Colonial and Revolutionary Americana from George MacManus
Colonial and Revolutionary Americana
By Michael Stillman
The George S. MacManus Company has released its Catalogue 396, "Colonial and Revolutionary Americana (M-Z)." Actually there are a bonus 35 items beginning with the letter "L," hardly necessary since there are 875 items available in this catalogue, all from the second half of the alphabet. Included is everything from contemporary accounts of Colonial America and the Revolution, to more recent perspectives on these long ago events. Here are a few of the items available. While we have selected some of the more expensive items, most in this catalogue can be purchased for well under $100.
Benedict Arnold has long been synonymous with treason in America, but another Revolutionary traitor, Major General Charles Lee, is virtually forgotten. Perhaps that is because the full extent of his treachery was not discovered until many years later, around the time of the Civil War. Despite limited success in pre-Revolutionary military campaigns for the British, Lee, who supported independence, was commissioned to his high office. He received credit for defending Charleston early in the Revolution, but after returning to New York, he ignored General Washington's command to cross the Hudson and retreat after the Battle of White Plains. Apparently, Lee thought he could pull off an unexpected success and replace Washington as Commander in Chief. Instead, he was captured. While being held by the British, Lee gave General Howe a plan for defeating the Americans. However, this act of treason was not known at the time. Lee was returned to the Americans in a prisoner exchange, and later ordered a retreat at Monmouth that prevented an American victory. He was court-martialed and suspended for a year. After continued criticism of Washington, he was dismissed in 1780. However, it was not until the accidental discovery of the plans Lee gave Howe years later that it was discovered that Lee was not just an incompetent blowhard, but a full-fledged traitor. This was revealed in this 1860 account by George Moore, The Treason of Charles Lee, Second in Command in the American Army of the Revolution. Item 163. Priced at $125.
If Lee has been relegated to where his kind is justly consigned, Washington remains America's foremost hero. Item 768 is the quintessential biography of this patriot, The Life of George Washington....by John Marshall. This five-volume set was written by the early Supreme Court Chief Justice, the most important jurist in the nation's history. Item 768. $5,500.
Item 776 is a less scholarly, though eminently popular, biography of Washington. This is an 1809 ninth edition of Mason Weems' Life of George Washington, with Curious Anecdotes....Evidently Weems didn't understand that Washington's reputation based on what he actually accomplished was sufficient, so he added his own inventions, such as the famed "cherry tree" story. You would think winning a revolution and giving his countrymen freedom and democracy would have been enough. $775.
Colonial and Revolutionary Americana from George MacManus
From the exaggerated to the outright fake we go next. Here are the Letters from General Washington to Several of His Friends, in June and July, 1776, in which is set forth an interesting view of American Politics at that All-Important Period. The problem is, Washington never wrote these letters, and they expressed views and sentiments contrary to those Washington held. Among the "quotes" attributed to Washington is, "we have overshot our mark; we have grasped at things beyond our reach; it is impossible we should succeed; and I cannot, with truth, say that I am sorry for it; because I am far from being sure that we deserve to succeed." The Letters were first published in 1777 in London, and the following year in New York, in an unsuccessful attempt to discredit Washington. However, this is the 1795 Philadelphia printing, which was republished once again to discredit Washington, though this time because of his stand on the Jay Treaty. Washington ignored the letters the first time, but at this point issued a denial, attributing them to John Randolph, the last British Attorney General of Virginia. This point isn't clear, but authorship is usually attributed to either Randolph or Reverend John Vardill, who was involved in British intelligence during the early stages of the Revolution. Item 757. $350.
Item 109 is an interesting one-two punch for those interested in the Salem witchcraft trials: Salem Witchcraft: Comprising More Wonders of the Invisible World. Collected by Robert Calef; and Wonders of the Invisible World, by Cotton Mather....This 1865 book combined the 1693 Mather work with Calef's rebuttal and criticisms. Mather was the Massachusetts religious leader who, so believing in the existence of witches and deviltry, helped set off the horrors of Salem. Though not a leader of the trials, his tacit support and prestige lent credibility to the atrocities. Calef's response was bitter, and while Mather's popularity was such that Calef had to have his book printed in London, no Boston printer being willing to touch it, his book still helped seal Mather's reputation. Most notable, Calef recounts that former Salem Minister George Burroughs, when brought forward to be hanged, perfectly recited the Lord's Prayer. Supposedly, those possessed by the Devil could not do so. While some called for the execution to be stopped, Mather supposedly urged the executioners on. $850.
As Calef was an opponent of Cotton Mather and his beliefs about witchcraft, John Wise was an opponent of Cotton and his father Increase Mather on the role of clergy. Wise believed that power within the church should be held by the parishioners, rather than the clergy, a sentiment not shared by the clergymen Mathers. This view has led Wise to be called the "first great American democrat." His book is titled, The Churches Quarrel Espoused: Or, A Reply in Satyre to Certain Proposals Made....Item 854. $2,500.
Item 286 is a must for all early American numismatists (also known as coin collectors). From Montroville Dickeson, it is The American Numismatic Manuel of the Currency or Money of the Aborigines, and Colonial, State, and United States Coins. With Historical and Descriptive Notices of Each Coin or Series. This is only going to list old coins as it was published in 1859. Color images are provided of wampum and other Indian currency, as well as local, state and national coins of early America. $300.
You may visit the George S. MacManus Company online at www.macmanus-rarebooks.com or reach them by phone at 610-520-7273.