"THE 'FATHER OF ATLANTIC ABOLITIONISM'": FIRST EDITION OF ONE OF ANTHONY BENEZET'S FINAL WORKS, PLAINNESS AND INNOCENT SIMPLICITY OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, 1782
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) BENEZET, Anthony. The Plainness and Innocent Simplicity of the Christian Religion. With his salutary Effects, compared to the corrupting Nature and dreadful Effects of War. With Some Account of the blessing which attends on a Spirit influenced by divine Love, producing Peace and Good-Will to Men. Philadelphia: Joseph Crukshank, 1782. Small octavo, period-style full sprinkled sheep gilt, red morocco spine label; pp. 48.
First edition of one of the final works by Benezet, whose life and writings "laid the foundation of the first Anglo-American abolition movement," this very elusive work, published in Philadelphia near the end of the American Revolution, invoking "the call of religion, reason and humanity… 'to promote the welfare of all men… to overcome evil with good.'"
"Anthony Benezet's influence across a spectrum of reform endeavors was extraordinary in his calling attention to systemic oppression and charting a path for reform." He particularly viewed the actions of a nation, whether in regard to the slave trade or war, to be "an extension of and consistent with personal convictions. He objected to the suggestion that one code of conduct applies to individuals and to nations" (Ross, Personal and Social Transformation, 37-38). This conviction made Benezet "the foremost advocate of abolition before the American Revolution… he laid the foundation of the first Anglo-American abolition movement" (Sinha, Slave's Cause, 20-22). Benezet was "the first who embraced, as a matter of public policy, the banning of the slave trade, the gradual but rapid abolition of slavery in the colonies, monetary compensation to Negroes for the years they spent in bondage, and equality under the law for those of African descent… because of his influence, he deserves to be regarded as the 'father of Atlantic abolitionism'" (Crosby, Complete Antislavery Writings, 1-2).
In Plainness and Innocent Simplicity, published toward the end of the American Revolution and only two years before Benezet's death, there is a "cluster of three interconnected ideas" that recurs throughout his writings. "First and foremost, the Gospel… sets the guidelines for living life. Second, the human capacity for reason offers a guide for living. And third, Benezet maintains that humans are bound to one another by 'bonds of natural affection and interest'… the three work in accord with the goal of human life." He invokes "the call of religion, reason and humanity… 'to promote the welfare of all men, to bless those that curse them, and to do good to those that hate them, thus to overcome evil with good'" (Ross, 31). First edition, first printing: with "Crukshank" in imprint. Precedes the 1800 first English edition. Evans 17472. Sabin 4677. Hildeburn 4183.
Title page imperceptively remargined at gutter's edge. An about-fine copy.