Mercy Otis Warren was a prominent writer and advocate of independence during the American Revolution.
She came from a family that advocated for colonial rights, and her brother, James, was well-known for his arguments against writs of assistance and the Stamp Act. When she married James Warren, it put her right in the middle of many of the most important events in Boston and Massachusetts that led to the American Revolution. She was well-known for her writing and carried on a correspondence with many of the most prominent patriots, including John and Abigail Adams, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington. She was an Anti-Federalist, and an outspoken critic of the Constitution. She was also the first woman to write a history of the American Revolution, which was published in 1805.
Facts About Her Early Life, Education, and Family
- Born on September 14, 1728, in Barnstable, Massachusetts.
- Her parents were James Otis, Sr. and Mary Allyne Otis.
- She was the third of 13 children and the oldest daughter.
- Her brother was James Otis, who argued against the legality of Writs of Assistance.
- Received her education from her uncle, Reverend Jonathan Russell, who allowed her to study alongside her brothers in all but two subjects, Latin and Greek.
- Married James Warren on November 14, 1754. He served in the Massachusetts legislature from 1766-1778.
- They moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts after they were married.
- They had five children together, all sons.
Facts About Her Involvement in the American Revolution and Debate on the Constitution
- Due to her husband’s position, she became acquainted with many of the people in Boston who were opposed to the enforcement of British laws without colonial representation in Parliament.
- Hosted protest meetings at their home in Plymouth after her brother, James, was beaten by a revenue officer in 1769. These meetings contributed to the development and organization of the Committees of Correspondence.
- Wrote and published many plays, dramas, and pamphlets that were based on her personal experiences and insight she gained from being close to the people that were driving the American Revolution and, eventually, the creation and adoption of the Constitution.
- She was against the strong centralized government that was outlined in the Constitution and wrote about it in Observations on the New Constitution, which was published in 1788.
- Her portrayal of John Adams in her history of the American Revolution, History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution, which was published in 1805, damaged her relationship with both John and Abigail Adams. They reconciled later on.
- She was also against the institution of slavery and the treatment of Indians.
Timeline of Her Publications
- The Adulator (1772)
- The Defeat (1773)
- The Group (1775)
- The Blockheads (1776)
- The Motley Assembly (1779)
- Observations on the New Constitution (1788)
- Poems, Dramatic and Miscellaneous (1790)
- History of the Rise, Progress, and Termination of the American Revolution (1805)