“The constitution of our English government is no Arbitrary tyranny”: Rare First Edition of Henry Care's English Liberties: Or, The Free-Born Subject's Inheritance

  • English Liberties: Or, The Free-Born Subject’s Inheritance.

English Liberties: Or, The Free-Born Subject’s Inheritance.


Item Number: 24087

London: Printed by G. Larkin, for Benjamin Harris at the Stationers Arms and Anchoy in the Piazza under the Royal Exchange, 1680.

First edition of one of the very first law books printed in colonial America, contains the first American printing of Magna Carta and other fundamental documents of individual liberty in Anglo-American law. Small octavo, contemporary calf. In excellent condition, with light wear to the crown of the spine. Auction records show that there has not been a first edition offered in the twentieth century. A rare landmark work which significantly influenced the American colonies.

"Care intended his English Liberties to provide uneducated and inexperienced English persons with documents and information about the law and their rights… praising England’s ‘fundamental laws [as] coeval with government’ and describing the Magna Charta as ‘Declaratory of the principal grounds of the Fundamental Laws and Liberties of England.’ Celebrating law in another piece as second only to the gospel, he described it in English Liberties as ‘the Best Birthright the Subject hath… Care regarded the essence of this birthright as the ‘privilege not to be exempt from the law of the land, but to be freed in Person and Estate from Arbitrary Violence and Oppression” (Morrison & Zook, Revolutionary Currents, 46-7). First issued in England in 1680, English Liberties had a “longer and more significant reach in the American colonies… It played an important role in spreading concepts about English law, history, government, liberties and especially juries… Colonists found in Care’s English Liberties support of their views about the Saxons, Magna Charta as a reaffirmation of old laws guaranteeing the rights of all freemen, and ways to protect themselves against oppression.

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