"ONE OF THE GREAT, ENDURING DOCUMENTS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION": RARE FIRST EDITION OF JOHN ADAMS' CONSTITUTION OR FRAME OF GOVERNMENT, 1780, THE FIRST MASSACHUSETTS CONSTITUTION, TOGETHER WITH RARE FIRST EDITION OF SAMUEL ADAMS' ADDRESS OF THE CONVENTION, 1780, WRITTEN TO SECURE RATIFICATION OF HIS COUSIN'S CONSTITUTION, UNITING TWO OF AMERICA'S GREATEST FOUNDING FATHERS, AN EXCEPTIONAL RARITY WITH THE PROVENANCE OF A MINUTEMAN WHO MARCHED IN ANSWER TO THE "LEXINGTON ALARM" IN THE BATTLES OF LEXINGTON AND CONCORD
(ADAMS, Samuel). An Address of the Convention, for Framing a New Constitution of Government, for the State of Massachusetts-Bay, to their Constituents. Boston: Printed by White and Adam, 1780. BOUND WITH: (ADAMS, John) A Constitution or Frame of Government, Agreed upon by the Delegates of the People of the State of Massachusetts-Bay, In Convention, Begun and held at Cambridge on the First of September, 1779, And Continued by Adjournments to the Second of March, 1780… Boston: Printed by Benjamin Edes & Son, 1780. Octavo, original self-wrappers restitched, uncut; pp. 18; pp. 53. $22,500.
First editions of rare constitutional works by Founding Fathers John Adams and his cousin, Revolutionary leader Samuel Adams, featuring John Adams’ Constitution or Frame of Government for Massachusetts—“the oldest functioning written constitution in the world”—with Samuel Adams’ eloquent Address in support of his cousin’s Constitution and calling for strong measures “to prevent the Governor from abusing the Power which is necessary to be put into his hand,” containing the Revolutionary provenance of Ephraim Fairbanks, a Massachusetts Minuteman who responded to the Lexington alarm and Paul Revere's warning to Samuel Adams and John Hancock about British troops descending on the towns of Lexington and Concord. Exceedingly rare with each work entirely uncut in original wrappers.
This rare copy brings together seminal constitutional works by two of America's most influential Founding Fathers: John Adams, the nation's second president and first vice president, and his second cousin Samuel Adams, whose signature stands with John Adams on the Declaration of Independence. John Adams once noted that without Samuel Adams "the true history of the American Revolution can never be written" (Stoll, Samuel Adams, 261). Jefferson also "emphatically attested that, if there was a helmsman of the American Revolution, 'Samuel Adams was the man'" (Alexander, Samuel Adams, 156). John Adams, as well, had a profound vision of "what would be established once independence and victory were achieved." That vision of America's future, which balanced idealism with pragmatism, is perhaps never more evident than in these important influential works—Samuel Adams' Address of the Convention and John Adams' Constitution or Frame of Government.
Together they ushered in passage of the 1780 Massachusetts Constitution, "one of the great, enduring documents of the American Revolution… the oldest functioning constitution in the world." The two men were, with James Bowdoin, chosen by the state's constitutional convention to draft its first constitution. Working throughout September 1779, John Adams "completed the draft sometime in early October… A Declaration of Rights, following the Preamble and preceding the Constitution itself," stated in Adams' initial draft that "all men were 'born equally free and independent'—words Adams had taken from the Virginia Declaration of Rights." Though the Massachusetts constitutional convention would "approve nearly all of his draft," it preferred "what Jefferson had written in the Declaration of Independence… [and] revised the first article of the Declaration of Rights, that all men were 'born equally free and independent,' to read that all men were "born free and equal" as seen here. It was "a change Adams did not like… He did not believe all men were created equal, except in the eyes of God, but that all men… were born to equal rights." Adams' powerful and eloquent work, with its landmark guarantees of free elections and "liberty of the press," was especially grounded in the separation of powers and a system of checks and balances (McCullough, John Adams, 220-25).
For his part Samuel Adams, "even before independence had been declared… reached the conclusion that 'his Country' of Massachusetts must create a new frame of government" (Alexander, 173). As one of the drafters of the Articles of Confederation and a delegate to both Continental Congresses, he was especially interested "in giving the people extensive power and in formulating the statement of rights" (ANB). Following approval of John Adams' momentous work, a committee was appointed "to prepare an address to the people upon the Constitution about to be submitted to their judgment. This paper… is said by Dr. Eliot to have been composed by Samuel Adams… The unmistakable style of the paper sufficiently indicates the authorship; but fragments of the Address in the handwriting of Samuel Adams leave no room for doubt… [it offers] a correct view of the principle upon which were founded all his ideas of political society" (Wells III:82-9).
In his Address, Samuel Adams observes: "We may not expect to agree in a perfect System of Government: This is not the Lot of Mankind. The great End of Government is, to promote the Supreme Good of human Society." He emphasizes that the new constitution provides "for the free exercise of the Rights of Conscience," a House of Representatives, a Senate, and a council "to prevent the Governor from abusing the Power which is necessary to be put into his hands." In addition to principally composing the Address, Samuel Adams was charged with "supervising the printing and distributing the 1800 copies of the Constitution and Address ordered by the Convention." He sent a copy to John Adams, who would write in a letter how much the Address was admired for its "noble simplicity… by its wise reasoning and judicious statement of the Constitution… [it] materially aided in securing the popular assent to the work of the Convention." As the people weighed ratification, Samuel Adams "presided at most of the public meetings… and in Faneuil Hall he read to the inhabitants the form of government and the Address to the people… explaining portions of the Constitution which the Address had not made sufficiently clear" (Wells III:90-7).
The 1780 Massachusetts Constitution continues its influence to this day. It was cited in 1781 when the state's judges "outlawed slavery in the state, and in 2003 when they ordered the legalization of same sex marriage" (Stoll, 215). Address with half title, rear blank; Constitution without half title. (Adress) ESTC W6515. Evans 16843. Harvard Law Catalogue II:80. Sabin 45584. (Constitution) Evans 16844. Harvard Law Catalogue, 80. Samuel Adams' Address contains the inscription, "Ephraim Fairbanks, Bolton" on the half title. While we have been unable to verify the signature, it reportedly belongs to Ephraim Fairbanks, Sr. (1724-99) who "responded to the Lexington Alarm from Bolton" (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution). "Ephraim Fairbanks (a father and son), have been established on record during that period—both of whom hailed from Bolton, Massachusetts and have been documented as 'Patriots' by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Ephraim, Jr. came from a prominent family and was a sergeant during the war. His father Ephraim, Sr. was an overseer of the poor, a surveyor, and a drummer in Captain Seaman's Company in the conquest of Canada. After King George III ordered a suppression of the rebellious Americans and a seizure of the colonists' military stores, Ephraim, Sr. was one of 127 men from his community who responded to the ring of church bells on April 19, 1775, the famous 'Lexington Alarm'" (Du Mouchelle Art Galleries). The Battles of Lexington and Concord signaled the outbreak of the American Revolution. On the night of April 18, 1775, with news of British troops on the march, Paul Revere was summoned to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock, then in Lexington. On hearing gunfire the next morning, Samuel Adams was said to have proclaimed, "'O, what a glorious morning this is'… 'I mean what a glorious morning for America'… The town of Lexington later adopted it as a legend for the town seal" (Tourtellot, Lexington and Concord, 139). With early four lines of inked marginalia in an unidentified hand on page 17 of the Address.
Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, mild edge-wear not affecting text, half title with expert paper restoration.