Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid His Majesty's Printer, 1764–1776. Five separately printed acts, pagination given below. Folio. Dbd. Numbering in ink to head of titlepage of first four of the five acts. Ink inscription cropped at head of A2 of the final act. Some soiling. Overall very good. Item #WRCAM58728
A collection of hitherto unrecorded Edinburgh printings of five key Acts of Parliament passed in the lead-up to the American Revolution, all relating to either the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, or the Prohibitory Act. These are the only copies of these Edinburgh printings to appear in the market, and we find no record of them in the standard bibliographies, or in ESTC or OCLC.
By the second half of the 18th century, the printing and promulgation of the Acts of Parliament had been regularized to a much greater extent than they had been a century before. The Acts almost always appeared first in London under the imprint of His Majesty's Printers. Though printed separately, each with its own title page, the Acts of each session were continuously paginated so that at the end of each session the Acts could be collected together, bound, and distributed. By contrast, contemporary reprints of the Acts produced by provincial printers outside of London appeared only sporadically, on an ad hoc basis. When such Acts were reprinted in places like Edinburgh, Dublin, New York, or Philadelphia, it was usually because the Acts themselves were deemed by the printers to be of some interest to local readers. Of these provincial centers, Edinburgh issued by far the most reprints, but even these have survived in few numbers, with ESTC usually recording no more than three copies of any given Act. Most are in fact unique and deal almost invariably with issues of Scottish concern, either directly (as in the case of Acts addressing the upkeep and repair of Scottish roads and the regulation of Scottish carters and carriages) or indirectly (the many laws governing smuggling, the import and export of British goods, and customs duties). The present Acts would likely have fallen into the latter category.
The present Acts - indeed, all of the Edinburgh reprints of this period - were published by Alexander Kincaid, who held the office of His Majesty's Printer and Stationer for Scotland from 1749 until his death in 1777. In 1776, shortly before his death, he became Lord Provost of Edinburgh. Richard B. Sher identifies Kincaid as one of "a generational cohort of five Scottish publishers born within six years of 1710, who helped to transform the Scottish Enlightenment into a recognizable movement in the republic of letters during the late 1740s, the 1750s, and the 1760s." Kincaid either published or co-published such landmarks of Scottish Enlightenment thought as David Hume's Essays Moral and Political (1742), Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), Lord Kames's Elements of Criticism (1762), Thomas Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind (1764), and Adam Ferguson's Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767).
The present Acts of Parliament present here are as follows:
1) [Sugar Act]: Anno Regni Georgii III...An Act for granting certain Duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America; for continuing, amending, and making perpetual, an Act...(intituled, An Act for the better securing and encouraging the Trade of His Majesty's Sugar Colonies in America); for applying the Produce of such Duties, and of the Duties to arise by virtue of the said Act, towards defraying the Expences of defending, protecting, and securing, the said Colonies and Plantations...and more effectually preventing the clandestine Conveyance of Goods to and from the said Colonies and Plantations, and improving and securing the Trade between the same and Great Britain [caption title]. Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid His Majesty's Printer, 1764. 31pp. Folio. Dbd. Original stab holes to inner margins. The Edinburgh printing of the Revenue Act (also known as the Sugar Act) of 1764, the first deliberate and direct attempt to tax the American colonies in order to pay for the British military presence in North America. The act sets forth Lord Grenville's economic policies regarding the taxation of the colonies. The Sugar Act levied a tax of three pence per gallon on the importation of foreign molasses (molasses from the British West Indies would be exempt from the tax). But the proposed legislation did far more than tax sugar products. It also detailed more foreign goods to be taxed, including certain wines, coffee, pimento, cambric, and printed calico, and further, regulated the export of lumber and iron. The enforced tax on molasses caused the almost immediate decline of the rum industry in the colonies. The final part of the Act came about in response to the British Customs Board's estimate that the annual revenue from American customs was a paltry £1800. Grenville, whose guiding principles were strict adherence to legality and financial solvency, would not stand for this. In response, the Sugar Act called for a crackdown on colonial smuggling and on the bribery and corruption of customs officials by colonial merchants. Existing trade regulations, designed to raise greater revenue, would be more rigidly enforced, with incentives offered to naval officers and customs officials. Reaction in the colonies was swift. In Massachusetts, James Otis and Samuel Adams fired pamphlets at it; the merchants of Boston banded together to protest; other colonial writers from Newport to Williamsburg added their voices; in England Thomas Pownall and others defended the step. All understood that a new era had dawned with the so-called Sugar Act. This Budget Act of 1764 set the tone for many of the British policies and measures that followed and represented the first in a series of grievances leading to the American Revolution.
2) [Sugar Act]: Anno Regni Georgii III...Clauses of an Act for more effectually securing and encouraging the Trade of his Majesty's American Dominions; for repealing the Inland Duty on Coffee...and for granting an Inland Duty on all Coffee imported (except Coffee of the Growth of the British Dominions in America); for altering the Bounties and Drawbacks upon Sugars exported; for repealing Part of an Act...whereby Bar Iron made in the said Dominions was prohibited to be exported from Great Britain...and for regulating the Fees of the Officers of the Customs in the said Dominions [caption title]. Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid His Majesty's Printer, 1765. 20pp. Folio. Dbd. Original stab holes to inner margins. Further acts passed by Parliament regulating trade in the British American colonies. Of note are those statutes meant to qualify, clarify, or otherwise extend the terms of the Revenue Act (i.e., the Sugar Act) passed the previous year. These include a statute exempting from customs enforcement goods transported on smaller boats in inland waters within the colonies themselves (apparently because zealous Naval officers, eager to claim the share of revenue to which the Sugar Act entitled them, had taken to stopping every boat, no matter how small, traveling on American waterways), a statute spelling out what exactly is meant by the phrase "Seizures made at Sea," and one forbidding customs officials from collecting any fees beyond those to which they are entitled.
