An Enquiry concerning Political Justice and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness. William Godwin.

An Enquiry concerning Political Justice and its Influence on General Virtue and Happiness

"Such was man in his original state, and such is man as we at present behold him. Is it possible for us to contemplate what he has already done without being impressed with a strong presentiment of the improvements he has yet to accomplish? There is no science that is not capable of additions; there is no art that may not be carried to a still higher perfection. If this be true of all other sciences, why not of morals? If this be true of all other arts, why not of social institution? The very conception of this as possible is in the highest degree encouraging. If we can still further demonstrate it to be a part of the natural and regular progress of mind, our confidence and our hopes will then be complete. This is the temper with which we ought to engage in the study of political truth. Let us look back, that we may profit by the experience of mankind; but let us not look back, as if the wisdom of our ancestors was such, as to leave no room for future improvement." -Godwin

FIRST EDITION of one of the most important political tracts of the 18th century.

“The Enquiry was, and remained, the work by which [Godwin] was best known. It was one of the earliest, the clearest, and most absolute theoretical expositions of socialist and anarchist doctrine. Godwin believed that the motives of all human action were subject to reason, that reason taught benevolence, and that therefore all rational creatures could live in harmony without laws and institutions. Believing in the perfectibility of man, he thought that our virtues and vices may be traced to the incidents which make the history of our lives, and if these incidents could be divested of every improper tendency, vice would be extirpated from the world” (Printing and the Mind of Man, 234).

London: G.G.J. and J. Robinson, 1793. Quarto, early three-quarters vellum over marbled boards. Two volumes. Without half-titles. Internally clean, boards with minor wear. A very handsome copy in early vellum.

Price: $8,000 .

See all items in History, Culture & Ideas
See all items by