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Being American in Europe, 1750–1860

Daniel Kilbride

Publication Year: 2013

While visiting Europe In 1844, Harry McCall of Philadelphia wrote to his cousin back home of his disappointment. He didn’t mind Paris, but he preferred the company of Americans to Parisians. Furthermore, he vowed to be “an American, heart and soul” wherever he traveled, but “particularly in England.” Why was he in Europe if he found it so distasteful? After all, travel in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was expensive, time consuming, and frequently uncomfortable. Being American in Europe, 1750–1860 tracks the adventures of American travelers while exploring large questions about how these experiences affected national identity. Daniel Kilbride searched the diaries, letters, published accounts, and guidebooks written between the late colonial period and the Civil War. His sources are written by people who, while prominent in their own time, are largely obscure today, making this account fresh and unusual. Exposure to the Old World generated varied and contradictory concepts of American nationality. Travelers often had diverse perspectives because of their region of origin, race, gender, and class. Americans in Europe struggled with the tension between defining the United States as a distinct civilization and situating it within a wider world. Kilbride describes how these travelers defined themselves while they observed the politics, economy, morals, manners, and customs of Europeans. He locates an increasingly articulate and refined sense of simplicity and virtue among these visitors and a gradual disappearance of their feelings of awe and inferiority.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

Cover, Title Page

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pp. 1-5

Contents

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pp. v-7

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-9

I have been working on this book for a while. I am glad to have at long last the opportunity to thank the many people and organizations that helped me see it to fruition. My longest- lasting debt is to the Department of History at the University of Florida and to the friends and colleagues I made there, whose fingerprints are all...

Routes of Four American Travelers in Europe

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pp. ix-13

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

In 1844 Harry McCall, a ne’er- do- well Philadelphian making the Grand Tour of Europe, wrote to tell his cousin Peter what his travels had taught him about Rome and the Romans. He was not impressed. “[W]e have no sympathies with these people,” he explained. “We are not of them—and a great change must take place before...

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1. “English association,” 1750–1783

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pp. 9-44

Like many colonials, Benjamin Franklin had mixed feelings toward Great Britain. He had nothing but praise for English culture, Protestantism, and the common law. He hoped that Britain would not oppress the colonies but, “like an affectionate parent,” nurture their liberty and prosperity. Yet Franklin feared that the very features that made him...

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2. “The blows my republican principles receive are forcible,” 1783–1820

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pp. 45-80

Having achieved independence, Americans had to redefine their relationship to Eu rope, and especially to Great Britain. Many people were uneasy about a connection of any sort. The young republic’s geopolitical situation was tenuous. An enormous but sparsely settled territory, the United States confronted a number of dilemmas: rivals...

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3. “What we Anglo-Americans understand by the significant word comfort,” 1821–1850

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pp. 81-123

Between 1820 and 1860 the United States became middle class.1 In some respects the middle class’s rise drove a wedge between Europe and the American republic. Middling Americans cherished the “egalitarian myth” that maintained that any man could attain independence and even prosperity through hard work. Americans contrasted...

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4. “The manifold advantages resulting from our glorious Union,” 1840s–1861

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pp. 124-166

Travelers were fascinated by the ways Europe did and did not seem to be joining them in embracing a middle- class culture. They also kept a close eye on political developments in the Old World. Since 1789, Americans had hoped that Eu rope would throw off secular and religious despotisms, adopt republican governments, and recognize the rights...

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Conclusion

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pp. 167-171

Thinking about American identity before the Civil War requires situating the United States within Europe an civilization. We should take our cue from transatlantic travelers, who insisted on doing so. Americans were receptive to Europe an opinion on matters great and small. Antislavery travelers counted on that openness when they pleaded...

Notes

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pp. 173-213

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Essay on Sources

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pp. 215-222

In this book, I set out to understand what ordinary Americans from the era of the American Revolution through the antebellum period thought about their travels in Europe. To that end I concentrated on manuscript sources— diaries and letters— and now- obscure published accounts. Of course, the women and men whose views this book investigates...

Index

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pp. 223-230


E-ISBN-13: 9781421409009
E-ISBN-10: 1421409003
Print-ISBN-13: 9781421408996
Print-ISBN-10: 1421408996

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 1 map
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Americans -- Travel -- Europe -- History.
  • Europe -- Description and travel.
  • Americans -- Europe -- Ethnic identity -- History.
  • Ethnicity -- Europe -- History.
  • Europe -- Social life and customs -- 18th century.
  • Europe -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
  • Europe -- Foreign public opinion, American.
  • Travelers' writings, American -- Europe.
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