"SLAVERY UNDER AN AMERICAN CONGRESS": FIRST EDITION OF SAMUEL SEABURY'S INCENDIARY VIEW OF THE CONTROVERSY, 1774, HIS KEY “FARMER” ESSAY IN THE BRILLIANT PAMPHLET DEBATE WITH ALEXANDER HAMILTON THAT “GAVE HAMILTON WHAT HE ALWAYS NEEDED FOR HIS BEST WORK: A HARD POSITION TO CONTEST” (CHERNOW)
(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) (SEABURY, Samuel). A View of the Controversy Between Great-Britain and her Colonies: Including A Mode of Determining their present Disputes, Finally and Effecually [sic], And of Preventing All Future Contentions. In a Letter, To the Author of a Full Vindication of The Measures of the Congress, From the Calumnies of their Enemies… By A.W. Farmer. New-York: James Rivington, 1774. Octavo, disbound; pp. (3) 4-37, (2).
First edition of Seabury's pivotal work in a legendary exchange of pre-Revolutionary essays with Alexander Hamilton that would propel the 17-year-old Hamilton into history—“Hamilton had found his calling… a true child of the Revolution"—with Seabury, writing under the pseudonym of A.W. Farmer, striking back at Hamilton in a brilliant debate that, to historians, “starkly differentiates the colonial political mind from the British.”
Seabury is "infamous for his pre-Revolutionary War pro-British pamphlets… arguing against American independence" (Encyclopedia of the Age of Political Revolutions, 666). His first pamphlet, issued under the pseudonym of A.W. Farmer (A Westchester Farmer), was titled Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress and appeared in November 1774 with a blistering attack on the First Continental Congress that convened in Philadelphia that September. With that, a 17-year-old Alexander Hamilton took quick notice and, on December 15, 1774, his anonymously issued 35-page response, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, was advertised. That same day Seabury's second "Farmer" essay, Congress Canvassed (1774), was also advertised, and the now-legendary contest between Seabury, a skilled loyalist clergyman, and the young Hamilton moved into history. "Seabury gave Hamilton what he always needed for his best work: a hard, strong position to contest… Hamilton had found his calling as a fearless, swashbuckling intellectual warrior… a true child of the Revolution" (Chernow, 58-61).
In the first weeks of 1775 Seabury rebutted Hamilton's Full Vindication
with this stinging point-by-point response, A View of the Controversy
, which was advertised on January 4, 1775. Here Seabury countered Hamilton's view of liberty by arguing: "liberty under the supreme authority and protection of Great-Britain is infinitely preferable to slavery under an American Congress." He also belittled Hamilton's insistence on the separation of royal and parliamentary authority. "If we obey the laws of the King," Seabury wrote, "we obey the laws of the parliament." To historian Michael E. Newton, while others had "tried to refute Seabury's arguments… Seabury confirmed the effectiveness of Hamilton's production by replying to it while ignoring the other responses" (Alexander Hamilton
, 95). What most distinguishes the Seabury-Hamilton writings is the brilliance of a debate that "starkly differentiates the colonial political mind from the British" (Hoeveler, Creating the American Mind
, 330). Seabury ended the exchange with a 4th pamphlet entitled An Alarm to the Legislature of the Province of New York
(1775). His Loyalist essays had "incurred the bitter criticism of the Sons of Liberty. From then on Seabury was a marked man." In late 1775 a band of the New York Sons of Liberty raided his home and found original drafts of the Farmer essays. "Seabury was mobbed and imprisoned… the tracts were gathered up and burned at the stake or tarred and feathered and nailed to a whipping post" (Streeter II:755). As the Revolution broke out and "British forces took Long Island in September 1776, he fled behind enemy lines and joined the army of General William Howe, serving as a chaplain… Seabury remained a refugee on Manhattan Island" until 1783, and was later appointed the first bishop of the Episcopal Church in America (ANB).
With two rear pages of publisher's advertisements listing pamphlets "relating to the present Controversy between Great-Britain and the colonies." Some copies found without advertisements: no priority established. Adams 137a. Adams, Controversy
I:74-71a. ESTC W8133. Evans 13603. Sabin 78581. Howes S254. Ford-Hamilton
2. Title page with owner inscription, faint number "5."
Text very fresh with lightest foxing, tiny gutter-edge pinholes from original stitching. An exceptional about-fine copy.