American Imprints to 1800 From William Reese
Rev. William Linn was the first chaplain of the House of Representatives, and he was evidently no fan of Thomas Jefferson's religious views. In 1800 he published Serious Considerations on the Election of a President: Addressed to the Citizens of the United States. In a theme that has been reenacted religiously for centuries, Linn opposes Jefferson "singly upon his disbelief of the Holy Scriptures, or in other words, his rejection of the Christian religion and open professions of Deism." The Deists believed in God, but rejected divine revelation. Evidently Jefferson had questioned certain literal interpretations of the Bible, for example, asking how Noah's flood could have covered the whole earth based on the volume of water available to do so. To Linn this was proof that Jefferson was unworthy of election. He then goes on to say that having an infidel as a dictator would be bad enough, but if freely chosen leader by the people, this would constitute an open rebellion against God. Despite the attacks, Jefferson's political career survived and he went on to be elected president. Item 239. $750. A response to this pamphlet was soon prepared (anonymously) by DeWitt Clinton. Clinton would himself go on to be a presidential candidate (losing to James Madison), New York governor, and a driving force behind the construction of the Erie Canal. In his response, Clinton describes Linn as one "who with Christian meekness in his mouth, and hell-born malice in his heart, attempts to enlist religion on the side of faction, to blacken the reputation of a distinguished character, and to mislead his fellow-citizens on a point in which their essential political interests are deeply involved." Hmm.
There are also a few firsts or near-firsts. Item 123, Arbustrum Americanum: The American Grove.... by Humphrey Marshall is the first American work on trees. From 1785. $3,500. Item 145, The Power of Sympathy.... by William Hill Brown is described as "the first American 'novel.'" Printed by Isaiah Thomas in 1789. Item 145. $10,000. Item 211, by Asher Benjamin, The Country Builder's Assistant.... is the first American architectural book. This is a Greenfield 1797 first edition. Item 211. $12,500. Item 210, The Merry Fellow's Companion; or American Jest Book.... (the 1797 edition) is described as the third published work of American humor. Reese describes this as "a varied collection of stories (some lacking any point), anecdotes regarding well known persons, and outright jokes." He goes on to say, "Some are even funny." Item 210. $1,750.
We will close with a copy of the official Funeral Oration of George Washington, who died at the century's end. This was given in Congress by Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee, who had served under Washington in the Revolution and helped put down the Whiskey Rebellion for his mentor. Lee's oration is remembered for the quote about Washington, "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen...." It was Lee's son, Robert E., who would attempt to tear down the nation Washington, with Lee, Sr.'s, help, built. Item 249. $7,500.
The William Reese Company can be found online at www.reeseco.com. The items in this catalogue, and more from that era, are posted on the site. Their phone number is 203-789-8081.