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THE PROSPECT BEFORE US. VOLUME I.
Richmond: Printed for the Author, and Sold by M. Jones, S. Pleasants, Jun. and J. Lyon, 1800. - 184pp. Octavo. Half calf and marbled boards in antique style, leather label. Old library stamp on last page of Table of Contents, minor dampstaining to last few leaves. Very good. The passionate and extraordinarily rare anti-Federalist screed from the "scandalmonger" himself, James T. Callender, suppressed by the Federalists who convicted him for sedition for wrting it. Callender was a notorious journalist and political pamphleteer during the Federal period, issuing savage attacks on George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and others. The present work was partially financed by Vice President Thomas Jefferson who was, along with James Madison, actively working against the president and his Federalist cohorts. Jefferson had been particularly impressed with Callender's attack on Hamilton, and wanted a similar work scrutinizing the Adams administration, especially as he was running against the incumbent president at the time. The pamphlet is an attack on the political corruption within the Federalist party and inside the Adams administration, with Callender focusing his ire on the president himself. He labels the president a "hoary headed incendiary," "a man who has deserted and reversed all principles," and describes the Adams administration as "one continued tempest of malignant passions. As President, he has never opened his lips, or lifted his pen without threatening and scolding; the grand object of his administration has been to exasperate the rage of contending parties to calumniate and destroy every man who differs from his opinions." As a result of this pamphlet, Adams' and Hamilton's Federalist party used the new Sedition Act to prosecute Callender at the height of the 1800 election campaign, citing twenty passages from THE PROSPECT BEFORE US in the indictment (though never naming the book itself). After a frustrating and politically-charged trial stacked clearly against the defendant, presided over by Federalist judge Samuel Chase, who frequently interrupted the defense lawyers, and consisting of an all-Federalist jury, Callender was found guilty. He was fined $200 and sentenced to nine months in prison. Callender was the last and most famous target of the Sedition Act, and the only defendant prosecuted under the law in a southern state. After Jefferson's election the new President pardoned Callender, but refused the writer's request to receive a lucrative postmaster's appointment. Callender then switched sides, revenging himself by spilling the details of Jefferson and his mulatto mistress Sally Hemings. In 1803, while drunk, he drowned in a shallow sidewater of the James River. The shadowy circumstances of his death, combined with the many powerful enemies he had made, led to numerous Vince Foster-like conspiracy theories. The first part of THE PROSPECT BEFORE US was popular and welcome in Virginia at the time of publication, but roundly criticized and suppressed in Philadelphia and elsewhere. As a result, the work is extremely rare, and hardly ever encountered outside institutions. In fact, this is the first copy we've handled in forty years in the trade. Rare Book Hub notes no auction records and only cites an offering by Goodspeed's in 1915. James Morton Smith, "Sedition in the Old Dominion: James T. Callender and THE PROSPECT BEFORE US." THE JOURNAL OF SOUTHERN HISTORY. Vol. 20, No. 2 (May 1954), pp.157-182. William Safire's novel SCANDALMONGER, (2000) is a lively fictional treatment of Callender's career and a must-read for any enthusiast of the Federal era. HOWES C72. EVANS 37083. SHAW & SHOEMAKER 271. BRINLEY 4790.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2015-10-11           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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