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A Seminal Political Work Which Influenced the Founders

Political Disquisitions; or, an Enquiry into Public Errors, Defects, and Abuses. Illustrated by ... Facts and Remarks, Extracted from a Variety of Authors, Ancient and Modern.

Philadelphia: Robert Bell and William Woodhouse, 1775.

Price: $12,500.00


About the item

First American edition. xxii,[8],486; vii,[7],477; [16],460,[53]pp. plus publisher's advertisements in each volume. 3 vols. 8vo. A Seminal Political Work Which Influenced the Founders. Contemporary calf, rebacked (vols. 1-2) and modern near uniform calf (vol. 3). Usual foxing. Small clipped portion in upper blank portion of vol. 3 title, perforated library stamp on vol. 3 title. Evans 13861; Sabin 9245; Reese, Revolutionary Hundred 27.

Item #366702

This lengthy political treatise is actually of the utmost interest for its espousal of a moderate political stance, and especially for having influenced the Founders. The book includes a seventy-page section on taxation of colonies, with heavy criticism of oppressive duties imposed upon the colonists. The third volume of this first American edition includes a list of subscribers beginning with George Washington, "Generalissimo of all the Forces in America, and a Member of the Honorable, the American Continental Congress." Other members of the Continental Congress listed are Samuel Chase, John Dickinson, John De Hart, Silas Deane, Christopher Gadsden, Robert Goldsborough, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Mifflin, Henry Middleton, Thomas McKean, George Ross, John Sullivan, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, Charles Thomson, and John Zubley.

With a roster of such distinguished subscribers, one might assert that since Burgh's work was at the fingertips of these men, the book was likely of considerable influence among them. Indeed, it has been stated that "Burgh's POLITICAL DISQUISITIONS are said to have produced a great effect upon the mind of the American colonists during the Revolution" (W. Govane quoted by Sabin).

With the list of subscribers is a lengthy aside by the American editors (Bell and Woodhouse) quoting Sullivan ("It is better that 50 Thousand Men should be slain...than that 50 Thousand Men should live to be made slaves"), and castigating "any of Mr. Lukewarm's Family, who are always numerous among the timid, [who] buy this Book, and unhappily think he hath too much for the Money. He may immediately apply the following remedy - Either tear the offensive leaf out - or more effectually to punish the forward Editor - Burn the whole Book....For some Minds are strangely squeamish, and think it a great Crime for a struggling bookseller, to support or produce Opinions, although he charge nothing for them...."