisan and political content.

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