The Spirit of Despotism
The Spirit of Despotism
The Spirit of Despotism
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"This volume was purchased at Sherrifs sales at Kaskaskia, 23 March 1804, Z.M. Pike"
The Spirit of Despotism

ANNOTATED BY ZEBULON PIKE, 1804

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The Spirit of Despotism
Annotated by Zebulon Pike, 1804
PIKE, Zebulon Montgomery (1779-1813), owner. – The Spirit of Despotism. Philadelphia: re-printed by Lang and Ustick, for selves and Matthew Carey, 1795.

Zebulon Pike's annotated copy of a popular work on political tyrannies, purchased by him in Kaskaskia, Northwest Territory and also linked to other explorers, possibly including William Clark. Pike has inscribed the front flyleaf, "This volume was purchased at Sherrifs sales at Kaskaskia, 23 March 1804, Z.M. Pike." Kaskaskia, in present-day Illinois, was at the time the judicial seat of Randolph County in the Northwest Territory and the site of goverment sales of debtors' and estate properties. Tantalizingly, a prominent debtor in the Northwest Territory at the time was George Clark, the brother of the famous William Clark. The signature of a William Clark appears on the first page of the preface in this volume and is not dissimilar to examples by the famed explorer. It was from his brother's home in Clarksville, Northwest Territory, that William Clark embarked with Meriwether Lewis in late October, 1803 to begin their expedition across the continent. About six months later, Pike purchased the volume in Kaskaskia. Moreover, another previous owner, Jesse Lukens, was known to Pike as they were fellow officers at Camp Alleghany – along with Meriwether Lewis. Lukens died in 1801. See Coues, ed. Expeditions of Zebulon Pike, 1895.

Pike has inscribed a lengthy footnote across three pages in the opening chapter, neatly linking the ideals of the American Revolution to those of Western exploration: "* to thrive in Western skies & in Western hemispheres where there is an Empire founded on the Broad Basis of Freedom, whose duration will be eternal, happiness lasting, & independence guaranteed by the Heaven born, magnanimity of her numerous and hardy sons. Reader, wouldst thou knowst the name of its founder / it was. Washington." At the time he acquired this volume, Pike was still a year away from his first appointment as leader of the expedition to find the source of the Mississippi River. In the mere ten years he had left to live, Pike became one of the most famous men of his time, not only discovering the source of the Mississippi, but also leading the first U.S. government exploration of the Southwest. His sentiments about "western skies," written in the Northwest Territory, are a reply to the book's description of the withering effect of political tyranny on men. Pike's father was a Revolutionary War veteran.

12mo (174 x 100mm). (Couple of closed tears, pages toned). Original sheep, red morocco lettering piece (rebacked and with large restoration to top front cover, well rubbed, old dampstain to front cover with related light staining and fragility to front endpapers and flyleaf including a little damage to Lukens' ownership inscription). Custom chemise and slipcase. Provenance: Lieutenant Jesse Lukens, 1768-1801 (ownership inscription on front flyleaf) – Wiliam Clark (early ownership signature to preface leaf) – Zebulon Pike, 1779-1813, Army officer and explorer (ownership inscriptions, signature on front flyleaf) – "J. Lanier" possibly James W. Lanier, a Kentucky officer serving as Surgeon's Mate at about this time (ownership stamping on front flyleaf of his name, and of the former owners' names).

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Christina Geiger
Christina Geiger Head of Department

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