[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury]. Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Seabury.
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].
[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].

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[Revolutionary era pamphlet exchange between Alexander Hamilton and Samuel Seabury].

New York, 1774-1775.

An exceptionally rare gathering of all six pamphlets in one of the most notable and renowned pamphlet exchanges of the Revolutionary era, including the first two publications of Alexander Hamilton, marking his appearance on the national political stage. Three of the six pamphlets are the Thomas Streeter copies, including Hamilton’s first publication, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress.

In the fall of 1774, the First Continental Congress formulated the Articles of Association, a comprehensive trade embargo intended to effect a repeal of the Coercive Acts. The Articles called for a ban on exports to Great Britain, Ireland, and the West Indies, a boycott on imports, and non-consumption of British goods. Anglican rector Samuel Seabury, a staunch and influential Loyalist from Westchester, New York, soon responded to these measures by publishing Free Thoughts, on the Proceedings of Congress, adopting the pseudonym ‘A Farmer’ (later changed to ‘A. W. Farmer’, i.e., a Westchester Farmer) to identify himself with the farmers of New York, whose interests he argued would be harmed by Congress's actions.

Seabury’s pamphlet called forth a response from seventeen year old Alexander Hamilton, then a student at King’s (later Columbia) College, published as A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, from the Calumnies of Their Enemies. Hamilton’s performance was so striking, both for its literary merits as well as the sophistication of its arguments, “that authorship was attributed to both William Livingston and John Jay” (Ford). Seabury’s next pamphlet, The Congress Canvassed, was already written when the Hamilton pamphlet appeared, but in a postscript he noted that he was “neither frighted nor disconcerted by it” and soon responded with a third pamphlet, A View of the Controversy Between Great-Britain and Her Colonies…In a letter, to the author of A full vindication of the measures of the Congress. Seabury also published around the same time An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province of New-York, occasioned by the present political disturbances, in North America. Hamilton effectively had the last word, with the appearance of The Farmer Refuted…in answer to a letter from A.W. Farmer.

All of these pamphlets, which are described in detail below, were printed by Loyalist printer James Rivington of New York, who apparently did a brisk business in them before paying a price for his success. In November of 1775, in the midst of rising tensions following the publication of a proclamation of loyalty signed by Seabury, Isaac Wilkins and others, the Sons of Liberty, led by the ever-zealous Isaac Sears of Connecticut, marched on New York, where they destroyed Rivington’s press. Sears and his men then proceeded to Westchester, capturing Seabury and bringing him to New Haven, where he was imprisoned for a month. Seabury spent the Revolution behind British lines, but remained in America following the war, eventually serving as the first Anglican bishop in the United States.

The pamphlets offered here are as follows:

1). [Seabury, Samuel]. Free Thoughts, on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress, Held at Philadelphia, Sept. 5, 1774: : wherein their errors are exhibited, their reasonings confuted, and the fatal tendency of their non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption measures, are laid open to the plainest understandings; and the only means pointed out for preserving and securing our present happy constitution: in a letter to the farmers, and other inhabitants of North America in general, and to those of the province of New-York in particular. By a Farmer. ; Hear me, for I will speak!. [New York: James Rivington], 1774. 8vo, later half brown morocco with brown cloth, two raised bands, gilt title, etc. at spine. 31, [1] pp. Pencil notes in the hand of Thomas W. Streeter on the paste-down and ffep,, surface loss to a nickel-sized area of front paste-down from benighted previous owner’s removal of Streeter’s bookplate. Some of Streeter’s notes on ffep erased. CONDITION: Good, edges of spine rubbed, contents foxed, light brown stains to terminal leaf (mostly in margins).

The Streeter copy of Seabury’s initial response to the Articles of Association and the opening salvo in the pamphlet war that ensued. He asserts that Continental Congress has “either ignorantly misunderstood, carelessly neglected, or basely betrayed the interests of all the Colonies.” Addressing himself in particular to the farmers of New York, he outlines what he considers the probable ill effects of the Articles.

“This is the first of four pamphlets written by Seabury attacking the revolutionary measures advocated by the Continental Congress…These tracts created a furor at the time. Seabury was mobbed and imprisoned by the Regulators and the tracts were gathered up and burned at the stake or tarred and feathered and nailed to a whipping post. Seabury lived to be honored as the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States.”—Streeter.

