Philadelphia: 1829. , 236 pp. Untrimmed and generously margined. Early leaves margin-spotted; otherwise lightly foxed or dusted, generally in the margins. Else Very Good in modern quarter calf and speckled pale boards, with gilt-lettered spine title on black morocco.
Brackenridge had a remarkable career-- as a lawyer in Maryland and Pennsylvania, district attorney for the Orleans Territory, author of a foundation work on the War of 1812 and other subjects [Howes B684 et seq.], Judge of West Florida and, at the time of his efforts in behalf of the "Jew Bill," a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly. His prefatory Advertisement explains why he published this book: "The struggle in Maryland for the freedom of conscience, is one which at the time excited a deep interest; and every victory of CORRECT PRINCIPLES-- every triumph of FREEDOM, should be carefully recorded in perpetuum rei memoriam."
Maryland's 1776 Constitution required, as a condition of holding "any office of trust or profit," that the applicant express a "declaration of belief in the Christian religion." This provision was good for Maryland Catholics but bad for its Jews, who were thus excluded from public office and other activities, such as the practice of law. Article VI of the Federal Constitution prohibited the imposition of any religious test for office; and the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution barred religious establishments. But these limitations bound only the Federal government, not the States. However, the federal clauses were a rallying point for repeal of State religious proscriptions. Repeal efforts began in 1797 and continued for the next generation until, in 1826, the Maryland Legislature passed the Act entitled, "An Act to extend to the sect of people professing the Jewish religion the same rights and privileges that are enjoyed by Christians." It stated, "Every citizen of this state professing the Jewish religion... appointed to any office of public trust [shall] make and subscribe a declaration of his belief in a future state of rewards and punishments, in the stead of the declaration now required."
Brackenridge eloquently argued, "An odious exclusion from any of the benefits common to the rest of my fellow-citizens, is a persecution, differing only in degree, but of a nature equally unjustifiable with that, whose instruments are chains and torture. In our land of equal rights and equal pretensions to the dignity and emolument of office, to be subjected to a degrading exception, is by no means a nominal punishment... [I]t was the will of heaven to open here, AN ASYLUM TO THE PERSECUTED OF EVERY NATION! We are placed here to officiate in that magnificent temple; to us is assigned the noble task of stretching forth the hand of charity, to all those unfortunate men, whom the political tempests of the world may have cast upon our shores."
The speeches of Brackenridge's allies, William G. D. Worthington and John S. Tyson, are also recorded here. Worthington read the entire correspondence between the Jews of Newport and President Washington, and quoted from letters that were exchanged between the first President and the other Jewish communities. Brackenridge adds several other speeches emphasizing the primacy of Americans' Natural Rights.
Rosenbach 312. Singerman 0477. Cohen 3410. 131 Eberstadt 388. Item #36462