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Voltaire, Lettres américaines sur les parlemens, 1770-1771.

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Colonial Voltaire


[Voltaire (= François Marie Arouet 1694-1778)].

Lettres américaines sur les parlemens.

[No place, no name], 1770-1771.

12°. 3-44 pp. [lacks first blank].

Contemporary marbled calf with gold-tooled spine, red edges, marbled endpapers.


First edition of a fictional correspondence between two “Americans from Port-au-Prince on the Isle of S. Domingue (Haiti)”, about a major reform of the French government, known as the 'Réforme Maupeou'. The text is anonymous, but later attributed to Voltaire (see Longchamp) and is in favour of the reform. It is set up as letters between R** and T***, dated between December 1770 and April 1771.
René Nicolas Charles Augustin de Maupeou (1714-1792) was the chief minister of the French King and made a revolutionary attempt to install the enlightened despotism in France, through the suppression of the power of parliament. This period of reforms was crucial for slavery in France, culminating in the publication of the Police des Noirs (1777). In that period a judicial memoire by Henrion de Pansey on behalf of the slave Roc circulated extensively, linking the injustice of Roc's slavery to the influence of Maupeou on the king. Voltaire praised Maupeou's Réforme, applauding the suppression of the old hereditary magistracy, and justified the reform in several essays, among them this one.


[Bound with:]

  • [Athanase-Alexandre Clement de Boissy]. Le maire du palais. [No place, no name], 1771.
  • L'accomplissement des prophéties. Pour servir de suite à l'ouvrage intitulé Le point de vue, écrit interessant la maison de Bourbon. [No place, no name], 1772.
  • Correspondance secrète et familière de M. de Maupéou avec M. de Sorhouet, conseiller du nouveau parlement. [No place, no name, no date].


Condition: binding slightly rubbed, stamped exlibris on verso of title of work 1, otherwise in good condition.


Sébastien G. Longchamp,  et al. Mémoires sur Voltaire: et sur ses ouvrages. Frankrijk, Aimé André, 1826, p. 324.

Sue Peabody, ‘There Are No Slaves in France’: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime, New York, 1997; online edn, Oxford Academic, 3 Oct. 2011.

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