REFERENCES: Evans 42697; Sabin 78574 (citing the issue with 24 pp.); Church 1112; Adams, American Independence, 136b; Ford, Bibliotheca Hamiltoniana, p. 1 note; Howes S253, “aa”; Streeter Sale 755 (the present copy); Reese, Revolutionary Hundred, p. 44.

PROVENANCE: Heartman Sale, 1926 (per Streeter); Thomas W. Streeter.

2). Hamilton, Alexander. A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress, from the Calumnies of Their Enemies; : in answer to a letter, under the signature of A.W. Farmer. Whereby his sophistry is exposed, his cavils confuted, his artifices detected, and his wit ridiculed; in a general address to the inhabitants of America, and a particular address to the farmers of the province of New-York. New York: Printed by James Rivington, 1774. 8vo, recent half brown morocco with brown cloth, gilt title, etc. at spine. 35, [1] pp. Brief pencil note in the hand of Thomas Streeter at head of title page, Streeter’s bookplate in lower right corner of p. 35. CONDITION: Very good.

The Streeter copy of Hamilton’s first separately published work, in which he defends the acts of Congress, expresses his support for the Boston Tea Party perpetrators, complains about taxation without representation, and observes with remarkable insight that British Prime Minister, Lord North, is too vested in his policies to retreat.

“In this, his first great performance in print, Hamilton placed his ambition at the service of lofty ideals…this thirty-five page essay had been written in two or three weeks by Hamilton, as he entered the fray with all the grandiloquence and learning at his disposal. He showed himself proficient at elegant insults, an essential literary talent at the time, and possessing a precocious knowledge of history, philosophy, politics, economics, and law. In retrospect, it was clear that he had found his calling as a fearless, swashbuckling intellectual warrior who excelled in bare-knuckled controversy.”—Chernow.

“[Hamilton] spoke against British measures in July 1774 and began writing for The New York Journal, or General Advertiser with a vigor which attracted attention. In December he wrote this pamphlet, and when Samuel Seabury replied, he continued the debate in The Farmer Refuted. Hamilton’s position was that of a moderate who loyally defended the king’s sovereignty but rejected the pretensions of Parliament.”—Wellsprings of a Nation.

REFERENCES: Evans 13313; Sabin 29956; Ford, Bibliotheca Hamiltoniana, p. 1; Adams, American Independence, 116; Howes H115, “b”; Wellsprings of a Nation, 123; Streeter Sale 753 (this copy); Reese, Revolutionary Hundred, 21; Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton (NY, 2004), pp. 58-59.

PROVENANCE: Huntington Library duplicate, 1944 (per Streeter); Thomas W. Streeter.

3). [Seabury, Samuel]. The Congress Canvassed: or, an Examination Into the Conduct of the Delegates, at Their Grand Convention....by A.W. Farmer. [New York: James Rivington], 1774. 8vo, half brown morocco with brown cloth, gilt title, etc. at spine. 27, [1] pp. Early ink page numbers from former inclusion in sammelband in upper corners of all pages. Pencil notes in the hand of Thomas W. Streeter on the paste-down and ffep; surface loss to a nickel-sized area of front paste-down from benighted previous owner’s removal of Streeter’s bookplate; some of Streeter’s notes on ffep erased. CONDITION: Very good, slightly rubbed, a few short tears in margins of a few leaves.

The Streeter copy of Seabury’s address to the merchants of New York, predicting economic ruin and blaming New England for the troubles.

“Seabury was the leading Tory spokesman in the American colonies as the Revolution progressed. In this pamphlet he attacks the actions of the first Continental Congress in detail. On the last page he takes note of Alexander Hamilton's first pamphlet, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress..., just published as an attack on Seabury's earlier pamphlet. Seabury states that he is "neither frighted nor disconcerted by it" and promises to reply shortly. The pamphlet battle between Seabury and the youthful Hamilton marked the launching of the latter's brilliant career and is one of the most interesting political exchanges of the Revolutionary era.”—Reese, Revolutionary Hundred.

REFERENCES: Evans 13601; Sabin 78562; Church 1111; Adams, American Independence, 135a; Howes S252, "aa."; Streeter Sale 756 (the present copy); Reese, Revolutionary Hundred 22.

PROVENANCE: Heartman Sale, Rutland, Vt., 1920 (per Streeter); Thomas W. Streeter.

