Constitutions of the United States

CONSTITUTION   |   UNITED STATES CONGRESS

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"CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW": 1791 CONSTITUTIONS, FIRST COLLECTED PRINTING OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND 12 PROPOSED AMENDMENTS, THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE AND 14 STATE CONSTITUTIONS

(CONSTITUTION) UNITED STATES CONGRESS. The Constitutions of the United States, According to the Latest Amendments: to Which Are Annexed the Declaration of Independence; and the Federal Constitution; With the Amendments Thereto. This Edition Contains the Constitution of Vermont, Not in Any Former One. Philadelphia: Carey, Stewart, 1791. Small octavo (4-1/4 by 7 inches), contemporary full brown sheep, red morocco spine label; (iv), (1), 2-176.

1791 edition of the Constitutions, very scarce first collection of state constitutions published after the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, the first to assemble a printing of the U.S. Constitution together with 12 proposed amendments, and the first to include the constitution of Vermont along with those of the 13 original states, including that of Massachusetts—"the oldest functioning written constitution in the world," rare in contemporary sheep.

Writing from Paris in December 1787, Thomas Jefferson responded to a letter from Madison that outlined the newly constructed federal Constitution. Though unhappy with its "omission of a bill of rights," Jefferson approved of this "government which should go on of itself peaceably" (LOA, Constitution I:210). Londoners had earlier hailed a 1781 collection of state constitutions (issued six years before the framing of the U.S. Constitution) as "the Magna Charta of the American States" (Monthly Review). This scarce volume is the first to assemble the U.S. Constitution and the constitutions of the original 13 states. It especially"contains the constitution of Vermont, not in any previous edition" (Matyas 91-01). Within are the colonial charters of Rhode Island (1662) and Connecticut (1663), the 1776 constitutions of Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire, Maryland and North Carolina, the 1777 constitution of New York, the 1789 Georgia constitution, the 1790 constitutions of South Carolina and Pennsylvania, as well as the 1780 Massachusetts constitution authored by John Adams—"one of the great, enduring documents of the American Revolution… the oldest functioning written constitution in the world" (McCullough, John Adams, 225). Also containing the 12 constitutional amendments proposed by Congress in 1789 (with a printed note dated August 1791 on the failure of the first two to be ratified). As issued with pages 1, 71, 87 unnumbered; page 45 with uncorrected "Rhode-Isdand." Evans 23887. Howes C716. Sabin 16097. ESTC W30537. Rosenbach 65:38. Initial blank with early owner signature dated 1811 crossed over. Separate early owner inscription on same page in unidentified cursive stating in part: "Bought… before the 4th of July 1824."

Text quite fresh with only lightest scattered foxing, occasional small marginal paper flaws not affecting text, mild dampstaining along lower edge; expert restoration to spine ends and joints of contemporary sheep binding.

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