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an extraordinary collection; an astounding provenance:

“Taxation Without Representation”

The Cause of the American Revolution:

Complete Collection of British Acts of Parliament, 1763-83
from Her Majesty’s Cabinet Office and Treasury Library

Exceptionally scarce complete run of the Acts of Parliament for these crucial years, FROM THE CABINET OFFICE AND TREASURY LIBRARY, WITH BOOKPLATE AND ROYAL COAT-OF-ARMS.

HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE: Virtually all of the central events leading up to the war for American Independence were either Acts of Parliament or, on the colonial side, actions, writings or uprisings in defiance of Acts of Parliament. The conflict that first ignited in the 1760s, exploded into rebellion in the 1770s, and resulted in the birth of the American nation in the 1780s developed directly out of and around the Acts offered in this collection.

SCARCITY OF THIS COLLECTION: Acts of Parliament are almost always sold individually and disbound, and even in this state important acts are extremely scarce; there are no records of a complete run from this crucial period in American history ever appearing for sale. More on the scarcity.

PROVENANCE: from Her Majesty’s Treasury and Cabinet Office Library, Great George Street, London. Starting with the Sugar Act of 1764, the Acts that initiated the unrest and eventual rebellion in the colonies were were first and foremost economic policies. Parliament’s “taxation without representation” legislation emanated from and was advanced by Her Majesty’s Treasury and Cabinet Office. The only sets of Acts from these crucial years in Anglo-American history with a provenance equal to the provenance of this set would be sets from either the House of Lords or House of Commons Libraries.

“Whereas the great law of self-preservation may suddenly require our raising and keeping an army of observation and defence, in order to prevent or repel any further attempts to enforce the late cruel and oppressive Acts of the British Parliament.”

—Preamble to the Articles of War, adopted by the Massachusetts provincial congress, 5 April 1775

 

(AMERICAN REVOLUTION) Acts of Parliament, 1763-1783.  First printings. London: by the Crown Printer,1763-83. Folio, mostly modern cloth. Thirty volumes.  2 volumes (1773, 1782) in 19th century cloth, with original red leather labels laid down on spine, with bookplate of Her Majesty’s Cabinet Office and Treasury Library; 28 volumes cloth institutional bindings, with “Treasury Library” embossed on spine. $135,000.

“By one statute it is declared, that parliament can “of right make laws to bind us in all cases whatsoever.” What is to defend us against so enormous, so unlimited a power?...”

 —Declaration Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of (the Massachusetts Assembly) Taking Up Arms, 6 July 1775

 

 

“It is inseparably essential to the freedom of a people, and the undoubted right of Englishmen, that no taxes be imposed on them, but with their own consent, given personally, or by their representatives.”

—Declarations of the Stamp Act Congress, 19 October 1765

Four of the 30 volumes in the collection

ACTS OF PARLIAMENT AND AMERICAN HISTORY: Virtually all of the central events leading up to the war for American Independence were either Acts of Parliament or, on the colonial side, actions, writings or uprisings that responded directly to Acts of Parliament.  From the first of the offending Acts, the Sugar Act of 1764, of which a young radical named Samuel Adams complained that it “annihilates our charter right to govern and tax ourselves,” to the so-called “Intolerable Acts” of 1774, which led directly to the first battles at Lexington and Concord, to the crucially important American Prohibitory Act of 1775, which John Adams called the “Act of Independency,” Parliament never departed from the position it outlined in the Declaratory Act of 1766, which asserted that the American colonists “have been, are, and of right ought to be, subordinate unto, and dependent upon the imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain...in all cases whatsoever.”  

THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE was the colonists’ own declaratory act and ultimate response to Parliament, a response in which the charges against Parliament were enumerated at length.  As such, the Declaration gives the clearest indication of the central importance of these documents to American history.  In reviewing the “repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States,” the Declaration devotes the following lengthy passage to discussing Acts of the British Parliament: 

He [George III] has combined with others [Parliament] to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us [Quartering Acts of 1765, 1774]: For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States [Administration of Justice Act, 1774]: For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world [Restraint of Trade Acts, 1775; American Prohibitory Act, 1775]: For imposing Tax on us without our Consent [Revenue Acts of 1764, 1766, 1767; Stamp Act, 1765]: For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of Trial by Jury [Sugar Act, 1764, Revenue Act, 1767, Administration of Justice Act, 1774; Massachusetts Bay Regulating Act, 1774]: For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences [Sugar Act, 1764]: For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies [Quebec Act, 1774]: For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments [Massachusetts Government Act, 1774]: For suspending our own Legislatures [Act Suspending the New York Assembly, 1767] and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever [Declaratory Act, 1766].  He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us [American Prohibitory Act, 1775]...A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.  Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren.  We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us....They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. 

It is no exaggeration to say, as the colonists themselves said many times, that Acts of the British Parliament were what transformed the Americans from loyal British subjects into rebels fighting to defend their rights and liberties.  Indeed, with the exception of the Declaration of Independence itself, there are no printed documents that played a more central role in the birth of the American nation than the Acts of Parliament offered in this unique collection.

Highlights of the collection include:
(please click on Act title for more information) 

The Sugar Act of 1764

The Currency Act of 1764

The Stamp Act of 1765

The Quartering Act of 1765

The Repeal of the Stamp Act of 1766

The Declaratory Act of 1766

The Townsend Acts:      
     -The Revenue Act

     -
The Suspension of the New York Assembly Act of 1767
     -The American Board of Customs Act of 1767
     -The Repeal of the Townsend Acts (1770)

The Tea Act of 1773

The "Intolerable Acts":
     -The Boston Port Act of 1774
     -
The Massachusetts Bay Regulating Act of 1774
     -The Administration of Justice Act of 1774
     -The Quartering Act of 1774

The American Prohibitory Act of 1776

 

“It is...with equal Concern and Surprize, that [the people of New York] have received Intimations of certain Designs lately formed, if possible, to induce the Parliament of Great-Britain, to impose Taxes upon the Subjects here, by Laws to be passed there."

—New York Petition to the House of Commons, 18 October 1764

 

Other notable Acts in the collection include: 

-1766 Revenue Act

-1766 American Trade Act

-1774 Quebec Act

-1775 Restraint of Trade Act

-1775 Restraint of Trade Act

-1777 Take and Make Prize of Ships Act

-1778 Repeal of the Boston Port Act

-1778 Repeal of Duties on Tea, 1782 Act to Conclude a Truce (pictured left)

 

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