"THE PEOPLE OF THE LAND HAVE USED OPPRESSION AS THEIR POLICY, USED IT AS AN INSTRUMENT OF POWER, AND MADE IT THE MEANS OF THEIR PROSPERITY": EXCEPTIONAL FIRST EDITION OF ABOLITIONIST CHARLES CHEEVER'S RIGHTS OF THE COLOURED RACE TO CITIZENSHIP AND REPRESENTATION, 1864
CHEEVER, D.D., George B. Rights of the Coloured Race to Citizenship and Representation: And the Guilt and Consequences of Legislation Against Them. A Discourse Delivered in the House of Representative of the United States, in Washington, D.C. May 29, 1664. New York: Francis & Loutrel, 1864. Octavo, original printed tan self-wrappers, later stitching; pp. (1-3), 4-28. $1800.
First edition of Reverend Cheever's fiercely provocative work, published the same year he delivered it in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 29, 1864, charging Americans with betrayal of the "laws of liberty and justice… we have dared to make the colour of skin the ground on which we adjudge a whole race of millions of our fellow beings to slavery… It sets the heel of a nation on the soul," rare in original unrestored wrappers.
Born in Maine in 1807, by the 1850s Cheever, first pastor of the Congregational Church of the Puritans in New York City, was famed, if not infamous, as a tireless and "outspoken advocate of the abolition of slavery and of greater rights for Blacks. By the end of the decade, he was probably the most radical religious abolitionist in America… he cheered evasions of the Fugitive Slave Act, savaged the Dred Scott decision [and] defended John Brown." In publication of Rights for the Coloured Race, "his demand for emancipation and citizenship rights for African Americans was far more radical than the Federal government was willing to be" (Mackey, Reverend George Barrell Cheever, 342).
In this intensely controversial address, delivered by him in May 1864 at the height of the Civil War and published the same year, Cheever "accused Congress of oppression against African Americans" (Rodriguez, Bible Against American Slavery, 237). "The people of the land have used oppression," he states, "as their policy, used it as an instrument of power, and made it the means of their prosperity… a perversion of our own Constitution and Government for the oppression of millions: the impiety, injustice and inhumanity of our legislation against the coloured race." Americans, he declares, have betrayed "not only of the spirit of their own Constitution, and the law of natural equity, but… laws of liberty and justice… Even now, in the very centre of this rebellion and conflict we have renewed our original sin… we have dared to make the colour of skin the ground on which we adjudge a whole race of millions of our fellow beings to slavery… What shall be said of a government, church and people, maintaining, under all circumstances, the right of oppression by law if it is judged expedient?… It sets the heel of a nation on the soul." Long before "the question of citizenship or suffrage would not be even considered… Cheever challenged Congress to amend the Constitution to provide African Americans the right of suffrage… he warned that leaving African Americans without the vote would allow their old masters in the South to continue their hegemony. Emancipation without citizenship was… de facto slavery" (Rodriguez, 242-43). First edition, first printing. Sabin 12404. LCP Afro-Americana 2242. Not in Blockson.
Text quite fresh, mere trace of edge-wear, a few expert paper repairs to covers at fold. An excellent near-fine copy.