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[London, 1799. Large folio. First volume in black morocco, elaborately tooled in gilt; second volume in dark green calf, also elaborately gilt. Hinges cracked, head and foot of spine worn; extremities rubbed, boards lightly scuffed. Internally fine, with very minor scattered foxing. Contemporary armorial bookplate of the Marquess of Rockingham on front pastedown. In matching blue half morocco clamshell cases, spines gilt. An exhaustive manuscript set of protests lodged by Members of the House of Lords over the period from 1641 to 1799, copied by the clerks in the Parliament Office and bound for Charles Watson-Wentworth, Second Marquess of Rockingham, with his bookplate. Peers had the right to protest decisions reached by Parliament into the journal or formal record of the House's proceedings, simply by signing their names against the record of the decision. Members could also add a protest consisting of a reason or series of reasons for their dissent; the first such protest originated in 1641. Such protests were not published at the time and would not have been available in printed form. This set includes, among other things, protests lodged against the Stamp Act and the Declaratory Act during the period preceding the American Revolution. Charles Watson-Wentworth, Second Marquess of Rockingham (1730-82) had long been a supporter of American rights and played a major role in the independence of the United States. He was Prime Minister first in 1766, and oversaw the repeal of the Stamp Act. His second stint as Prime Minister came in 1782, when he led Parliament in recognizing the independence of the United States at the end of the American Revolution. Rockingham always urged moderation in his government's treatment of the colonies, but nevertheless condemned the Boston Tea Party and other outrages, and in this respect did not differ from the rest of the British establishment during the time. Close connections with prominent British merchants influenced his support of the colonies, which were highly profitable for British trade, when not engaged in open rebellion. He was also the political mentor of Charles James Fox, the leading voice of American sympathy in British debates, and Edmund Burke was his personal secretary and political mouthpiece. Protest against the repeal of the Stamp Act takes up fourteen pages, covering the dissent over the second and third readings of the bill, on March 11 and 17, 1766. Among the reasons given for protesting the repeal in the second reading, the journal states that a bill could have been made to amend the Stamp Act, without repealing it, which the Lords would have considered "with a warm desire of relieving our countrymen in America, from any grievance or hardship; but with proper care to enforce their submission and obedience to the law so amended and to the whole Legislative Authority of Great Britain, without any reserve or distinction whatsoever." Likewise listed as reasons are the irrefutable authority of the power of taxation and the need for Americans to be taxed like all other British subjects, and the obvious ability of the Americans to bear their portion of the tax burden. Another point indicated is that if Americans are given the free trade they desire, the colonies will no longer be of any benefit to Britain, and would in fact be "in the highest degree prejudicial to the commerce and welfare of their Mother Country." The dissent on the third reading opens with the statement: "We think, that the Declaratory Bill we pass'd last week, cannot possibly obviate the growing mischiefs in America where it may seem calculated only to deceive people of Great Britain, by holding forth a delusive and nugatory affirmance of the legislative right of this Kingdom, whilst enacting part of it, does no more than abrogate the resolutions of the House of Representatives in the North American Colonies, which have not in themselves the least colour of authority; and declares that which is apparently and certainly criminal only, null and void." The dissent closes with the statement: "...repeal of this law, under the present circumstances, will we fear not only surrender the honour and essential interests of the Kingdom now and forever both at home and abroad...[but] we in effect annihilate this branch of the legislature and vote ourselves useless; or if by passing this bill, we mean to justify those who in America, and even in Great Britain, have treated a series of British Acts of Parliament, as so many acts of Tyranny and Oppression, which it is scarcely criminal to resist...we shall then give our approbation to an open breach of the first article of that great palladium of our liberties, the Bill of Rights...." The second volume contains numerous dissents related to the conflict with the American colonies, including an eloquent protest directed to the King regarding the imprudence and potential disgrace of hiring foreign mercenaries to fight the colonists. Additionally, protests against ceasing trade with the colonies and the impressment of American seamen. Altogether, a trove of British Parliamentary opinions, with important commentary on the American Revolution, with excellent and significant provenance.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2015-11-22           Check availability:      Biblio    


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