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  • José Alvarez de Toledo y Dubois and the Origins of Hispanic Publishing in the Early American Republic
  • Nicolás Kanellos (bio)

Publication of books and periodicals by Hispanics living in the early American republic began in three cities: New Orleans, Philadelphia, and New York. An examination of more than one hundred books and pamphlets published1 between 1800 and 1820 in these cities reveals that the motive for writing and publishing many of these in the United States by Spaniards and Creoles from throughout the Spanish colonies was political; that is, many Spanish and Spanish American intellectuals and revolutionaries had taken up exile precisely in the new American Republic to study its ideology and government institutions firsthand in order to learn from, translate and adapt them, and finally export their version of republicanism to incite or support independence movements in their homelands. In the case of the Spanish exiles, their efforts at first were predominantly aimed at restoring a parliament and a liberal king in opposition to the puppet government set up by Napoleon.

At a time when the Spanish, French, and British empires and the newly expansionist United States were jockeying for geopolitical and territorial advantage over each other in anticipation of revolutionary movements in the Americas, including Spain's possessions in North America, the printing press and its use in propaganda, filibustering, and spreading revolutionary ideology was breaking new ground among Hispanic intellectuals by utilizing the printed word as an instrument of war and politics. Hispanic émigré writers in the United States not only studied republican ideology and governance of the early American Republic but also took up and continued the tradition, studied by Bernard Bailyn and others, of debating in print form democratic ideas in preparation for their independence from European imperial administration.2 Unlike the pamphleteers of the [End Page 83] New England colonies, however, the Spanish Americans were in the main intellectuals in U.S. exile who did not have a local public sphere where they were issuing their books and pamphlets; rather, they engaged a community of readers and responders who were only sparsely concentrated in Philadelphia, New York, Charleston, and New Orleans, but were mostly located in their homelands and could be reached only by having their writings smuggled to their fellow colonials in Cuba, New Spain, New Granada, and points south. If Habermas was correct in arguing that print discourse had created a public sphere separate from that of the state and civil society, in which individuals could assert their autonomy and citizenship through reading and publishing and begin to imagine themselves as a nation,3 then the sphere of discourse which the Hispanic intellectuals were creating at the beginning of the nineteenth century was immense, stretching from Cadiz and the Spanish Cortes (as an alternative government to Napoleon's), to cells of revolutionaries operating in London, Philadelphia, and New Orleans, and throughout the Spanish colonies in the Americas.4 It is hard to imagine how their published writing, of necessity spread so thin over so large a geographic and cultural area, with diverse indigenous and mestizo communities, could duplicate the relationship of print discourse and revolution as, according to Warner (3), it had developed in the geographically compact and more homogeneous population of New England.5 Nevertheless, in battles articulated in Spanish, English, and French, books and pamphlets crisscrossed the Atlantic and the Caribbean, invading forces were literally equipped with printing presses manned by professional printers, and revolutionary manifestoes were issued on broadsides and in pamphlets to be smuggled and used for proselytizing the colonials. Expatriates from the Spanish Cortes and from as far away as the River Platte, Lima, Caracas, and Mexico City gravitated to New Orleans, Baltimore, Boston, and New York, as well as Philadelphia, seen as the center of what for many of the intellectuals was the miracle of American democracy. They set up tertulias (discussion groups) and secret societies, and raised funds from compatriots at home and abroad, as well as from like-minded liberals in the United States, for underwriting both the publication of their revolutionary ideas and the enlisting of invasion forces and the materiel of war. The expatriates were often approached by American politicians...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-147X
Print ISSN
0012-8163
Pages
pp. 83-100
Launched on MUSE
2008-04-04
Open Access
No
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