"SAVAGES WE CALL THEM, BECAUSE THEIR MANNERS DIFFER FROM OURS": EXCEEDINGLY RARE 1784 EDITION OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN'S TWO TRACTS, CONTAINING HIS INFORMATION TO THOSE WHO WOULD REMOVE TO AMERICA IN ONE VOLUME WITH REMARKS CONCERNING THE SAVAGES OF NORTH-AMERICA
FRANKLIN, Benjamin. Two Tracts: Information to Those Who Would Remove to America. And, Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America. London: John Stockdale, 1784. Slim octavo, 19th-century three-quarter black morocco and marbled boards; pp. 39 (1). $15,000.
Second edition, issued the same year as the virtually unobtainable first edition, of the first combined publication of two fascinating and little-known works by Franklin, championing America by challenging notions of European cultural superiority, rank and inherited wealth, preceded by the same year's first separate editions issued by his private press at Passy, with Information highlighting Franklin's pragmatic values of hard work and frugality in "his best paen to the middle-class value he represented," and defying Europe to shed its ethnocentricity in Remarks' with his tales of the "Savages of North America."
"In the few short months after victory over the British, sealed by the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, Franklin—the best-known American of his day—had found himself besieged by potential immigrants eager to learn more about this new society and, perhaps, to profit from it. His response was simple and direct. Newcomers must rely on their skills or a commitment to hard, honest work" (Lyons, Society for Useful Knowledge, 1). In March 1784 "to set the record straight… he unveiled for friends a piece he composed in self-defense." In this volume's "unexpectedly revealing" lead work, Information to Those Who Would Remove to America, Franklin "offers what may stand as the best one-line definition of the land of opportunity. In Europe pedigree might be all, 'but it is a commodity that cannot be carried to a worse market than to that of America, where people do not enquire concerning a stranger, what is he? But what can he do?'" (Schiff, Great Improvisation, 363-4; emphasis in original). Franklin champions hard work and frugality in "his best paen to the middle-class values he represented and helped to make integral to the new nation's character… America was creating a society, Franklin proclaimed, where a 'mere man of Quality' who does not want to work would be 'despised and disregarded,' while anyone who has a useful skill would be honored" (Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin, 424). It is here, as well, that Franklin gives his distinctive "American voice to one of the most cherished notions of the Age of Enlightenment—that the value of learning and knowledge, of information and data… cannot rest on blind acceptance of past tradition… knowledge has to be truly useful" (Lyons, 2l; emphasis in original). Yet Franklin was ever conscious of his position as America's chief diplomat and saw the risk in his bold dismissal of European inherited rank and wealth. To that end, this work, first issued separately at his small private press in Passy, was published anonymously in Paris in 1784, with Franklin later regretting "that it appeared under his name in England" (Schiff, 364).
This volume's second work, Remarks Concerning the Savages of North-America, was also first issued separately at Passy and given to his friends. Keenly aware that the French "were interested in Native Americans and that immigration projects were being fostered in France… Franklin seems to have sought to prepare people for the cultural differences they would surely find divergent from the idealized portraits they could read in Voltaire." His opening—"Savages we call them, because their manners differ from ours"—echoes Montaigne, and can be seen as "a critique of the ethnocentrism of Europeans who could assume that theirs was a more civilized culture… The opening point, then, was that the ethnocentric attitudes of Europeans needed adjustment." Franklin also used Remarks to analyze, often humorously, views of commerce and culture "by detaching rules of decency and hospitality from Europeans and by linking them with native peoples and also with free commerce among people." Remarks would subsequently be sent "by someone else (not Franklin) to England and published there" (Verhoeven, ed., Revolutionary Histories, 53-9). Stated "Second Edition": issued by the same London publisher, with the same collation and uncorrected numbering of page 35 as the same year's virtually unobtainable first collected edition. Earlier, as well, the same year each work was first issued separately in English at Passy, with Information issued separately in French in Paris, Remarks issued separately in English in Birmingham. Rear page of publisher's advertisement. ESTC N14213. Ford 368. Howes F333. Sabin 25594. Field 559. See ESTC T905. Ford 367; 348; 349; 364; 365. Bookplates of bibliophile Ismael Glusman.
Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, faint soiling, mild edge-wear to boards. An extremely good copy of a rare Franklin work.