“THE QUESTION HERE IS NOT ABOUT POWER, BUT RIGHT”: ONE OF THE EARLIEST AND MOST INFLUENTIAL COLONIAL ARGUMENTS FOR AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE
DUMMER, Jeremiah. A Defence of the New-England Charters. London: J. Almon, . Slim octavo, early-19th-century three-quarter brown calf, marbled boards; pp. 88. $1100.
Early English edition, published in London the same year as the incendiary Stamp Act, containing Dummer's important early argument for the rights of American colonial authority against Parliamentary rule, a linchpin in the course of American revolutionary thought.
In the early 18th century, British rule of colonial charter governments was largely managed by the Board of Trade, which regularly made reports and recommendations to Parliament. "In 1721 the Board of Trade urged that all proprietary governments be abolished," charging American colonial governments with failing to assist British assaults against the French Canadians (Greene, 184). At this time Boston-born Jeremiah Dummer, the New England colonial agent for both Connecticut and Massachusetts, was in London where he had developed powerful connections to the "offices of the Board of Trade and was part of an intellectual world that gave him access to mid- and upper-level royal officials." The Harvard-educated Dummer responded to the Board of Trade's attacks with what is considered his "most noteworthy publication. A Defence of New England Charters was not a theological tract but a political one that was a harbinger of the future. In the pamphlet, published in 1721, Dummer argued that New England charters were superior to English corporations in legal standing and should not have been vacated during the 17th century. Furthermore, assuming for the sake of argument the legitimacy of the revocation, the Crown, as a practical matter, should not have assumed control of the colonies. Reprinted in [1745 and] 1765, Dummer's pamphlet contributed to the ideological challenge to parliamentary authority being developed by James Otis and other early revolutionaries" (ANB). "The question here," Dummer argued, "is not about power but right; and shall not the supreme legislature of all the nation do right?" First published in London in 1721, this edition was published in 1765, the same year as a Boston edition, due to renewed interest related to the Stamp Act. With advertisements for pamphlets about the Stamp Act on the title page verso. Tiny pinholes at gutter edge from original stitching. Howes D554. Sabin 21197. ESTC T32270. Adams 65-7. See Gephart I:3103; Evans 5576. Library Company of Philadelphia bookplate with deaccession notation. Small owner signature dated 1908; faint occasional marginalia.
Text fresh and clean, lightest rubbing to boards. A scarce about-fine copy, handsomely bound.