Monthly Archives: March 2006

Item of the Day: James Callender’s History of the United States for 1796 (1797)

Full Title: History of the United States for 1796 ; Including a Variety of Interesting Particulars Relative to the Federal Government Previous to that Period. Philadelphia: From the Press of Snowden & McCorkle, 1797.

[Scottish nationalist James Callender is best known as the pioneering muckraker journalist who first broke the story of the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemings affair in 1802. During the 1790s, however, Callender enjoyed the confidence of Jefferson and other leading Democratic-Republicans who shared with Callender their distrust of the Federalists, especially John Adams and Alexander Hamilton. As a radical democrat, egalitarian, and Calvinist, any politician who fell short of Callender’s rigorous moral standards risked being skewered by Callender’s favorite weapon, an accusation of sexual impropriety. In 1797 Callender published a compilation of his political pamphlets entitled The History of the United States. The book included a secret transcript dating from 1792 revealing a scandalous affair between Alexander Hamilton and a married woman, Maria Reynolds. Congress had become aware of payments made between then Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to Reynolds’ husband, James. Seeking to clear himself of any hint of financial mismanagement, Hamilton confessed to his marital indiscretion and revealed that James Reynolds had been blackmailing him. Callender, however, looked askance at Hamilton’s admission and suggested that the payments to Reynolds had more to do with covering shady financial dealings than any misguided love interest. Hamilton vehemently denied Callender’s charges but the public exposure of the liaison had its deleterious effect. Historians have noted that following Callender’s accusations, Hamilton’s political authority steadily waned.]
The unfounded reproaches heaped on Mr. Munroe, form the immediate motive to the publication of these papers. They are here printed from an attested copy, exactly conformable to that, which, at his own desire, was delivered to Mr. Hamilton himself. Not a word has been added or altered, and the period of four years may, surely, have been enough to furnish the ex-secretary with materials for his defence. In the letters of Camillus, the most sublime principles of action are every where inculcated. But we shall presently see this great matter of morality, though himself the father of a family, confessing that he had an illicit correspondence with another man’s wife. If anything can be yet less reputable, it is, that the gentlemen to whom he made that acknowledgement held it as an imposition, and found various reasons for believing that Mrs. Reynolds was, in reality, guiltless. An attentive critic will be led to enquire what has become of her husband, and why the indignant innocence of Mr. Hamilton, did not promote the completion of public justice against a person, who had treated his name with such gross dissrespect? What a scandalous imputation was it for this culprit to cast upon our secretary, that he had gained thirty thousand dollars by the purchase of army certificates, that this fellow could bring him to capital punishment &c. &c.? It is to be wished that Reynolds may still be found, and that, to borrow the words of his friend, Dr. William Smith, The Secretary may come out of this matter, “as fair as the purest angel in heaven!”

. . .

In his letter last copied, Mr. Hamilton speaks of an explanation. He gave nothing meriting that name. The short way to exculpate himself was, by confronting Reynolds and his wife, who accused him of fraud, with the gentlemen who undertook the enquiry. Instead of that, he sent Reynolds and his wife out of the way, to prevent any such personal exculpation. That he packed them off, there can be little doubt, since the suddenness of the disappearance of Reynolds can be accounted for upon no other ground. The letter from Reynolds to Clingman mentions a promise of that kind, and Mrs. Reynolds had previously declared, that this was a scheme in contemplation. Reynolds could not fly from fear. The prosecution against him was closed, and his chief resource for subsistence had been by applying to Mr. Hamilton. That he he was removed, to keep him from a meeting with Mr. Monroe and his friends, bears the strongest marks of probability. It may be said, the the infamous character of Reynolds, made him unworthy of credit. Taken by itself, his testimony was, indeed, worth little; but, when supported by various circumstances, it might merit more attention. The profligate manners of the accuser afforded an additional reason why Mr. Hamilton, if innocent, should have brought him forward, since it would have been proportionally a more easy talk to convince Mr. Monroe of his falsehood. But the secretary sealed the importance of the accuser’s testimony, by forbearing to produce him to the gentlemen enquiring after him. When persons of so much weight and respectability had entered upon this business, every principle of common sense called for the clearest explanation. In place of that the chief evidence was concealed, and sent off, while the mass of his correspondence with Mr. Hamilton was, by desire of the latter, abruptly committed to the flames. You will determine whether these fugitive measures look most like innocence, or like something else. . . In place of smothering testimony, he should have courted it. In place of burning letters, he should have printed them. Publicity was the only basis by which he could maintain the ground that he was in danger of losing. Yet this was the very mode of defence which he chose to avoid.

