"PRODUCED A GREAT EFFECT UPON THE MIND OF THE AMERICAN COLONISTS DURING THE REVOLUTION": RARE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF BURGH'S IMPORTANT AND INFLUENTIAL 1775 POLITICAL DISQUISITIONS, EDITED BY FRANKLIN AND READ BY WASHINGTON, JEFFERSON, HANCOCK AND OTHER FOUNDING FATHERS, THE RANDOLPH G. ADAMS COPY
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) BURGH, James. Political Disquisitions; Or, An Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses… Calculated to Draw the Timely Attention of Government and People to a Due Consideration of the Necessity, and the Means, of Reforming Those Errors, Defects, and Abuses; of Restoring the Constitution, and Saving the State. Philadelphia: Robert Bell and William Woodhouse, 1775. Three volumes. Octavo, contemporary dark brown marbled and lacquered calf rebacked, raised bands, red and brown calf spine labels. Housed in a custom clamshell box.
Rare first American edition of this important political work, a significant influence on America's Founding Fathers. Washington, Jefferson, Hancock and other leaders of the Continental Congress were subscribers to this edition, and both The Federalist Papers and Common Sense refer to it. Edited by Burgh's close friend, Benjamin Franklin. This copy is from the library of Randolph G. Adams, renowned bibliographer and librarian of books and documents key to the American Revolution. Handsomely housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box.
John Adams declared Burgh's Political Disquisitions "a book which ought to be in the hands of every American who has learned to read" (Wood, Creation of the American Republic, 165). A Scottish reformer, Burgh here brings together important issues of government, liberty, freedom of speech and press, armies and militias, taxation without representation, and the British oppression of the American colonies. Political Disquisitions "produced a great effect upon the mind of the American colonists during the Revolution" (Sabin 9246). Originally published in London (each volume issued separately, the first two in 1774, the final volume in 1775), this rare first American edition is of particular importance because it was actually owned and read by many of the Founding Fathers and was a great influence upon them. In fact, demand was so great for this American printing that Franklin, who was a friend of Burgh, agreed to edit it. In it, Burgh advocates the right of citizens to bear arms, to refuse to be taxed without representation, and to refuse the heavy load of taxes imposed by Britain. The subscriber's list (at the beginning of Volume III) begins with George Washington, "Generalissimo of all the Forces in America, and a Member of the Honorable, the American Continental Congress," and includes important members of the Continental Congress, most notably Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock and John Dickinson, as well as Samuel Chase, John De Hart, Silas Deane, Christopher Gadsden, Robert Goldsborough, Thomas Mifflin, Henry Middleton, Thomas McKean, George Ross, Roger Sherman, John Sullivan, James Wilson, Charles Thomson and John Zubly, as well as other such famous American patriots as Dr. Benjamin Rush and Robert Morris.
This edition is listed in the catalogue of Thomas Jefferson's library (Sowerby 2720), and he is known to have recommended the work to others. The work is cited in Hamilton and Madison's Federalist Papers, and Thomas Paine mentions it in Common Sense: "Those who would fully understand of what great consequence a large and equal representation is to a state, should read Burgh's political disquisitions." The work was widely read and justly praised in England as well: "When Dr. Parr was asked whether he had read this book, he said in reply, 'Have I read my Bible, sir?" (DNB). Volume III with "Names of the Encouragers," including Thomas Jefferson, John Dickinson, John Hancock, Benjamin Rush and other leading Revolutionary figures. With half titles; Volumes I & II with publisher's rear advertisements. Occasional mispagination as issued without loss of text. Evans 13851. Sabin 9246. Adams 74-13. ESTC W2580. Sowerby 2720. Bookplate in the first two volumes of Randolph G. Adams, distinguished bibliographer and librarian of American Revolutionary material, the first librarian of the Clements Library and a major force in the scholarship of the American Revolution. Original owner initials and flourish, dated 1775, in each volume.
Interior generally fresh with expert archival reinforcement to gutter edges of preliminary leaves, faint occasional marginal dampstaining. An excellent copy, most desirable in contemporary calf boards and with a distinguished provenance. Rare and important.