Three New Catalogues of Americana

- by Michael Stillman



Item 90 is a famous Supreme Court opinion from 1832 by John Marshall in which he found that the Cherokee Nation in Georgia was sovereign and independent of that state. It was in response to this decision that President Andrew Jackson is supposed to have said “Well, John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.” $450.

For those who think dirty politics is something new, how about The Case of Jane Marie, Exhibiting the Cruelty and Barbarous Conduct of James Ross, to a Defenceless Woman. Written and Published by the Object of his Cruelty and Vengeance, and Addressed to the Public of Philadelphia and the Whole of Pennsylvania. Ross was a former Pennsylvania senator who just happened to be running for governor at the time. Item 88. $250.

A great many of the items in this catalogue pertain to the pre-Civil War period where the issue of slavery and the dividing of the nation was on everyone’s mind. A surprising piece is A Card to my Constituents from John Moore. Moore, a congressman from the deep south (Louisiana), argues against the southern sponsored “Gag Rule,” which prevented the House from considering anti-slavery petitions. He argued that this allowed the north to co-opt “the scared right of petition,” which he felt would long term place the south in a bad light. Item 100. $250.

A surprise from the south should be balanced by one from the north. Item 46, Proceedings from the Massachusetts National Democratic Convention… from 1860 in which it endorses the southerner Breckenridge over eventual nominee Douglas. Breckenridge was a staunch supporter of slavery. Evidently, the convention was controlled by a small number of people and the state would be turning to the Republicans anyway in the election. $250.

The Rev. Thomas Bacon provides a kinder and gentler defense of slavery in Item 15: Sermons by the Rev. Thomas Bacon, of Maryland, First Published in 1763. On the Duties of Servants. When it was second published is more interesting: 1842. Reprinted by the Society for the Advancement of Christianity in South Carolina, these 80-year-old sermons were evidently resurrected to defend an institution that was, in reality, brutal. Bacon, although himself a slave owner, was in favor of education of slaves and preached that they, too, would make it to heaven, and there would be rewarded as much as “the greatest prince alive.” That probably brought some hope to the slaves, but there was a catch, and the good reverend engaged in some truly slimy manipulation here. They first needed to serve their masters on earth as if they were serving God Himself. “…What faults you are guilty of towards your masters and mistresses are faults done against God himself,” says the Reverend. In other words, if you want to go to heaven, you’d better bust your tails and suffer in obedient silence for all your days on earth. Accepting that philosophy would not have done the slaves much good, but would have been very beneficial for their masters, like Bacon. Perhaps Reverend Bacon was the one with some explaining to do when he reached the pearly gates. $450.