Manliness in Early America
Publication Year: 2011
“With New Men, Foster ushers in a new era in masculinity studies. Both historically precise and analytically astute, these essays provide multiple meditations on masculinity before the birth of the nation.”
Published by: NYU Press
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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term masculinity was coined in 1748. As the insightful essays in this volume show, however, long before that men in North America were thinking about and living out the traits represented by the word: “the assemblage of qualities regarded as characteristic of men; maleness, manliness.” From Captain John Smith in...
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This book could never have come together without the help of all those who suggested potential authors, submitted their work for consideration, or offered advice and support. I especially thank my editor, Deborah Gershenowitz, and the staff at New York University Press. I also acknowledge the financial support of the University Research Council at DePaul University. I am grateful to my students, colleagues in the departments of history...
Introduction: New Men: Feminist Histories of Manliness in Early British America
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In 1782, when J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur published his description of American society and wrestled with what it meant to be an American, he articulated a question that many were asking: “What, then, is the American, this new man?” For every generation that followed, the question has resonated. New Men takes up Crevecoeur’s question and applies it to early America using the insights of gender history. It approaches the history...
Part I. Settlement
1. Gentlemen and Soldiers: Competing Visions of Manhood in Early Jamestown
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On May 14, 1607, 104 men and boys landed on a small peninsula in the Chesapeake and established Jamestown. The colonists sailed not for themselves but for the Virginia Company, whose shareholders were financing this foray into the New World. Consistent with the company’s instructions, the colonists organized a government, built a settlement, and made contact with the indigenous people. Almost immediately, however, Jamestown...
2. Indian and English Dreams: Colonial Hierarchy and Manly Restraint in Seventeenth-Century New England
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Sewall had his dream in 1728, when he was already an elderly man, recently retired from his post on the bench; he would die a little over a year later.2 Sewall the diarist would never fully unravel the pun that Sewall the dreamer had constructed in the night. The little boy had stolen the old man’s “watch”—given form in the dream as a timepiece “engraven” with some cautionary...
Part I . Warfare
3. “We are men”: Native American and Euroamerican Projections of Masculinity During the Seven Years’ War
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“Your hands are like the hands of a child,” declared a Cherokee warrior to a European prisoner. “They are unfit for the chace, or for war. In the winter’s snow you must burn a fire; and in the summer’s heat you faint in the shade.” The Cherokee, on the other hand, “can always lift the hatchet: the snow does not freeze him; nor the sun make him faint. We are men.” Thomas...
4. Real Men: Masculinity, Spirituality, and Community in Late Eighteenth-Century Cherokee Warfare
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In 1761 the colonial soldier William Fyffe noted that war was the “principal study” or “beloved occupation” of Cherokee men from the southern Appalachian region.1 As the historian John Phillip Reid noted, “Warfare to the Cherokees was a business, a grim, dangerous, exciting business so important to their way of life that its mores and values dominated their culture.”2 Indeed, the Cherokee “beloved occupation” was a complex institution...
Part III. Atlantic
5. “Blood and Lust”: Masculinity and Sexuality in Illustrated Print Portrayals of Early Pirates of the Caribbean
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“Why is it that the pirate has, and always has had, a certain lurid glamour of the heroical enveloping him round about?” asked Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates, a large-scale, richly illustrated book for children published in 1921. “Would not every boy . . . rather be a pirate captain than a Member of Parliament?” To answer his own question, Pyle waxed lyrical: “What a life of adventure is his, to be sure! A life of constant alertness, constant danger,...
6. “Banes of Society” and “Gentlemen of Strong Natural Parts”: Attacking and Defending West Indian Creole Masculinity
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A text that sheds much light on the social life of the West Indian colonies at the height of plantation prosperity and that has received almost no attention from historians is “Account of Travels” by Henry Hulton (1731–1790), an autobiographical account of the life of a British customs official whose travels took him throughout Europe and the American colonies,...
7. “Impatient of Subordination” and “Liable to Sudden Transports of Anger”: White Masculinity and Homosocial Relations with Black Men in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica
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Jamaica in the middle of the eighteenth century was a very masculine society. Men outnumbered women in every sector of the population except in the free black population, where women slightly outnumbered men. The number of white men was much greater than the number of white women in the population at large, where 70 percent of whites were men,...
Part IV. Enactment
8. “Effective Men” and Early Voluntary Associations in Philadelphia, 1725–177
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Moore Trotter found herself in dire straits by 1768. An impoverished and desperate immigrant in Philadelphia, she beseeched the help of two of the wealthiest women in the city, Miss Elizabeth Graeme and Mrs. Mary McCall Plumstead. It is unclear what (if any) actions Graeme and Plumstead took immediately to help her, but they did recommend her case to the St....
9. “Strength of the Lion . . . Arms Like Polished Iron”: Embodying Black Masculinity in an Age of Slavery and Propertied Manhood
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In 1681, a York County, Virginia, man named Frank turned his body into a potentially lethal weapon of defiance and anger. Two neighbors, John MacCarty and Edward Thomas, had slighted him by refusing to admit his company. Furious at the insult, Frank enlisted a friend to help fight the two...
Part V. Revolution
10. Of Eloquence “Manly” and “Monstrous”: The Henpecked Husband in Revolutionary Political Debate, 1774–1775
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When, in the fall of 1774, the Continental Congress published the Articles of Association, announcing a scheme of non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption to be enforced by extralegal committees of local patriots, many British North Americans felt betrayed. Colonists who bristled at the prospect of economic resistance—either because they feared...
11. John Adams and the Choice of Hercules: Manliness and Sexual Virtue in Eighteenth-Century British America
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In August 1776 John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that he had proposed that the image for the seal of the new nation be the “Choice of Hercules.” Referencing the classical allegory of choosing virtue over vice, Adams selected a particularly masculine, heroic figure to represent public and private virtue. He believed individuals should choose to lead moral personal lives and...
12. “Play the Man . . . for Your Bleeding Country”: Military Chaplains as Gender Brokers During the American Revolutionary War
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In December 1783, the Presbyterian cleric George Duffield preached a sermon before Congress to celebrate the American triumph in war and the return of peace. His oration lauded the heroic action of American colonists against the tyranny of Britain. Though America had “contributed her liberal share” to the empire and never withheld “her blood or her treasure when...
Afterword: Contending Masculinities in Early America
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Until recently, scholars and laypeople thought of early America as a world in which aristocratic ideals of manhood anchored in the claims of blood and honor dominated the cultural landscape. We even said that these ideals were “hegemonic.” By this we meant that other social groups deferred to elites, granting their superiority as men and their entitlement to a disproportionate...
About the Contributors
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2011