Philadelphia: Richard Folwell, 1796-1797 [vols. 1-3]. Philadelphia: William Ross / Richard Folwell, 1797 [i.e. 1799] [vol. 4]. Four volumes. 494,; 576; 477, plus pp. index; 560,,26,iv plus pp. index. Contemporary sheep, boards tooled in blind, spines ruled in blind with gilt red morocco labels. Minor shelf wear, old tideline on front board of fourth volume. Early ink notation reading, "House of Representatives, Deer Isle" on front pastedowns of volumes one through three. Overall, very good. In a half morocco clamshell case, spine gilt. Item #WRCAM55125
First edition set of the official printings of THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES as passed by the first five Congresses. This set is comprised of the scarce first Richard Folwell editions, printed in three volumes, containing the texts of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Treaty of Paris, and all the Congressional acts passed by the first through fourth Congresses. The third Folwell volume features "one copious, luminous Index...comprising in itself a complete Digest of all the Laws of the United States" - Evans. Additionally, this set is complete with the addition of a fourth volume (also indexed), being the combined Ross and Folwell printing of the laws of the Fifth Congress, containing early official printings of the Alien and Sedition Acts. All four volumes are presented here in uniform contemporary bindings. The fourth volume printed by Ross and Folwell is quite scarce. Of utmost importance in the Ross volume are the early official printings of the Alien and Sedition Acts. "There are three Alien acts, which grew directly out of the XYZ Affair and the failure of the embassy to France. Debate began in April 1798, as the story was reported to Congress. The first bill, the Naturalization Act, was signed into law on June 18, 1798. It increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years and created other hurdles to citizenship (the majority of emigrants were supporters of the Jeffersonian Republicans). The second, the Alien Friends Act, was passed on June 25. It allowed the President to imprison or deport aliens considered 'dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States.' On July 6 the Alien Enemies Act passed, authorizing the President to imprison or deport any male, whether an alien or American citizen, related to an enemy nation in times of war. The first two acts expired in March 1801, at the end of the Adams presidency, but the Alien Enemies Act is still in effect, and was the basis for the confinement of Japanese and German ethnic groups during World War II. Its use has been raised as a possibility in modern times. "Far more important to domestic politics of the era was the Sedition Act, passed on July 14, 1798. This made it a crime if 'any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published... any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States...to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute....' A number of individuals were prosecuted under the Sedition Act, notably Representative Matthew Lyon, the aggressive Congressman from Vermont; the political writer James Callender; and some ordinary citizens. The majority prosecuted were Republican newspaper editors such as Benjamin Franklin Bache. The Sedition Act provoked an angry reaction from many, and contributed to the Federalist collapse at the polls in the 1800 election. It expired at the end of 1800, and Jefferson pardoned those still imprisoned under it when he took office in March 1801" - Reese. Also notable throughout this four-volume set are United States treaties establishing foreign and Native American relations, laws governing copyright, slavery, crime, duties, fisheries, banking, judicial powers, the office of the President, the establishment of the Treasury and War departments, the Post Office, the census, the admission to the Union of Vermont, Tennessee, and the commissioning of a new flag with fifteen stripes. An excellent collection of the official printings of the early laws of the United States as codified by the first five sessions of the American Congress. EVANS 31356 (vols. 1-2), 32973 (vol. 3) and 36479 (vol. 4). REESE, FEDERAL HUNDRED 63 and 70 (ref).