4). [Seabury, Samuel]. A View of the Controversy Between Great-Britain and Her Colonies : including a mode of determining their present disputes, finally and effecually [sic]; and of preventing all future contentions. In a letter, to the author of A full vindication of the measures of the Congress, from the calumnies of their enemies…By A.W. Farmer. Author of Free thoughts, &c. New-York: Printed by James Rivington, 1774. 8vo, recent half brown morocco with brown cloth, gilt title, etc. at spine. 37, [3] pp. CONDITION: Very good, early ink annotation in margin of title page and a few additional ink marks, expert reinstatement of losses to edges of fore and bottom margins.

Seabury’s blistering response to Hamilton’s A Full Vindication, as promised by him in the postscript to The Congress Canvassed. He mocks Hamilton’s style and arguments, and asserts that his Free Thoughts “have been rapidly purchased and eagerly read; notwithstanding the general indignation of which you speak,” and will no doubt “contribute…to the restoration of that order in this province which is the earnest wish of every real friend to America.”

Adams notes two issues, one with advertisements at the end and one without. This is the issue with advertisements.

REFERENCES: Evans 13603; Sabin 78580; Adams, American Independence, 137a; Adams, American Controversy, 74-71a; Howes S254, “aa”; Wellsprings of a Nation, 124.

5). [Seabury, Samuel]. An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province of New-York, occasioned by the present political disturbances, in North America: addressed to the Honourable Representatives in General Assembly convened. New York: Printed for James Rivington, 1775. 8vo, recent half brown morocco with brown cloth, gilt title, etc. at spine. 13, [3] pp. CONDITION: Very good, title leaf trimmed close at top edge just touching the word ‘AN’ in title.

Seabury here outlines for the legislature of New York the various measures of Continental Congress, which he views as “illegal in their beginning and tyrannical in their operation.” While not specifically part of the back and forth with Hamilton, it partakes of the same larger argument.

“An Alarm is of special interest because of the two page list at the end headed ‘The following Pamphlets relating to the present controversy between Great Britain and the Colonies, are to be had of James Rivington’ These include tracts on the Whig as well as the Tory side, for example Hamilton’s Vindication is listed. The use of these pamphlets as propaganda is shown by the note at the end of the list, ‘Large allowance will be made to the Purchasers by the Dozen, of the above articles, to give away.’”—Streeter.

REFERENCES: Evans 14453; Sabin 78559; Adams, American independence, 194; Adams, American Controversy, 75-121.1; Streeter Sale 774.

6). [Hamilton, Alexander]. The Farmer Refuted: or, A more impartial and comprehensive view of the dispute between Great-Britain and the colonies, : intended as a further vindication of the Congress: in answer to a letter from A.W. Farmer, intitled A view of the controversy between Great-Britain and her colonies: including a mode of determining the present disputes finally and effectually, &c. New York: Printed by James Rivington, 1775. 8vo, recent half brown morocco and brown cloth, gilt title, etc. at spine. iv, 78 [i.e., 79], [1] pp. CONDITION: Very good, short tear at bottom edge of title page, expert reinstatement to loss in margin at lower right corner of title page.

Hamilton’s second publication and the final pamphlet in the Seabury-Hamilton exchange.

In this brilliant, “eighty-page tour de force” (Chernow), Hamilton threw the full weight of his intellect behind the then popular argument that the colonists owed their allegiance to the king, not to Parliament, which in his view was in violation of the natural rights of mankind:

“You, sir, triumph in the supposed illegality of this body [Continental Congress]; but, granting your supposition were true, it would be a matter of no real importance. When the first principles of civil society are violated, and the rights of a whole people are invaded, the common forms of municipal law are not to be regarded. Men may then betake themselves to the law of nature; and, if they but conform to their actions, to that standard, all cavils against them, betray either ignorance or dishonesty. There are some events in society, to which human laws cannot extend; but when applied to them lose all their force and efficacy. In short, when human laws contradict or discountenance the means… necessary to preserve the essential rights of any society, they defeat the proper end of all laws, and so become null and void.…”

REFERENCES: Evans 14096; Sabin 29955; Ford, Bibliotheca Hamiltoniana, pp. 4-5; Adams, American Independence, 173; Howes H113, “b”; Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton (NY, 2004), p. 59.

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