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History > U.S. History > Revolutionary Era

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Fries's Rebellion Cover

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Fries's Rebellion

The Enduring Struggle for the American Revolution

By Paul Douglas Newman

In 1798, the federal government levied its first direct tax on American citizens, one that seemed to favor land speculators over farmers. In eastern Pennsylvania, the tax assessors were largely Quakers and Moravians who had abstained from Revolutionary participation and were recruited by the administration of John Adams to levy taxes against their patriot German Reformed and Lutheran neighbors.

Led by local Revolutionary hero John Fries, the farmers drew on the rituals of crowd action and stopped the assessment. Following the Shays and Whiskey rebellions, Fries's Rebellion was the last in a trilogy of popular uprisings against federal authority in the early republic. But in contrast to the previous armed insurrections, the Fries rebels used nonviolent methods while simultaneously exercising their rights to petition Congress for the repeal of the tax law as well as the Alien and Sedition Acts. In doing so, they sought to manifest the principle of popular sovereignty and to expand the role of local people within the emerging national political system rather than attacking it from without.

After some resisters were liberated from the custody of a federal marshal, the Adams administration used military force to suppress the insurrection. The resisters were charged with sedition and treason. Fries himself was sentenced to death but was pardoned at the eleventh hour by President Adams. The pardon fractured the presidential cabinet and splintered the party, just before Thomas Jefferson's and the Republican Party's "Revolution of 1800."

The first book-length treatment of this significant eighteenth-century uprising, Fries's Rebellion shows us that the participants of the rebellion reengaged Revolutionary ideals in an enduring struggle to further democratize their country.

A Gallant Defense Cover

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A Gallant Defense

The Siege of Charleston, 1780

Carl P. Borick

In 1779 Sir Henry Clinton and more than eight thousand British troops left the waters of New York, seeking to capture the colonies’ most important southern port, Charleston, South Carolina. Clinton and his officers believed that victory in Charleston would change both the seat of the war and its character. In this comprehensive study of the 1780 siege and surrender of Charleston, Carl P. Borick offers a full examination of the strategic and tactical elements of Clinton’s operations. Suggesting that the importance of the siege has been underestimated, Borick contends that the British effort against Charleston was one of the most critical campaigns of the war. Borick examines the reasons for the shift in British strategy, the efforts of their army and navy, and the difficulties the patriots faced as they defended the city. He explores the roles of key figures in the campaign, including Benjamin Lincoln, William Moultrie, and Lord Charles Cornwallis. Borick relies on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources relating to the siege and includes maps that depict the British approach to the city and the complicated military operations that led to the patriots’ greatest defeat of the American Revolution.

General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution Cover

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General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution

From Redcoat to Rebel

Hal Shelton

Brave, humane, and generous . . . still he was only a brave, humane, and generous rebel; curse on his virtues, they've undone this country.
--Member of British Parliament Lord North, upon hearing of General Richard Montgomery's death in battle against the British

At 3 a.m. on December 31, 1775, a band of desperate men stumbled through a raging Canadian blizzard toward Quebec. The doggedness of this ragtag militia--consisting largely of men whose short-term enlistments were to expire within the next 24 hours--was due to the exhortations of their leader. Arriving at Quebec before dawn, the troop stormed two unmanned barriers, only to be met by a British ambush at the third. Amid a withering hale of cannon grapeshot, the patriot leader, at the forefront of the assault, crumpled to the ground. General Richard Montgomery was dead at the age of 37.
Montgomery--who captured St. John and Montreal in the same fortnight in 1775; who, upon his death, was eulogized in British Parliament by Burke, Chatham, and Barr; and after whom 16 American counties have been named--has, to date, been a neglected hero. Written in engaging, accessible prose, General Richard Montgomery and the American Revolution chronicles Montgomery's life and military career, definitively correcting this historical oversight once and for all.

General Thomas Posey Cover

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General Thomas Posey

son of the American Revolution

John T. Posey

Revolutionary War general Thomas Posey (1750-1818) lived his life against the backdrop of one of the most dramatic periods in American history. Posey, who played a minor role in the actual War for Independence, went on to participate in the development and foundation of several states in the transappalachian West. His experiences on the late 18th- and early 19th-century American frontier were varied and in a certain sense extraordinary; he served as Indian agent in Illinois Territory; as Lieutenant Governor of Kentucky, as U.S. Senator from Louisiana, and as Governor of Indiana during its transition from territorial status to statehood. 
     His biographer speculates on the contrasting influences of Thomas's ne'er-do-well father, Captain John Posey, and the family's close friend, General George Washington. Posey's progress is then followed as he raises his own family in the newly formed nation. Of particular interest is an appendix containing a detailed analysis of evidence available to support popular 29th-century speculation that Thomas Posey was, in fact, George Washington's illicit son.
 

George Washington's Enforcers Cover

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George Washington's Enforcers

Policing the Continental Army

Harry M. Ward

Ward discusses the duties of the various personnel responsible for training and enforcing the standards of behavior in the Continental Army, including duty officers, adjutants, brigade majors, inspectors, and sergeant majors. He includes the roles of life guards, camp guards, quarter guards, picket men, and safe guards, whose responsibilities ranged from escorting the commander in chief, intercepting spies and stragglers, and protecting farmers from marauding soldiers to searching for deserters, rounding up unauthorized personnel, and looking for delinquents in local towns and taverns.

