Decline and Fall of the English System of Finance

Thomas PAINE

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"SUCH WAS THE POWER OF PAINE'S PEN!": 1796 EDITION IN ENGLISH OF PAINE'S CONTROVERSIAL DECLINE AND FALL OF BRITISH FINANCE

PAINE, Thomas. The Decline and Fall of the English System of Finance. Paris: Printed by Hartly, Adlard and Son. London: Re-printed, And Sold by the Booksellrs" [sic], 1796. Slim octavo, later marbled wraps; pp. (1-2) 3-16. $2000.

First English edition and second edition in English of Paine's fiery attack on British finance, with Jefferson possessing a 1796 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-Yale 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 1796 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). Second edition in English. Gimbel notes only one 1796 London edition with the title page imprint: "sold by the booksellrs" [sic] (this copy). Issued same year as copies with title page imprints of: "Reprinted for D.I. Eaton" or "Re-printed for T. Williams"; no priority established. Preceded the same year by the Hartley (alt. Hartly), Adlard and Son first edition in English printed in Paris, and Paine's original French Decadence et Chute du Systeme de Finances de l'Angleterre. Precedes the first American edition. Gimbel-Stephans, 60. ESTC T223362. Palgrave III:54. Lowndes, 1762. See Gimbel-Yale 101; Eberstadt 135:743; Evans 30943-30948. Not in Sabin; Goldsmiths'; Kress.

Text very fresh and clean, tiny gutter-edge pinholes from original stitching.

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