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The Articles of Confederation Cover

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The Articles of Confederation

An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774–1781

“An admirable analysis. It presents, in succinct form, the results of a generation of study of this chapter of our history and summarizes fairly the conclusions of that study.”—Henry Steele Commager, New York Times Book Review

Atlantic Loyalties Cover

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Atlantic Loyalties

Americans in Spanish West Florida, 1785-1810

Andrew McMichael

Integrating social, cultural, economic, and political history, this is a study of the factors that grounded—or swayed—the loyalties of non-Spaniards living under Spanish rule on the southern frontier. In particular, Andrew McMichael looks at the colonial Spanish administration’s attitude toward resident Americans. The Spanish borderlands systems of slavery and land ownership, McMichael shows, used an efficient system of land distribution and government patronage that engendered loyalty and withstood a series of conflicts that tested, but did not shatter, residents’ allegiance. McMichael focuses on the Baton Rouge district of Spanish West Florida from 1785 through 1810, analyzing why resident Anglo-Americans, who had maintained a high degree of loyalty to the Spanish Crown through 1809, rebelled in 1810.

The book contextualizes the 1810 rebellion, and by extension the southern frontier, within the broader Atlantic World, showing how both local factors as well as events in Europe affected lives in the Spanish borderlands. Breaking with traditional scholarship, McMichael examines contests over land and slaves as a determinant of loyalty. He draws on Spanish, French, and Anglo records to challenge scholarship that asserts a particularly “American” loyalty on the frontier whereby Anglo-American residents in West Florida, as disaffected subjects of the Spanish Crown, patiently abided until they could overthrow an alien system. Rather, it was political, social, and cultural conflicts—not nationalist ideology—that disrupted networks by which economic prosperity was gained and thus loyalty retained.

Bathed in Blood Cover

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Bathed in Blood

Hunting and Mastery in the Old South

Nicolas W. Proctor

Nicolas Proctor argues in Bathed in Blood that because slaves frequently accompanied white hunters into the field, whites often believed that hunting was a particularly effective venue for the demonstration of white supremacy. Slaves interpreted such interactions quite differently: they remained focused on the products of the hunt and considered the labor performed at the behest of their owners as an opportunity to improve their own condition. Whether acquired as a reward from a white hunter or as a result of their own independent—often illicit—efforts, game provided them with an important supplementary food source, an item for trade, and a measure of autonomy. By sharing their valuable resources with other slaves, slave hunters also strengthened the bonds within their own community. In a society predicated upon the constant degradation of African Americans, such simple acts of generosity became symbolic of resistance and had a cohesive effect on slave families.

Benjamin Franklin's Humor Cover

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Benjamin Franklin's Humor

Paul Zall

Although he called himself merely a “printer” in his will, Benjamin Franklin could have also called himself a diplomat, a doctor, an electrician, a frontier general, an inventor, a journalist, a legislator, a librarian, a magistrate, a postmaster, a promoter, a publisher—and a humorist. John Adams wrote of Franklin, “He had wit at will. He had humor that when he pleased was pleasant and delightful . . . [and] talents for irony, allegory, and fable, that he could adapt with great skill, to the promotion of moral and political truth.” In Benjamin Franklin’s Humor, author Paul M. Zall shows how one of America’s founding fathers used humor to further both personal and national interests. Early in his career, Franklin impersonated the feisty widow Silence Dogood in a series of comically moralistic essays that helped his brother James outpace competitors in Boston’s incipient newspaper market. In the mid-eighteenth century, he displayed his talent for comic impersonation in numerous editions of Poor Richard’s Almanac, a series of pocket-sized tomes filled with proverbs and witticisms that were later compiled in Franklin’s The Way to Wealth (1758), one of America’s all-time bestselling books. Benjamin Franklin was sure to be remembered for his early work as an author, printer, and inventor, but his accomplishments as a statesman later in life firmly secured his lofty stature in American history. Zall shows how Franklin employed humor to achieve desired ends during even the most difficult diplomatic situations: while helping draft the Declaration of Independence, while securing France’s support for the American Revolution, while brokering the treaty with England to end the War for Independence, and while mediating disputes at the Constitutional Convention. He supervised and facilitated the birth of a nation with customary wit and aplomb. Zall traces the development of an acute sense of humor throughout the life of a great American. Franklin valued humor not as an end in itself but as a means to gain a competitive edge, disseminate information, or promote a program. Early in life, he wrote about timely topics in an effort to reach a mass reading class, leaving an amusing record of early American culture. Later, Franklin directed his talents toward serving his country. Regardless of its origin, the best of Benjamin Franklin’s humor transcends its initial purpose and continues to evoke undying laughter at shared human experiences.

