"IF ANY MAN DOUBTS WHETHER A STANDING ARMY IS SLAVERY… LET HIM READ": 1739 EDITION OF TRENCHARD'S PROVOCATIVE SHORT HISTORY OF STANDING ARMIES, SPARKING REVOLUTIONARY PASSIONS OF AMERICANS WHO ATTACKED THE BRITISH ARMY AS "A REPRESSIVE INSTRUMENT OF TYRANNY"
(TRENCHARD, John). A Short History of Standing Armies in England. Written By that Eminent Patriot, Thomas Trenchard, Esq. London: Printed and Sold by Dick Thomas, 1739. Small octavo (5 by 8-1/4 inches), period-style half brown calf and marbled boards; pp. ((1-4), (i-viii), 9-68. $3200.
1739 edition of Trenchard's controversial work, issued posthumously, the work that shaped American revolutionary thought by arguing that a standing army will inevitably "find a Tyrant" and fracture the balance of power needed to protect civil rights, with Benjamin Franklin possessing Trenchard's writings in his library, handsomely bound.
More than any other single individual, Trenchard created the American suspicion of standing armies when the controversial Englishman here argued that "such a Power is to be trusted to none" (38). At its initial publication in 1698 and in the emerging revolutionary years, the controversial Englishman argued that the British army threatened the public interest: "If this Army does not make us slaves, we are the only People upon Earth in such Circumstances that ever escap'd it… such a Power is to be trusted to none, which if it does not find a Tyrant, commonly makes one; and of not him, to be sure a Successor." American colonists similarly saw "the standing army as a repressive instrument of tyranny, a constant threat to civil liberties… and having had considerable experience with the regular armed forces in their midst, had also had occasion to see the king's men in their role as a police power… During the first half of the new century, the century of the American Revolution, those attitudes were to be shaped and intensified" (Leach, Roots of Conflict, 24). Trenchard's famous tract convinced Americans that the appearance of British troops in America in 1768 was "one of the classic stages in the process of destroying free constitutions of government" (Bailyn 113-14). His warnings appeared to be proven by the Boston Massacre. In the uproar which followed, the prominent Boston patriot Andrew Eliot spoke for many when he wrote that the Massacre "serves to show the impossibility of our living in peace with a standing army," and cited "Trenchard's Short History of Standing Armies, which… is excellent." Colonial fear of standing armies was so deep that Hamilton addressed Federalist essays #8 and #24 to the subject.
In this, "his most popular pamphlet… Trenchard gave examples from history of how standing armies often led to arbitrary governments… dictated by the whim of an absolute power" (Barry, Dress Rehearsal for Revolution
, 14). Throughout he demonstrated his "preoccupation with a theme that would persist in all his writings, the precariousness of the delicate balance that inhibits the arbitrary use of power" (Krammick, Bolingbroke and His Circle
, 244). He proposed that "all wise Governments indeavor [sic
] as much as possible to keep the Legislative and Executive Parts asunder, that they may be a check upon one another" (vii). Daniel Defoe, who strenuously objected to Trenchard's Short History
, answered it the same year with his Brief Reply to the History of Standing Armies in England
. Franklin had a copy of Short History
in his library, bound with Defoe's Brief Reply
(Wolf and Hayes, Library of Benjamin Franklin
3407). With half title. Initially appearing in the virtually unavailable 1698 first edition and rare subsequent printings. See Wing T2117; ESTC R187525. Tiny early numerical notation above half title.
Text very fresh with scant soiling to rear leaves. A handsome about-fine copy.