Two Letters Addressed to... Parliament

FRENCH REVOLUTION   |   Edmund BURKE

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Two Letters Addressed to... Parliament
Two Letters Addressed to... Parliament

"REASON AND AUTHORITY DO NOT MOVE IN THE SAME PARALLEL": RARE FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF EDMUND’S BURKE'S FIERY TWO LETTERSON THE PROPOSALS FOR PEACE WITH THE REGICIDE DIRECTORY OF FRANCE, 1797, CALLING FOR "WAR ABROAD AND REPRESSION AT HOME TO EXTIRPATE REVOLUTIONARY INFECTION"

(FRENCH REVOLUTION) BURKE, Edmund. Two Letters Addressed to a Member of the Present Parliament, On the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France. Philadelphia: Printed for William Cobbett, 1797. Octavo, period-style full speckled calf-gilt, red morocco spine label; pp. (1-3) 4-64, 1-22. $2800.

First and only 18th-century American edition, preceded by the 1796 first English edition, of Burke's explosive demand for a "religious war… a moral war" against revolutionary France and its "armed doctrine… aiming at universal empire," published the same decade as his Reflections on the Revolution in France.

"The fountainhead of anti-revolutionary political thought was undoubtedly Edmund Burke" (Hartog, Trans-Atlantic Anti-Jacobinism, 135). Yet, for many, "only at the end did he become the… scourge of Revolution. Indeed, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) is liberal compared to Letters… which demanded a war abroad and repression at home to extirpate revolutionary infection" (Stanford Encyclopedia). In this first American edition of Burke's Two Letters, which are at the core of his four-part series known as Letters on a Regicide Peace, Burke warned that "one kind of Europe where, as he had envisaged it, every one of its inhabitants would feel at home, was rapidly and violently displaced by another, consisting of mutually suspicious, nationalist, and increasingly racist nation-states" (Pagden, Comment: Empire and Its Anxieties, 145). In late 1795, as "France's internal politics showed the prospect of stabilizing," Burke's deep "loss of hope at restraining the drive toward peace enabled him to overcome any remaining scruples" about authoring the Letters, in which he stressed "the impossibility of the English constitution co-existing with [revolutionary] Jacobinism" (Hampsher-Monk, Edmund Burke's Changing Justification, 89). "Burke was a Christian thinker whose conservatism has been traced to his theological presuppositions… he saw atheistic Jacobinism as a threat to Western cultural tradition" (Stanford Encyclopedia). His series of Letters "completely abandoned Vattel's natural law premises of nations as isolates in a state of nature," as he "assembled a completely new justification for intervention, structurally unlike anything he had put forward before… Burke claimed not only that international relations with revolutionary France were impossible, but that the maintenance of an international European community of any kind required the extirpation of the revolutionary regime" (Hampsher-Monk, 92-95).

To Burke, the move toward introducing "interests which claimed universal applicability, such as justification by faith or the rights of man, dissolved the necessary connection between a state's natural situation and the diplomatic interests it generated… he maintained that Britain and its allies were engaged against France" in what he describes, in his First and Second Letter, as a "'religious war… a moral war' against the 'armed doctrine' of a 'sect aiming at universal empire'" (Armitage, Edmund Burke, 632). "Reason and authority," he warns, "do not move in the same parallel." For some recent scholars, "Burke's justification for intervention in French internal affairs in the name of the international community has formed a powerful strand of thought in both diplomacy and international relations theory" (Hampsher-Monk, 65). Burke's Reflections had been earlier "published in America by none other than the intemperate Anti-Jacobin William Cobbett," who notably issued this first American edition of Two Letters. "The mercurial Cobbett proved… an important channel to warn Americans about French abuses while encouraging them into closer relations with Great Britain… Throughout the 1790s—reaching a height during the war fever of 1798," Cobbett's writings and publications, in which he charged the French Revolution with presenting "nothing but a regular process in robbery and murder… [were] read by Abigail Adams, George Washington" and many other leaders (Hartog, 136-38). First and only 18th-century American edition; preceded by the 1796 unauthorized and authorized first English editions of Two Letters. ESTC W36400. Evans 31895. Gaines, Cobbett, 102.

Text fresh with light foxing mainly to preliminary and final leaves, tiny gutter-edge pinholes from original stitching, beautifully bound.

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