Sadler’s Seminal work on Separation of Powers and Philosemitism

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Sadler, John.  Rights of the kingdom : or Customs of our ancestours : touching the Duty, Power, Election, or Succession, of our Kings and Parliaments ; our True Liberty, Due Allegiance, Three Estates, their Legislative Power, Originall, Judiciall, and Executive, with the Militia : Freely Discussed through the Brittish, Saxon, Norman, Lawes and Histories. With an Occasional Discourse of Great Changes yet expected in the World.  London: Printed by Richard Bishop, 1649.

Wing (2nd ed.) S278A

First Edition. Binding: Hardcover (Quarter Leather). Book Condition: Binding Copy. Item Type: Book.

272 p. Pagination: 2 l., title, [6 p.], 1-93, 30-191 (with pp. 150 & 151 misnumbered), 176-184, [4] p. [Table of Contents], 1 l.  Size: 7.5"-8" - Small Octavo (Sm. 8vo).

John Sadler was an important lawyer and constitutional theorist who, among his many offices, at one point served as Oliver Cromwell’s personal secretary. The fact that The Rights of the Kingdom was published in June of 1649 is significant. Charles I had been tried by Parliament six months earlier and was beheaded at the end of the January. Sadler makes an understated illusion to that, writing, “There is scarce any Stranger among us, who knoweth not, what Great Things, are lately come to passe, concerning the King” (p. [iii]).  

Sadler wrote to defend the power of Parliament to try and execute the King through what Parliamentarian historian Paul Seaward describes as “an extended argument that it had always been within the power of parliaments to choose their kings.” Sadler says his “desire, from this Ocasion, is, to see the Kingdoms Rights; the Laws and Customs of our Ancestors, concerning King and Parliament ; that wee may know their Power and Priviledg ; their Duty, and their Limits ; with provision that our Fathers made to keep them Just; and to reduce them to the Duty, when they Erred, or deserted Trust . . .” (p. [iii]).

His work was well regarded over the next century and a half. Milton quotes from it in Iconoclastes. Sidney draws from it in his Discourses on Government. Baron calls it “an excellent Book” and he and John Locke both particularly recommend this first edition over the 1687 edition. (A handwritten note on a blank leaf at the front of the book provides these recommendations.) Copies were owned by Benjamin Franklin, the Mather Family and Isaiah Thomas. However, modern scholars have paid more attention to the quirkiness of Sadler’s historical evidence. Professor Seaward recently described The Rights of the Kingdom as “probably the most comprehensive and least scholarly collection of eccentric theories about the early parliaments of England ever written.” 

Sadler’s evidence is strongly influenced by his philosemitism (friendly attitudes toward the Jewish people), which informs his understanding of both the past and the future. In his backward look, Sadler traced the English constitution to Hebrew sources and presented what Tudor Parfitt in The Lost Tribes of Israel (2003) calls “one of the first expressions of an invented Israelite genealogy for the British” (p. 42) – what came to be called British Israelitism. In his forward look he was a millenarian who believed the restoration of Jews to England would be a key step toward the establishment of the biblical Millennium. This is reflected in Rights of the Kingdom when he writes, “I did, and still doe, believe there may, and shall, be such a Monarchy ere long, through All the World . . . I hope and believe, that God will come, and appear, ere long, to dwell in the World.” His text ends with a plea that combined millenarian statements from Romans 8:22 and Revelation 22:17: “All the Creation groaneth; and the Spirit and the Bride saith, come Lord Jesus, come quickly.”

Since he believed that the advent of the Christian millennium depended on the conversion of Jews, he sought to make Christians more aware of the beliefs of Judaism which, in turn, would make Christianity more attractive to Jews. His desire to reach the Jews led to a friendship with the Amsterdam rabbi Menasseh ben Israel. Cromwell was also a millenarian and saw his own rise to Protector as a link in “that chain of providence” that would bring in “that Kingdom of glory and peace which He hath promised” (quoted by Barbara Coulton, 2001, “Cromwell and the ‘readmission’ of the Jews to England, Cromwelliana). Sadler’s friendship with Rabbi Mennasseh led to a 1655 meeting with Cromwell, which opened toleration to Jews.

WorldCat shows five holdings under four different OCLC numbers: Yale University Library and University of Michigan Law Library (426494088), National Art Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum (1008195295), University of Manchester Library (644137931), and UNSW Sydney (219854269).

Rebound in quarter-bound leather with marbled paper over boards, but the hinges and spine are broken. The front cover and free end paper and rear cover and Table on Contents (after p. 184) are detached. In addition, the spine is broken at Signature K (between pages 64 and 65). The leather is heavily worn, especially at the top front corner, where the board has poked through. The paper of the text block itself has slightly tanned from age but remains supple and is generally free from foxing.

Old auction item description pasted at the top of the first free end paper, including the description, “An excellent work on the ancient constitution of England, recommended by Locke.” On the blank leaf preceding the title page, a previous owner has pasted in an auction entry for the book and annotated sources that have made use of or recommended the book, particularly this original printing. He also signed his name towards the top of the title page.

The paper of the text block itself has slightly tanned from age but remains supple and is generally free from foxing. The top page edges appear to have been originally gilded, but are now black. The side and bottom page edges are browned. 

Shipped Weight: 0 lbs 14 oz.

Inventory No: 1239.