A Revolutionary North Carolinian’s Reading List

On a quest for some Fourth of July inspiration, I began browsing the thousands of volumes that comprise our rare book collection when I found a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s A Summary View of the Rights of British America, his lesser known indictment of British transgressions of colonial rights written in 1774—a time when Jefferson, among other future revolutionaries, still felt possible “fraternal love and harmony throughout the whole [British] empire.”

Bound with A Summary View are several other political tracts from the revolutionary era, The Justice and Necessity of Taxing the American Colonies, Demonstrated, 1766; An Answer to the Declaration of the American Congress, a British response to the American Declaration of Independence; and, finally, Letters from General Washington to Several of his Friends in the Year 1776, published in 1777.

My interest in this modest volume was piqued by the gilt-stamped initials “J. G.” found on the cover and the name “J. Gillespie” scrawled on the title page. Could this J. Gillespie be North Carolina’s own revolutionary, James Gillespie? James Gillespie was born in 1747, owned a plantation in Kenansville, North Carolina, and, during the American Revolution, fought with a N.C. militia regiment. He later served in the state senate, attended the state’s constitutional conventions, and later sat in the U.S. House as a Federalist.

If you are also in need of a dose of revolutionary spirit come to the RBMSCL (tomorrow—we’re closed today!) and explore the ideological origins of the American Revolution through these tracts, the same ones that were perhaps perused by a revolutionary North Carolinian.

Post contributed by Josh Larkin-Rowley, Research Services Assistant.

5 thoughts on “A Revolutionary North Carolinian’s Reading List”

  1. Very good post. I’ll have to make it over to Special Collections and see this item for myself.

  2. The J G initial intrigues me!!! My GGGG grandfather wasn’t overly fond of Washington; but worshiped Jefferson. Could it be your volume was donated by his graddaughter wife of Issac Wright sister of David— I am in the midst of writing manuscript covering my ancestors. I have not explored Duke ‘s Devil’s Den– I would be interesting in sharing info– Thank you J G

    1. George I have extensive records on the Gillespies own David Gillespies plantation Who are you Yo guessed correctly the Jeff document at Devils Den was donated by David’s younger sisters daughter who became a Mir Hinson
      Please email or call 703 200 6603

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