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Filed under 1790's, Journal, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Gordon’s Geographical Grammar (1719)

Full Title:

Geography Anatomizd: or, the Geographical Grammar. Being a Short and Exact Analysis of the Whole Body of Modern Geography, After a New and Curious Method, Comprehending, I. A General View of the Terraqueous Globe. Being a Compendious System of the true Fundamentals of Geography; Digested into various Definitions, Problems, Theorems, and Paradoxes: With a Transient Survey of the Surface of the Earthly Ball, as it consists of Land and Water. II. A Particular View of the Terraqueous Globe. Being a clear and pleasant Prospect of all Remarkable Countries upon the Face of the whole Earth; shewing their Situation, Extent, Division, Subdivision, Cities, Chief Towns, Name, Air, Soil, Commodities, Rarities, Archbishopricks, Bishopricks, Universities, Manners, Languages, Government, Arms, Religion. Collected from the Best Authors , and Illustrated with Divers Maps. The Eighth Edition, Corrected and Somewhat Enlarg’d. By Pat. Gordon, M.A. F. R. S.

Written by Patrick Gordon. Contains 15 folded maps. Printed for J. and B. Sprint, and S. Burroughs, in Little Britain; R. Knaplock and D. Midwinter in St. Paul’s, and R. Cruttenden in Cheapside, 1719.

From the Preface:

My principal Design in publishing the following Treatise, is, To present the younger sort of our Nobility and Gentry, with a Compendious, Pleasant and Methodical Tract of MODERN GEOGRAPHY, that most useful Science, which highly deserves their Regard in a peculiar Manner. It be alledg’d, That the World is already overstock’d with Composures of this Nature; I freely grant the Charge; but withal, Ill be bod to say, That there’s none as yet publish’d, which is not palpably Faulty, in one or more of these Three Respects. Either they are too Voluminous, and thereby Fright the Young Student from so much as ever attempting that Study: Or, Secondly, too Compendious, and thereby give him only a bare Superficial Knowledge of Things: Or finally, Confus’d (being writ without any due Order or Method) and so confound him before he is aware. But all these are carefully avoided in the following Treatise; for in framing of it, I’ve industriously endeavour’d, to make it observe a just Mean, between the Two Extreams of a large Volume and a narrow Compend. And as to the Method in which it now appears, the same is (I presume) so Plain and Natural, that I may safely refer the Trial thereof, to the Impartial Judgment of the Severest Critick.

From the Contents:

Part I. Giving a General View.

38 Geographical Definitions.
48 Geographical Problems.
41 Geographical Theorems.
39 Geographical Paradoxes.
Concerning Land and Water

Part II. Giving a Particular View, Comprehends,

Chap. I. Of EUROPE.
Scandinavia, containing Sweden, Denmark, Norway
Germany, divided into Lower Holland and Flanders and Upper Germany
Spain and Portugal
Turky in Europe as Hungary, Greece, Tartary, Danubian Provinces
European Islands as Britain (Scotland, England, and Wales) and Ireland

Chap. II. Of ASIA
Turky in Asia
The Asiatick Islands

Zaara, or the Desart
African Islands

New Spain
Nova Granada
Terra Canadensis
Terra Arctica
Terra Firma
Terra Magallanica
Terra Antarctica
The American Islands


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Filed under 1710's, Maps, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: The Ballance of Power (1781)

Click to enlarge.


The Ballance of Power

London, Published as the Act directs, January 17.1781 by R. Wilkinson, at No. 58 in Cornhill.

