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The enormous popularity of his pamphlet Common Sense made Thomas Paine one of the best-known patriots during the early years of American independence. His subsequent service with the Continental Army, his publication of The American Crisis (1776–83), and his work with Pennsylvania’s revolutionary government consolidated his reputation as one of the foremost radicals of the Revolution. Thereafter, Paine spent almost fifteen years in Europe, where he was actively involved in the French Revolution, articulating his radical social, economic, and political vision in major publications such as The Rights of Man (1791), The Age of Reason (1793-1807), and Agrarian Justice (1797). Such radicalism was deemed a danger to the state in his native Britain, where Paine was found guilty of sedition, and even in the United States some of Paine’s later publications lost him a great deal of his early popularity.
Yet despite this legacy, historians have paid less attention to Paine than to other leading Patriots such as Thomas Jefferson. In Paine and Jefferson in the Age of Revolutions, editors Simon Newman and Peter Onuf present a collection of essays that examine how the reputations of two figures whose outlooks were so similar have had such different trajectories.
Festive Culture in the Early American Republic
Simon P. Newman vividly evokes the celebrations of America's first national holidays in the years between the ratification of the Constitution and the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson. He demonstrates how, by taking part in the festive culture of the streets, ordinary American men and women were able to play a significant role in forging the political culture of the young nation. The creation of many of the patriotic holidays we still celebrate coincided with the emergence of the first two-party system. With the political songs they sang, the liberty poles they raised, and the partisan badges they wore, Americans of many walks of life helped shape a new national politics destined to replace the regional practices of the colonial era.
The Diplomacy of Natchez, Boukfouka, Nogales, and San Fernando de las Barrancas, 1791-1795
German-Language Cultures and Identities in Eighteenth-Century North America
Through innovative interdisciplinary methodologies and fresh avenues of inquiry, the nine essays collected in A Peculiar Mixture endeavor to transform how we understand the bewildering multiplicity and complexity that characterized the experience of German-speaking people in the middle colonies. They explore how the various cultural expressions of German-speakers helped them to bridge regional, religious and denominational divides, to develop a new sense of ethnic solidarity and, eventually, a national identity. Instead of thinking about early American culture and literature as evolving continuously as a singular entity, the contributions to this volume conceive of it as an ever shifting and tangled “web of contact zones.” They present a society with a plurality of different native and colonial cultures interacting not only with each other, but also with cultures and traditions from outside the colonies, in a “peculiar mixture” of Old World practices and New World influences. Aside from the editors, the contributors are Rosalind J. Beiler, Patrick Erben, Cynthia G. Falk, Marie Basile McDaniel, Philip Otterness, Liam Riordan, Matthias Schönhofer, and Marianne Wokeck.
Race, Gender, and Biblical Rhetoric in Early American Autobiography
For pious converts to Christianity in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century New England, all reality was shaped by religious devotion and biblical text. It is therefore not surprising that earnest believers who found themselves marginalized by their race or sex relied on their faith to reconcile the tension between the spiritual experience of rebirth and the social ordeal of exclusion and injustice. In Piety and Dissent, Eileen Razzari Elrod examines the religious autobiographies of six early Americans who represented various sorts of marginality: John Marrant, Olaudah Equiano, and Jarena Lee, all of African or African American heritage; Samson Occom (Mohegan) and William Apess (Pequot); and Abigail Abbott Bailey, a white woman who was subjected to extreme domestic violence. Through close readings of these personal narratives, Elrod uncovers the complex rhetorical strategies employed by pious outsiders to challenge the particular kinds of oppression each experienced. She identifies recurrent ideals and images drawn from Scripture and Protestant tradition—parables of liberation, rage, justice, and opposition to authority—that allowed them to see resistance as a religious act and, more than that, imbued them with a sense of agency. What the life stories of these six individuals reveal, according to Elrod, is that conventional Christianity in early America was not the hegemonic force that church leaders at the time imagined, and that many people since have believed it to be. Nor was there a clear distinction between personal piety and religious, social, and political resistance. To understand fully the role of religion in the early period of American letters, we must rethink some of our most fundamental assumptions about the function of Christian faith in the context of individual lives.
In Two Volumes
The early political culture of the American republic was deeply influenced by the religious consciousness of the New England preachers. Indeed, it was often through the political sermon—the "pulpit of the American Revolution"—that the political rhetoric of the period was formed, refined, and transmitted. And yet the centrality of religious concerns in the lives of eighteenth-century Americans is largely neglected. This has created a blind spot regarding the fundamental acts of the American founding.
Political sermons such as the fifty-five collected in this volume are unique to America, both in kind and in significance. This volume thus fills an important need if the American founding period is to be adequately understood.
Ellis Sandoz is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Eric Voegelin Institute at Louisiana State University.
The Religious Rhetoric of George Whitefield and the Founding of a New Nation
The third volume in the Studies in Rhetoric & Religion, Preaching Politics traces the surprising and lasting influence of one of American history's most fascinating and enigmatic figures, George Whitefield. Jerome Mahaffey explores George Whitefield's role in creating a"rhetoric of community "that successfully established a common worldview among the many colonial cultures. Using a rigorous method of rhetorical analysis, Mahaffey cogently argues that George Whitefield directed the evolution of an American collective religious identity that lay underneath the emerging political ideology that fueled the American Revolution.
Religion in the Life of George Washington
Attempts by evangelical Christians to claim Washington and other founders as their own, and scholars' ongoing attempts to contradict these claims, are nothing new. Particularly after Washington was no longer around to refute them, legends of his Baptist baptism or secret conversion to Catholicism began to proliferate. Mount Vernon researcher Mary Thompson endeavors to get beyond the current preoccupation with whether Washington and other founders were or were not evangelical Christians to ask what place religion had in their lives. Thompson follows Washington and his family over several generations, situating her inquiry in the context of new work on the place of religion in colonial and postrevolutionary Virginia and the Chesapeake.
Thompson considers Washington's active participation as a vestryman and church warden as well as a generous donor to his parish prior to the Revolution, and how his attendance declined after the war. He would attend special ceremonies, and stood as godparent to the children of family and friends, but he stopped taking communion and resigned his church office. Something had changed, but was it Washington, the church, or both? Thompson concludes that he was a devout Anglican, of a Latitudinarian bent, rather than either an evangelical Christian or a Deist. The meaning of this description, Thompson allows, when applied to eighteenth-century Virginia gentlemen, is far from self-evident, leaving ample room for speculation.
The Rise and Decline of Virginia's Old Political Elite, 1680-1790
A "Topping People" is the first comprehensive study of the political, economic, and social elite of colonial Virginia. Evans studies twenty-one leading families from their rise to power in the late 1600s to their downfall over one hundred years later. These families represented the upper echelons of power, serving in the upper and lower houses of the General Assembly, often as speaker of the House of Burgesses. Their names—Randolph, Robinson, Byrd, Carter, Corbin, Custis, Nelson, and Page, to note but a few—are still familiar in the Old Dominion some three hundred years later.