A Political Tract Focusing on the Importance of Grand Juries and an Influence on John Locke and the American Declaration of Independence
SOMERS, Baron John. Security of English-mens lives, or The trust, power, and duty of the grand jurys. of England. Explained according to the fundamentals of the English government, and the declarations of the same made in Parliament by many statutes. Published for the prevention of popis designs against the lives of many Protestant lords and commoners, who stand firm to the religion and ancient government of England. London: Printed for T. Mitchel , 1681.
First edition. Small octavo (6 3/16 x 3 3/4 inches; 156 x 95 mm). [4], 168 pp. Pages 156-167 have Latin and English on facing pages. No copy has sold at auction since 1964. Although published anonomously, this tract is attributed to Somers in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Full speckled modern calf. Boards ruled in blind. Spine ruled and lettered in gilt. some minor foxing and toning, mainly to preliminaries. Overall a very good. copy.

This political tract is a commentary on the English justice system, and focuses on the importance of grand juries.

"John, Baron Somers (1651–1716), lawyer and politician...Somers was called to the bar on 5 May 1676 and took chambers in Pump Court the following year. These were exciting times for a young barrister in London and Somers soon became involved in politics on the whig side, a number of tracts being ascribed to his pen although Somers never explicitly acknowledged authorship." (DNB)

"Somers's learning sagacity and clearness are discernible in four political tracts written when he was about thirty and published in London in 1681..." (DNB)

Lawyer and Whig politician. Called to the bar in 1676, Somers made his name as an outstanding barrister. He was elected in 1689 to the Convention Parliament and was among the principal draftsmen of the Bill of Rights. He is considered to be an influence to John Locke on his Treatise on Civil Government, as well as being influential to the many of the American founding fathers in their drafting of the Declaration of Independence. "It is likely that Locke knew Somers by the early 1680s in the context of Whig legal manoeuvring to protect Shaftesbury. He then possessed a copy of Grand Juries. Somers declared in his Grand Juries that the work was 'Published for the prevention of popish designs against the lives of many Protestant lords and commoners, who stand firm to the religion and ancient government of England.' The first lines of the book declared that 'The Principal Ends of all Civil Government, and of Humane Society, were the Security of Men's Lives, Liberties and Properties'. Somers argued that the 'fundamental of government' was the jury system and identified the 'trust' of Grand Juries as next to Parliament, attacked judges as creatures of passion and interest dependent on those who appointed and dismissed them, and asserted the need for independent juries to to counteract ther pernicious influences... For Somers, it was vital that grand juries 'neither be cheated nor frightened from their Duty.'" (John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture. By John Marshall) "Jefferson, mostly following Locke, mentions three unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The right to life constitutes a right to one’s own personhood. The rights to liberty and pursuit of happiness (Locke lists property instead of happiness) entail self-determination through labor, art, industry, and self-governance. Government has no right to control the lives of its citizens or dictate a course of happiness. Therein lies the foundation of Jeffersonian liberalism." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

ESTC R33648. Wing S4643 .

HBS # 68286 $2,500