Sermon Preached at Cambridge, Before His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson... May 29th, 1771

AMERICAN REVOLUTION   |   John TUCKER

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Sermon Preached at Cambridge, Before His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson... May 29th, 1771
Sermon Preached at Cambridge, Before His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson... May 29th, 1771

"WHERE-EVER LAW ENDS, TYRANNY BEGINS": RARE FIRST EDITION OF JOHN TUCKER'S MAY 29, 1771 ELECTION SERMON CITING "THE GREAT AND JUDICIOUS JOHN LOCKE"— DELIVERED BEFORE THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IN MASSACHUSETTS-BAY THE YEAR AFTER THE BOSTON MASSACRE

(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) TUCKER, John. A Sermon Preached at Cambridge, Before His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esq; Governor: His Honor Andrew Oliver, Esq; Lieutenant-Governor, The Honorable His Majesty's Council, And the Honorable House of Representatives, of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England, May 29th. 1771. Being the Anniversary for the Election of His Majesty's Council for said Province. Boston: New-England: Printed by Richard Draper, 1771. Small octavo, period-style full calf-gilt, red morocco spine label: pp. (3-5), 6-63 (1). $6800.

First edition of Reverend Tucker's profoundly influential Sermon—"an account of the origins of legitimate government that was drawn directly from Locke's Second Treatise"—calling on Americans to "act as free" yet "never use our liberty for a cloke [sic] of maliciousness."

The 1765 Stamp Act and other punitive British legislation in the 1760s "raised the colonists' fears of a growing absolutism in the British government that threatened both their civil and religious liberties." This was heightened when the "Boston Massacre opened the 1770s with a tragic and traumatic confrontation in Boston that triggered a public outcry" (Steward, Justifying Revolution, 71-3). When John Tucker, minister of the First Congregational Church of Newbury, was chosen to deliver the prestigious May 29, 1771 Massachusetts-Bay election-day Sermon, his words spoke to these fears by acknowledging Americans' right of resistance. "Unlimited submission," he declares herein, "is not due to government, in a free state. There are certain boundaries, beyond which, submission cannot be justly required, nor is therefore due… Proper submission, in a free state is a medium, between slavish subjection to arbitrary claims of Rulers, on one hand, and a lawless license, on the other. It is obedience in subjects to all orders of government, which are consistent with their constitutional rights and privilege… beyond this, it cannot be justly demanded because Rulers and People are equally bound, by the fundamental laws of the constitution."

In this very timely work, Tucker delivers a "most remarkable example of a sermon extolling the social contract and natural law basis of civil society" (Frankel and Dickman, Liberty… and the American Constitution, 45). Expertly building on scripture and offered in a tone of moderation, he asserts "the duties of Rulers and Subjects are reciprocal" and particularly quotes at length from, in his words "the great and judicious John Locke"—noting Locke calls tyranny "the exercise of power beyond right… where-ever law ends, Tyranny begins… Civil government," Tucker proclaims, "is the dictate of nature:—It is the voice of reason, which may be said to be the voice of God… Let us act as free," he urges, but "never use our liberty for a cloke [sic] of maliciousness" (emphasis in original). In this important, highly memorable Sermon, Tucker presents "an account of the origins of legitimate government that was drawn directly from Locke's Second Treatise." Historians note the crucial influence of Tucker and his fellow clergy "cannot be overestimated" (Frankel and Dickman, 46). First edition, first printing: with gutter-edge pinholes from original stitching; without half title. Sabvin 97325. Evans 12256. ESTC W29232. Contemporary marginalia to rear leaf; small inked "6" above title page.

Text quite fresh with only lightest scattered foxing, faint soiling. A distinctive near-fine copy.

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