Slaveholding a Malum in Se

Joseph JACKSON   |   Edward TYLER

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Item#: 123732 price:$1,200.00

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"A NEGLECTED MASTERPIECE OF ABOLITIONIST LITERATURE": RARE FIRST EDITION OF EDWARD ROYAL TYLER'S SLAVEHOLDING A MALUM IN SE, IN ORIGINAL SELF WRAPPERS

TYLER, E[dward]. R. Slaveholding a Malum in Se, or Invariably Sinful. Harford: S.S. Cowles, 1839. Octavo, original tan self-wrappers, original stitching; pp. (1-3), 4-48. $1200.

First edition of Tyler's searing analysis of arguments defending slavery in this incendiary work that prompted local leaders to offer gunpowder to "blow the damned abolitionist down," delivered by him in a Brattleboro chapel as a "mob formed outside… cannons were fired," with Tyler especially demolishing pro-slavery claims that enslaved people willingly choose slavery, exceedingly scarce in original self-wrappers.

In 1837 Rev. Edward Royal Tyler, the son of Revolutionary leader, jurist and author Royall Tyler, stood in Elliot Street Chapel to deliver this highly controversial abolition address in which he declared a "slaveholding government" to be any that "authorizes individuals to deprive their fellow men of self-ownership… forever." Tyler intended to establish a Brattleboro chapter of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS) despite warnings by local leaders, including one who proclaimed he "would provide the gun powder if the mob would blow the damned abolitionist down." As Tyler began to speak a "mob formed outside… cannons were fired off and pots and pans were clanged to intimidate those who might go into the chapel." His mother wrote in her journal: "Great doings: Edward delivered a lecture on abolition… cannons were fired and all manner of noises were made… nevertheless, Edward proceeded undaunted." At the subsequent first meeting of the Brattleboro AASS he declared: "The time is coming when you will be compelled to take one side or the other, for this is not simply a question of negro-slavery, it is the cause of human rights. The institutions of freedom are in imminent danger" (Brattleboro Historical Society).

Tyler's Slaveholding a malum in se (an innately immoral act regardless of legal stature) is now esteemed as "a neglected masterpiece of abolitionist literature." In its pages he presents a detailed historical and juridical analysis of arguments used to rationalize and authorize slavery, especially the popular pro-slavery concept of happy slaves, which was defended by an "ask the slave test" that argued "the slave, not the slave master, was the only reliable authority" on enslavement (Growler, Radical Orthodoxy, 612-13). Tyler soundly demolishes this idea of an enslaved person who "washes his master in innocence." He states: "If it is right to hold those only in slavery, who are willing… no one is justified in enforcing the laws of slavery. The laws which declare one man the property of another, thus sanctioning his forcible detention as chattel, are all wrong… the argument is suicidal. It annihilates itself" (emphasis in original). Essentially, this false logic signals a "relationship in which consent to another's authority must be continually given for that authority to remain in effect" and, as such, "is not a master-slave relationship at all" (Gowler, 613). Sabin 97699. Not in Blockson.

Text very fresh with scant foxing mainly to wrappers, trace of marginal dampstaining above title page. A rare near-fine copy in original self-wrappers.

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