ACTS PASSED AT THE THIRD CONGRESS, 1794, ONE OF ONLY 600 COPIES, WITH HAMILTON’S CARRIAGE ACT—THE “FIRST CLEAR-CUT CHALLENGE TO THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF AN ACT OF CONGRESS”—AND MUCH MORE
(UNITED STATES CONGRESS). Acts Passed at the Third Congress of the United States of America. Begun and Held at the City of Philadelphia… the Second of December, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety-Three. Philadelphia: Francis Childs and John Swaine, 1794. Octavo, modern green cloth, later endpapers. $1800.
First edition of the collected Acts Passed at the First Session of the Third Congress under the administration of President Washington, one of only 600 copies printed, containing Hamilton’s controversial Carriage Act, laws on the U.S. Mint and international commerce, and the important act prohibiting “the carrying on the Slave-trade from the United States,” with the owner signature of “J. Yeates” on the title page very possibly that of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Jasper Yeates, who played a key role in ending the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion.
This first edition of the collected Acts of the First Session of the Third Congress contains those passed from January-June 1794 under the governance of President Washington. This volume covers an especially dangerous time in which the fragile new government struggled to find its place in the world and saw growing internal strife between Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans. Especially notable herein is a printing of the Carriage Act (78-83), which was proposed by Treasury Secretary and ardent Federalist Alexander Hamilton. Enacted in June despite fierce opposition, this would offer the “first clear-cut challenge of the constitutionality of an Act of Congress to come before the Court” and prompted the first case to involve “judicial review”— preceding, by a full seven years, “Chief Justice John Marshall’s celebrated opinion in Marbury v. Madison (1803)” (Hall, 419). This volume also contains major laws on the U.S. Mint and Post Office, on the courts and international commerce, and an “Act to prohibit the carrying on the Slave-trade from the United States to any foreign place” (19-21)—representing “the beginning of a long struggle to control effectively a trade which France [and] Great Britain… totally prohibited” (Dumond, 58). All initial printings of bound Acts of Congress are quite scarce and were published at the end of each session by Childs & Swaine, in an edition of only 600 copies for internal distribution. These “bound Acts came to be very hard to get. They were always in short supply. Six hundred copies barely covered the official distribution, left few for the general public, few for the Congressmen themselves… Senators could never find copies of the printings for their own use, neither could cabinet officers nor lesser departmental officials” (Powell, Books of a New Nation, 92). Evans 27827. See Harvard Law Catalogue, 802. The owner signature of “J. Yeates” on the title page is quite possibly that of Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Jasper Yeates, an avowed Federalist who was chosen by Washington to head a commission formed in August 1794 to negotiate a peaceful end to the Whiskey Rebellion (Slaughter, 196-7).
Text generally fresh and clean with light scattered foxing, occasional faint soiling. An extremely good copy of one of the founding documents in American history.