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Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s

Yanek Mieczkowski

History has not been kind to Gerald Ford. His name evokes an image of either America’s only unelected president, who abruptly pardoned his corrupt predecessor, or an accident-prone man who failed to provide skilled leadership to a country in domestic turmoil. In Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s, historian Yanek Mieczkowski reexamines Ford’s two and a half years in office, showing that his presidency successfully confronted the most vexing crises of the postwar era. Surveying the state of America in the 1970s, Mieczkowski focuses on the economic challenges facing the country. He argues that Ford’s understanding of the national economy was better than that of any other modern president, that Ford oversaw a dramatic reduction of inflation, and that his attempts to solve the energy crisis were based in sound economic principles. Throughout his presidency, Ford labored under the legacy of Watergate. Democrats scored landslide victories in the 1974 midterm elections, and the president engaged with a spirited opposition Congress. Within an anemic Republican Party, the right wing challenged Ford’s leadership, even as pundits predicted the death of the GOP. Yet Ford reinvigorated the party and fashioned a 1976 campaign strategy against Jimmy Carter that brought him from thirty points behind to a dead heat on election day. Mieczkowski draws on numerous personal interviews with the former president, cabinet officials, and members of the Ninety-fourth Congress. In his reassessment of this underrated president, Ford emerges as a skilled executive, an effective diplomat, and a leader with a clear vision for America’s future. Working to heal a divided nation, Ford unified the GOP and laid the groundwork for the Republican resurgence in subsequent decades. The first major work on the former president to appear in more than ten years, Gerald Ford and the Challenges of the 1970s combines the best of biography and economic, social, and presidential history to create an intriguing portrait of a president, his times, and his legacy.

The Historicism of Charles Brockden Brown Cover

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The Historicism of Charles Brockden Brown

Radical History and the Early Republic

Mark L. Kamrath

A new perspective on the cultural politics of Charles Brockden Brown

The novels of Charles Brockden Brown, the most accomplished literary figure in early America, redefined the gothic genre and helped shape some of America’s greatest writers, including Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. However, little has been said about the latter years of Brown’s career. While his early novels are celebrated for their innovative and experimental style, Brown’s later historical narratives are often dismissed as uninteresting, and Brown himself has been accused of having become “a stodgy conservative.”

Through a re-examination of these neglected historical writings, Mark L. Kamrath takes a fresh look at Brown’s later career and his role in the cultural politics of the early national period. This interdisciplinary study uses transatlantic historical contexts and recent narrative discourse to unveil Brown’s philosophic inquires into the filiopietistic tradition of historiography and increasingly imperialistic notion of American exceptionalism. It recovers a forgotten debate—and radical position—about the nature of historical truth and representation and opens up for contemporary discussion what it means to write about the past.

In Defense of the Constitution Cover

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In Defense of the Constitution

George W. Carey

In Defense of the Constitution refutes modern critics of the Constitution who assail it as "reactionary" or "undemocratic." The author argues that modern disciples of Progressivism are determined to centralize political control in Washington, D.C., to achieve their goal of an egalitarian national society. Furthermore, he contends, Progressive interpreters of the Constitution subtly distort fundamental principles of the Constitution for the precise purpose of achieving their egalitarian goals. It is in their distrust of self-government and representative institutions that Progressivists advocate, albeit indirectly, an elitist regime based on the power of the Supreme Court—or judicial supremacy.

Key elements and issues in this transformation of the original republic into an egalitarian mass society are thoroughly examined.

George W. Carey is Professor of Government at Georgetown University and editor of The Political Science Reviewer.

In My Power Cover

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In My Power

Letter Writing and Communications in Early America

By Konstantin Dierks

In My Power tells the story of letter writing and communications in the creation of the British Empire and the formation of the United States. In an era of bewildering geographical mobility, economic metamorphosis, and political upheaval, the proliferation of letter writing and the development of a communications infrastructure enabled middle-class Britons and Americans to rise to advantage in the British Atlantic world.

Everyday letter writing demonstrated that the blessings of success in the early modern world could come less from the control of overt political power than from the cultivation of social skills that assured the middle class of their technical credentials, moral deserving, and social innocence. In writing letters, the middle class not only took effective action in a turbulent world but also defined what they believed themselves to be able to do in that world. Because this ideology of agency was extended to women and the youngest of children in the eighteenth century, it could be presented as universalized even as it was withheld from Native Americans and enslaved blacks.

Whatever the explicit purposes behind letter writing may have been—educational improvement, family connection, business enterprise—the effect was to render the full terms of social division invisible both to those who accumulated power and to those who did not. The uncontested power that came from letter writing was, Konstantin Dierks provocatively argues, as important as racist violence to the rise of the white middle class in the British Atlantic world.

James Madison Cover

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James Madison

A Son of Virginia and a Founder of the Nation

Jeff Broadwater

James Madison is remembered primarily as a systematic political theorist, but this bookish and unassuming man was also a practical politician who strove for balance in an age of revolution. In this biography, Jeff Broadwater focuses on Madison's role in the battle for religious freedom in Virginia, his contributions to the adoption of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, his place in the evolution of the party system, his relationship with Dolley Madison, his performance as a wartime commander in chief, and his views on slavery. From Broadwater's perspective, no single figure can tell us more about the origins of the American republic than our fourth president.

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