Beyond the Farm Cover

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Beyond the Farm

National Ambitions in Rural New England

By J. M. Opal

During the first half-century of American independence, a fundamental change in the meaning and morality of ambition emerged in American culture. Long stigmatized as a dangerous passion that led people to pursue fame at the expense of duty, ambition also raised concerns among American Revolutionaries who espoused self-sacrifice. After the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the creation of the federal republic in 1789, however, a new ethos of nation-making took hold in which ambition, properly cultivated, could rescue talent and virtue from the parochial needs of the family farm. Rather than an apology for an emerging market culture of material desire and commercial dealing, ambition became a civic project—a concerted reply to the localism of provincial life. By thus attaching itself to the national self-image during the early years of the Republic, before the wrenching upheavals of the Industrial Revolution, ambitious striving achieved a cultural dominance that future generations took for granted.

Beyond the Farm not only describes this transformation as a national effort but also explores it as a personal journey. Centered on the lives of six aspiring men from the New England countryside, the book follows them from youthful days full of hope and unrest to eventual careers marked by surprising success and crushing failure. Along the way, J. M. Opal recovers such intimate dramas as a young man's abandonment by his self-made parents, a village printer's dreams of small-town fame, and a headstrong boy's efforts to both surpass and honor his family. By relating the vast abstractions of nation and ambition to the everyday milieus of home, work, and school, Beyond the Farm reconsiders the roots of American individualism in vivid detail and moral complexity.

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The Blind African Slave

Memoirs of Boyrereau Brinch, Nicknamed Jeffrey Brace

Jeffrey Brace, as told to Benjamin F. Prentiss, Esq.

The Blind African Slave recounts the life of Jeffrey Brace (né Boyrereau Brinch), who was born in West Africa around 1742. Captured by slave traders at the age of sixteen, Brace was transported to Barbados, where he experienced the shock and trauma of slave-breaking and was sold to a New England ship captain. After fighting as an enslaved sailor for two years in the Seven Years War, Brace was taken to New Haven, Connecticut, and sold into slavery. After several years in New England, Brace enlisted in the Continental Army in hopes of winning his manumission. After five years of military service, he was honorably discharged and was freed from slavery. As a free man, he chose in 1784 to move to Vermont, the first state to make slavery illegal. There, he met and married an African woman, bought a farm, and raised a family. Although literate, he was blind when he decided to publish his life story, which he narrated to a white antislavery lawyer, Benjamin Prentiss, who published it in 1810. Upon his death in 1827, Brace was a well-respected abolitionist. In this first new edition since 1810, Kari J. Winter provides a historical introduction, annotations, and original documents that verify and supplement our knowledge of Brace's life and times.

Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution Cover

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Books and the British Army in the Age of the American Revolution

Ira D. Gruber

This manuscript is an outgrowth of a presentation Gruber made to the Society of the Cincinnati (as part of the Society’s George Rogers Clark Lecture series) in 2002. It is a hybrid reference book and monograph. The work consists of a substantial introduction, a bibliography of books the officers preferred, a bibliography of books on war that do not appear in any of the inventories (termed books not taken), a set of biographies of the 42 officers on which the study rests, and various appendixes and tables that back up the earlier material.

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The Brothers Robidoux and the Opening of the American West

Robert J. Willoughby

Written in a unique biographical format, Robert Willoughby interweaves the stories of six brothers who shaped the American trans-Mississippi West during the first five decades of the nineteenth century. After migrating from French Canada to St. Louis, the brothers Robidoux—Joseph, Francois, Antoine, Louis, Michel, and Isadore—and their father, Joseph, became significant members in the business, fur trading, and land speculation communities, frequently interacting with upper-class members of the French society.

 

 

            Upon coming of age, the brothers followed their father into the fur business and American Indian trade. The oldest of the six, Joseph, led the group on an expedition up the Missouri River as Lewis and Clark had once done, designating a path of trade sites along their journey until they reached their destination at present-day Omaha, Nebraska. Eventually the younger brothers set out on their own westward expedition in the mid 1820s, reaching both Colorado and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Joseph eventually became a town founder in northwest Missouri near Blacksnake Creek. Antoine and Louis traveled as far as California, finally settling in Santa Fe where they became prominent citizens. As a trapper and trader, Michel endured many hardships and close calls during his journey across the West. Francois and Isadore made their home in New Mexico, maintaining a close relationship with Joseph in Missouri.

