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Emancipating New York Cover

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Emancipating New York

The Politics of Slavery and Freedom, 1777–1827

David N. Gellman

An innovative blend of cultural and political history, Emancipating New York is the most complete study to date of the abolition of slavery in New York state. Focusing on public opinion, David N. Gellman shows New Yorkers engaged in vigorous debates and determined activism during the final decades of the eighteenth century as they grappled with the possibility of freeing the state's black population. The gradual emancipation that began in New York in 1799 helped move an entire region of the country toward a historically rare slaveless democracy, creating a wedge in the United States that would ultimately lead to the Civil War. Gellman's comprehensive examination of the reasons for and timing of New York's dismantling of slavery provides a fascinating narrative of a citizenry addressing longstanding injustices central to some of the greatest traumas of American history.

Empire and Nation Cover

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Empire and Nation

Forrest McDonald

Two series of letters that have been described as "the wellsprings of nearly all ensuing debate on the limits of governmental power in the United States" are collected in this volume. The writings include Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania—the "farmer" being the gifted and courageous statesman John Dickinson and Letters from the Federal Farmer—he being the redoubtable Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. Together, Dickinson and Lee addressed the whole remarkable range of issues provoked by the crisis of British policies in North America, a crisis from which a new nation emerged from an overreaching empire. Dickinson wrote his Letters in opposition to the Townshend Acts by which the British Parliament in 1767 proposed to reorganize colonial customs. The publication of the Letters was, as Philip Davidson believes, "the most brilliant literary event of the entire Revolution." Forrest McDonald adds, "Their impact and their circulation were unapproached by any publication of the revolutionary period except Thomas Paine's Common Sense." Lee wrote in 1787 as an Anti-Federalist, and his Letters gained, as Charles Warren has noted, "much more widespread circulation and influence" than even the heralded Federalist Papers. Both sets of Letters deal, McDonald points out, "with the same question: the never-ending problem of the distribution of power in a broad and complex federal system." The Liberty Fund second edition includes a new preface by the editor in which he responds to research since the original edition of 1962.

Forrest McDonald is Professor of History at the University of Alabama and author also of E Pluribus Unum, among other works.

Empires of the Imagination Cover

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Empires of the Imagination

Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase

edited by Peter J. Kastor and François Weil

Empires of the Imagination takes the Louisiana Purchase as a point of departure for a compelling new discussion of the interaction between France and the United States. In addition to offering the first substantive synthesis of this transatlantic relationship, the essays collected here offer new interpretations on themes vital to the subject, ranging from political culture to intercultural contact to ethnic identity. They capture the cultural breadth of the territories encompassed by the Louisiana Purchase, exploring not only French and Anglo-American experiences, but also those of Native Americans and African Americans.

Empowering Words Cover

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Empowering Words

Outsiders and Authorship in Early America

Karen A. Weyler

Standing outside elite or even middling circles, outsiders who were marginalized by limitations on their freedom and their need to labor for a living had a unique grasp on the profoundly social nature of print and its power to influence public opinion. In Empowering Words, Karen A. Weyler explores how outsiders used ephemeral formats such as broadsides, pamphlets, and newspapers to publish poetry, captivity narratives, formal addresses, and other genres with wide appeal in early America.

To gain access to print, outsiders collaborated with amanuenses and editors, inserted their stories into popular genres and cheap media, tapped into existing social and religious networks, and sought sponsors and patrons. They wrote individually, collaboratively, and even corporately, but writing for them was almost always an act of connection. Disparate levels of literacy did not necessarily entail subordination on the part of the lessliterate collaborator. Even the minimally literate and the illiterate understood the potential for print to be life changing, and outsiders shrewdly employed strategies to assert themselves within collaborative dynamics.

Empowering Words covers an array of outsiders including artisans; the minimally literate; the poor, indentured, or enslaved; and racial minorities. By focusing not only on New England, the traditional stronghold of early American literacy, but also on southern towns such as Williamsburg and Charleston, Weyler limns a more expansive map of early American authorship

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Era of Experimentation

American Political Practices in the Early Republic

Daniel Peart

In Era of Experimentation, Daniel Peart challenges the pervasive assumption that the present-day political system, organized around two competing parties, represents the logical fulfillment of participatory democracy. Recent accounts of "the rise of American democracy" between the Revolution and the Civil War applaud political parties for opening up public life to mass participation and making government responsive to the people. Yet this celebratory narrative tells only half of the story.

By exploring American political practices during the early 1820s, a period of particular flux in the young republic, Peart argues that while parties could serve as vehicles for mass participation, they could also be employed to channel, control, and even curb it. Far from equating democracy with the party system, Americans freely experimented with alternative forms of political organization and resisted efforts to confine their public presence to the polling place.

Era of Experimentation demonstrates the sheer variety of political practices that made up what subsequent scholars have labeled "democracy" in the early United States. Peart also highlights some overlooked consequences of the nationalization of competitive two-party politics during the antebellum period, particularly with regard to the closing of alternative avenues for popular participation.

