Boston Edition of the Earliest Serious Study into Colonial Legal Rights
DICKINSON, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania. To the Inhabitants of the British Colonies. Boston: Printed by Mein and Fleming , 1768.
First Boston edition. Adams notes two states of this edition One has six lines of text on p. 55 and leaf T2 (p. [147-148]) is blank. The other has seven lines of text on p. 55 and on leaf T2 "To the ingenious author of certain letters, subscribed A farmer"--a letter ordered to be printed by the town of Boston, March 22, 1768. Current copy has seven lines of text and leaf T2 has text. Octavo in fours (8 1/8 x 5 inches; 207 x 127 mm.). [3]-146, [2] pp. Bound without the half-title (as is the Library of Congress copy).

All contemporary editions are very scarce, with no copies of the Pennsylvania edition appearing in American Book Prices Current in at least 40 years.

Quarter yellow cloth over drab boards. Printed paper spine label. Title-page a bit toned. Some dampstaining throughout. Small dark spot on title-page, not affecting text. Overall a very good copy.

According to Adams, the first edition was first published in Philadephia and was advertised in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 17 March 1768; the Boston printing was advertised in the Boston Evening Post on 4 April 1768; and the New York printing was advertised in the New York Journal on 22 April 1768.

A total of seven editions appeared in 1768 in Philadelphia, Boston, New York London, and Dublin. Evans says that this forerunner of the Revolution “produced a great sensation throughout the Colonies.” Benjamin Franklin had these Letters printed in England with a preface by himself.

“John Dickinson's most famous writings have their genesis with the Revenue Act of 1764 that raised duties on sugar. This prompted the Philadelphia lawyer and wealthy landowner to defend the ancient constitution of England against what were seen as arbitrary action from central government. Soon after, in response to the proposed Stamp Act, the so-called Stamp Act Congress met in New York City during October, 1766. There, Dickinson drafted fifteen proposals to which the gathering agreed, most of them condemning the proposed legislation as unconstitutional. As is well known, the Stamp Act was repealed after only four months of unsuccessful operation. Still, more acts of the Parliament in London continued to inflame the political life of the colonies. Prominent among these were the Declaratory Act, which asserted royal supremacy, and the new Revenue Act of 1767, which extended duties on other goods besides sugar. Special danger seemed inherent in the Townsend Acts which, among other things, threatened the integrity of the New York legislature. Dickinson once again put his prodigious learning and profound respect for the British Constitution to work in order to request redress for unconstitutional wrongs, this time to remarkable effect. His twelve Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies began to appear in the Pennsylvania Chronicle and Universal Advisor on December 2, 1767, under the simple pseudonym "a Farmer." Using constitutional argument laced with political economy, Dickinson sought to persuade everyone who read his words, on either side of the Atlantic, of both the economic folly and the unconstitutionality of ignoring the rights of Englishmen living in the American Colonies. The letters first appeared in the newspapers over a period of ten weeks in late 1767 and early 1768“ (J.Osborne).

Adams 54c. ESTC W31739. Evans 10876. Howes D-329. JCB 1700-1771, 1621. Sabin 20044.

HBS # 68323 $2,750