EXTREMELY RARE PRINTING OF THE RESTRAINING ACT OF 1767, THE FIRST OF THE TOWNSHEND ACTS, ONE OF A SERIES OF INFLAMMATORY MEASURES THAT HELPED SPARK THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR, THE FORBES COPY
PARLIAMENT. Anno Regni Georgii III… Septimo [The first Townshend Act, 1767] . London: Printed by Mark Baskett, 1769. Folio, disbound; pp. (i), 891-94; ll. 3. $5200.
Very rare first printing of the Restraining Act of 1767, prohibiting New York from legislative action until it allowed the quartering of British troops, the first of the Townshend Acts, a series of punishing authoritarian measures that set the American colonies on the path to revolution. One of only 1100 copies printed. From the library of Malcolm Forbes, the owner-publisher of Forbes magazine and accomplished collector.
Named for Charles Townshend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Townshend Acts consisted of a series of laws intended to raise revenue from the American colonies, tighten customs enforcement and assert imperial authority in America. The New York Restraining Act suspended the New York Assembly until it complied with the extremely unpopular Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1766, which required colonial assemblies to provide basic necessities (including housing, food and drink) to British soldiers stationed within their borders. The New York legislature objected, arguing that a disproportionate number of soldiers were stationed there, and that the British command was also headquartered there. The Assembly voted to fulfill some of the requirements, but "this was deemed insufficient" by the British, and when the Assembly refused "to incur an additional 'ruinous and insupportable' expense, Parliament declared all acts of the New York Assembly to be null and void until it fully complied with the Quartering Act" (Morison, 35-36).
American reaction was immediate, many legislators considering the Act as "a weapon that might be used to invade other American rights, and enforce other laws that the colonists considered unjust and unconstitutional" (Cochran & Andrews, 952). Philadelphia lawyer John Dickinson called the law "a parliamentary assertion of the supreme authority of the British Legislature over these colonies… intended to compel New York into a submission to that authority. It seems therefore to me as much a violation of the liberty of the people of that province, and consequently of all these colonies, as if the Parliament had sent a number of regiments to be quartered upon them till they should comply. For it is evident that the suspension is meant as a compulsion" (Morison, Sources, 37, italics in original). First edition, printed in combined gothic and roman type. This first printing, excised from the Sessional Volumes of Parliament (pages 891-94), precedes all the American printings. This copy is from the library of Malcolm Forbes. Forbes was the owner/publisher of Forbes magazine as well as an accomplished collector. Forbes amassed one of the most substantial autograph collections of all time, filling a half-dozen residences on three continents. Many of his manuscripts were sold at a series of multi-million-dollar Christie's sales.