 

 

Though frequently under contract by others, the brothers did their best work when allowed to freelance and make their own rules. The brothers would ultimately pass on their prosperous legacy of ranging, exploring, trading, and town-building to a new generation of settlers. As the nature of the fur trade changed, so did the brothers’ business model. They began focusing on outfitting western migrants, town folk, and farmers. Their practices made each of them wealthy; however, they all died poor.

 

 

            To understand the opening of the American West, one must first know about men like the brothers Robidoux. Their lives are the framework for stories about the American frontier. By using primary sources located at the Missouri Historical Society, the Mexican Archives of New Mexico, and the Huntington Library, as well as contemporary accounts written by those who knew them, Willoughby has now told the Robidouxs’ story.

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A Child of the Revolution

William Henry Harrison and His World, 1773–1798

Indian wars in early Ohio as seen through the eyes of a future presidentThe American Revolution gave birth to a nation, forever changed the course of political thought, and shattered and transformed the lives of the citizens of the new republic. An iconic figure of the Old Northwest, governor, Indian fighter, general in the War of 1812, and ultimately president, William Henry Harrison was one such citizen. The son of a rich Virginia planter, Harrison saw his family mansion burned and his relatives scattered. In the war’s aftermath, he rejected his inherited beliefs about slavery, religion, and authority, and made an idealistic commitment to serve the United States.

This led him to the United States Army, which at the time was a sorry collection of drunks and derelicts who were about to be reorganized in the face of a serious conflict with the Indian nations of the Ohio valley. Author Hendrik Booraem follows Harrison as Gen. Anthony Wayne attempted to rebuild the army into a fighting force, first in Pittsburgh, then in Cincinnati and the forests of the Northwest. A voracious reader of history and the classics, Harrison became fascinated with the archaeology and ethnology of the region, even as his military service led to a dramatic showdown with the British army, which had secretly been aiding the Indians.

By age 21, Harrison had achieved almost everything he had set his heart on—adventure, recognition, intellectual stimulation, and even a small measure of power. He was the youngest man to put his name to the Treaty of Greenville, which ended Indian control over Ohio lands and opened the way for development and statehood. He even won a bride: Anna Symmes, the Eastern-educated daughter of pioneer landowner John Cleves Symmes. When Congress voted to downsize the army, 25-year-old Harrison, now a family man, fumbled for a second career.

Drawing on a variety of primary documents, Booraem re-creates military life as Lieutenant Harrison experienced it—a life of duels, discipline, rivalries, hardships, baffling encounters with the natives and social relations between officers and men, military and civilians, and men and women.

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Citizen Bachelors

Manhood and the Creation of the United States

In 1755 Benjamin Franklin observed "a man without a wife is but half a man" and since then historians have taken Franklin at his word. In Citizen Bachelors, John Gilbert McCurdy demonstrates that Franklin's comment was only one side of a much larger conversation. Early Americans vigorously debated the status of unmarried men and this debate was instrumental in the creation of American citizenship.

In a sweeping examination of the bachelor in early America, McCurdy fleshes out a largely unexamined aspect of the history of gender. Single men were instrumental to the settlement of the United States and for most of the seventeenth century their presence was not particularly problematic. However, as the colonies matured, Americans began to worry about those who stood outside the family. Lawmakers began to limit the freedoms of single men with laws requiring bachelors to pay higher taxes and face harsher penalties for crimes than married men, while moralists began to decry the sexual immorality of unmarried men. But many resisted these new tactics, including single men who reveled in their hedonistic reputations by delighting in sexual horseplay without marital consequences.

At the time of the Revolution, these conflicting views were confronted head-on. As the incipient American state needed men to stand at the forefront of the fight for independence, the bachelor came to be seen as possessing just the sort of political, social, and economic agency associated with citizenship in a democratic society. When the war was won, these men demanded an end to their unequal treatment, sometimes grudgingly, and the citizen bachelor was welcomed into American society.

Drawing on sources as varied as laws, diaries, political manifestos, and newspapers, McCurdy shows that in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the bachelor was a simultaneously suspicious and desirable figure: suspicious because he was not tethered to family and household obligations yet desirable because he was free to study, devote himself to political office, and fight and die in battle. He suggests that this dichotomy remains with us to this day and thus it is in early America that we find the origins of the modern-day identity of the bachelor as a symbol of masculine independence. McCurdy also observes that by extending citizenship to bachelors, the founders affirmed their commitment to individual freedom, a commitment that has subsequently come to define the very essence of American citizenship.

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