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The Speech of the Right Honourable John Aislabie, Esq; Upon his Defence made in the House of Lords,

against the bill for raising money upon the estates of the South-Sea directors, on Wednesday the 19th of July 1721.

London: Printed for J. Roberts, 1721 Stock Code: 135163
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"In vain have they stirr'd up the nation for one man's ruin"

First edition of the former chancellor of the exchequer's speech in the Lords, beseeching a vindictive parliament not to levy punitive fines against him, as part of the bill aimed at compensating the victims of the South Sea Company in the wake of the bubble bursting. As chancellor, Aislabie was closely tied to the South Sea project, and profited hugely from the skyrocketing value of the stock, but had to resign in disgrace in January 1721. This speech defends his conduct, and uses strong rhetoric: in Aislabie's view, he was being placed on a show trial to hide the guilt of others - "in vain have the guilty appear'd against me! In vain have they stirr'd up the nation for one man's ruin; my fall will skreen or secure no man; if I am innocent, there is nothing can make me guilty" (p. 22). Aislabie was widely unpopular at this point, but his speech was evidently of interest to the public - it went through three London editions and a Dublin edition that year. "Aislabie's long defence of his conduct did not deflect the house from voting him guilty of 'most notorious, dangerous, and infamous corruption' in promoting the South Sea scheme and in profiting therefrom. He was duly expelled and ordered to be confined in the Tower. Although he defended himself before the Lords, his name was included in the legislation confiscating the estates of those deemed responsible for the bubble in order to compensate those who had lost out during the speculation. However, he was allowed to keep all the property he had possessed on 20 October 1718, namely 119,000 out of an estate estimated at 164,000" (ODNB).

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Small quarto (203 x 156 mm), 24 pp.


Light soiling to initial and final leaves, contents otherwise clean and crisp. A very good copy.


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