The Pennsylvania Committee of Safety and the War at Home

Today's post accompanies "Revolutionary Committees and Congresses," episode 153 of Ben Franklin's World and part of the Doing History 2: To the Revolution! series. You can find supplementary materials for the episode on the OI Reader app, available through iTunes or Google Play. by William Huntting Howell Ask any revolutionary: there’s an enormous gap between the idea of systemic cultural change and its actual implementation. How do you get the guy who’s just trying to, like, make barrels over here to co-sign something as world-rending as a revolution? For American patriot factions in the 1770s, the burden of bridging the gulf between ideology and practice fell in large part on Committees of Safety. From their inception as enforcement mechanisms for the Continental Association’s mass boycotts of British consumer goods, Committees of Safety were all about the material effects of ideas. They were the ones insisting that it wasn't enough to merely think poorly of British treatment of the Colonies—you had to perform that disapproval for your neighbors or else risk public censure. The whole point of a Committee of Safety, in other words, was to make it clear to ordinary people that potentially abstract questions of international diplomacy were also concrete problems that they had to care about in their everyday lives. Read More

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