Political Disquisitions

Benjamin FRANKLIN   |   James BURGH

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"PRODUCED A GREAT EFFECT UPON THE MIND OF THE AMERICAN COLONISTS DURING THE REVOLUTION": RARE FIRST EDITION OF BURGH’S POWERFUL POLITICAL DISQUISITIONS, 1774-75, EDITED BY BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, PRECEDING THE 1775 AMERICAN EDITION, READ BY WASHINGTON, JEFFERSON, HANCOCK AND OTHER FOUNDING FATHERS

(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) (BURGH, James). Political Disquisitions; Or, An Enquiry into public Errors, Defects, and Abuses… Calculated to draw the timely Attention of Government and People to a due Consideration of the Necessity, and the Means, of Reforming those Errors, Defects, and Abuses; of Restoring the Constitution, and Saving the State. London: Printed for E(dward) and C(harles) Dilly, 1774-1775. Three volumes. Octavo, period-style speckled calf gilt, red morocco spine labels.

Rare first edition of this major revolutionary work, an important influence on America’s Founding Fathers, and praised by John Adams as "a book which ought to be in the hands of every American who has learned to read." Washington, Jefferson, Hancock and other leaders of the Continental Congress read this powerful work, and both The Federalist Papers and Common Sense refer to it. Edited by Burgh's close friend, Benjamin Franklin.

John Adams declared Scottish reformer James Burgh's Political Disquisitions "a book which ought to be in the hands of every American who has learned to read" (Wood, Creation of the American Republic, 165). Burgh was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, who excerpted another work by Burgh in his Poor Richard almanacs and further assisted Burgh by editing this highly influential work. Political Disquisitions is "perhaps the most important political treatise which appeared in England in the first half of the reign of George III' [and] the most famous contemporary exposé of the 'corruption' of the British Parliament" (Hay, "Benjamin Franklin, James Burgh," William and Mary Quarterly 32:1:112). The effect of Political Disquisitions was so consequential and widespread that "when Dr. Parr was asked whether he had read this book, he said in reply, 'Have I read my Bible, sir?" (DNB). Here Burgh targets issues such as freedom of speech and the press, armies and militias, taxation without representation, and British oppression of the American colonies. Published in Philadelphia very soon after this rare English edition, Political Disquisitions "produced a great effect upon the mind of the American colonists during the Revolution" (Sabin 9246). The American edition was owned and read by many of the Founding Fathers, including Washington, Jefferson, John Hancock, John Dickinson and other celebrated patriots. In addition, Political Disquisitions is cited in Hamilton and Madison's Federalist Papers, and Thomas Paine refers to it in Common Sense: "Those who would fully understand of what great consequence a large and equal representation is to a state, should read Burgh's Political Disquisitions." Each volume issued separately in London (the first two in 1774, the final volume in 1775). With half titles in all volumes. Adams 74-13, 74-14, 75-14. Sabin 9246. Sowerby 2720. See Evans 13851. Volume I title page with early paper repair to small section likely excised for owner signature, not affecting text.

Text generally quite fresh with only lightest scattered foxing. Beautifully bound.

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