Defence of the Constitutions of Government


add to my shopping bag

Item#: 127148 price:$9,500.00

Defence of the Constitutions of Government
Defence of the Constitutions of Government
Defence of the Constitutions of Government


ADAMS, John. A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, Against the Attack of M. Turgot in His Letter to Dr. Price. Philadelphia: William Cobbett, 1797. Three volumes. Octavo, original marbled boards and paper spines, original printed paper spine labels, uncut. Housed in custom chemises and half morocco slipcase. $9500.

First American edition of Adams' complete three-volume work in defense of a strong executive, a system of checks and balances, and a bicameral legislature, an expansion of his inaugural first volume, containing a printing of America's newly forged Constitution in Volume III. Uncut in original marbled boards.

While serving as America's minister in Great Britain, John Adams "felt an urgency like that of 1776. Great events were taking place at home… a constitutional convention was in the offing, and as he had been impelled in 1776 to write his Thoughts on Government, so Adams plunged ahead now, books piled about him, his pen scratching away until all hours… By early January 1787, Adams had rushed the first installment of his effort to a London printer. Titled A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America… Adams called it a 'strange book'… yet in all he had achieved something quite out of the ordinary, thoughtful, high-minded and timely… Copies were sent off at once to the United States and to Jefferson in Paris" (McCullough, 374). Jefferson soon wrote back, "I have read your book with infinite satisfaction and improvement. It will do great good in America. Its learning and its good sense will, I hope, make it an institute for our politicians, old as well as young" (Sowerby, 3004).

"From Philadelphia, where the Constitutional Convention had assembled, Benjamin Rush, a member of the Convention, wrote that the Defence had 'diffused such excellent principles among us, that there is little doubt of our adopting a vigorous and compound federal legislature'… To a considerable extent Adams' Defence was an expanded, more erudite rendition of the case for checks and balances in government that he had championed in his Thoughts on Government (1776), and later put into operation in his draft of the Massachusetts constitution" (McCullough, 375). Adams concludes this work with a printing of the very text he is defending, the draft of the Constitution submitted in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787 (III:507-28). The first volume of Adams' Defence was first published in London in 1787, with Philadelphia and New York printings issued that same year; in 1788 Adams wrote Volumes II and III, and the entire work was published under a slightly different title. This edition, though it states "Third Edition" on the title page, is the first American printing of Adams' complete three-volume work. Half title in Volume II only (as often); subscriber's list (I). Without frontispiece portrait, not present in all copies. Evans 31691. Harvard Law Catalogue I:13. Howes A60. Marvin, 50. Sabin 235. See Evans 20176, 20177.

Short closed tear to leaf Q in Volume I, just extending into text though not affecting legibility. Old ink stain to last two leaves of Volume III (Index); occasional foxing, text generally quite clean. Joints tender, cords holding firm; slight edge-wear to boards. An extremely good copy, very scarce and desirable in original boards. Handsomely boxed.

add to my wishlist ask an Expert

This Book has been Viewed 223 Time(s).

Author's full list of books

ADAMS, John >