924G {Henry Care} 1646-1688


English liberties: or, The free-born subject’s inheritance, containing, I. Magna Charta, the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act; and divers other most useful statutes: with large comments upon each of them. II. The proceedings in appeals of murther; the work and power of parliaments; The qualifications necessary for such as should be chosen to that great trust. Plain directions for all persons concerned in ecclesiastical courts; and how to prevent or take off the writ De Excommunicato Capiendo. As also the oath and duty of grand and petty juries. III. All the laws against conventicles and Protestant dissenters with notes, and directions both to constables and others concern’d, thereupon; and an abstract of all the laws against papists.


LONDON: Printed by G. Larkin, for Benjamin Harris, at the Stationers Arms and Anchor in the Piazza under the Royal-Exchange, 1682?                                             $6000

Duodecimo 144 x 83 mm  A6, B-K12, L6. (lacking initial ?blank A1)pp. [10] 1-228. Wanting the blank preceding the title page. First edition. Recently expertly rebound in full calf in period style, with blind rules to the covers, the spine lettered direct, new endpapers. Title page browned around the edges, sections of the text a little age toned and occasionally dusty otherwise the contents are generally clean.

This little book is an effort to give the power to the people, by way of indicating to the public the powers which the law has already afforded them. As the title page indicates, it includes one of the most important legal document ever, the Magna Charta, in English, and many other legal tidbits doubtlessly of great interest to the public. The section below is taken from the table.

“The Nature and Happiness of our English Government; Magna Charta faithfully recited; a comment upon Magna Charta; ‘Tis but a declaration of what the people had right to before; the occasion and means of obtaining Magna Charta; Ill council persuade King Henry III to revoke Magna Charta, and the sad end of that wicked counsellour; Liberties what; Monopolies are against Magna Charta; the King cannot send any man out of England against his will; Peers what; Commitment, the necessary circumstances where legal; Justice its three properties; Judges are to obey no commands from the King, though under the Great or Privy Seal (much less signified by any little whispering Courtier) against law; Protection, when unlawful,”    

Many statutes, laws, and court decisions are cited in this book, the writ of habeas corpus, and other fascinating bits of law. This work became popular in America after it was reprinted by Benjamin Franklin’s brother in 1721 and 1774. It was designed to “slip into one’s pocket [and] had more to do with preparing the minds of American colonists for the American Revolution than the larger but less accessible works of Coke, Sidney and Locke” (Hudson, 580-85).     Care’s influence is clear “in the writings of the founding fathers of the United States—Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Dickinson and Alexander Hamilton.     Jefferson added two copies of English Liberties to his library and arranged that it be included in the library of the University of Virginia” (Schwoerer, 231-5).   The  “the most important documents and statements in English history and law concerning liberty, property and the rights of the individual Benjamin Franklin knew its contents thoroughly” (Lemay, Life, 74).

This first edition features a printing of the Magna Charta, “a symbol of political liberty and the foundation of constitutional government” (Grams, Great Experiment, 95), and was published in 1682  “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).

“Care advocated a radical theory of liberty of the religious conscience for all persons and argued for the principle of separation of church and state his ideas are comparable to those of John Locke on that subject and were in print before Locke’s Letter on Toleration.” Care especially promoted “an abiding respect for the merits of trial by jury as a bulwark of English rights and liberties. English Liberties helped to transmit this ‘jury ideology’ and other ideas about fundamental laws and the rights and liberties of Englishmen to 18th-century England and the American colonies”

(Schwoerer, Ingenious Mr. Henry Care, xxvi).

On publication, English Liberties “became a publishing phenomenon, with successive editions circulating around the Atlantic world in the 18th century, its small size—it could literally fit into a pocket—enabling knowledge of English rights to reach the peripheries of the empire” (Yirush, Settler, Liberty and Empire, 29).

ESTC R31286; Wing C515