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Tom Paine's America

The Rise and Fall of Transatlantic Radicalism in the Early Republic

Seth Cotlar

Publication Year: 2011

Traces the brief but highly significant efflorescence of cosmopolitan, democratic radicalism, associated with Thomas Paine, in the U.S. in the wake of the French Revolution. This democratic moment--regarding race, economic justice, citizenship, and a more truly democratic politics--ended when Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans alike associated these cosmopolitan democrats with Jacobinism and the Terror.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

There are many people and organizations who have contributed to the evolution of this book. From my graduate school advisor, T. H. Breen, I learned the craft of writing and the delicate art of textual interpretation. Professors Jim Oakes and Sharon Achinstein provided inspirational models of how to think and write about the history of political thought. Julia Stern and Josef Barton ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-11

IN the fall of 1802 America’s taverns, coffee houses, and newspapers buzzed with the news that Thomas Paine was sailing back across the Atlantic after his fifteen-year sojourn in revolutionary Europe. In Philadelphia, James Perhouse, a British merchant who was friends with the city’s leading Federalists, followed Paine’s story...

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1. Imagining a Nation of Politicians: Political Printers and the Reader-Citizens of the 1790s

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pp. 13-48

VIRTUALLY every European traveler in 1790’s America was struck by two unusual features of the new nation’s culture: Americans were obsessive newspaper readers, and politics was all they wanted to talk about. From our twenty-first-century vantage point, such a state of affairs might look idyllic, but most eighteenth-century visitors were more annoyed than ...

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2. The Politics of Popular Cosmopolitanism

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pp. 49-81

ON 12 May 1796, middling lawyer and self-described democrat Tunis Wortman delivered a strikingly erudite speech to the mechanics and artisans of New York’s Tammany Society.¹ His thirty-one page Oration on the Influence of Social Institutions Upon Human Morals and Happiness invoked almost every major European intellectual figure of his day: Joseph Priestley, “the ...

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3. Can a Citizen of the World Be a Citizen of the United States?: The Reaction against Popular Cosmopolitanism

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pp. 82-114

UNTIL 1794 popular cosmopolitanism had drawn little critical attention in America’s public prints, but that quickly changed once the stream American support for the French cooled. Using events in France as their justification, American Federalists developed an increasingly coherent critique of popular cosmopolitanism. Deriding the “citizen of the world” as an unnatural...

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4. Conceptualizing Equality in a Commercial Society: Democratic Visions of Economic Justice

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pp. 115-160

DELAWARE’S Robert Coram had a score to settle with the man he sarcastically referred to as “Doctor Blackstone.” In the middle of his 1791 treatise advocating a publicly funded system of universal education, Coram—a self-educated, thirty-year-old librarian, newspaper editor, amateur inventor, Revolutionary War veteran, anti-slavery activist, and schoolteacher from the small port town of Wilmington...

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5. “The General Will Is Always Good . . . But by What Sign Shall We Know It?”: Debating the Role of the Public in a Representative Democracy

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pp. 161-209

THE general will is always good . . . but by what sign shall we know it?”¹ This question’s radical Enlightenment utopianism rings rather hollow for contemporary observers. Since 1797, the year in which the man who referred to himself as Citizen Richard Lee, first asked this question in his Philadelphia magazine, such appeals to the general will have rarely evoked ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 211-214

N 1802 Thomas Paine returned to an America governed by a party that proudly embraced the name of “Democrat.” Paine expected a hero’s welcome upon his return. But as he was denied service in one Baltimore tavern after another, received in a curt and formal manner at the White House by his former ally Thomas Jefferson, and publicly humiliated in town after town as he ...

Notes

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pp. 215-249

Bibliography

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pp. 251-264

Index

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pp. 265-269


E-ISBN-13: 9780813931067
E-ISBN-10: 0813931061
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813931005
Print-ISBN-10: 0813931002

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 6 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

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Subject Headings

  • Paine, Thomas, 1737-1809.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1783-1809.
  • Radicalism -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
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