Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - January - 2009 Issue
American Politics from the William Reese Company
Item 190 is what may be the first unofficial (public) printing of the Constitution, headed Plan of the New Federal Government. It is a four-page document from the press of Philadelphia printer Robert Smith. The official printing for the delegates was made on September 17, 1787, and the official printer made a copy for the public two days later in his Pennsylvania Packet on September 19. Smith's printing is undated, so all that can be said for certain is that it was printed prior to November 1, when his press changed its name. However, its uneven placement on the paper is an indication it may have been rushed off in a hurry, which tends to imply that it was a very early issue. Also, Smith published a newspaper at the time, of which copies of all issues except September 18 survive. Possibly, that date is missing because Smith was printing this handbill instead. If so, it would be the first public printing. $300,000.
John Henry was more than a steel-driving man. He was a spy, intriguer, and probably a fraud. This is not the mythical rail-splitter, but an apparent British spy who provided President Madison with some papers supposedly showing British intentions shortly before the War of 1812. Whether these contained accurate information is unclear, but Madison was sufficiently impressed to give Henry the then enormous sum of $50,000. The letters played a role in pushing the U.S. into war with Britain. Reportedly, Henry took his money and ran to France, where whatever became of him is unknown. Item 81 is Facts Relative to John Henry and His Negotiation, published in 1812, which points out what was supposedly known about Henry and his activities. $500.
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