"THE STAPLE OF AMERICA AT PRESENT IS LAND": FIRST SEPARATE EDITION OF THOMAS COOPER'S THOUGHTS ON EMIGRATION, 1794, ENCOURAGING DISSENTERS AND ABOLITIONISTS TO MOVE TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
COOPER, Thomas. Thoughts on Emigration, in a Letter from a Gentleman in Philadelphia, to His Friend in England. London: No publisher, 1794. Slim octavo, modern marbled paper wrappers, paper cover label. Housed in a custom half cloth portfolio with attached chemise. $2400.
First separate edition of this letter between Thomas Cooper and Joseph Priestley, treating America as a haven for Dissenters, abolitionists, and all those British citizens no longer sympathetic with the British government.
Born in England and educated at University College, Oxford, Thomas Cooper became a barrister in 1779. Cooper was political from the outset. In 1790, he joined the Dissenters, who were arguing for greater religious tolerance in England. His fervor was so threatening to the establishment that he earned a mention in Parliament by Edmund Burke. Cooper surrounded himself with the era's radicals, including people fighting the Church of England's control over British life and abolitionists. One of Cooper's closest friends was Joseph Priestley, the chemist and Franklin collaborator who was, at the time, perhaps best known as a powerful voice on behalf of the Dissenters. When Priestley was driven from his home by anti-Dissenter riots, it became clear to Cooper that his security in England was not guaranteed. The French Revolution grabbed Cooper's focus in, in 1792, he was sent to Paris by the Constitutional Society of Manchester. Cooper and his comrades vocally supported the Jacobins. As a result of his many radical allegiances at this time, Edmund Burke once again attacked Cooper in the Commons. In 1794, Cooper acknowledged that it was time to leave England and thus left for America with his friend, Joseph Priestley. Once there, Cooper anonymously published a pamphlet, promising English emigrants "asylum from civil persecution and religious intolerance" in America. He also encouraged rights activists and abolitionists to join him in the States (though not in the South for obvious reasons). Unsurprisingly, Cooper recommended Pennsylvania, the original seat of the American independence project. In 1799, Cooper published an article in a local newspaper and was sentenced to a $400 fine (around $10,000 today) and six months in prison under the Sedition Act. Cooper thus became disillusioned with America and its government. Nevertheless, Cooper was popular with Thomas Jefferson and began to absorb his politics, including a states' rights orientation. Cooper moved to the South where he taught chemistry and, though he always agitated for political rights, he became an ardent slavery supporter and actually purchased at least eight slaves. Structured as a letter between Cooper and Priestley, this work stems from Cooper's American idealism period, when he still fervently believed in emigrating to America and had even purchased several hundred thousand acres of land. Here, Cooper carefully examines the states in terms of economic opportunity, slavery, climate, cost of land, and other amenities, with special attention to the risk of Native American incursions in the less colonized states. Originally published as "Letter 1" of Cooper's Some Information Respecting America, 1794. This is the first separate edition of that letter. This same letter was also published as Extract of a letter from a gentleman in America to a friend in England, on the subject of emigration the same year. 123 Eberstadt 39. Sabin 95678. ESTC N46500.
Only a few small spots to interior and toning patch to title pages, wrappers fine. A lovely copy in near-fine condition.