A rare volume offering an early plan for American independence, with a visionary map of the future United States, possibly the first published proposal for dividing the trans-Appalachian territory into new colonies.
This far-sighted work argues “that by granting the Colonists an unrestrained civil Freedom and Legislative Independence, we may most effectually secure their future Commercial Dependence upon, and consequently shall best promote the Interest and support the Glory, of Great-Britain” (title page). The author was not so visionary as to propose a union of the British American colonies, but rather that each colony be granted independence and its own legislature, all under the umbrella of a British-led “confederacy.”
The work was written by John Cartwright (1740-1824). Commissioned as an officer of the Royal Navy in 1758, Cartwright was on active duty in Newfoundland until 1770, when he returned to England due to illness. Thereafter he found his calling as a political reformer, a career he pursued until his death. In addition to his advocacy of American independence, he supported among other causes universal male suffrage, the elimination of property qualifications for MPs, and the abolition of slavery. Sabin writes of him,
“Speaking of this publication, the author’s biographer says, “At a time when no Member of Parliament had sufficient decision of mind to propose the Independence of America, Major Cartwright suggested the expediency of an Union between Great Britain and her Colonies under separate legislatures.”
Indeed, Cartwright’s views were sufficiently out of step that they led to the loss of his naval commission. He did however gain the consolation of being appointed a major in the Nottinghamshire militia.
This is the second edition of American Independence, which first appeared in London the previous year. This new edition includes two additional letters, followed by “A Letter to Edmund Burke,” a long “Postscript,” and a tremendously interesting folding engraved map (on which more below). Sabin catalogs the “Letter to Edmund Burke” separately but notes that “Although with a separate title and paging, this tract appears to have been published with the second edition of “American Independence,” in one book.” A third edition appeared in Philadelphia the following year, bearing the additional text but not the map.
All editions of American Independence are rare on the market. According to Rare Book Hub only two examples have been offered for sale since 1950.
This volume features an amazing map illustrating Cartwright’s vision of an America divided into a multitude of states confederated with Great Britain. The map depicts the eastern half of North America, the outlines clearly derived from Mitchell’s 1755 Map of the British and French Dominions in North America. Along the eastern margin, from the Floridas to St. John’s Island, are shown the borders of 18 pre-existing colonies and provinces, including those established by the Proclamation of 1763. Further west is a vast arc of 18 proposed new states, from “Chactawria” in the south to “Tadousacaia” along the lower St. Lawrence River. A 19th new state, “Sagadahock,” is carved out of Massachusetts’ territory in what is now Maine. Many of these new states are created by excising huge swathes of western land from the original colonies.
Though the number and limits of these new states may at first appear random, Cartwright explains his subdivisions as follows
“to the eighteen states already enumerated, we might by a prudent foresight cause all future additions to the number to be so made as that none should be too large or too small, all having an ample surface and an extensive maritime frontier, and being thereby every way calculated for being hereafter joined with the rest of the free and independent states in the grand British confederacy.” (“Postscript,” pp. 47-48)
The map prefigures later efforts by the Continental Congress to organize the Trans-Appalachian country and prepare it for settlement. The first such was the Land Ordinance of 1784, which among other things dictated the future division of the region north and west of the Ohio River into ten states. Jefferson, who helped write the Ordinance, proposed that they be named Illinoia, Michigania, Saratoga, Washingon, Chersonesus, Sylvania, Assenisipia, Metropotamia, Polypotamia, and Pelisipia.
In all, a rare and remarkable volume with a rare and remarkable map, anticipating both American independence and later efforts to bring new states into the Union.
The volume: Charles F. Heartman, The Cradle of the United States: 1765-1789 (Perth Amboy, 1922), vol. I p. 23. Howes, U.S.-Iana, #C-206 and Sabin, Dictionary of Books Relating to America, #11154 (American Independence) and 11157 (Letter to Edmund Burke). The map: McCorkle, New England in Early Printed Maps, 775.3, but not in Phillips or Rumsey, and Antique Map Price Record lists no examples having appeared on the market, though this firm handled an impression a couple of years ago. For background on Cartwright, see John W. Osborne, John Cartwright (Cambridge: University Press, 1972) and F. D. Cartwright, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Major Cartwright (London: Henry Colburn, 1826). For a concise biography emphasizing Cartwright’s reformist views and activities, see John Simkin, “John Cartwright,” on line at Spartacus Educational.
Light staining affecting primarily margins at head and foot of title block, a bit darker toward the front. Very good.