"THIRTY YEARS BEFORE LEXINGTON… HE DEVELOPED AND TAUGHT A THEORY ABOUT THE RIGHT OF RESISTANCE TO THE POLICIES OF THE MOTHER COUNTRY, LONG BEFORE FRANKLIN'S PLAN OR THE TROUBLED REIGN OF GEORGE III": EXCEEDINGLY SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF FRANCIS HUTCHESON'S SYSTEM OF MORAL PHILOSOPHY, 1755—"THE FATHER OF THE SCOTTISH ENLIGHTENMENT"
HUTCHESON, Francis. A System of Moral Philosophy. Glasgow: R. and A. Foulis and (London) by A. Millar, 1755. Two volumes. Quarto, period-style three-quarter calf, raised bands, red morocco spine labels, marbled boards. $12,500.
First edition of Hutcheson's seminal work, assembling his famed Glasgow lectures, many attended by Adam Smith, together in book form for the first time, defending "the right of resistance to government" and attacking slavery in "a new political and social vision that went far beyond Locke… the vision of a 'free society,''' his writings a pivotal influence on Jefferson in the Declaration, with a core chapter of this rare work seized upon by rebellious Americans to be reprinted in a 1772 issue of the Massachusetts Spy.
The Scottish Enlightenment is "not just an episode in Scottish history. It marks a crucial turning point in America… [and] created the basic idea of modernity" (Herman, Scottish Enlightenment, vii-viii). The term itself is in "use today through William R. Scott, who in 1900 spoke of Francis Hutcheson as 'the prototype of the Scottish Enlightenment'" (Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment, 1-3). Born in 1694, Hutcheson expanded his influence beyond seminal works such as System of Moral Philosophy with his tenure at the University of Glasgow and his crucial impact on students such as Adam Smith. In Hutcheson's posthumous System, which assembles his lectures at the Glasgow for the first time in book form, he asserts "'the rights of resisting in people, when their fundamental privileges are invaded.' In fact, it is through Hutcheson that… rights of resistance and popular sovereignty… merge in to the mainstream of the Scottish Enlightenment." His writings in System also issue "an attack on all forms of slavery… they would inspire antislavery abolitionists, not only in Scotland but from London to Philadelphia. He created a new political and social vision that went far beyond Locke or any comparable thinker: the vision of a 'free society.' Hutcheson is Europe's first liberal in the classic sense: a believer in maximizing personal liberty in the social, economic and intellectual spheres, as well as the political… his doctrine of happiness had two faces. It involved, on one side, gratification of the self through a joyous and contented life. When Jefferson added 'the pursuit of happiness' to his list of inalienable rights in the Declaration, he was emphasizing this side of Hutcheson's legacy." On the other side of that legacy, Hutcheson "enjoins us to get out and become involved in the lives or our fellow human beings. Our willingness to do so becomes the measure of who we are. His statement on this point—'action is best, which produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number'—would also ring down through the next two centuries" (Herman, 71-2, 80).
Deemed "the father of the Scottish Enlightenment," Hutcheson is also viewed as "probably the most influential and respected moral philosopher in America in the 18th century" (Mailer, Nehemias (Scotus) Americanus, 241). Of his fellow Scots Hume and Adam Smith, "Hutcheson is, by far, the closest to Locke… one excellent chapter of the System is devoted to defending Locke's version of the state of nature against Hobbes… Hutcheson also affirms the importance of rights… and famously defends the right of resistance to government" in passages that scholar Caroline Robbins argues "had a direct impact on the American founders" (Cambridge Companion, 318). Robbins argues that in order to find "an explicit statement, 30 years before Lexington, of 'when it is that colonies may turn independent,' one must turn to the work of Hutcheson… he developed and taught a theory about the right of resistance to the policies of the mother country, long before Franklin's famous plan or the troubled reign of George III." In particular, the book's chapter on the "Rights of Governors" was deemed by rebellious "New Englanders to be appropriate to their situation… and a very large part of the chapter was reprinted in the 50th number of the Massachusetts Spy on February 13, 1772" (When It Is That Colonies May Turn Independent, 214-15, 246-51).
"Jefferson, with his belief in the moral sense and tendency to trust 'the Heart' over 'the Head,' is deeply Hutchesonian." System clearly expresses Hutcheson's belief "that we should each do our best to extend our benevolence… but he also had great respect for the degree to which human life is fundamentally an individual affair." He also notably "criticizes religious coercion… and used the importance of our sense of natural liberty to defend private property… Jefferson follows Hutcheson in combining a strong commitment to rights—in the opening of the Declaration and, later, in his correspondence with Madison about the Constitution." It is Hutcheson, as well, "who offers us the earliest formulation of the utilitarians' 'Great Happiness Principle'" (Cambridge Companion, 318-19, 344). "When Madison was asked… to draw up a list for the congressional library, it is not surprising that the Scottish Enlightenment was heavily represented" with the inclusion of Hutcheson's System (Wood, Explaining America, 17-20). Volume I with six-page Subscribers' List including fellow leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment: Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith. ESTC T99472. Goldsmiths 8995. Gaskell, 297.
Paper repair to front flyleaf (blank). A few signatures in both volumes with faint dampstain along upper margin, not affecting letterpress. Bindings fine and attractive.