Citation Nicolson C & Dudley Edwards O (2018) Imaginary Friendship in the American Revolution: John Adams and Jonathan Sewall (Forthcoming), 1st ed. Perspectives on Early America. Oxford: Routledge.
Abstract This book is the first to examine in detail the onset of the American Revolution through the prism of friendship, focusing on the friendship between future US president John Adams and leading American Loyalist Jonathan Sewall. It is part biography, exploring how Adams and Sewall consciously shaped each other’s development, and part political history, exploring their intriguing quest to clean up colonial politics. It is also part literary history, examining how the writings of both men culminated in an extraordinary series of public letters published in 1774 and 1775 on the eve of the Revolutionary War. It considers how Adams’s presumption of Sewall’s authorship of the Loyalist tracts entitled Massachusettensis influenced his own magnum opus, Novanglus. Imaginary Friendship is also part mystery. The mystery is not why John Adams presumed that Sewall was his literary adversary,but why he was impelled to answer him. The hardest blows are often delivered with swords tempered in a common fire. But the friendship proffers more than an emblematic story of fraternal rivalry. For their public debates-which helped define the ideologies of competing Patriot and Loyalist factions-also and always concealed a private dialogue. Writing Novanglus made a revolutionary of John Adams, and took him on an intellectual journey that he might never have made on his own without imagining that Sewall was the author of Massachusettensis-choosing independence over empire, and country before king and friends, and spurred him to explore ways and means of averting conflict.
Keywords friendship; American Revolution; John Adams; Jonathan Sewall; Daniel Leonard; Loyalists; Patriots