The Continental Congress. By Edmund Cody Burnett.
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1941. Pp. xvii, 757. $6.00.
This volume is a product of ripe scholarship. Burnett's monu-
mental work, Letters of Members of the Continental Congress,
and the long list of his published articles on various phases of
the history of the period evidence a knowledge approaching the
encyclopedic. To him the topics are dynamic and the charac-
ters alive and active. This intimacy, it seems to this reviewer,
leads the author into a complimentary yet unwarranted assump-
tion of knowledge on the part of the reader. Delegates often
appear and disappear unheralded. One of the most valuable
contributions is the publication of a long list of hitherto obscure
or little known men, such as Burke and White of North Carolina,
and their actions on the stage of the Congress. The author
anticipates the lack-of-footnote criticism, but, to me, his expla-
nation is unsatisfactory.
The contents of the book, though divided into chapters with
vivid and illuminating headings, are developed chronologically.
There is a uniformity of excellence in treatment from the open-
ing chapter on causes to the last on "Passing the Torch," but
certain ones are exceptionally well done. "The Declaration of
Independence" and "In the Depths: The Shadow of Defeat"
stand out as two of the best.
The difficulties under which the Congress labored, such as
lack of authority, personal dislikes, divided loyalties, sectional
animosities and fears, recreancy in attendance, endless debates,
burdensome work, and distrust of the military are vividly pic-
tured. The language and spelling, unedited, are well nigh as
varied as the list of delegates, but that of doughty John Mont-
gomery of Pennsylvania (pp. 562, 585) must undoubtedly be
the most striking.
This volume is remarkably free from errors. Instead of
"fourfold" (p. 23) the author must have meant forty. The
statement that a committee to draft a declaration of independ-
ence was appointed on June 11 (p. 173) is in conflict with
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 45, July 1941 - April, 1942. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146053/. Accessed July 24, 2014.