Sermon Preached... May 25th, 1774

Gad HITCHCOCK

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Item#: 124220 price:$5,200.00

Sermon Preached... May 25th, 1774
Sermon Preached... May 25th, 1774

"MUCH IS AT STAKE… THE UNITED VOICE OF AMERICA, WITH THE SOLEMNITY OF THUNDER AND ACCENTS PIERCING AS THE LIGHTNING, AWAKES YOUR ATTENTION": RARE FIRST EDITION OF REVEREND GAD HITCHCOCK'S REVOLUTIONARY MAY 25, 1774 ELECTION SERMON

(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) HITCHCOCK, A.M. Gad. A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Thomas Gage, Esq; Governor: The Honorable His Majesty's Council, and the Honorable House of Representatives, of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England, May 25th, 1774. Being the Anniversary of the Election of His Majesty's Council for said Province. Boston: New England: Edes & Gill, 1774. Slim octavo, period-style full calf-gilt, red morocco spine label; pp. (1-5), 6-56. $5200.

First edition of the famed Congregationalist minister's electrifying Sermon, an "unmistakable and direct challenge" to Britain’s new Governor Gage of Massachusetts in the audience, with Hitchcock boldly pronouncing "our contention is not about trifles, but about liberty and property, and not ours only, but those of prosperity."

In May 1774, barely two months after Britain passed the infamous Port Act, one of four Intolerable Acts aimed at punishing Americans for the Boston Tea Party, Congregational minister Hitchcock delivered the year's annual Election Sermon. With Britain's new Governor Thomas Gage in the audience, "Hitchcock spoke bluntly." Aligning himself with opposition to the Port Act. he "returned repeatedly to the assertion that people were the proper judges of their rulers… [his] overall message presented an unmistakable and direct challenge" to Gage (Norton, 1774: Long Year of Revolution, 104). Hitchcock especially triggered fury in Gage by declaring "our contention is not about trifles, but about liberty and property; and not ours only, but those of posterity." In his sermons, "Old and New Testaments, classic writers, modern and ancient philosophers and divines and often 'the great Mr. Lock' were cited in proof of the duty as well as the right to resist tyranny and any attack upon the rights of men" (Baldwin, New England Clergy, 129n).

Hitchcock's Sermon "is almost entirely devoted to… the nature of political liberty" (Jenkins, Early American Imprints 257). He notably states: "No individual has any authority, or right to attempt to exercise any, over the rest of the human species, however he may be supposed to surpass them in wisdom and sagacity… Rulers are under the most sacred ties to consult the good of society," he declares, but if they "contrive and attempt the ruin of the publick [sic], it is the duty of the people to consult the common happiness, and oppose them." Arguing "much lies at stake," he asserts, "prerogative itself is not a power to do anything it pleases." Hitchcock particularly calls on colonial legislatures to recognize how "the united voice of America, with the solemnity of thunder and with accents piercing as the lightning, awakes your attention and demands fidelity… our danger is not visionary, but real." Less than year after he pronounced these words, the first shots of the American Revolution were fired at Lexington and Concord. Subsequently Hitchcock, along with other radical clergymen, was sent to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1779-1780 as a representative of his town (Pembroke), and became one "the members of the committee to draw up the [Massachusetts] constitution" (Baldwin 145). First edition, first printing: with half title; woodcut-engraved head-pieces. ESTC W29308. Evans 13330. Sabin 32260. Bailyn, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, 38, 310. Hyneman & Lutz, American Political Writing during the Founding Era 1760-1805, V.I:281-304. Containing inscription in an early unidentified cursive above the half title (front wrapper): "For Capt. Ebenezer Hitchcock." We have been unable to definitively confirm the inscription is in the hand of Gad Hitchcock; the recipient is said to be his father, Capt. Ebenezer Hitchcock, who died in 1776. Half title verso with owner inscription in a different hand: "Lucy Goo[unclear]ly her book given to her by her Mother."

Text very fresh with mere trace of soiling, tiny gutter-edge pinholes from original stitching. A fine copy of a Revolutionary classic.

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