Britannia, holding “The Sword of Justice,” says “No one injures me with impunity.” On the other side of the scales, the Spaniard says, “Rodney has ruined our Fleet.” Frenchman: “Myneer assist or we are ruin’d.” American: “My Ingratitude is Justly punished.” Dutchman: “I’ll do any thing for Money.” The pile of coins under the Dutchman reads, “Ill Got Wealth.”

Underneath the cartoon are the following lines:

America, dup’d by a treacherous train,
Now finds she’s a Tool both to France and to Spain;
Yet all three united can’t weigh down the Scale:
So the Dutchman jumps in with the hope to prevail.

Yet Britain will boldly their efforts withstand,
And bravely defy them by Sea and by Land:

The Frenchman She’ll Drub, and the Spaniard She’ll Beat
While the Dutchman She’ll Ruin by Seizing his Fleet.
Th’Americans too will with Britons Unite,
And each to the other be Mutual Delight.

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Filed under 1780's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Revolution

Item of the Day: Burke’s Speeches at Bristol (1774)

Full Title:

Biographical, Literary, and Political Anecdotes, of Several of the Most Eminent Persons of The Present Age. Never before Printed. With an Appendix: consisting of original, explanatory, and Scarce Papers. By the Author of Anecdotes of the Late Earl of Chatham. Historiam, Omnium Secretorum Memoriam Dico. — Cicero. In Three Volumes. Volume III.

Printed in London for T.N. Longman and L.B. Seeley, 1797.

Bristol, October 18, 1774.
The following is Mr. Burke’s Speech to the Electors of Bristol, from the Hustings.

I am come hither to solicit in person, that favor which my friends have hitherto endeavoured to procure for me, by the most obliging, and to me the most honourable exertions.

I have so high an opinion of the great trust which you have to confer on this occasion, and by long experience, so just a diffidence in my abilities, to fill it in a manner inadequate even to my own ideas, that I should never have ventured of myself to intrude into that awful situation. But since I am called upon by the desire of several respectable fellow subjects, as I have done at other times, I give up my fears to their wishes. Whatever my other deficiencies may be, I do not know what it is to be wanting to my Friends.

I am not fond of attempting to raise public expectation by great promises. At this time there is much cause to consider and very little to presume. We seem to be approaching to a great crisis in our affairs, which calls for the whole wisdom of the wisest among us, without being able to assure ourselves, that any wisdom can preserve us from man and great inconveniences. You know I speak of our unhappy contest with America. I confess it is a matter on which I look down from a precipice. It is difficult in itself, and it is rendered more intricate by a great variety of plans of conduct. I do not mean to enter into them. I will not suspect a want of good intention in framing them. But however pure the intentions of their authors may have been, we all know that the event has been unfortunate. The means of recovering our affairs are not obvious. So many great questions of commerce, of finance, of constitution, and of policy, are involved in this American deliberation, that I dare engage for nothing, but that I shall give it, without any predilection to former opinions, or any sinister bias whatsoever, the honest and impartial consideration of which I am capable. The public has a full right to it; and this great city, a main pillar in the commercial interest of Great Britain, must totter on its base by the slightest mistake, with regard to our American measures. Thus much however, I think it not amiss to lay before you: That I am not, I hope, apt to take up or lay down my opinions lightly. I have held, and ever shall maintain to the best of my power, unimpaired and undiminished, the just, wise and necessary constitutional superiority of Great Britain. This is necessary for America, as well as for us. I never mean to depart from it. Whatever may be lost by it, I avow it. The forfeiture even of your favour, if by such a declaration I could forfeit it, though the first object of my ambition, never will make me disguise my sentiments on this subject.

But I have ever had a clear opinion, and have ever held a constant correspondent conduct, that this superiority is consistent with all the liberties a sober and spirited American ought to desire. I never mean to put any colonist, or any human creature, in a situation, not becoming a free-man. To reconcile British superiority with American liberty shall be my great object, as far as my little faculties extend. I am far from thinking that both, even yet, may not be preserved.

When I first devoted myself to the public service, I considered how I should render myself fit for it; and this I did by endeavouring to discover what it was, that gave this country the rank it holds in the world; I found that our prosperity and dignity arose principally, if not solely, from two sources; our constitution and our commerce. Both these I have spared no study to understand, and to endeavor to support.

