CATO’S LETTERS BY JOHN TRENCHARD & THOMAS GORDON.
Publication Date: 1724
"Written by John Trenchard & Thomas Gordon. Rare first edition of this extremely influential work, ranked with the treatises of Locke as the most authoritative statement of the nature of political liberty and above Locke as an exposition of the social sources of the threats it faced.
Trenchard and Gordon published their weekly "Cato's Letters" in the London Journal
and later the British Journal from November 1720 through December 1723. In these 144
essays, the authors explored and popularized the philosophical and revolutionary ideas
of personal and political liberty. They believed that liberty was constantly plagued
by conspiracies of power-seekers and best protected by broad-based property ownership;
that executive political power and standing armies were pernicious; and that luxury
corrupted virtue. Furthermore, it was Trenchard and Gordon who first gave unreserved
endorsement to free speech as being indispensable to Liberty, Property, true Religion,
Arts, Sciences, Learning, Knowledge and who were willing to extend the privilege to
all, including those who disagreed with them. Their view of the history led them to
conclude that contemporary England was as corrupt as Rome on the eve of its decline
and fall: "a venal city, ripe for destruction, if it can only find a purchaser". The
analogue of decadent Rome was embraced by the Founding Fathers and gave a radical
new meaning to their claims," transforming them from constitutional arguments to expressions
of a world regenerative creed. These important and influential essays had a profound
impact on Revolutionary ideology in America.
In America, "Cato's Letters" were promptly reprinted and so widely distributed, plagiarized, and imitated that they gave rise to what might be called a "Catonic" image, central to the political theory of the time, best exemplified by Washington's public displays of virtue. Their influence is also palpable in the rhetoric of conspiracy in the Declaration of Independence, the restrictions on national power and definition of individual rights in the Article of Confederation and the Constitution, as well as the desire to use the public domain to create a nation of yeoman farmers. In the course of American political development during the eighteenth century, Trenchard and Gordon were the most important spokesmen for extreme libertarianism.
This is the first complete collection of "Cato's Letters," issued soon after Trenchard's death in December 1723." #0052-0055