"SUCH WAS THE POWER OF PAINE'S PEN!": SEMINAL 1796 FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF PAINE'S DECLINE AND FALL OF BRITISH FINANCE
PAINE, Thomas. The Decline and Fall of the English System of Finance. Paris: Printed by Harley, Adlard and Son. London: Reprinted for D.I. Eaton, 1796. Slim octavo, period-style half brown calf and gray paper boards; pp. 44. $3500.
First edition in English of Paine's fiery attack on British finance, printed in Paris, with Jefferson possessing a first edition in his library and Paine writing Jefferson in 1797, saying, "people who affected to laugh at my Decline and Fall… now see it in another light," a major work asserting the impact of the American Revolution on England, citing Adam Smith and prompting a run on the Bank of England.
Paine's provocative Decline and Fall documents the economic impact of the American Revolution on British banks and cites Adam Smith on public debt. Developing ideas introduced in American Crisis (1776-78), "Paine attacked the English government through its economic system. He set out to prove that within 20 years, Britain's currency would fail… [arguing] that bank notes were not worth the paper on which they are printed." In April 1796 Paine presented copies of Decline and Fall "'to the French people'… The pamphlet generated considerable discussion, especially because it predicted that the bellicose government of England was nearing collapse" (Keane, 427-8). With this controversial work "a run started on the Bank of England and it had to close its doors. Such was the power of Paine's pen!" (Gimbel-Hall 100). Though its impact "was quickly overshadowed by Paine's scandalous attack on George Washington… the British government was reminded of the influence of Paine" with the printing of London editions and refutations, followed by printings in America and European translations (Keane, 429).
Jefferson had a first edition of Decline and Fall in his library (Sowerby 3188). In an April 1, 1797 letter to Jefferson, Paine wrote: "you will hear that the bank of England stopt payment on the 27 of Febru. and continues shut up. Several people who affected to laugh at my Decline and Fall of the English System of finance [sic] now see it in another light" (Founders Online). First edition in English, published in Paris: Gimbel "State A" with no Oxford rule above half title. Preceded the same year by Paine's original French Decadence et Chute du Systeme de Finances de l'Angleterre. Precedes the first American edition. Gimbel-Hall 101. Gimbel-Stephans, 60. ESTC T5820. Kress B3263. Palgrave III:54. Goldsmith's 16760. Lowndes, 1762. See Eberstadt 135:743; Evans 30943-30948.
Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, tiny bit of expert paper repair to half title. A handsome about-fine copy.