The distinguishing part of our constitution is it s liberty. To preserve that liberty inviolate seems the particular duty and proper trust of a member of the House of Commons. But the liberty, the only liberty I mean, is a liberty connected with order: that not only exists along with order and virtue, but which cannot exist at all without them. It inheres in good steady government, as in its substance and vital principle.

The other source of our power is commerce, of which you are so large a part, and which cannot exist, no more than your liberty, without a connection with many virtues. It has ever been a very particular and a very favourite object of my study in its Principles, and in its details. I think many here are acquainted with the truth of what I say. This I know, that I have ever had my house open, and my poor services ready for traders and manufacturers of every denomination. My favourite ambition is to have those services acknowledged. I now appear before you to make trial, whether my earnest endeavours have been so wholly oppressed by the weakness of my abilities, as to be rendered insignificant in the eyes of a great trading city; or whether you chuse to give a weight to humble abilities, for the sake of the honest exertions with which they are accompanied. This is my trial to-day. My industry is not on trial; of my industry I am sure, as far as my constitution of mind and body admitted.

When I was invited by many respectable merchants, freeholders, and freemen of this city, to offer them my services, I had just received the honour of an election at another place, at a very great distance from this. I immediately opened the matter to those of my worthy constituents, who were with me, and they unanimously advised me not to decline it; that they had elected me with a view to the public service; and that as great questions relative to our commerce and colonies were imminent, and in such matters I might derive authority and support from the representation of this great commercial city; they desired me therefore to set off without delay, very well persuaded that I never could forget my obligations to them, or to my friends for the choice they had made of me. From that time to this instant I have not slept, and if I should have the honour of being freely chosen by you, I hope I shall be as far from slumbering or sleeping when your service requires me to be awake, as I have been in coming to offer myself a candidate for your favour.”

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Filed under 1770's, 1790's, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Revolution

Item of the Day: Almon’s Prior Documents (1777)

Full Title:

A Collection of Interesting, Authentic Papers, Relative to the Dispute between Great Britain and America; Shewing the Causes and Progress of that Misunderstanding, from 1764-1775.

Assembled by John Almon (1737-1805). The so-called Prior Documents. Spine reads: Collection of papers. Other titles: Remembrancer, or impartial repository of public events. Printed for J. Almon, 1777.

The bill laying a a stamp duty in America, passed in March 1765.

The following was printed at the time as part of the Debates on the bill:

Mr. Grenville, after speaking long in favour of the bill, concluded with saying, “These children of our own planting (speaking of the Americans) nourished by our indulgence, until they are grown to a good degree of strength and opulence, and protected by our arms, will they grudge to contribute their mite to relieve us from the heavy load of national expence, which we lie under?”

Colonel Barré replied, “Children planted by your care! No! your oppression planted them in America; they fled from your tyranny, into a then uncultivated land, where they were exposed to almost all the hardships to which human nature are liable, and among others, to the savage cruelty of the enemy of the country, a people the most subtle, and I take upon me to say, the most truly terrible, of any people that ever inhabited any part of GOD’S EARTH; and yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, they met all these hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country, from the hands of those that should have been their friends.

They nourished up by your indulgence? They grew by your neglect of them: as soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule over them, in one department and another, who were, perhaps, the deputies of some deputy, sent to spy out their liberty, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them; men, whose behaviour, on many occasions, has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them; men promoted to the highest seats of justice, some to my knowledge, were glad, by going to foreign countries, to escape being brought to a bar of justice in their own.

They protected by your arms? They have nobly taken up arms in your defence, have exerted their valour amidst their constant and laborious industry, for the defence of a country, whose frontiers, while drenched in blood, its interior parts have yielded all its little savings to your enlargement; and believe me, remember I this day told you so, That the same spirit which actuated that people at first, will continue with them still; but prudence forbids me to explain myself any further. God knows, I do not at this time speak from motives of party heat. However superior to me, in general knowledge and experience, any one here may be, yet I claim to know more of America, having seen and been more conversant in that country. The people there are as truly loyal, I believe, as any subjects the King has; but a people jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them if their should be violated;–but the subject is delicate. I will say no more.”

