Sermon Preached at Lexington, April 19, 1777

AMERICAN REVOLUTION   |   Samuel COOKE

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"THE HORRID SCENE IS INSTAMPED UPON ALL OUR BREASTS, IN CHARACTERS OF BLOOD!": EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION OF REVEREND SAMUEL COOKE'S 1777 SERMON COMMEMORATING THE FIRST BATTLE OF LEXINGTON AND CONCORD

(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) COOKE, Samuel, A.M. A Sermon Preached at Lexington, April 19, 1777. For a Memorial of the BLOODY TRAGEDY, barbarously acted, by a party of British Troops, in that Town and the Adjacent, April 19, 1775. Boston, Printed by Draper and Phillips, 1777. Octavo, original self-wrappers, uncut, early stitching; pp. (1-4), 5-31 (1).

First edition of the provocative sermon preached by Cambridge pastor Samuel Cooke, memorializing the two-year anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord—"the shot heard round the world"—an especially rare uncut copy of this seminal revolutionary work.

"On the evening of April 18, 1775, as over 700 British troops secretly prepared to cross the Charles River, Paul Revere was instructed to "leave at once for Lexington and warn Hancock and Samuel Adams that they were about to be arrested." The British approached Lexington early the next morning where a militia of barely 70 men, forewarned by Revere, were waiting in the center of town. The colonists "had been storing gunpowder and musket balls all winter for a morning like this" (Langguth, 229, 233). When the firing began, it lasted mere minutes and left eight Americans dead. The British fired a departing volley and set out for Concord, but a force of Minute Men, alerted by the events in Lexington, would respond by attacking along a march that "was in reality a gauntlet, about 16 miles long and never more than three or four hundred yards wide," enlisting civilians along the way in a battle "unlike any other in the Revolution" (Middlekauf, 272-73). Two years later, preaching in Lexington to Americans who had endured that day, Cambridge pastor Samuel Cooke here tells his audience that "the occasion of this anniversary… is for a memorial of the tragical commencement of the present unjust and unnatural war: and particularly the innocent blood cruelly shed at the doors of this house—And the consequent murders, and ravages perpetrated by British troops, on that black and ever memorable day April nineteenth, one thousand seven hundred, seventy five!… The present generation, in this town and neighbourhood need no information, of what their weeping eyes then saw—their ears heard—and their pierced heart endured, on that never to be forgotten day—The horrid scene, is instamped upon all our breasts, in characters of blood! [italics in original]."

A graduate of Harvard College whose rhetorical skills were highly prized for political events, such as Election Day in Boston in 1770, Cooke invokes pointed Scriptural comparisons between American revolutionaries and the embattled Israelites. He characterizes the British as modern-day cousins of the Amelek, a Biblical tribe that he paints as a "rapacious band" whose "violence was attended with dastardly cruelty and savage barbarity." The British parliament, he proclaims, is a "lawless power" that sent an "armed force… to trample us, our rights, laws, and religion under their feet… we have been called of God, to take up arms, in our necessary defence [sic], and to separate from Britain FOREVER" (emphasis in original). With half title; page 25, line 1 uncorrected in type. Evans 15279. Sabin 16350. ESTC W14453. This copy with page 25 containing line 1 (uncorrected in type) supplied in early manuscript hand.

Text quite fresh with faintest scattered foxing, mild edge-wear not affecting text, tiny bit of soiling to wrappers. A very good copy, especially rare uncut, of this seminal revolutionary work.

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