[NEW YORK LAWS]
Laws of New-York, from the Year 1691, to 1751, Inclusive, Published According to an Act of the General Assembly
New York: Printed by James Parker, 1752. Folio. ,iii,488,pp. including Errata leaf.
Half calf and marbled boards in antique style, leather label. Small old ink library stamp on verso of titlepage, some toning and minor foxing, marginal dampstaining to some leaves, with a remarkable contemporary poem "Epitaph on Thomas Paine," apparently an original composition, penned on two of the terminal blanks. Very good.
One of the earliest compilations of the laws of colonial New York, and the first digest of the colonial statutes in force at that time. The work was prepared by William Smith (author of the History of New York) and William Livingston, both prominent New York attorneys. The work is also notable for the subscriber's list, which includes prominent names such as Benjamin Franklin, Charles Pinckney, and James De Lancey, among others. The book belonged to James Smith and Peter Smith of Dutchess County, New York, who have noted ownership on the last blank leaf. In evidently the same hand there is an extremely interesting manuscript verse epitaph on Thomas Paine on the versos of the last two sheets. The poem is composed of some thirty-four lines, the text of which is apparently unpublished. It was likely written by the same James Smith who signs his name in the book. Smith was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Duchess County, New York during the American Revolution. In September 1775, Smith was tarred and feathered for openly opposing the County Committee, who had decided to take certain arms away from local British soldiers. Smith was an ardent Loyalist, and as a result, he was summarily held as a prisoner by the American rebels for three years during the war. After his release, Smith joined the British army, petitioning to form a regiment under Col. Abraham Cuyler. As a Loyalist, Smith would have been no admirer of Paine's, and he seems to have loosed his venom in this manuscript poem. The poem begins: "The wit that lays here below the Cold E[a]rth / He quitted the land where he Drew his first bre[a]th / Commence the Apostle of bloodshed and strife / And practise[d] the trade to the End of his Life / Sedition and Nonsence with Lyes to Dispence / and took up the title of the Common Sense...." The poem continues in the same brutally unflattering terms, eventually calling out Paine by name near the end: "Blaspheams the Almighty Lives in filth like a hog / Abandon in De[a]th and Interd like a Dog / Thom Pa[i]ne for the Devil is sur[e]ly a match." What the poem lacks in poetic refinement, it makes up for in vitriol. An important and handsomely produced volume, with an undiscovered gem of a contemporary manuscript poem from a passionate Loyalist.
Benedict 345. Tower 624. Evans 6897. ESTC W6326. Sabin 53730.