"A PERVERSION OF POWER TOTALLY SUBVERSIVE OF CIVIL LIBERTY": VERY SCARCE FIRST EDITION OF TREVETT AGAINST WEEDEN, 1787—A LANDMARK CASE ESTABLISHING JUDICIAL REVIEW AND SEPARATION OF POWERS
VARNUM, James M, Esq. The Case, Trevett against Weeden: On Information and Complaint, for Refusing Paper Bills in Payment for Butcher's Meat, in Market, at Par with Specie. Tried Before the Honourable Superior Court, in the County of Newport, September Term, 1786. Also, the Case of the Judges of said Court… Wherein the Rights of the People to Trial by Jury, & are stated and maintained, and the Legislative, Judiciary and Executive Power of Government examined and defined. Providence: John Carter, 1787. Small quarto (6-1/4 by 8-inches), contemporary gray paper wrappers, original self-wrappers. original stitching, pp. (i-iii), iv, (1), 2-60. Housed in a custom folding chemise and slipcase. $2750.
First edition of this landmark case establishing the doctrines of judicial review and the separation of powers, in original self-wrappers and contemporary paper wrappers, housed in a custom folding chemise and half morocco slipcase.
"One of the earliest instances of the exercise by a court of the high function of declaring an act void because it disagrees with the constitution" (Marks, 971). In May 1786, the Rhode Island legislature passed an act permitting the state to issue 100,000 pounds in paper currency and a subsequent act in June making refusal to accept the money in payment for articles offered for sale (or to make a distinction in value between the bills and silver and gold) punishable by a fine of 100 pounds, if the accused were found guilty by a tribunal. Weeden ran a butcher shop and refused to accept the state currency for meat, and a complaint went to the courts. Varnum was defense counsel for Weeden, as well as a member of Congress, and his argument to the Court introduced an entirely new notion into American jurisprudence: judicial review. Varnum's argument for the right of the judiciary to reject legislation deemed in violation of the constitution was the most forceful and the most widely known (because of this publication) of its time. Put in his own words, "this court has power to judge and determine what acts of the General Assembly are agreeable to the constitution."
"This was the second case dealing with judicial review published during this period before the flood of discussion on the subject precipitated by the submission of the federal Constitution. The account of the case, chiefly devoted to the argument of the defendant's counsel, is the only exhibit emanating from the New England states" (Goebel, 137). David Howell, member of the Continental Congress from Rhode Island and associate justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, was one of the judges who heard the Weeden case and joined in the opinion to dismiss the action. He became a principal figure afterward, having been threatened with impeachment for "overturning" a legislative act, and was brought before the General Assembly, to which he delivered an eloquent and persuasive speech asserting the independence of the judiciary (reported here on pages 38-42 of Varum's pamphlet). Evans 20825. Sabin 98638. ESTC W37682. Goldsmith's 13477.
Text pristine with only small chip to upper edge of title page not affecting text. An especially scarce about-fine copy.