“A GREAT AND PERHAPS FATAL WAR”: RARE ASSOCIATION COPIES OF COLLECTED ACTS OF CONGRESS (1809-1815), FIRST EDITIONS OF SEVEN VOLUMES ON THE WAR OF 1812 AND JAMES MADISON, FROM THE LIBRARY OF SENATOR BRADLEY
UNITED STATES CONGRESS. Acts Passed by Congress. COMPRISING: Acts Passed at the First Session of the Eleventh Congress of the United States. WITH: Acts Passed at the Second Session of the Eleventh Congress. WITH: Acts Passed at the Third Session of the Eleventh Congress. WITH: Acts Passed at the First Session of the Twelfth Congress. WITH: Acts Passed at the First Session of the Thirteenth Congress. WITH: Acts Passed at the Second Session of the Thirteenth Congress. WITH: Acts Passed at the Third Session of the Thirteenth Congress. [Washington, D.C.]: no publisher, (1810-15). Seven volumes. Octavo, original stiff blue and tan wrappers, uncut and partially unopened. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $4500.
First editions of the first official collected printings of congressional acts, printed for use by the House and Senate, containing laws and treaties enacted under President Madison as the nation faced its first war since the ratification of the Constitution—the War of 1812, these exceptional association copies from the library of leading senator Stephen Row Bradley, whose powerful support for Madison was tested by strong opposition to the war, in scarce original wrappers.
When Congress convened in 1809, America’s newly elected fourth president was James Madison. “Among this nation’s founders, only two were more important— Washington and Franklin.” Yet Madison’s presidential legacy remains one of America’s most contentious. As seen in these official congressional printings of collected Acts (1809-1814)—a series of rare association copies from the library of leading senator Stephen Row Bradley—this dangerous time confronted America with its first war since since ratification of the Constitution. Given that Congress alone was constitutionally empowered to declare war, with “no specific mention of a presidential role at this stage,” Madison and the legislators continually maneuvered to discern each others’ goals (Wills, 164, 94). These volumes make clear that “the process by which a scattered democracy decided its own will, in a matter so serious as a great and perhaps fatal war, was new to the world” (Adams, History, 377). Almost two centuries later, the 1812 congressional Declaration of War “remains the closest war vote in American history. Upon learning of it, Madison was said by one observer to be ‘white as a sheet” (Borneman, Case Study).
In addition, “few sessions of Congress left a deeper mark than that of 1811-12,” not only in wartime laws, but also in laws that admitted the state of Louisiana to the Union (April 8, 1812), annexed West Florida (April 14) “against the expressed wishes of its citizens,” and incorporated East Florida into the Mississippi Territory (May 14). Subsequent treaties would prove that these controversial laws created such a chaos that “history cannot tell by what single title the United States hold West Florida” (Adams, 457). First collected editions of congressional Acts, issued for use by House and Senate members, preceding editions of collected Acts published by the Department of State. Within are key non-importation and embargo laws, laws on the raising of military forces, and acts to supplement the budget at a time when expenditures exceeded revenues (outside of loans) by over 65 million, along with printings of major Indian treaties, acts on suffrage in the territories, the fate of the National Bank, Andrew Jackson’s role in negotiations with the Creek nation, and much more. Acts Passed at the First Session of the Thirteenth Congress with duplicate of one signature (pp. 225-232) misbound; lacking one signature of a direct revenue act (pp. 137-144). Acts Passed at the Third Session of the Thirteenth Congress with peace treaty between Britain and the United States (pp. 193-4) excised. Two volumes with “1809” spine lettering: one volume containing Acts Passed at the First Session of the Eleventh Congress bound with the continuously paginated Acts Passed at the Second Session of the Eleventh Congress; the second volume solely containing Acts Passed at the Second Session of the Eleventh Congress. With half titles in all but Volume III. Shaw & Shoemaker 18808, 21556-21558, 26940, 3008, 33011, 33012. Sabin 15505. From the library of one of the first United States senators from Vermont, Stephen Row Bradley (1791-4, 1801-13). As “the leading Democratic-Republican senator from New England during his day,” Bradley was a pivotal supporter of Jefferson and led the nomination of Madison for president, but as a senator, he strongly “opposed war with England and earnestly counseled Madison against declaring it in 1812. Unable to prevent what he thought was ‘a needless war,’ Bradley left public life at the end of his Senate term in March 1813.” He is also renowned for framing “the bill which established a national flag of 15 stripes and 15 stars, sometimes known as the Bradley flag, used from 1795-1814” (ANB). One volume contains front wrapper with “Laws of the United States 1812” in inked manuscript, and signed “Wm Bradley”: one volume contains front wrapper with “States Attorney for Windham County” in inked manuscript (Stephen Row Bradley’s son, William C. Bradley, served in that position from 1806-11); Volume with spine of “1810” contains front wrapper with “Wm Bradley 1812” in inked manuscript. With inked spine numbers indicating the respective years of congressional sessions (Vols. I-IV, VI-VII).
Text fresh with light scattered foxing, occasional faint dampstaining, minor expert restoration to wrappers and spines, Vol. V sympathetically rebacked with later front wrapper. A seminal series of congressional laws, with an important association, in near-fine condition, most scarce in original wrappers.