Series of Answers to Certain Popular Questions

Benjamin FRANKLIN   |   Josiah TUCKER

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Item#: 123199 price:$3,400.00

Series of Answers to Certain Popular Questions
Series of Answers to Certain Popular Questions
Series of Answers to Certain Popular Questions

JOSIAH TUCKER WAS BENJAMIN FRANKLIN'S "BÊTE NOIRE": FIRST EDITION OF TUCKER'S CONTROVERSIAL SERIES OF ANSWERS, 1776, PUBLISHED IN THE EARLIEST DAYS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, INVOKING ECONOMIC PRINCIPLES OF SELF-INTEREST AND CHARGING AMERICANS WITH DECEPTIVE CLAIMS OF "LIBERTY AND EQUALITY" IN CALLING FOR INDEPENDENCE

(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) TUCKER, Josiah. A Series of Answers to Certain Popular Questions, Against Separating From the Rebellious Colonies, and Discarding Them Entirely: Being the Concluding Tract of the Dean of Glocester, on the Subject of American Affairs. Glocester: R. Raikes, 1776. Octavo, period-style full crimson morocco gilt, black morocco spine label, pp. (i-iii), iv-xv, (xvi), (ix), x-xv, (xvi), (ix), x-xiv, (15), 16-108, (1-12). $3400.

First edition of Tucker's incendiary 1776 work in which he responds to both British and American positions on American independence, issued as news of the Revolution's opening battles reached Britain, expressing his long-held, "unique" and fiercely contentious views as Britain's "Cassandra," defending taxation of Americans even as he demanded "America be set free now," with Franklin known to make extensive comments in the margins of a copy now located in the Library of Congress, which he could have purchased in late December 1776.

Tucker, the controversial 18th-century English theologian and economist, "thought and wrote about the relations of commerce to war and imperialism with the vision of a 20th-century prophet" (Connor, Josiah Tucker, 79-82). "Modern scholars credit Tucker with anticipating by 20 years the arguments of Adam Smith espousing free trade and denying the mercantilist contention that colonies were essential to the economic prosperity of Great Britain. Tucker also anticipated by 20 years the arguments set forth in Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France that the 'natural rights' theorists in America and England… threatened the historic foundations of English constitutional government" (Condon, Americanization of Benjamin Franklin). Tucker's long-held position on the policy of American independence was "unique"—particularly his contention "that Parliament possessed the undoubted right to tax the colonists," which lost him "support among the friends of America… [and] sounded like deliberate suicide to the Administration." Especially distinctive was his proposal "that America be set free now… In his efforts to prevent the British from waging war… he made a final attempt in a Series of Answers" (Rashid, "He Startled," 449-51, emphasis in original). Tucker, who was "convinced that the Americans employed Lockean ideas of liberty solely in order to subvert British authority," ridiculed as "a contrived hallucination" any view that "ideas of liberty and equality formed the dominant unifying theme of the American Revolution." Instead "he believed the Colonies would assert their independence whenever they became strong enough to do so… that is why Tucker was so angry at the Americans. Instead of proclaiming loudly and clearly that they had reached maturity and were now ready for independence, they continually and, he believed, falsely protested undeviating loyalty to the British Empire" (Rashid, 459).

As early as 1763 Tucker had written: "'my fate was like Cassandra's: none would believe me till it was too late'"( Ford, Josiah Tucker, 330-31). In this timely work, written against the outbreak of the American Revolution, Tucker disputes British objections to American independence: addressing trade and economic issues, and fears that the West Indies and Ireland would follow America's path. In Series of Answers, Tucker's preface cited Franklin, Burke and Richard Price, and he then "took up one by one the most popular objections that were made to separation and answered them." For example, against Tucker's answer to Objection IV—"Will not the animosity of the war prevent future Anglo-American trade?"—he argues "the sooner the separation the better; our victory would only produce another revolt and another war, as has been pointed out by the authors of Common Sense, 'supposed to be Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams.'" Franklin, in his marginalia to a copy of this work that is in the Library of Congress, objected to Tucker's reference to Franklin, Paine and John Adams, as well as Tucker's assertion of a "universal rule with merchants and traders of all countries, religions and languages, that self Interest needs no Reconciliation. 'For trade is not carried on for the Sake of Friendship, but of Interest.'" Franklin could have purchased his copy and made his marginalia in it "on or after December 22, 2776—"Tucker was his bête noire" (Founders Online). In Tucker's printed postscript to this very scarce first edition, he writes of fresh news from the colonies, received as parts of the book had already been "sent to the Press." While many in Britain might have seen the "the Success of his Majesty's Forces against the American Rebels" as incentive to demonstrate British might and expand the war, Tucker instead writes: "the only proper Inference to be drawn from our present Success is to… CONCLUDE the War" (emphasis in original). First edition, first printing: six rear pages of publisher's advertisements. Elaborate woodcut-engraved initials, head- and tailpieces. Sabin 97360. Adams, American Controversy 76-156. ESTC 47475. Kress 7269. Goldsmith 11448. "Advocates granting the colonies independence and then forming a union between them and England" (Howes T391). Small flourish of marginalia to one leaf not affecting text.

Text very fresh with expert restoration to title page, affecting just a few letters of print; light edge-wear to a few early leaves not affecting text.

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