COOPER, James Fenimore. Letter of J. Fenimore Cooper, to Gen. Lafayette, on the Expenditure of the United States of America. Paris: Baudry's Foreign Library, December 1831.
8o (220 x 140 mm). Half-title. (P. 17-18 and the top 2-in. pp. 19-20 torn away, one or two other marginal tears not affecting the text.) Original pink printed wrappers, uncut (corners slightly curled, lower edges a bit chipped); modern red morocco gilt slipcase. Provenance: James Fenimore Cooper (autograph annotations).
"IT BELONGS TO YOU, IN VINDICATION OF REPUBLICAN INSTITUTIONS, TO CORRECT CERTAIN ALLUSIONS PUBLISHED IN THE BRITANNIC REVIEW." (Lafayette).
FIRST EDITION. ANNOTATED BY THE AUTHOR in the margins with checks and crosses and with a note on p. 33 against a passage addressing the relative returns in France and New York from roadway tolls: "this is one of those cases in which the infancy of the Country acts against it, but the Reviewer says nothing to that effect."
The "Reviewer" is Louis Sébastien Saulnier whose article in the Revue Britannique purported to prove statistically that the cost of government in the United States was in fact far greater than that in France, or any other country. Both Lafayette and Cooper had been vehement supporters of the opposite view. "Lafayette had relied on this argument in the Chamber of Deputies for years; and Cooper, in Notions of the Americans, had attempted to show by two methods of computation that the American was the least expensive system of government" (Beard). Lafayette made a direct appeal to Cooper to set the record straight in a letter also published here: "It belongs to you, in vindication of republican institutions, to correct certain allusions published . . . besides our common American interest in this matter, I am anxious to undeceive those of my French colleagues who might, with safe consciences, oppose reductions in the ensuing budget, under the mistaken idea that taxation, in this country falls short of the expenses of federal and state governments in the United States." In his response Cooper "employed the best sources available to him to present a dignified analysis and refutation of Saulnier's article" (ibid.).
The debate, however, rumbled on and Cooper replied to a barrage of "fresh misstatements, mingled with great scurrility on the character, habits, and pursuits of the people of the United States" with a series of letters published in French between 24 February and 7 March in Le National. In one of these dated 25 February 1832, Cooper expands the point noted in the margin of this book: "In 1790, the population of the state of New York was only 340,130 individuals who inhabited a quarter of the total area of the state. Today, there are 2 million, who probably occupy more than three-quarters of the entire area. It is evident that in such a rapid expansion, the local taxes, for local amenities, must overtake those of a much older nation".
BAL 3851; Beard II pp. 187-195; Sabin 16463; Spiller and Blackburn 15.