"THE BUSINESS OF ALL POWER IS TO DEFEND THE LIVES, LIBERTIES AND PROPERTY OF THE PEOPLE… THE FOUNTAIN OF POWER": RARE FIRST EDITION OF REVOLUTIONARY MINISTER SAMUEL WEBSTER'S MAY 28, 1777 SERMON DELIVERED IN BOSTON, CALLING FOR "A DREADFUL TEMPEST TO AFFRIGHT… OUR FURIOUS BRETHREN THE BRITONS… LET THEM BE LAID WASTE"
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) WEBSTER, Samuel, A.M. A Sermon Preached before the Honorable Council, and the Honorable House of Representatives, of the State of the Massachusetts-Bay, in New England. At Boston, May 28, 1777. Being the Anniversary for the Election of the Honorable Council. Boston: Edes & Gill, 1777. Octavo, modern full calf gilt, red morocco spine label, raised bands, uncut; pp. (1-5), 6-44. $4800.
First edition of Webster's electrifying 1777 Sermon delivered barely ten months after America's Declaration of Independence, invoking God's wrath to put the British "to flight speedily… make them quake with fear… and so return to their own lands… let them have neither credit nor courage, to come out any more against us."
When Samuel Webster delivered this crucial 1777 election sermon before the Massachusetts-Bay Council and House of Representatives, "independence had been proclaimed, not secured. The bloodletting had just begun." That same year Thomas Paine, in an public letter to Admiral Howe, warned him: "In all the wars which you have formerly been concerned in, you had only armies to contend with. In this case, you have both an army and a country to combat" (Atkinson, British Are Coming, 561-64). Mindful of his audience and the peril of the moment, Webster, a minister in Salisbury, Massachusetts, aimed "biting sarcasm" at the British, and made "solemn appeals to the representatives of the people to be true to their trust" (Headley, Chaplains and Clergy, 3).
"From colonial times it was the custom of certain of the New England states to open each year's session of the legislature with an annual election sermon" (Vail, Checklist). Drawing extensively on biblical sources, these sermons focus on the "nature, purpose and character of government" and the "character of a good ruler" (Cline, New England Election Sermons, 5-10). Here Webster, a Harvard graduate with a 1749 AM, firmly proclaims: "conquests made by force upon an inoffensive people… gives no right… the business of all in power is to defend the lives, liberties and property of the people… and where there is any dispute, let nothing be done, till it is settled by the people, who are the fountain of power."
Webster directs his fiery eloquence at "our furious brethren the Britons… who have begun the most desperate attacks on us." He calls on God to "put them to flight speedily… as the fire consumes the wood, and sometimes lays waste whole forests on the mountains, so let them be laid waste and consumed, if they obstinately persist in their bloody designs against us." In his concluding words, Webster calls for "a dreadful tempest to affright them… make them quake with fear; and pursue them with thine arrows, till they are either destroyed, or brought to see that God is with us of a truth and fighteth for us, and so return to their own lands, covered with shame and confusion… let them have neither credit nor courage, to come out any more against us" (emphasis in original). First edition. With half title. Evans 15703. ESTC W3240. Vail, 21. Sabin 10423. Small numerical notation above half title.
Text fresh with mere trace of scattered foxing.