Calm Address

John WESLEY   |   John WESLEY

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"AFTER ALL THE VEHEMENT CRY FOR LIBERTY, WHAT MORE LIBERTY CAN YOU HAVE?… STAND AND CONSIDER BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE": RARE FIRST LONDON EDITION OF JOHN WESLEY'S CALM ADDRESS TO OUR AMERICAN COLONIES, 1775, ISSUED WITHIN MONTHS OF LEXINGTON AND CONCORD

WESLEY, John, M.A. A Calm Address to Our American Colonies. London: Printed by R. Hawes, in Dorset-Street, Spitalfields, 1775. Slim octavo, original self-wrappers in period-style marbled paper wrappers; pp. 23.

First London edition of Wesley's provocative and deceptively titled Calm Address, this very rare edition the first with his revisions to the Bristol first edition issued barely two weeks earlier, with Wesley boldly refuting "American claims that their constitutional rights were being violated" and echoing Samuel Johnson's position in Taxation No Tyranny that Parliament had the clear "right to tax all the English Colonies," in fragile original self-wrappers.

As a "founder of Methodism," John Wesley was esteemed "not only for outstanding powers of leadership, but also for practical holiness, social concern and immense courage" (Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, 1037). While he had witnessed the horrors of slavery in the American South, Wesley nevertheless "retained a strong affection for America and the Americans. In 1770, apparently in reference to the duties imposed by the Grenville administration, he had written: 'I do not defend the measures which have been taken with regard to America: I doubt whether any man can defend them either on the foot of law, equity, or prudence.'" In June 1775, as well, wrote that he "could not avoid thinking that the Americans, as 'an oppressed people, asked for nothing more than their legal rights.'" Yet, in the months after Lexington and Concord, Wesley experienced "a sudden and violent change in his political views, a change which he was convinced must not be kept to himself" (Baker, Shaping of Wesley's Calm Address, 2).

Here Wesley pointedly refutes "American claims that their constitutional rights were being violated." Drawing extensively on Samuel Johnson's recently published Taxation No Tyranny (1775), he echoes Johnson's position that "Parliament had the 'undoubted right to tax all the English Colonies.'" Yet in the twelve sections of Calm Address, Wesley goes much further as he concludes "that the unruly Americans had become the dupes of 'determined enemies of the Monarchy' in England." He contends these "'Designing Men'… had brought Englishmen to the 'pitch of madness' and had inflamed America'" (Morgan, Dupes of Designing Men, 123-25). Writing directly to the rebellious Americans, Wesley asks: "Can you hope for a more desirable form of government… than that which you now enjoy? After all the vehement cry for liberty, what more liberty can you have? What more religious liberty can you desire?… What civil liberty can you desire…Brethren, open your eyes!… Stand and consider before it is too late."

"Wesley's original intention of spreading Calm Address to America was frustrated by the closure of the ports, and most of the few copies that did arrive were supposedly secured and destroyed by American Methodists" (Baker, 1). By 1777 he became even more convinced that "Americans themselves had long conspired to make a bid for independence. he was sure that the plot went back at least as far as 1737… after 1778, however, Wesley became silent on the American Revolution" (Morgan, 128-30). Wesley is said to have given the completed manuscript to his Bristol printer William Pine in mid-September 1775. "The first edition of Calm Address was put on sale in Bristol… about the end of September 1775." Wesley left Bristol on Monday, October 2 for London, "where he arrived October 6. He took with him a copy of Pine's printing of Calm Address, in which he had made three minor alterations": present herein for the first time. Included is the "addition of a footnote in the appendix, supplementing the clause, 'Our Sovereign has a right to tax me,' with the more democratic explanation, 'That is, in connexion with the Lords and Commons'" (21). He took this "to his chief London printer of the period, Robert Hawes, before leaving… on Monday, October 9." By time Wesley returned to London on October 20, this rare first London edition had sold out (Baker, 6-8). Advertised in Monthly Review, October 1775 (Adams, American Controversy 75-155a). Adams, American Controversy 75-155c. Sabin 102647. Howes W263. Small early inked numbers to rear wrapper.

Text quite fresh with tiny marginal pinholes from original stitching, faint edge-wear, tiny bit of soiling; archival gutter-edge reinforcement to self-wrappers and several text leaves, none affecting text. A very good copy of this seminal revolutionary work.

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