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Museum Musings - It may look ratty, but...

Appearances can be deceiving. Don't judge a book by its cover.

How often have we heard those phrases? They are very true in the case of this rather aged, ratty looking book. What makes this rather sad-looking book special? Who was the author and what was the subject of the book?

What makes this book special is that it was written by a man who had been condemned by the British House of Commons as an Irish Rebel for his "outspoken defense of Irish Catholics and jailed for publishing criticism of Parliament"[1] and was once the property of James Madison, Jr.; Father of the Constitution and Fourth President of the United States. How do we know that the book had belonged to Madison? There is an inscription which reads: Presented to James Madison Esq as a (illegible) of respect By M- A - (Illegible). The information in the artifact file indicates the dedication was signed by the author, Mathew A. Carey; however, it is hard to see that name in the script. However, not being a graphologist I am unable to solve that dilemma.

So who was the author and what was the subject of this book? The author was Mathew Carey a Dublin, Ireland-born (Jan. 28, 1760) son of a devout Catholic baker, who was writing pamphlets for social and political change by the age of 17. His first pamphlet in 1777, inspired by a duel fought by one of Carey's friends, was published in the Hibernian Journal repudiating the use of dueling to settle differences.[2] Shortly afterward, Carey published Urgent Necessity of an Immediate Repeal of the Whole Penal Code against Roman Catholics. "Carey’s pamphlet was intended as a contribution to debates over the penal laws and the “Catholic question”—the issue of the extension of civil and political rights to Catholics."[3] After pronouncing the pamphlet as seditious, Parliament offered a reward for naming the author. Carey fled to France in 1779.

A young priest introduced Carey to an American colonial agent, Benjamin Franklin, for whom he worked as a printer for several months. When Franklin no longer needed Carey, he found employment printing English books for Didot le jeune.[4] It was during this period that Franklin is believed to have introduced Carey to the Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette was "keenly interested in revolutionary sentiment"[5] as France was considering an invasion of Ireland. Carey returned to Ireland around 1783 and for a year he edited The Freeman's Journal and The Volunteer's Journal - two very outspoken publications. With the British authorities closing, Carey fled to America in September 1784, dressed as a woman.[6]

Penniless and friendless, Carey arrived in Philadelphia. One of his fellow passengers headed to Mount Vernon and conversations with Washington and Lafayette revealed Carey's presence. Lafayette headed to Philadelphia, located Carey, introduced him to a number of the city's leading men and gave him $400. Carey used the funds to begin a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Evening Herald, which provided in-depth accounts of Assembly sessions. Somewhat ironically, based on his first publication at 17, Carey had made an enemy of a rival publisher Colonel Eleazer Oswald that resulted in a duel in which Carey was wounded.[7] While his leg was healing, the publication of his

newspaper was suspended, but Carey began a new project, a magazine

entitled The American Museum in January of 1787.

The American Museum was unlike all other publications because it did not incorporate English stories, essays and news. Along side of historical documents, this magazine printed "essays by Frankin, Thomas Paine, and Anthony Benezet; poetry by Humphreys and Freneau."[8]

From this point onward, Carey's life is interesting and successful but much less rebellious and dangerous. He marries Bridgette Flahaven on February 24, 1791 in Philadelphia, where he spends the remainder of his life. Mathew Carey died on September 16, 1839.

There was an earlier publication by Carey entitled The Olive Branch or Faults on Both Sides, Federal and Democratic. A serious appeal on the necessity of Mutual Forgiveness and Harmony, to save Our Common Country from Ruin This Book, (As a mark of gratitude for inestimable blessings enjoyed, in liberty of person, liberty of property, liberty of opinions. to a degree never exceeded in the world) is respectfully dedicated to a beloved but bleeding country, torn in pieces by factious, desperate, convulsive and ruinous struggles for power. It was printed just following the sack of Washington (August 24, 1814) during the War of 1812.

Carey had written: “I hope the Olive Branch will ... serve as a beacon to other times than ours. When a navigator discovers new shoals, and rocks, and quicksands, he marks them on his chart, to admonish future navigators to be on their guard and to shun the destruction to which ignorance might lead. ... I have endeavored to delineate a chart for the most formidable of the rocks on which our vessel was striking, to serve as a guide to future state pilots.... It established an important, but most awful political maxim, that during the prevalence of the destructive and devouring and execrable spirit of faction, men, otherwise good and respectable, will, too frequently, sacrifice, without scruple or remorse, the most vital interests of their country, under the dictates, and to promote the view, of violent and ambitious leaders! What a terrific subject for contemplation.”

The New Olive Branch, or, An Attempt to Establish an Identity of Interest Between Agriculture, Manufactures, and Commerce; and to Prove, that a large portion of the manufacturing industry of this nation has been sacrificed to commerce; and that the commerce has suffered by this policy nearly as much as manufacturers, was published by M. Carey & Son in 1820 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The subjects addressed were tariff, free trade and protectionism (United States).

A Tariff is a tax or duty to be paid on a particular import or export.

Free Trade is international trade left to its natural course; unmolested - without tariffs, quotas, or other restrictions.

Protectionism is taxing imports to protect a country's domestic industries from foreign competition.

There were several more editions in the "Olive Branch" series written into the 1830's addressing various social and political eruptions.

Contemporaries, Carey was just nine years younger than Madison and died just three years following Madison. They corresponded with each other beginning some time before August 1, 1812; the date of Carey's second letter to Madison in which he closes with a post-script: P S. I wish this, like my former letter, destroyed. [Carey to Madison, August 1, 1812.]

To read Carey's August 1, 1812 letter to Madison:

To read a letter from Carey to Franklin:


[1], Gale Research, Inc. "Carey, Matthew (1760-1839)," American Eras. Accessed March 28, 2017.

[2] Kevin Knight, "Mathew Carey," The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, Franciscan University of Steubenville. 2012. Accessed March 28, 2017.

[3, 4] Padhraig Higgins, "Mathew Carey, Catholic Identity, and the Penal Laws," Project Muse. Johns Hopkins University Press. 2017. Accessed March 28, 2017.

[5, 6, 7, 8], Gale Research, Inc. "Carey, Matthew (1760-1839)," American Eras. Accessed March 28, 2017.

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