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An Essay on the Life of the Honourable Major-General Israel Putnam

David Humphreys

David Humphreys was aide-de-camp to Washington during the American Revolution. His Life of Israel Putnam, originally published in 1788, has rightly been described as “the first biography of an American written by an American.” It is, as William C. Dowling observes, “a classic of revolutionary writing, very readable and immensely interesting in what it says about the temper of the new republic in the period immediately after the American Revolution.” The subject—General Israel Putnam—is remembered to history and legend as exclaiming: “Don’t fire ’til you see the whites of their eyes!” to American soldiers at the Battle of Bunker Hill. As Professor Dowling notes, “All the episodes are retold—Bunker Hill, the Battle of White Plains, the crossing of the Delaware, the Battle of Princeton—but from the perspective of one who was there throughout, and who always permits us to see Putnam as the sort of character by whom history is, in the last analysis, made.” Humphreys wrote the biography when formation of the Society of the Cincinnati, composed of men who were officers in the Revolution, “focused debate in the new republic about the competing claims of individual liberty and the good of the community.”

William C. Dowling is a Professor of English at Rutgers University

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The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry

A Case Study of Lunenburg County, Virginia, 1746-1832

By Richard R. Beeman

The Evolution of the Southern Backcountry is the story of an expanding frontier. Richard Beeman offers a lively and well-written account of the creation of bonds of community among the farmers who settled Lunenburg Country, far to the south and west of Virginia's center of political and economic activity.

Beeman's view of the nature of community provides an important dynamic model of the transmission of culture from older, more settled regions of Virginia to the southern frontier. He describes how the southern frontier was influenced by those staples of American historical development: opportunity, mobility, democracy, and ethnic pluralism; and he shows how the county evolved socially, culturally, and economically to become distinctly southern.

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The First Prejudice

Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in Early America

Edited by Chris Beneke and Christopher S. Grenda

In many ways, religion was the United States' first prejudice—both an early source of bigotry and the object of the first sustained efforts to limit its effects. Spanning more than two centuries across colonial British America and the United States, The First Prejudice offers a groundbreaking exploration of the early history of persecution and toleration. The twelve essays in this volume were composed by leading historians with an eye to the larger significance of religious tolerance and intolerance. Individual chapters examine the prosecution of religious crimes, the biblical sources of tolerance and intolerance, the British imperial context of toleration, the bounds of Native American spiritual independence, the nuances of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism, the resilience of African American faiths, and the challenges confronted by skeptics and freethinkers.

The First Prejudice presents a revealing portrait of the rhetoric, regulations, and customs that shaped the relationships between people of different faiths in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America. It relates changes in law and language to the lived experience of religious conflict and religious cooperation, highlighting the crucial ways in which they molded U.S. culture and politics. By incorporating a broad range of groups and religious differences in its accounts of tolerance and intolerance, The First Prejudice opens a significant new vista on the understanding of America's long experience with diversity.

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The Forgotten Founders on Religion and Public Life

edited by Daniel L. Dreisbach, Mark David Hall, Jeffry H. Morrison

This interdisciplinary volume brings together essays on eleven of the founders of the American republic—Abigail Adams, Samuel Adams, Oliver Ellsworth, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Thomas Paine, Edmund Randolph, Benjamin Rush, Roger Sherman, and Mercy Otis Warren—many of whom are either little recognized today or little appreciated for their contributions. The essays focus on the thinking of these men and women on the proper role of religion in public life, including but not limited to the question of the separation of church and state. Their views represent a wide range of opinions, from complete isolation of church and state to tax-supported clergy. These essays present a textured and nuanced view of the society that came to a consensus on how religion would fit in the public life of the new nation. They reveal that religion was more important in the lives and thinking of many of the founders than is often portrayed and that it took the interplay of disparate and contrasting views to frame the constitutional outline that eventually emerged.

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Founding Friendship

George Washington, James Madison, and the Creation of the American Republic

Stuart Leibiger

Although the friendship between George Washington and James Madison was eclipsed in the early 1790s by the alliances of Madison with Jefferson and Washington with Hamilton, their collaboration remains central to the constitutional revolution that launched the American experiment in republican government. Washington relied heavily on Madison's advice, pen, and legislative skill, while Madison found Washington's prestige indispensable for achieving his goals for the new nation. Together, Stuart Leibiger argues, Washington and Madison struggled to conceptualize a political framework that would respond to the majority without violating minority rights. Stubbornly refusing to sacrifice either of these objectives, they cooperated in helping to build and implement a powerful, extremely republican constitution.

Observing Washington and Madison in light of their special relationship, Leibiger argues against a series of misconceptions about the two men. Madison emerges as neither a strong nationalist of the Hamiltonian variety nor a political consolidationist; he did not retreat from nationalism to states' rights in the 1790s, as other historians have charged. Washington, far from being a majestic figurehead, exhibits a strong constitutional vision and firm control of his administration.

By examining closely Washington and Madison's correspondence and personal visits, Leibiger shows how a marriage of political convenience between two members of the Chesapeake elite grew into a genuine companionship fostered by historical events and a mutual interest in agriculture and science. The development of their friendship, and eventual estrangement, mirrors in fascinating ways the political development of the early Republic.

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