"HAD MORE TO DO WITH PREPARING THE MINDS OF AMERICAN COLONISTS FOR THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION THAN… COKE, SIDNEY AND LOCKE": EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION OF CARE'S ENGLISH LIBERTIES, 1682
(CARE, Henry). English Liberties: Or, The Free-Born Subject's Inheritance, Containing I. Magna Charta, The Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act… II. The Proceedings in Appeals of Murther; The Work and Power of Parliaments… As also the Oath and Duty of Grand and Petty Juries. III. All the Laws against Conventicles and Protestant Dissenters… And an Abstract of all the Laws against Papists. London: Printed by G. Larkin, for Benjamin Harris, . Small octavo (3-1/2 by 6 inches), contemporary full polished brown sheep rebacked with original spine laid down, later red morocco spine label. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $16,000.
Rare first edition, containing printings of the Magna Charta and other seminal documents on the separation of church and state, the right to religious liberty, trial by jury and other founding principles. It was designed to "slip into one's pocket… [and] had more to do with preparing the minds of American colonists for the American Revolution than the larger but less accessible works of Coke, Sidney and Locke" (Hudson, 580-85). Care's influence is clear "in the writings of the founding fathers of the United States—Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Dickinson and Alexander Hamilton… Jefferson added two copies of English Liberties to his library and arranged that it be included in the library of the University of Virginia" (Schwoerer, 231-5). A handsome copy in contemporary sheep.
Care's English Liberties contains "the most important documents and statements in English history and law concerning liberty, property and the rights of the individual… Benjamin Franklin knew its contents thoroughly" (Lemay, Life, 74). This first edition features a printing of the Magna Charta, "a symbol of political liberty and the foundation of constitutional government" (Grams, Great Experiment, 95), and was published in 1682 "to provide uneducated and inexperienced English persons with documents and information about the law and their rights… praising England's 'fundamental laws [as] coeval with government' and describing the Magna Charta as 'Declaratory of the principal grounds of the Fundamental Laws and Liberties of England.' Celebrating law in another piece as second only to the gospel, he described it in English Liberties as 'the Best Birthright the Subject hath'… Care regarded the essence of this birthright as the 'privilege not to be exempt from the law of the land, but to be freed in Person and Estate from Arbitrary Violence and Oppression'" (Morrison & Zook, Revolutionary Currents, 46-7).
"Care advocated a radical theory of liberty of the religious conscience for all persons… and argued for the principle of separation of church and state… his ideas are comparable to those of John Locke on that subject and were in print before Locke's Letter on Toleration
." Care especially promoted "an abiding respect for the merits of trial by jury as a bulwark of English rights and liberties. English Liberties
… helped to transmit this 'jury ideology' and other ideas about fundamental laws and the rights and liberties of Englishmen to 18th-century England and the American colonies" (Schwoerer, Ingenious Mr. Henry Care
, xxvi). On publication, English Liberties
"became a publishing phenomenon, with successive editions circulating around the Atlantic world in the 18th century, its small size—it could literally fit into a pocket—enabling knowledge of English rights to reach the peripheries of the empire" (Yirush, Settler, Liberty and Empire
, 29). It is said to have "had more to do with preparing the minds of American colonists for the American Revolution than the larger but less accessible works of Coke, Sidney and Locke" (Hudson, William Penn's English Liberties
In America, English Liberties "played an important role in spreading concepts about English law, history, government, liberties and especially juries… Colonists found in Care's English Liberties support of their views about the Saxons' Magna Charta as a reaffirmation of old laws guaranteeing the rights of all freemen, and ways to protect themselves against oppression… Care's vocabulary and ideas appeared in the writings of the founding fathers of the United States—Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Dickinson and Alexander Hamilton. In their speeches and writings may be found exactly the same language that Care used in English Liberties when he praised the 'two main pillars of the British Constitution,' identifying those pillars as parliament and trial by jury… Americans started with Care's statement that the 'two Grand Pillars' of an Englishman's birthright shone 'most conspicuously in Parliament and juries' and reasoned from it that since the Constitution was 'founded in the Common Rights of Mankind,' and since the 'Rights of Nature' were 'happily interwoven' in its 'ancient fabrick,' the right to parliament and juries was 'properly the birthright of free men everywhere'… Care's ideas, like those of William Penn and John Locke, which they profoundly resemble, were ahead of their time… Penn silently lifted a sizable portion of English Liberties… into his Excellent Priviledge [sic] of Liberty and Property, which was printed in Philadelphia in 1687… The Library Company of Philadelphia, founded in 1731 by Franklin, acquired the 1719 [English] edition of English Liberties in 1764… Jefferson added two copies of English Liberties to his library and arranged that it be included in the library of the University of Virginia" (Schwoerer, 231-5).
Care and his publisher Larkin, who was also William Penn's printer, were frequently threatened not only with arrest and imprisonment, but also with physical injury. Many of Care and Larkin's publications were seized by the authorities and Care "was called before government authorities for seditious libel five times between 1679 and 1685" (ODNB). "In 1689, seven years after the publication of… English Liberties, Parliament presented King William III and Queen Mary a declaration that became known as the Bill of Rights… In the colonies, as in England itself, Americans would celebrate English liberties as their birthright" (Davis, Mintz et al., Boisterous Sea of Liberty, 83). With woodcut-engraved headpiece and initial. Larkin printed three 228-page issues of the first edition with variant title pages, no priority established: two with no imprint date on the title pages: one "for John How" and one "for Benjamin Harris" (this copy) along with one with the imprint date of 1682 on the title page for "most Booksellers." Schwoerer, Ashcraft and others attribute the anonymously published English Liberties to Care, while some cite Penn as author. Ashcraft offers, as support, "an advertisement for English Liberties in the September 2-6, 1682 issue of the True Protestant Mercury [that] makes it likely it appeared in late August of that year" (Morrison & Zook, 205n). Wing STC "gives the date as '1682(?)' but internal and other evidence shows incontrovertibly that the date is 1682" (Schwoerer, 288n, 194). Precedes the 1721 first American edition. Bound without initial blank leaf, two-leaf publisher's advertisement; occasional mispagination as issued without loss of text. ESTC R31286. See Sowerby 2702, 2703; Sweet & Maxwell I:154-55; Sabin 10819. Bookplate of bibliophile Robert J. Hayhurst. Small shelf label. Plain bookplate with trace of owner signature.
Faint dampstaining to text and front board, a bit of marginal wormholing. A near-fine copy of this profoundly influential work.