RARE SECOND FOLIO EDITION OF ACTS PASSED AT THE FIRST SESSION OF AMERICA’S FIRST CONGRESS, WITH EARLY PRINTINGS OF THE CONSITUTION AND THE EARLY 12-AMENDMENT BILL OF RIGHTS, A RARE ASSOCIATION COPY FROM THE LIBRARY OF STEPHEN ROW BRADLEY, ONE OF VERMONT’S FIRST U.S. SENATORS AND AUTHOR OF THE BILL EXPANDING THE FLAG TO 15 STRIPES AND 15 STARS—THE “BRADLEY FLAG”
(UNITED STATES CONGRESS). Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America, Begun and Held at the City of New-York, on Wednesday the Fourth of March, in the Year M,DCC,LXXXIX: and of the Independence of the United States, the Thirteenth. Published by Authority. Philadelphia: Printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, . Folio, original self-wrappers, stitched as issued, uncut. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
Rare second folio edition of the collected Acts passed at the First Session of the First Congress, containing an early printing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, with its original 12 amendments, an especially rare association copy, from the library of Vermont’s first U.S. senator, Stephen Row Bradley, a leader in the struggle for ratification of the Constitution whose 1794 bill introduced the “Bradley flag” with 15 stripes and 15 stars that flew from 1795-1814. One of only 600 copies printed exclusively for governmental use, a volume of landmark legislation in “the most uncharted era in American political history,” seldom seen in original self-wrappers.
This extremely rare second folio edition of the bound Acts passed at the First Session of the First Congress records key legislative events during “the most uncharted era in American political history. Precisely because the new national government was new, every major decision set a precedent and every initiative in domestic or foreign policy threatened to establish a landmark principle.” This volume notably contains an early printing of the nation’s new Constitution (v-xii), whose distinguishing feature “was its purposeful ambiguity about the relationship between federal and state jurisdiction and about the overlapping of the respective branches of the federal government. The Constitution, in short, did not resolve the long-standing political disagreements that existed within the revolutionary generation so much as establish a fresh and more stable context within which they could be argued out… Nothing less was at stake than the true meaning of the American Revolution” (Ellis, American Sphinx, 121).
The First Session (March 4-September 29, 1789) of the First—and longest—Congress, in which James Madison “was indisputably the ‘first man’ of the House” (Banning, 294), is especially distinctive for its official ratification of the Constitution and its lengthy deliberation of a draft of the Bill of Rights, printed herein (92-3). "A majority of the framers of the Constitution believed a Bill of Rights unnecessary… The people felt otherwise and Massachusetts, Virginia, New York and other states ratified with a recommendation that a Bill of Rights specifically safeguarding individual rights should also be added” (Grolier American, 57). Jefferson, then on diplomatic duties in France, maintained “‘a Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth” (Banning, 283). Madison needed to be convinced, however, that such a document would ever “control a fixed, tyrannical majority of voters. ‘Wherever there is an interest or power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done” (Banning 284). Nevertheless “Madison, at the opening session of the First Congress of the new government, introduced 12 amendments to the Constitution, of which the first was a temporary measure only, and the second was rejected by more than a third of the states” (Grolier, American, 57).
“If Madison had had his way entirely, the Bill of Rights would have been different in significant respects from the amendments that were finally approved. The alterations would have been incorporated in the body of the Constitution, not tacked to its end… The Senate’s alterations and deletions sharply tested Madison’s good temper. Even in the House, the tedious, extended process was a trial.” Yet ultimately there was nothing in the final Bill of Rights markedly different from what Madison had originally proposed. “The 12 amendments offered to the states [of which only ten were ever ratified], were very much the ones that he had drafted” (Banning, 287-9). This volume contains all of the acts passed by the First Session of the First Congress, including legislation on the Departments of State, War and Treasury, duties on imported goods, governance of western territories, salaries for the various branches, judicial courts and the negotiation of treaties. Second folio edition, preceded by a 1789, New York, Childs and Swain first folio edition and the same year’s New York octavo edition. Childs and Swaine were engaged to publish congressional Acts in June 1789, the middle of this First Session, and officially contracted to print only "600 copies of the Acts of each session… The bound volumes of the Acts of Congress, issued at the end of each session by Childs & Swaine… came to be very hard to get. They were always in short supply… [leaving] none for public purchase" (Powell, 85-92). Similarly, this second folio edition is likely one of only 600 copies, for it was printed to align with Childs and Swaine’s 1790-91 folio editions, each limited to 600 copies, of the Acts of the Second and Third Sessions. With extensive index and errata slip, usually lacking; with pages 21-2 repeated (as often). NAIP locates two copies; OCLC lists one copy. Evans 23842. See Harvard Law Catalogue, 802; Howes A35; Sabin 15493. This very rare association copy is from the library of Stephen Row Bradley, “the leading Democratic-Republican senator from New England during his day” and a powerful influence in the struggle for ratification of the Constitution. Bradley represented Vermont in the United States Senate from 1791-4 and again from 1801-13, where he was twice named president pro tempore of the Senate, and was further renowned for his 1794 bill “that established a national flag of 15 stripes and 15 stars, sometimes known as the Bradley flag that was used from 1795-1814” (DAB). Contemporary inscription.
Slight edge-wear, faint soiling to corners of title page, loss to lower half of errata leaf without affecting text. An extremely good copy of one of the founding documents in American history, very scarce in original wrappers and entirely uncut.