18th and 19th Century Rare Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books
Rare Americana No. 114 from David Lesser.
By Michael Stillman
David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has released catalogue number 114 of Rare Americana. It is both of those, and filled with interesting material. Then as now, Americans were not shy about controversy, or getting into political, theological, or any other type of debate with each other. We were always a contentious lot, but back then, we had to put it in print, rather than expressing it in the ephemeral world of radio waves, online blogs, and tweets. This affords us the opportunity to look back at our past, and with the advantage of knowing how the battles of yesterday were won, lost, or resolved. Now, here are a few of these 18th and 19th century American writings.
Item 137 is a significant item of Texas history, with hints of the nobility, and the darker side, of that state's revolution. It is Texas. Address of the Honorable Wm. H. Wharton, Delivered in New York...Stephen F. Austin, Delivered in Louisville...1836. After the success of the revolution conducted primarily by settlers from America, the new republic needed assistance. The natural source, where sympathy could be expected, was America. Austin, the founder of the original Anglo settlement in Texas, and Wharton, another official of the Republic of Texas, were sent to America to gather loans, arms, and sympathy for Texas' eventual acceptance as a new state. This work includes the first appearance in a book of Texas' Declaration of Independence. In looking for a sympathetic ear, Austin states that Texas' cause is "the same holy cause for which our forefathers fought and bled - the same that has an advocate in the bosom of every freeman." However, Austin also hints at the darker side of Texas independence, saying that its settlers would help protect America from "wild fanatics" who might use Texas as a means of attacking slavery. Slavery was outlawed (a law frequently ignored in Texas) while it was part of Mexico, but most American settlers came from the South, often with their slaves. Slavery became legal after Texas gained its independence from Mexico, and its acceptance into the Union helped sow the growing divide between North and South in the 1840s that erupted into civil war in 1861. Priced at $5,000.
While slavery was gaining a foothold in Texas in the 1830s, there was some surprising opposition rising in, of all places, Virginia. Perhaps that should not be so surprising, as many of the nation's founding fathers came from Virginia, and they accepted slavery as a necessary evil, but one, hopefully, to gradually be eliminated. After Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, several Virginia notables realized that the time had come to implement gradual abolition. Most notable was the proposal of Jefferson's grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph in 1832 to make all children born of slaves after July 4, 1840, free. Item 71 is another 1832 piece, Speech of James M'Dowell Jr. in the House of Delegates of Virginia, on the Slave Question...Second Edition. Published by Gentlemen who are Favorable to the Views Advocated by Mr. M'D. McDowell, a son-in-law of Missouri's Thomas Hart Benton, and a future Virginia Governor, was noted as a great orator, and was quite blunt in his speech, noting that Virginia was "wasting away under the...fatal institution that she cherishes and cherishes, too, as a mother who will hazard her own life rather than part even with the monstrous offspring that afflicts her." $600.
18th and 19th Century Rare Americana from David Lesser Antiquarian Books
Sometimes it was hard to oppose slavery even in the North. Item 10 is Resolutions, Offered at the Late Mass Convention, Holden at Concord, October 15, 1846. These were presented by George Barstow, an anti-slavery Democrat from New Hampshire. Barstow held that no new state should be admitted to the Union "while it holds any portion of the human race in bondage as Slaves." Barstow was denounced for his efforts by Franklin Pierce "as a traitor to the Democracy of New Hampshire" and shouted down. Barstow responded, "Some of the truest and most consistent democrats have been treated as political felons, for no other crime than that of speaking out their opinions without first asking leave of Franklin Pierce and the Southern Democracy." In 1846, Pierce was an obscure politician from New Hampshire, but six years later, after the Democrats became deadlocked in seeking a presidential nominee, he would become a compromise candidate and be elected President as a "northern man with southern principles." Evidently, he had developed his southern principles many years earlier. $250.
Item 80 doesn't have a lot to do with America, but this is a New York edition of a sensational English trial that undoubtedly made great reading wherever it was published. It is Achilli vs. Newman. A Full Report of This Most Extraordinary Trial for Seduction and Adultery Charged Against Dr. Achilli, the Apostate Catholic Priest, by the Celebrated Dr. Newman...Both of Whom are Seceders from Their Former Creeds. This is an account of a famous 1852 British case, where Catholic-turned-Protestant ex-Italian Priest Achilli sued Protestant-turned-Catholic future Cardinal Newman for libel. Giacinto Achilli converted for good reason, little of it theological. Achilli had been relieved of his duties after several accusations of sexual misconduct, including the rape of a 15-year-old girl. Achilli responded by converting to evangelical Protestantism and becoming rabidly anti-Catholic. This enabled him to develop the support anti-Catholic Protestants. His anti-Catholic statements led John Henry Newman, a priest and later cardinal (and expected to be named a saint later this year) to point out some of Achilli's personal shortcomings. Achilli sued for libel. Newman brought in witnesses to Achilli's behavior, including some of the young women, behavior which continued even after his conversion to Protestantism. The court in Protestant England ruled for Achilli, but the evidence was so overwhelming that even the Protestant English public saw the verdict as a miscarriage of justice. Achilli, his reputation ruined, moved to America, and then back to Italy. He was last seen after being charged with adultery (then a crime) in Italy in 1859. He left a note saying he was going to kill himself and disappeared. He has not been heard from since. $250.
Item 15 is a broadside printing of General Orders No. 9 from Confederate General Braxton Bragg, issued from Bethel, Tennessee, on March 16, 1862. It seems that some of Bragg's troops had been acting like Sherman's in Georgia, and Bragg was not pleased. The proclamation notes, "With a degree of mortification and humiliation he has never before felt, the major-general commanding has to denounce acts of pillage, plunder and destruction of the private property of our own citizens by a portion of the troops of this command..." Bragg states that this will bring only disgrace and disaster to their cause, that such persons would be less harm if they were serving with the enemy. Bragg adds, somewhat optimistically, that if these individuals lay down their arms, that there are other, gallant men ready to use them. The General concludes that he "will not hesitate to order the death penalty where it may be necessary. " $1,750.
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