The Pepperdine University Libraries are proud to host “Becoming America: An Exhibition of Colonial Doucments.” The Colonial-era documents in the exhibit are on loan from Pepperdine alumnus and attorney Michael J. Marlatt (JD ’84). The materials on display span from 1686 to 1781 and represent the cultural, philosophical, and political atmosphere leading up to and during the Revolutionary War. Taken together, they show us an emerging nation in the process of becoming America. The collection revealed four themes that we have chosen to highlight in the exhibit.
Several documents tell the story of politics in every day life in the colonies. From an authorization to operate a tavern to a pay order for judges riding the circuit, these documents provide a snapshot of some of the ways that political decisions were made and implemented, as well as the ways in which the coming conflict influenced daily life. Several of the signatures on these documents are of individuals who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence or who played important roles in the development of the new nation.
Secondly, the exhibit examines some of the more prominent philosophical and political texts of the day that would have influenced the leaders of the movement towards independence. Alexander Pope, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, and Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, are all 18th-century writers that are highlighted in this section of the exhibit.
The third section of the exhibit explores the relationship between Great Britain and the colonies through several significant documents, beginning with the treaty of 1686 that established control over portions of North America by Great Britain and France. This section also includes two documents, written 10 years apart in 1765 and 1775, which express support for the colonies within England. Finally, a signature of King George III and a town meeting document from the same month as the Declaration of Independence reflect the changing nature of the relationship between the colonies and Great Britain.
Materials in the final section are from the Revolutionary War, and include the petition to King George III from 1774, as well as an English response to the Declaration of Independence. A pay order to authorize payment of troops and an example of the published journals of congress from October 1779 represent ongoing activities that occurred throughout the war. The exhibit closes with a portrait of George Washington, whose leadership during the war led to his role as the new nation’s first president.
These documents give us a sense of the political context in Great Britain and in the colonies that led to America becoming an independent nation. Through these words, handwritten and printed, we see our nation’s heritage in the strength and conviction of the leaders of the Revolution.
Please visit this exhibit on the main floor of Payson Library. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Melissa Nykanen at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (310) 506-4434.