"AMERICANS! THIS DAY RECOGNIZES YOUR EMANCIPATION… THE BIRTH-DAY OF YOUR INDEPENDENCE… A COMPLETE POLITICAL REVOLUTION": FIRST EDITION OF ENOS HITCHCOCK'S BOLD ORATION, DELIVERED IN PROVIDENCE BY THE REVOLUTION'S DEDICATED CHAPLAIN ON JULY 4TH, 1793
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) HITCHCOCK, Enos, D. D. An Oration in Commemoration of the Independence of the United States of America. Delivered In the Baptist Meeting-House in Providence, July 4th, 1793. (Providence): J. Carter, (1793). Slim octavo, period-style blue-gray paper wrappers; pp. (1-3), 4-19 (1). $3800.
First edition of a seminal work by the influential Revolutionary-era chaplain who served with the Third Massachusetts Continental at Ticonderoga and Saratoga, as well as Valley Forge, and later in Philadelphia at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, an eloquent voice for America's cause, referencing Montesquieu in praising America's Constitution for its "three powers… most perfectly combined," especially scarce with a contemporary New England provenance.
Born in 1745 and a graduate of Harvard College, Hitchcock was a minister in Massachusetts before the outbreak of the Revolution, where he served "one of the longest terms of any Army chaplain… tradition has it that he accompanied local minutemen under Capt. Caleb Dodge to Lexington on April" (Colonial Society of Massachusetts). Hitchcock visited the troops in mid-1775 and in 1776 was appointed chaplain with the Third Massachusetts Continentals headed for Crown Point and Ticonderoga. In 1777 "he was at Ticonderoga and Saratoga… [and] spent much of 1778 with his brigade at Valley Forge" before returning home in November after nearly eight months in the field. Following a long illness, he was with the troops at West Point before resigning in 1780 to move to the First Congregational Church in Providence. There he continued to be a strong voice for American independence and, after traveling to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, "campaigned for Rhode Island's ratification of the Constitution, which he regarded as the plan for a perfect government, while the alternative to federalism was anarchy" (Library of Congress).
That principled conviction is at the core of this July 4th Oration, along with Hitchcock's controversial support for the French Revolution and much more. Declaring July 4th to be the day that "recognizes your emancipation… the birth-day of your independence," he declares Americans succeeded in achieving "a complete political revolution… no longer do we subscribe to the absurd doctrine of the divine right of kings… we enjoy the divine right of governing ourselves… unawed by surrounding enemies, and uninfluenced by their intrigues. We have seen a constitution of civil government… it will follow, that a constitution wherein the three powers, legislative, executive and judicial, are most perfectly combined for the prosperity of the people, is the best. Indeed, the great Montesquieu has made it appear, that these three powers exist, in some degree, in every form of government, even the most absolute." Highlighting, as well, constitutional assertions of a free press, he asserts that in the America, "no man is abridged of the liberty of enquiry." Having earned his doctorate from Brown University, until his death in 1803, Hitchcock also devoted himself to the cause of education, along with its president Moses Manning. First edition, first printing.Title-page verso with printed date: "Providence, July 8, 1793": stating this Oration is "published at the request of the inhabitants of this town." Sabin 32257. Evans 25610. ESTC W21508. Contemporary owner inscription above title page dated, "July 8th 1793," signed "Peleg Chandler's Property." While unconfirmed, this is attributed to Peleg Chandler of the prominent Maine-Massachusetts family that includes Boston attorney Peleg Whitman Chandler (1816-1889), who served in the Massachusetts General Court.
Text fresh with trace of marginal soiling to title page. A handsome about-fine copy.