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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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Building the Empire State

Political Economy in the Early Republic

By Brian Phillips Murphy

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Cast Down

Abjection in America, 1700-1850

By Mark J. Miller

Derived from the Latin abiectus, literally meaning "thrown or cast down," "abjection" names the condition of being servile, wretched, or contemptible. In Western religious tradition, to be abject is to submit to bodily suffering or psychological mortification for the good of the soul. In Cast Down: Abjection in America, 1700-1850, Mark J. Miller argues that transatlantic Protestant discourses of abjection engaged with, and furthered the development of, concepts of race and sexuality in the creation of public subjects and public spheres.

Miller traces the connection between sentiment, suffering, and publication and the role it played in the movement away from church-based social reform and toward nonsectarian radical rhetoric in the public sphere. He focuses on two periods of rapid transformation: first, the 1730s and 1740s, when new models of publication and transportation enabled transatlantic Protestant religious populism, and, second, the 1830s and 1840s, when liberal reform movements emerged from nonsectarian religious organizations. Analyzing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century conversion narratives, personal narratives, sectarian magazines, poems, and novels, Miller shows how church and social reformers used sensational accounts of abjection in their attempts to make the public sphere sacred as a vehicle for political change, especially the abolition of slavery.

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The Character of John Adams

Peter Shaw

The formal side of Adams is reconciled with his remarkably colorful private life by Shaw's penetrating grasp of the whole man. Considerable attention is given to his clash of wills with Franklin in Europe and his later relationship with Jefferson. The account of Adams's twenty-five years of retirement after losing the presidency resolves some of the dilemmas arising from the long career of a man who was never really suited by temperament for politics.

Originally published in 1976.

A UNC Press Enduring Edition -- UNC Press Enduring Editions use the latest in digital technology to make available again books from our distinguished backlist that were previously out of print. These editions are published unaltered from the original, and are presented in affordable paperback formats, bringing readers both historical and cultural value.

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Chateaubriand's Travels in America

François-René de Chateaubriand. translated by Richard Switzer

Chateaubriand's Travels in America, presented here in its first modern translation, was a reflection of the attitudes of his epoch toward the New World. And at the same time, because of his enormous literary reputation, it has continued to be a major source of European impressions about America. The America portrayed by Chateaubriand was much more a product of his reading and his imagination than of his actual visit. (His supposed itinerary included a trip up the Hudson to Albany, a visit to Niagara Falls via the Mohawk Trail, a trip down the Mississippi to the Natchez country, and even a visit to the Carolinas and the southern tip of Florida). Though the Frenchman of the nineteenth century could have obtained a much truer picture of America in any number of realistic works, he still chose the poetic evocation of Chateaubriand because he shared the same temperament, the same prejudices, and the same particular view of the world.

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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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Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland

The Transatlantic Origins of American Democracy and Nationhood

Armin Mattes

Notions of democracy and nationhood constitute the pivotal legacy of the American Revolution, but to understand their development one must move beyond a purely American context. Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland explores the simultaneous emergence of modern concepts of democracy and the nation on both sides of the Atlantic during the age of revolutions. Armin Mattes argues that in their origin the two concepts were indistinguishable because they arose from a common revolutionary impulse directed against the prevailing hierarchical political and social order. The author shows how the reconceptualization of democracy and the nation, which resulted from this revolutionary impulse, received its decisive form from the French Revolution. Although the French Revolution was instrumental in redefining the two terms, however, neither were these changes confined to France, nor did the new meanings merely radiate from France to other countries.

To illustrate the transatlantic emergence of these ideas, Mattes considers the works of pairs of prominent intellectual contemporaries—one in America and the other in Europe—each writing on a common topic. The thinkers and topics include Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke on the transatlantic revolutions, John Adams and Friedrich von Gentz on the mixed constitution, James Madison and Immanuel Kant on perpetual peace, and Thomas Jefferson and Destutt de Tracy on the nation. Mattes's approach highlights the significant impact that the French Revolution had on the evolution of thought in the period, demonstrating that the emergence and early development of modern concepts of democracy and the nation in America were intimately tied to revolutionary events and processes in the larger Atlantic world.

Preparation of this volume has been supported by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

Jeffersonian America

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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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Class Matters

Early North America and the Atlantic World

Edited by Simon Middleton and Billy G. Smith

As a category of historical analysis, class is dead—or so it has been reported over the past two decades. The contributors to Class Matters contest this demise. Although differing in their approaches, they all agree that socioeconomic inequality remains indispensable to a true understanding of the transition from the early modern to modern era in North America and the rest of the Atlantic world. As a whole, they chart the emergence of class as a concept and its subsequent loss of analytic purchase in Anglo-American historiography.

The opening section considers the dynamics of class relations in the Atlantic world across the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—from Iroquoian and Algonquian communities in North America to tobacco lords in Glasgow. Subsequent chapters examine the cultural development of a new and aspirational middle class and its relationship to changing economic conditions and the articulation of corporate and industrial ideologies in the era of the American Revolution and beyond.

A final section shifts the focus to the poor and vulnerable—tenant farmers, infant paupers, and the victims of capital punishment. In each case the authors describe how elite Americans exercised their political and social power to structure the lives and deaths of weaker members of their communities. An impassioned afterword urges class historians to take up the legacies of historical materialism. Engaging the difficulties and range of meanings of class, the essays in Class Matters seek to energize the study of social relations in the Atlantic world.

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