Reflections Previous to the Establishment of a Militia

Adam FERGUSON

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"PROVIDED THE FRAMERS OF THE CONSTITUTION AND 2ND AMENDMENT WITH A CAUTIONARY LEGACY… FEAR OF BEING 'DISARMED'… WAS NEVER FAR FROM THE MINDS OF THE FOUNDING GENERATION”: FIRST EDITION OF ADAM FERGUSON'S REFLECTIONS, 1756, PIVOTAL TO HIS DEBATE WITH ADAM SMITH OVER STANDING ARMIES

(FERGUSON, Adam). Reflections Previous to the Establishment of a Militia. London: R. and J. Dodsley, 1756. Octavo, original cream self-wrappers, uncut, original stitching; pp. (2), 1-53, (1).

First edition of a seminal work by Ferguson, famed as one of the Scottish Enlightenment’s "two Adams," this early anonymously-issued work at the heart of his defense of militias against Adam Smith's support for standing armies, with Ferguson's work profoundly influential in giving voice to American's revolutionary and constitutional defense of militias and the right to bear arms, uncut in original stitching in original self-wrappers.

"A self-described 'war-like philosopher,' Adam Ferguson was perhaps the most significant theorist of conflict in the Scottish Enlightenment" (Skjönsberg, 1). "Admired by Samuel Johnson and Holbach, complimented by Gibbon and Voltaire, and esteemed by Hume and Adam Smith, he was an important interlocutor in the complex web of Enlightenment discourse" (ODNB). Known as the "two Adams" and born the same year, Ferguson and Smith "disagreed greatly on the question of militias" versus standing armies. To Ferguson, "standing armies were little better than… mercenaries whose loyalties were in question" (Hill, Passionate Society, 179). The basis of Smith's argument for standing armies "was the division of labor… Whereas Smith was willing to treat nations and individuals from an economic point of view, Ferguson spurned this 'modern' approach and insisted on the priority of Stoic and civic humanist moral ideals… To Ferguson, militias were superior to standing armies because non-professional soldiers care more about 'the land they are defending because it is theirs.'" He believed that "Smith's writings on the militia were not only wrong but socially irresponsible." On publication in 1756, and well past the Smith's Wealth of Nations in 1776, Ferguson continued a "debate with Smith that centered on the concepts of wealth, division of labor, militias, standing armies, and civic virtue" (Sher, "Adam Ferguson, Adam Smith," in Journal of Modern History V61, No.2:242- 56).

Ferguson's Reflections was a linchpin in heightened debate over a Scottish Militia Act, and it quickly became vital to American colonists who shared Ferguson's claim for militias. When British "troops began efforts to disarm the Massachusetts militias… fear of being 'disarmed' along the lines of the Scots…was never far from the minds of the founding generation." By substantially declaring an argument for militias, Ferguson "provided the framers of the Constitution and 2nd Amendment with a cautionary legacy that appealed to them because it addressed many of the same issues. Reacting to shared concerns, they came up with similar—and similarly worded—responses." Following the Revolution, "if the bearing of arms was so vital that it required constitutional protection, that right was seen as inextricably linked to the collective responsibility of militia service… American colonists' experience, like that of the Scots, had demonstrated that some protection had to be asserted for the right to participate in the creation of a well-regulated militia under local control. These issues pushed the new nation onto the then-uncharted course of federalism in discussing how, in practice and in constitutional law, local military protection and competency could be assured… Not accidentally, therefore, in deliberations over… the 2nd Amendment, Americans adopted not only the language but also the substance of the Scottish demand for a militia" (Konig, Second Amendment, 139-49). "Ferguson's thought was original and distinctive" (Hill, 1, 21). "His multi-layered intellectual persona, and his particular blend of Scottish, British, and European concerns, were thus freshly relevant to political sensibilities on the threshold of the 21st century" (ODNB). First edition, first printing: issued anonymously. ESTC T93204.

Text especially fresh, only tiny bit of edge-wear to original self-wrappers. An exceptional uncut copy in fine condition.

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