3) [Stamp Act]: Anno Regni Georgii III...An Act to repeal an Act made in the last Session of Parliament, intituled, An Act for granting and applying certain Stamp Duties, and other Duties, in the British Colonies and Plantations in America, towards further defraying the Expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the same...[caption title]. Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid His Majesty's Printer, 1766. 4pp. Folio. Dbd. Original stab holes to inner margins. The Edinburgh printing of the Parliamentary Act repealing the notorious Stamp Act, passed at the session just after the Stamp Act was passed, due to the outrage it caused in the colonies. After its successful effort in the French and Indian War, the British government was saddled with a massive debt. Added to this was the cost of administering its new lands in Canada, and the necessity of protecting colonists on the American frontier from Indian attacks. The first step in funding colonial expenditures was taken with the General Revenue Act of 1764 (see number 1 above), usually known as the Sugar Act, which nominally lowered duties on many products but greatly enhanced enforcement. In order to raise funds for border defenses, the British Parliament decided to levy a tax directly on the colonists, rather than relying on colonial legislatures to raise the funds themselves (the colonies having a notoriously spotty track record in such efforts). Over the protests of colonial agents in London, including Benjamin Franklin from Pennsylvania and Jared Ingersoll of Connecticut, a tax was levied on all legal and commercial papers, pamphlets, newspapers, almanacs, cards, and dice. A Stamp Office was created in Britain, and Stamp Inspectors were to be assigned to each colonial district. Colonists wishing to purchase or use any of the materials covered in the Act would be required to buy a stamp. The outrage in the colonies at this form of taxation was immediate and overwhelming, and the Stamp Act was repealed in 1766. The bitterness engendered by the Act lingered on in its wake, however. At under two pages of printed text (excluding the title page), this remarkably succinct bill belies the hostility that the Stamp Act elicited in the colonies, citing only the "many Inconveniences" and the "Consequences greatly detrimental to the Commercial Interests of these Kingdoms" as reasons for the Stamp Act's repeal.
4) [Sugar Act]: Anno Regni Georgii III...An Act for repealing certain Duties, in the British Colonies and Plantations...and for further encouraging, regulating, and securing, several Branches of the Trade of this Kingdom, and the British Dominions in America [caption title]. Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid His Majesty's Printer, 1766. 20pp. Folio. Dbd. Original stab holes to inner margins. Top half of final section section loose but bottom half holding. The Edinburgh printing of the bill repealing the duties imposed by the Sugar Act of 1764.
5) [Prohibitory Act]: Anno Regni Georgii III...An Act to prohibit all Trade and Intercourse with the Colonies...during the Continuance of the present Rebellion...[caption title]. Edinburgh: Printed by Alexander Kincaid, His Majesty's Printer, 1776. 32pp. Folio. Dbd. Original stab holes to inner margins. Title soiled, ink inscription cropped at head of A2, final leaf browned. Edinburgh printing of the "Prohibitory Act." This Parliamentary act was a declaration of war in all but name and was regarded by John Adams and others as the final straw that would lead to American independence. The act prohibits "all manner of trade and commerce" with the thirteen mainland colonies of British North America and empowers British vessels to seize and render any and all American ships to the Crown "as if the same were the Ships and Effects of Open Enemies," regardless of the vessel's owner or purpose. In response to this act of war, the colonial Congress issued permissions for American vessels to respond in kind and reinforced their desire for complete independence. This act essentially removed the colonies from the protection of the English Crown; in a letter to Horatio Gates, John Adams described the situation: "I know not whether you have seen the Act of Parliament call'd the restraining Act, or prohibitory Act, or piratical Act, or plundering Act, or Act of Independency, for by all these Titles is it call'd. I think the most apposite is the Act of Independency, for King Lords and Commons have united in Sundering this Country and that I think forever. It is a compleat Dismemberment of the British Empire. It throws thirteen Colonies out of the Royal Protection, levels all Distinctions and makes us independent in Spight of all our supplications and Entreaties." A vitally important act by the King and Parliament, which tore Great Britain and its North American colonies apart once and for all.
As stated, we can find no copies of these Edinburgh printings of any of these Acts in OCLC or ESTC, and no copies other than these in the trade or at auction. These unrecorded Edinburgh printings of five important Acts provide an interesting basis for the study of the dissemination of colonial policies throughout the British Empire in the years preceding the American Revolution. REESE, REVOLUTIONARY HUNDRED 4 (ref). Richard B. Sher, The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), pp.36, 312. Robert Middlekauff, The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005). Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1953). For the London editions of the Acts, see ESTC N56801, ESTC N56877, ESTC N56896, ESTC 56937, ESTC N54720 respectively.