"MAN IS BORN FREE, AND YET IS UNIVERSALLY ENSLAVED": IMPORTANT FIRST AMERICAN EDITION OF ROUSSEAU'S SEMINAL CONTRAT SOCIAL AND HIS TREATISE ON POLITICAL ECONOMY
ROUSSEAU, Jean Jacques. A Dissertation on Political Economy: To Which Is Added, A Treatise on the Social Compact or, The Principles of Political Law. Albany: Barber & Southwick, 1797. Octavo, contemporary full brown sheep, red morocco spine label. $3200.
First American edition of two collected works by Rousseau, his treatise on the establishment of good government, and his Contrat Social—“the bible of the revolutionaries”—pivotal in its influence on the French Revolution and Jefferson’s thoughts in the Declaration of Independence, in contemporary sheep.
"Rousseau may be said to hold, as an influence, a place almost unrivalled in literary history" and political thought (Encyclopaedia Britannica). This is first American collection of two especially key works by Rousseau: preeminently his Contrat Social (1762), or Social Compact, which spurred the French Revolution's cry of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" and inspired Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence. "The Contrat Social remains Rousseau's greatest work… his fundamental thesis that government depends absolutely on the mandate of the people, and his genuine creative insight into a number of political and economic problems, give his work an indisputable cogency… It was, after all, the first great emotional plea for the equality of all men in the state… Rousseau believed passionately in what he wrote, and when in 1789 a similar emotion was released on a national scale, the Contrat Social came into its own as the bible of revolutionaries… it remains a crucial document of egalitarian government" (PMM 207). Also within is Rousseau's Discourse on Political Economy (1755), which "tackles one major subject barely mentioned in the Contrat Social, that of taxation, and has much to say on patriotism" (Christopher Betts). Complete with engraved frontispiece portrait and list of subscribers. English translation that of Rousseau's Works (London, 1767). Contrat Social first published in English in 1764 (Goldsmith 9740, 9947, 11230, 14606). Evans 32780. Kress B3495. See CBEL II:798; Kress 6226. Contemporary owner inscription dated, "July 13th 1799."
Interior generally fresh with light toning mainly to preliminaries, mild rubbing to boards, small bit of expert restoration to spine head. A handsome near-fine copy, scarce in contemporary sheep.