"WHERE MEN… PERVERT THEIR POWER TO TYRANNICAL PURPOSES; SUBMISSION… IS A CRIME": RARE FIRST EDITION OF BOSTON PASTOR ANDREW ELIOT'S PROVOCATIVE SERMON DELIVERED BARELY TWO MONTHS AFTER PASSAGE OF THE STAMP ACT, ONE OF ONLY 700 COPIES ISSUED THE SAME YEAR
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) (STAMP ACT) ELIOT, Andrew. A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Francis Bernard, Esq… And the Honorable House of Representatives, Of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New England, May 29th 1765. Being the Anniversary for the Election of His Majesty's Council for the Province. Boston: Green and Russell, 1765. Slim octavo, period-style full speckled calf gilt, red morocco spine label. uncut; pp. (3-5) 6-59 (1). $3800.
First edition of the influential Boston pastor's most famous and most controversial work, his May 29, 1765 Election Day Sermon delivered two months after passage of the incendiary Stamp Act—boldly proclaiming "when tyranny is abroad 'submission… is a crime'"—one of only 700 copies published.
Macaulay wrote that the Stamp Act of 1765 will be remembered "as long as the globe lasts." It marked a sharp break from the past as "the first direct, internal tax ever to be laid on the colonies by Parliament; indeed, the first tax of any sort other than customs duties" (Morison, 185). "In the summer of 1765, as colonists… waited for the stamp tax to go into effect, voices of protest grew louder and drew support from many ministers" (Stout, New England Soul, 270). In particular, the sermons of pastors such as Jonathan Mayhew and Andrew Eliot "took on new vigor, new relevance and meaning." In Eliot's May 29, 1765 Election Day sermon, published the same year, his words were infused with "direct power… for to proclaim from the pulpit in the year of the Stamp Act and before the assembled magistrates of Massachusetts that when tyranny is abroad 'submission… is a crime' was an act of political defiance" (Bailyn, Ideological Origins, 6).
Mindful of his audience, which included Britain's powerful Massachusetts-Bay Governor Francis Bernard, Eliot here underscores the colonists' objections by invoking their rights as Englishmen and the tradition of common law. "Our fathers dearly bought the privileges we enjoy," he declares: "It is evident, when they left their native land, they thought the rights of Englishmen would follow them." Yet throughout, even as he might couch his language, there remains his "unexpectedly fierce insistence" that submission to the perversion and misuse of power is not simply a crime: it is "an offence against the state… an offence against mankind… an offence against God.'"
Eliot's sermon distinctly offered a "fine articulation of a tradition of thought familiar to every New Englander, if not to every American, exemplifying at the outset of the Revolutionary era a substratum of belief that underlay the developing rebellion." Soon his correspondence, "initiated by the publication of the election sermon, expresses with unique clarity the transformation of election-sermon platitudes into revolutionary imperatives. It is probably the most vivid expression of this transforming, or triggering, process in the entire literature of the Revolution" (Bailyn, Faces of Revolution, 111-13). In 1768, confronted with the arrival of a British warship and four regiments of troops, Eliot would write to Harvard benefactor Thomas Hollis: "'To have a standing army! Good God! What can be worse to a people who have tasted the sweets of liberty!'… He was convinced, he wrote, that if the English government 'had not had their hands full at home they would have crushed the colonies" (Bailyn, Ideological, 114). "Eliot weathered the Revolutionary War in Boston, and at the request of General Washington made the official thanksgiving sermon on March 28, 1776. He died on September 13, 1778" (Harvard University). First edition: title page found with "Price two shillings," or without (this copy), no priority established. Published by the printers to the House of Representatives, who were paid "in July of 1765 for about 700 copies" (Adams, Independence 12a). Without half title. Adams, Controversy, 65-8a. Newberry Library, American Revolutionary War Pamphlets 187. Evans 9964. Sabin 22124. Title page with contemporary owner signatures of Enoch (surname unclear).
Text generally fresh with marginal dampstaining throughout; edge-wear, small bit of marginal wormholing to first few leaves. Beautifully bound.