By Michael Stillman
David M. Lesser Fine Antiquarian Books has reached number 99 in their series of catalogues of Rare Americana. As usual, it is filled with the odd and unusual, along with many items relating to important events in American history. Lesser's catalogues are a must for the Americana collector as they always are filled with the unexpected, be it politics, religion, science, commerce, travel, or anything else relating to early America. Here are some examples.
Pastor Charles Turner left few words unsaid in A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esq; Governor...May 26th, 1773. Turner speaks unequivocally of the colonists' "unalienable right" to determine their own government. He excoriates British rule, concluding, "How distressing the thought of being slaves, how charming that of being free!" Governor Hutchinson, an unrepentant British loyalist, must have been squirming in his seat through this sermon. He would be run from the colony the following year by revolutionary colonials who despised him. Item 129. Priced at $850.
The Arthur Hodge case was one of the most egregious of slavery cases, though this one occurred on the British West Indian island of Tortola. Hodge flogged his slave, Prosper, for two days, and then left him to die a slow and painful death over the next week and a half, without medical assistance or food. Prosper's initial crime was "causing a mango to fall off of a tree." The case was so shocking that, in an instance of great rarity, this slave owner was executed for killing his slave. The details of this case, which helped lead to the end of slavery in the British West Indies, are presented in Papers Relating to the West Indies...in Reference to the Trial and Execution of Arthur Hodge... Item 53. $750.
Polly Davis experienced the torments of Hell and the joys of Heaven, all without dying. A sickly New Hampshire woman in 1792, suffering convulsions, she saw visions of Hell, with damned souls moaning in eternal agony. She next saw Heaven and all its beauty, and then was returned to mortal life with God's command that she warn others. However, first she had to endure 16 more days of sickness, whereupon she was visited by an angel, and her sickness cured. In case you have doubts, it is all related here in A Faithful Narrative of the Wonderful Dealings of God, Towards Polly Davis...by Eden Burroughs. Item 10. $650.
The issue of slavery was such an irreconcilable divide that it not only split a nation, it even split many of its churches. Long before the Civil War, the Methodist Episcopal Church broke into northern and southern churches. Item 6 is a reflection of that schism, published in 1848: Brief Appeal to Public Opinion...Affecting the Rights and Interests of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Evidently, the new southern church was not pleased with the division of property granted by the old church. Item 6. $275.