Declaration... the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

CONTINENTAL CONGRESS   |   Thomas JEFFERSON

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“OUR CAUSE IS JUST: OUR UNION IS PERFECT… RESOLVED TO DIE FREEMEN, RATHER THAN TO LIVE SLAVES”: JEFFERSON AND DICKINSON’S JULY 6, 1775 DECLARATION… [ON] TAKING UP ARMS, EXCEEDINGLY RARE PHILADELPHIA FIRST PAMPHLET PRINTING OF ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS OF THE REVOLUTION, BOUND IN ONE VOLUME WITH THE SECRETLY PRINTED FIRST ENGLISH EDITION OF THE DECLARATION… [ON] TAKING UP ARMS, AND CONTAINING THREE ADDITIONAL JULY 1775 REVOLUTIONARY WORKS—DICKINSON’S SIGNAL OLIVE BRANCH PETITION, AND THE PETITIONS TO THE PEOPLE OF GREAT BRITAIN AND TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

(CONTINENTAL CONGRESS) (JEFFERSON, Thomas) (DICKINSON, John). A Declaration by the Representatives of the United Colonies of North-America, Now Met in General Congress at Philadelphia, Seting [sic] forth the Causes and Necessity of their taking up Arms. Philadelphia: William and Thomas Bradford, 1775. BOUND WITH: The Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of North America, Now Met in General Congress at Philadelphia, Setting forth the Causes and Necessity of taking up Arms. The Letter of the Twelve United Colonies… Their Humble Petition to his Majesty, And Their Address to the People of Ireland. Collected together for the Use of Serious Thinking Men, by Lovers of Peace. London, 1775. One volume. Octavo, 19th-century three-quarter red morocco, elaborately gilt-decorated spine, raised bands, marbled boards and endpapers, top edge gilt; pp. [ii], [1-3], 4-13, [1]; [3], 4-32.

Exceptional 1775 collection of American revolutionary works, featuring the rarely found first pamphlet printing of the July 6 Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms, written by Jefferson and John Dickinson for the Second Continental Congress and published in Philadelphia by the Bradfords, one of the greatest state papers of the Revolution and the most important forerunner to the Declaration of Independence, bound in one exceptional volume with the “secretly issued” first English edition of the Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms, published in London with three additional revolutionary works—Dickinson’s July 5 Olive Branch petition (“To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty”) printed with the names of all its signatories, the Continental Congress’s July 8 petition to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, and its July 28 petition To the People of Ireland—together handsomely bound in crimson morocco and marbled boards by Pratt.

“Within a month of the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Here gathered the leadership of the various colonies, including John Hancock and the Adamses from Massachusetts, Washington, Jefferson and Henry from Virginia, and Franklin, Dickinson, Wilson and Morris from Pennsylvania” (Tanenbaum, 144). While many delegates remained unsure about how to address the ongoing crisis with Britain and some thought reconciliation still possible, others saw war as inevitable. That tense ambivalence is reflected in the delegates’ actions, debates and writings. On July 5, Congress drafted The Humble Petition of the Twelve United Colonies, authored by John Dickinson and known as the Olive Branch Petition, which made a last minute appeal to George III. Only one day after issuing the Olive Branch Petition, Congress took a different turn by presenting one of its most important documents, their Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms, primarily written by Jefferson and Dickinson. It is a powerful statement of grievances against Britain (including taxation without representation, interference with commerce and violation of rights to trial by jury) as well as a plea for peace and reconciliation. Its purpose was to justify before the world America’s armed resistance to Parliament’s steely demands for total authority over the colonies: “Our cause is just. Our union is perfect… the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties, being with one mind resolved, to die Freemen rather than to live as slaves.” The committee appointed on June 23 to draft this bold Declaration consisted of Jefferson, Dickinson, Franklin, John Jay, John Rutledge, William Livingston and Thomas Johnson. The original draft was rejected and Jefferson, in his first writing assignment for congress, was asked to write a new one, “a new version of what became its Declaration…. [on] Taking Up Arms. Dickinson, the senior man, offered various criticisms of Jefferson’s manuscript. Then, after that headstrong Virginian—Jefferson’s pride in authorship made its appearance early—rejected most of his suggestions, Dickinson prepared another extensively revised draft, which Congress approved with minor changes on July 6, 1775. In later years Jefferson claimed his composition had been ‘too strong for Mr. Dickinson,’ who ‘retained the hope of reconciliation with the mother country, and was unwilling it should be lessened by offensive statements.’ He forgot that in mid-1775, he, too, had hoped for reconciliation. Jefferson’s version… assured the colonists’ friends in Britain and other parts of the Empire that the American ‘mean not in any wise to affect that union with them in which we have so long & so happily lived, and which we wish so much to see again restored,’ and expressed continued faith in the ‘good offices’ and ‘friendly dispositions’ of ‘our fellow subjects beyond the Atlantic.’ Dickinson, in fact, had made Jefferson’s draft stronger, more assertive, even threatening. He expanded the list of oppressions that, as the document said, forced colonists to choose between ‘an unconditional submission to the Tyranny of irritated Ministers, or Resistance by Force,’ and inserted a statement that necessity had ‘not yet’ driven the colonists to disrupt the empire, which raised the possibility of Independence more explicitly than Jefferson had done. But Independence, the Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms emphasized, was not what the colonists wanted. ‘We have not raised armies with the ambitious designs of separating from Great-Britain, and establishing Independent states,” Congress declared. The Americans were willing to lay down their arms ‘when Hostilities shall cease on the part of the Aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed,’ but, the Declaration added, ‘not before’ that occurred” (Maier, American Scripture, 19-20).

The Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms is one of the greatest of the state papers of the Revolution and the most important precursor to the Declaration of Independence. Before issuing the Declaration of Independence, “Congress had produced some 15 other state papers in the form of letters, petitions, proposals, addresses, and a speech, but it had issued only one other ‘declaration’ as a formal precedent for the Declaration of Independence: the Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms of July 6, 1775… Like the Declaration of Independence, the Declaration… [on] Taking up Arms marked a decisive turning point in the struggle between Britain and its American colonies: in this case, the move by the colonists to formal armed conflict” (Armitage, Declaration of Independence, 31-32). In a letter dated that same day John Adams wrote: “We have spent this whole Day in debating Paragraph by Paragraph a Manifesto as some call it, or a Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms… It has some Mercury in it, and is pretty frank, plain, and clear’ (Smith, ed., Letters of the Delegates to Congress I:587). This exceedingly rare initial pamphlet printing of Declaration… [on] Taking up Arms was published in Philadelphia “by the Bradfords (apparently without special orders from Congress)” (Powell, Books of a New Nation, 52): it was printed in a July 10, 1775 issue of the newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet, and in a broadside “Postscript” to the newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, on July 12, 1775.

This handsome volume begins with the rare first Philadelphia printing of Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms, which is bound with the first English edition of that electrifying work and also contains three additional key revolutionary writings of the Second Continental Congress (each first printed in Philadelphia the same year). The English edition, which was “secretly issued, with no printer shown, as propaganda for American sympathizers” (Howes D198), notably features Dickinson’s Olive Branch Petition (herein To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty), America’s near-final attempt to avoid a full-scale war. It “arrived in Great Britain in the middle of August 1775, and was quickly delivered to the secretary of state for the colonies, William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth. The documents’ bearers, Richard Penn and Arthur Lee, were soon informed by Dartmouth that King George III would not respond… The closest Congress received to a formal response of any kind was George III’s 26 October speech opening the new session of Parliament” (Sadosky, Revolutionary Negotiations, 69). With that George III effectively dismissed the Olive Branch Petition as a political maneuver and declared America to be engaged in “open and avowed rebellion.”

Also featured in the English edition are two other key July 1775 works of the Second Continental Congress. The first of these is the The Twelve United Colonies… to the Inhabitants of Great Britain (adopted July 8), “said to have been written by Richard Henry Lee” (Evans 14532). In addressing the people of England, this eloquent and highly emotional work condemns “the wanton and unnecessary Destruction of Charlestown,” and pointedly states that Boston “is now garrisoned by an Army sent not to protect, but to enslave its Inhabitants.” The other work is the address To the People of Ireland (adopted July 28), which was prepared by a committee consisting of James Duane, William Livingston, and John and Samuel Adams, and fiercely accuses Britain of engaging in a “black and horrid design… to convert us from freemen into slaves, from subjects into vassals.” Publication of this English edition “was apparently arranged by Richard Champion” (Adams 75-149b), a prominent British Quaker and Bristol merchant, who was a close friend of Edmund Burke, as well as a friend and trading partner of Robert Morris of Philadelphia. In a letter to Morris, dated August 20, 1775 Champion wrote: “Mr. Penn… brought over the Declaration and Address which I caused to be reprinted here immediately… The Address is a most admirable performance & if the people here have any feeling left it must have an effect upon them.” Champion was appointed Deputy Paymaster “through Burke’s influence in 1782, but the ministry being dissolved shortly after, he was thrown out of office, and he emigrated to America on the 7th October 1784” (Chaffers, Marks and Monograms, 853). That same year he published his Considerations on the Present Situation of Great Britain and the United States of America. Philadelphia printing of Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms with half title. Following the Bradford printing, it “was reprinted in newspapers at once, and as a separate [pamphlet or broadside] in New York (twice), in Newport, Providence, Watertown, Portsmouth, Bristol, and London” (Powell, 52). First English edition, the first collected edition of all four works, with Declaration… [on] Taking Up Arms containing uncorrected “Satute” (p 5, li 20), “in Delaware” (p 19, last line), “deporable” (p 25, li 9). Both Sabin and Howes cite the pagination of Adams 75-149d, a London Association issue (not this copy): a 16-page Bristol edition of the Declaration … [on] Taking Up Arms was also issued in 1775. Olive Branch Petition with printed prefatory note of Penn and Lee dated “Sept. 4, 1775” and printed signatories of the signers. ESTC W30722, N67720. Evans 14544. Howes D198. Sabin 15522, 19160. Streeter Sale II:763. Adams, American Controversy 75-148, 75-149a, 75-149b, 75-150a, 75-152. See Evans 14532,14536; Streeter Sale II:762; ESTC T228809, T121380.

Text fresh with Declaration half title expertly remargined at top edge, minor paper repair, title page with small bit of archival restoration to upper corner, minor archival paper repair minimally affecting one word, very light occasional soiling, expert joint repairs.

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