Performing the Temple of Liberty
Slavery, Theater, and Popular Culture in London and Philadelphia, 1760–1850
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication
List of Illustrations
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Every first-time author owes a primary debt to her teachers, and my debt is unusually deep. When, in 1996, I decided to leave behind a career in the theater to go back to school and acquire a bachelor’s degree, I had the good fortune to take my first undergraduate history classes at Moorpark College, California, with...
Introduction: Political and Cultural Exchange in the British Atlantic
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Come with me and stroll along the Thames River to the Haymarket Theatre Royal on August 4, 1787. Shackled African slaves are being marched to Greenwich, where a ship will transport them to the Americas. The streets teem with pedestrians, peddlers, and pickpockets; bawdy drunks spill out of taverns; rakes and...
Part One. Slave-Trade Abolition: Pageantry, Parody, and the Goddess of Liberty (1790s–1820s)
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Transatlantic abolitionist, revolutionary, and pamphleteer Thomas Paine envisaged the origins of republican liberty in a poem first published in the Pennsylvania Magazine in June 1775 under the pseudonym “Atlanticus.” The “Goddess of Liberty,” he enthused, had descended from the heavens in her “chariot of light”...
Chapter One. Celebrating Columbia, Mother of the White Republic
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On December 26, 1807, just as Congress passed legislation to ban the foreign slave trade, Philadelphia’s New Theatre on Chestnut Street performed The Spirit of Independence, which featured “a grand emblematical transparency of the GENIUS OF AMERICA” and a “characteristical dance” set in the “temple of liberty...
Chapter Two. Abolitionist Britannia and the Blackface Supplicant Slave
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James Thompson’s “Rule Britannia,” a poem glorifying empire, militarism, and commerce, was set to music and turned into a nationalistic anthem by Thomas Augustine Arne in 1740. The anthem took on new antislavery resonance in 1807 as Great Britain abolished the slave trade and fought Napoleon. Artists, abolitionists...
Chapter Three. Spreading Liberty to Africa
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After slave-trade abolition, Philadelphians and Londoners developed idealizations of Britannia, abolitionist empress of the sea, and Columbia, mother of the white republic, and imagined them saving the African continent from war, paganism, and the interior slave trade. Indeed, Anglo-American redemptive liberty...
Part Two. Emancipation and Political Reform: Burlesque, Picaresque, and the Great Experiment (1820s–1830s)
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“Although much has already been written on the great experiment . . . on the other side of the Atlantic, there appears to be still room for many interesting details on the influence which the political system of the country has produced on the principles, tastes, and manners, of its domestic life.”1 Thus wrote Fanny...
Chapter Four. Black Freedom and Blackface Picaresque: Life in London, Life in Philadelphia
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In the 1820s, transatlantic exchange gave rise to a new picaresque “urban spectator” theatrical genre. Adapted from comic prose sketches and cartoons, William Thomas Moncrieff’s play Life in London or, Tom and Jerry debuted to instant acclaim at London’s Adelphi Theatre in 1821 and Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street...
Chapter Five. Transatlantic Travelers, Slavery, and Charles Mathews’s “Black Fun”
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At almost exactly the same time that William Thomas Moncrieff’s Life in London play and Edward Clay’s Life in Philadelphia series took London and Philadelphia by storm, Charles Mathews was pioneering a proto-vaudeville genre on the 1820s transatlantic stage. A London comic actor and mime, Mathews developed...
Part Three. Radical Abolitionism, Revolt, and Revolution: Spartacus and the Blackface Minstrel (1830s–1850s)
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“We are not merely Britons, but cosmopolites. We go to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south, to seek for misery and to endeavour to relieve it.”1 So declared a delegate at the first ever World Anti-Slavery Convention, held in London in 1840. The spokesman’s proud boast echoed Paine’s 1776 poem extolling...
Chapter Six. Spartacus, Jim Crow, and the Black Jokes of Revolt
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“Where will it end? Revolution on the back of Revolution for a century yet?” Thomas Carlyle despaired in 1830 as the aftershocks of another revolution in France reverberated throughout Europe.1 His anguished question was not rhetorical. The July Revolution in France had brought down the would-be absolutist...
Chapter Seven. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Black Spartacus, Black Hercules, and the Wage Slave
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In the tumultuous 1840s and 1850s, the antislavery and democratic forces first unleashed in the Atlantic world by the American, French, and Haitian revolutions of the late eighteenth century were further inflamed by radical agitation and sociopolitical unrest. Labor conflicts and economic hardship convulsed London...
Conclusion: Uncle Tom, the Eighteenth-Century Revolutionary Legacy, and Historical Memory
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In 1853, British abolition societies solicited popular support and raised £1,930 for the American emancipationist cause through the “Uncle Tom Penny Offering,” the collection of one penny from every reader of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.1 Initially published in the United States in serial form in the National...
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Essay on Sources
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My research for this book began by locating collections of printed and manuscript plays; digital and archival cartoons, playbills, broadsides, and ephemera collections; and printed travelogues, diaries, memoirs, and theater calendars. I also examined newspapers and journals, sermons and hymns, poetry and speeches, and other printed and manuscript...
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Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 22 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Early America: History, Context, Culture