Considerations upon the nature and tendency of free institutions.

Cincinnati, H. W. Derby & Co., 1884.

8vo, pp. viii, 544; foxed and spotted throughout, with a short tear to the foot of p. 347, but a good copy in contemporary black embossed cloth, extremities chipped, hinges starting but firm.


US $2459€2002

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First edition, scarce in commerce, of this ‘significant contribution to American thought’ written by a Supreme Court judge who advocated the ‘popular election of judges for specific terms’ (Supreme Court of Ohio biographies online, ‘Grimke’). Grimke (1791-1862) studied at Yale and Carolina, rising quickly to become a judge of the Court of Common Pleas and then of the Supreme Court (‘Publisher’s Preface’ to The Works of Frederick Grimke, 1871). This work is divided into four books which treat government and elections, the constitution, institutions (medical, religious, military etc.), and the American constitution the context of European government.

‘All governments are to a degree dependent upon the manners, habits, and dispositions of the people among whom they subsist. This connection is closer and more striking where the institutions are democratic […] In a commonwealth, where the standard of popular intelligence is high, and no impediment exists to the exercise of that popular authority which rightfully springs from such a state, the people may truly be said to create and to uphold the government. On the contrary, where the population is sunk in ignorance and apathy, government assumes the character of a self existing institution, for there is no power beyond to direct and control it. In one instance, the will of society impresses itself as an active power upon the institutions, both ordaining and controlling them: in the other, for defect of will, the government is simply permitted to be what chance, or circumstances originally made it. The political institutions of Russia, and the United States, equally depend upon the social organization; but in the former the influence is negative, in the latter it is direct and positive. In the former, the people, by their inaction, contribute to rear the fabric of despotism; in the last, they have created free institutions’ (pp. 4-5).

Sabin 28855; COPAC cites just one copy (British Library); within Europe, WorldCat locates only one further copy (Bibliothèque National de France).

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