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History > U.S. History > Revolutionary Era

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Between Sovereignty and Anarchy Cover

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Between Sovereignty and Anarchy

The Politics of Violence in the American Revolutionary Era

Edited by Patrick Griffin, Robert G. Ingram, Peter S. Onuf, and Brian Schoen

Between Sovereignty and Anarchy considers the conceptual and political problem of violence in the early modern Anglo-Atlantic, charting an innovative approach to the history of the American Revolution. Its editors and contributors contend that existing scholarship on the Revolution largely ignores questions of power and downplays the Revolution as a contest over sovereignty. Contributors employ a variety of methodologies to examine diverse themes, ranging from how Atlantic perspectives can redefine our understanding of revolutionary origins; to the ways in which political culture, mobilization, and civil-war-like violence were part of the revolutionary process; to the fundamental importance of state formation for the history of the early republic.

The editors skillfully meld these emerging currents together to produce a new perspective on the American Revolution, revealing how America—first as colonies, then as united states—reeled between poles of anarchy and sovereignty. This interpretation—gleaned from essays on frontier bloodshed, religion, civility, slavery, loyalism, mobilization, early national political culture, and warmaking—provides a needed stimulus to a field that has not strayed beyond the bounds of “rhetoric versus reality” for more than a generation. Between Sovereignty and Anarchy raises foundational questions about how we are to view the American Revolution and the type of experimental democracy that emerged in its wake.

Contributors: Chris Beneke, Bentley University • Andrew Cayton, Miami University • Matthew Rainbow Hale, Goucher College • David C. Hendrickson, Colorado College • John C. Kotruch, University of New Hampshire • Peter C. Messer, Mississippi State University • Kenneth Owen, University of Illinois at Springfield • Jeffrey L. Pasley, University of Missouri, Columbia • Jessica Choppin Roney, Temple University • Peter Thompson, University of Oxford

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.

The Blind African Slave Cover

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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.

Bring Out Your Dead Cover

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Bring Out Your Dead

The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793

By J. H. Powell. Introduction by Kenneth R. Foster, Mary F. Jenkins, and Anna Coxe Toogood

In 1793 a disastrous plague of yellow fever paralyzed Philadelphia, killing thousands of residents and bringing the nation's capital city to a standstill. In this psychological portrait of a city in terror, J. H. Powell presents a penetrating study of human nature revealing itself. Bring Out Your Dead is an absorbing account, form the original sources, of an infamous tragedy that left its mark on all it touched.

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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.

Building the Empire State Cover

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Building the Empire State

Political Economy in the Early Republic

By Brian Phillips Murphy

A Child of the Revolution Cover

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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.

The Citizenship Revolution Cover

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The Citizenship Revolution

Politics and the Creation of the American Union, 1774-1804

Douglas Bradburn

Most Americans believe that the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 marked the settlement of post-Revolutionary disputes over the meanings of rights, democracy, and sovereignty in the new nation. In The Citizenship Revolution, Douglas Bradburn undercuts this view by showing that the Union, not the Nation, was the most important product of independence.

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