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Filed under 1770's, Culture, Legal, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Revolution

Item of the Day: History of a French Louse (1779)

Full Title:

History of a French Louse
; or The Spy of a New Species, in France and England: Containing a Description of the most remarkable Personages in those Kingdoms. Giving A Key to the Chief Events of the Year 1779, and those which are to happen in 1780. Translated from the Fourth Edition of the revised and corrected Paris Copy.

Published anonymously; attributed to Delauney. Translation of: Histoire d’un pou françois./ A political satire including Benjamin Franklin’s mission to France. In imitation of Richard Tickell’s: The Green Box of Monsieur de Sartine. Printed in London for T. Becket, Adelphi, Strand, 1779.

Chapter I: The birth of a Louse in the head of a courtezan. The happiness of his early life. He marries and has children, from whom he is obliged to fly by a general pestilence that overspreads his country.

I WAS born in a region very fertile and prolific, of which my ancestors had been more than a year in possession, and in which they had lived with all the happiness of royalty in the head of a charming girl of about eighteen. She lived with a commodious matron at Paris, Montigny by name, whose house was filled with the most spendid young people of the capital. The honour of my young mistress requires me to say, that I have known few heads so fine, or so well covered. It was an extreme and mighty forest, abundantly sufficient for all our wants, though our colony was very populous. In my childhood I made a great figure, my size visibly increased from minute to minute: my mother, who loved and adored me, would often say, when she pressed me in her arms, that she never knew a child of so much strength, and so good a constitution, for that in eight days I should be equal to my father.

When I came to the age proper for marriage, I got me a wife, chusing a female of my own age, fat and strong, for my taste is for plumpness: in four days time I was able to count ninety children, half boys and half girls; and was so pleased with my condition, that I did not suppose the world to contain a being more happy than myself; when an unexpected accident brought the first of my calamities upon me.

This region so plentiful, and so well replenished with juicy fruits, which I considered as a place of complete felicity, we found dried up almost all at once: I saw the trees of that vast forest dropped off by the roots one after another; a mineral smell, which broke out from the pores of that once happy head, was to us a destructive pestilence. I saw my relations and friends dying every minute of strong convulsions; I soon lost my father, and that valuable mother who had folndled me so much, together with three fourths of my dear children: my poor mistress herself, who had entertains us with such generous hospitality, was now in a condition to be pitied–her breath was become intolerably fetid, her teeth were no longer fast in her head, her mouth was covered with froth, her nerves were broken, and her body trembled so as she could scarce either stand or sit.

Of this terrible disaster I was determined on finding the cause; and one morning winding my way with a great deal of trouble through that vast forest, I climbed to the tip of an ear which had been once white, but which the infected air had now blackened.

From thence I saw the proceeding of a cursed operator, who stroking the delicate limbs of my mistress with his greasy fingers, filled her whole body with his dreadful contagion.

Resolving now to go back no more to this cursed and corrupted country, I called my few children that were left together, and we hid ourselves for a while in the doubles of a curtain which hung round my mistress’s bed.

Here we staid two days and a half, without provision, without relief, and without knowing what course to take, when my poor mistress, languid and sinking, was taken from her bed, and conveyed to a hackney coach, as I have heard, to the royal mansion of Bissexter.

Her bed was supplied with clean linen; and I had the horror to see the cruel matron shake out of the foul clothes an innumerable body of my country-men, whom the plague had carried off; some of them were yet living, and crying out for help; but she, in all the rage of cruelty, pushed them together, and threw them headlong into a pan of burning coals, which put at once an end to their misery and existence.

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Filed under 1770's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Revolution

Item of the Day: Gilray’s American Rattlesnake (1782)


The American Rattlesnake.

Drawn and written by James Gilray (1757-1815). The large snake that has already encircled the British at Saratoga and Yorktown has a third empty circle on the left, indicating that there is still room for another captured British army. Published in London by W. Humphrey, 1782.

(Click on picture to view full size.)

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Filed under 1780's, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Revolution