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FIELDING, Henry.

An Enquiry Into the Causes of the late Increase of Robbers, &c.

With some Proposals for Remedying this Growing Evil. In which The Present Reigning Vices are impartially exposed; and the Laws that relate to the Provision for the Poor, and to the Punishment of Felons are largely and freely examined.

London: printed for A. Millar, 1751 Stock Code: 118445
£1,250.00
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The author's most important social tract

First edition of the author and magistrate's most important social tract. As the principle judge of the Bow Street Police Court, Fielding drafted several bills to reorganise and reform the constabulary, authorised frequent and successful raids against street gangs, highwaymen, and gaming houses, and formed the group of so-called "thief-takers" which became known as the "Bow Street runners", considered to be the first modern Metropolitan Police force. "Fielding was conservative in his social thought. He shared with his contemporaries in Britain, who remained unaffected by French radicalism until the latter decades of the century, a conviction that the stratified structure of the social order was divinely ordained; and he saw the commonwealth as a coherent organism, the body politic, whose 'Constitution' was not only its laws, but its 'Genius, Manners, and Habits'. Since the great, whose luxury was the source of the general decadence he perceived, were above the laws, he focused his attention on the working classes, who were meant to be the 'useful Members of the Society' but had become its scourges and parasites. He urged parliament to curtail 'expensive Diversions', such as masquerades and gaming, that tempted them from their work, and the gin shops that stupefied them; he pointed out defects in the laws pertaining to the poor, and examined the conditions that promoted criminal activity (Enquiry, ed. Zirker, 66, 82, 77). By thus identifying areas in which specific reforms were needed, the Enquiry had an important influence on the criminal legislation of 1751-2. Its concerns would be reflected in his last novel Amelia, published in December 1751" (ODNB).

This copy was finely bound by the famed bookbinder and dealer Whitman Bennett in New York.

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Description

Octavo (202 x 125 mm). Later calf binding, spine lettered in gilt, boards and turn-ins ruled in gilt, marbled endpapers, top edge gilt, others sprinkled brown.

Condition

Contemporary ownership inscription, "Lauderdale Law", to title page, possibly from the library of politician and political economist James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, or his father, the 7th Earl of Lauderdale. Spine joint a little split but holding firm, extremities rubbed, a few marks to spine front board, some small tears to upper edges of contents and a few with tape repair, contents lightly foxed, a very good copy.

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