Cape Cod Writers Center

THE MUSE OF THE REVOLUTION: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation

THE MUSE OF THE REVOLUTION: The Secret Pen of Mercy Otis Warren and the Founding of a Nation


By: Nancy Rubin Stuart

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814) was America’s first female playwright and the first women to write a history of the American Revolution and early Federal period from a republican-democratic perspective.

The educated sister of James “The Patriot” Warren – famed for declaring “taxation without representation is tyranny” — Mercy Otis Warren penned anti-British and anti-Tory plays and poems, an influential pamphlet that influenced creation of the Bill of Rights and the important, three-volume The History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolution. The wife of James Warren, President of the Provincial Congress and the first Paymaster General of the Continental Army, Mrs. Warren was the mother of five sons who often hosted Sons of Liberty meetings by the fireside in her Plymouth home.

During the pre-Revolutionary period, Mrs. Warren befriended Abigail and John Adams. The latter struck by her literary talent, considered her the “most accomplished lady in America,” (with the exception of his own wife) and became her mentor.

While best remembered for her 1805 History of the Rise, Progress and Termination of the American Revolutionary, Mrs. Warren’s critique of the U.S. Constitution was widely circulated in New York State under the byline “The Columbian Patriot.”   Key features of that treatise later appeared in the Bill of Rights.

Mrs. Warren’s insistence upon the patriotic values honoring the rights of the ordinary man was not only more liberal than the U.S. Constitution and hence, the intent of the Founding Fathers, but an extraordinary exception to the silence surrounding the lives of eighteenth century American women.

 

 


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