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A Short Review of the Political State of Great-Britain.
J. Debrett, London 1787 - Octavo; a little light spotting but a very nice copy in old half roan. An ironic (and sometimes biting) commentary on the political state of Britain by Sir Nathaniel Wraxall, including a savage attack on Lord Sydney and the First Fleet set for Botany Bay. Wraxall was a contemporary of Townshend in parliament, and the two men locked horns on a number of issues including the contentious scheme for a penal colony in New South Wales. This edition, the seventh "with additions", as well as the sixth edition of the same year, are the only two versions to contain the long passage on pages 77-83, which is in fact one of the earliest printed references to transportation to Botany Bay. Overall, Wraxall is scathing in his opinion of sending felons to the 'extreme verge of Nature' and likens the scheme to the fabled land of Lilliput by Swift. Lord Sydney comes under heavy fire; indeed Wraxall condemns him as downright incompetent in handling the most basic issues. Regarding the departure of the First Fleet, he writes 'was it not permitted to consult either reason, or naval experience, or humanity, in the time, chosen for their embarkation? Must the month of February be selected from the twelve, for the season of their departure? Does Lord Sydney recollect the fatal issue of Anson's, and of Pizarro's squadrons?If Lord Anson's experience and admonitions were insufficient: if Cook's more recent information were vain, even Robinson Crusoe would have taught him better.' Sydney's reputation as an able politician who became an insipid peer derives, to some extent, from the pithy appraisal that Wraxall included in his memoirs - that 'Tommy Townshend displayed very considerable talents. Lord Sydney, when removed to the Upper House of Parliament, seemed to have sunk into an ordinary man'. 'What can be said is that Sydney was perhaps mistaken in accepting a peerage and thus losing much of the influence that came from being a Commons man. He had been appointed by Rockingham - and retained by Shelburne and Pitt - for his debating skills, which were notable. His administrative skills, once in high office, were not so readily apparent?' (DNB).
      [Bookseller: Hordern House Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2014-10-10           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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