HONORABLE TREASON: The Declaration of Independence and the Men Who Signed It by David Freeman Hawke

HONORABLE TREASON: The Declaration of Independence and the Men Who Signed It

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Program notes for July 1776, with a brief sketch of the 56 delegates to the Continental Congress and where they stood on independence. The book, intended as a sort of appendix to Hawke's A Transaction of Free Men: The Birth and Course of the Declaration of Independence (1964), exhumes a number of piquant minor figures and tells us what they had to say (usually anonymously) about each other. Button Gwinnett, a bankrupt land speculator, was suspect as ""a zealous democrat."" The mild and scrupulous lawyer George Wythe converted Jefferson to the idea of separation, says Hawke. Then there was Congregationalist storekeeper William Williams of Connecticut: ""No man gave more of himself to the Revolution, and none with a lifetime in politics achieved less in Congress."" It remains a mystery how temporizers like Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island resolved on independence, or why William Floyd, unlike his fellow Long Island farmers, favored it. Yet the book makes good on its claim that for Americans these were ""their betters,"" not in the sense of an ""elite club"" but a plenum of leaders ready to stick their necks out.

Pub Date: April 5th, 1976
Publisher: Viking