Enemies of the Constitution Discovered

William THOMAS

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Item#: 123776 price:$1,800.00

Enemies of the Constitution Discovered
Enemies of the Constitution Discovered


(THOMAS, William) Defensor. The Enemies of the Constitution Discovered, or, An Inquiry into the Origin and Tendency of Popular Violence. Containing a Complete and Circumstantial Account of the Unlawful Proceedings at the City of Utica, October 21st 1835; The Dispersion of the State Anti-Slavery Convention By the Agitators, The Destruction of a Democratic Press… with a Concise Treatise on the Practice of the Court of His Honor Judge Lynch… Accompanied with Numerous Highly Interesting and Important Documents. New-York: Leavitt, Lord, 1835. Small octavo (4-3/4 by 7-1/2 inches), original blind-stamped brown cloth; pp. (i-iii), iv-viii, (ix), x-xii, (9), 10-183 (1). $1800.

First edition of a momentous record of the 1835 Utica Riot in which a mob attacked delegates of the American Anti-Slavery Society, forcing them to flee and reconvene at the estate of Gerrit Smith, triggering his rage at anti-abolitionists' attempts to deny free speech, with Smith's fiery speech together in book form for the first time with abolitionist Alvan Stewart's bold Utica speech proclaiming: "the tyrant is at your doors, liberty is bleeding, liberty is dying… when you are speechless, liberty is dead," an exceptional copy in original cloth.

News of Denmark Vesey and the subsequent 1831 Nat Turner Insurrection sparked the "debut of American antislavery constitutionalism" and the first meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society (AASS), which galvanized the the rise of a dedicated movement in Utica, New York (Wiecek, Sources of Antislavery Constitutionalism, 171). While the state abolished slavery by 1827, fugitives from slavery could still be arrested and returned to owners from other states. At rumors of that planned Utica meeting, the town's merchants rose in opposition, arguing it would damage the city's commercial progress and a potential role in the presidential campaign of New York's Martin Van Buren, who later declared the 1857 Dred Scott decision affirmed his belief that the word "citizen" in the Constitution "was not intended to embrace the African race."

In Utica, a year after abolitionist lawyer Alvan Stewart was burned in effigy, the town's anti-abolitionists united against the AASS convention. As documented in this first edition of Enemies of Constitution, published the same year, merchants raged against what they called intent to promote "insurrection among the slaves… and dissolve the union." That opposition exploded in what is known as the Utica Riot, in which the anti-abolitionists declared "the whole south is waiting with trembling anxiety to know how we bear ourselves… we call upon the citizens of New York to arrest these madmen." Minutes after AASS delegates began their meeting in a Utica church, a mob of hundreds attacked, crying "break down the doors! Damn the fanatics." The mob "stamped and yelled like savages and madmen," tore up AASS documents and forced the delegates out of town.

Despite the mob violence, delegates quickly reconvened in Peterboro at the estate of Gerrit Smith, making Utica and Oneida County "an important center of the Abolitionist Movement… The rioters' challenge to freedom of speech prompted Smith, one of America's wealthiest men, to lend financial and political support to the movement" (Oneida Freedom Trail). Notably included herein are documents by mob leaders, along with a lengthy letter from the Postmaster General on free speech in the mail, saying: "abolitionists may have a legal right to its use for distributing their papers in New-York… but it does not follow that they have a legal right to that privilege in for such a purpose in Louisiana or Georgia." Also featured is an early printing of Alvan Stewart's October 21 Utica speech, declaring: "THE TYRANT IS AT YOUR DOORS, LIBERTY IS BLEEDING, LIBERTY IS DYING… when you are speechless, LIBERTY IS DEAD" (emphasis in original). This is joined by Gerrit Smith's October 22 Peterboro speech, where Smith, like Stewart, invokes: "the right of free discussion… purchased by the blood and toil of our fathers… [and] the demand which slave-holders now make on us to surrender the right." By rejecting the right of free speech, he proclaims that slaveholders have, in effect, conceded "slavery cannot live, unless the north be tongue-tied." First edition, first printing: copies found in original brown (this copy) and blue-green cloth, no priority determined. Mispagination as issued without loss of text. Sabin 19264. Bookplate of the prestigious Library Company of Philadelphia with deaccession inkstamp. Separate partially obscured bookplate.

Text fine, inner paper hinges expertly reinforced, expert restoration to spine ends of original cloth.

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