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Freedom at Risk

The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865

Carol Wilson

Kidnapping was perhaps the greatest fear of free blacks in pre-Civil War America. Though they may have descended from generations of free-born people or worked to purchase their freedom, free blacks were not able to enjoy the privileges and opportunities of white Americans. They lived with the constant threat of kidnapping and enslavement, against which they had little recourse.

Most kidnapped free blacks were forcibly abducted, but other methods, such as luring victims with job offers or falsely claiming free people as fugitive slaves, were used as well. Kidnapping of blacks was actually facilitated by numerous state laws, as well as the federal fugitive slave laws of 1793 and 1850. Greed motivated kidnappers, who were assured high profits on the sale of their victims. As the internal slave trade increased in the early nineteenth century, so did kidnapping.

If greed provided the motivation for the crime, racism helped it to continue unabated. Victims usually found it extremely difficult to regain their freedom through a legal system that reflected society's racist views, perpetuated a racial double standard, and considered all blacks slaves until proven otherwise. Fortunate was the victim who received assistance, sometimes from government officials, most often from abolitionists. Frequently, however, the black community was forced to protect its own and organized to do so, sometimes by working within the law, sometimes by meeting violence with violence.

Mining newspaper accounts, memoirs, slave narratives, court records, letters, abolitionist society minutes, and government documents, Carol Wilson has provided a needed addition to our picture of free black life in the United States.

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Freedom Has a Face

Race, Identity, and Community in Jefferson's Virginia

Kirt von Daacke

In his examination of a wide array of court papers from Albemarle County, a rural Virginia slaveholding community, Kirt von Daacke argues against the commonly held belief that southern whites saw free blacks only as a menace. Von Daacke reveals instead a more easygoing interracial social order in Albemarle County that existed for more than two generations after the Revolution—stretching to the mid-nineteenth century and beyond—despite fears engendered by Gabriel’s Rebellion and the Haitian Revolution.

Freedom Has a Face tells the stories of free blacks who worked hard to carve out comfortable spaces for existence. They were denied full freedom, but they were neither slaves without masters nor anomalies in a society that had room only for black slaves and free white citizens. A typical rural Piedmont county, Albemarle was not a racial utopia. Rather, it was a tight-knit community in which face-to-face interactions determined social status and reputation. A steep social hierarchy allowed substantial inequalities to persist, but it was nonetheless an intimately interracial society. Free African Americans who maintained personal connections with white neighbors and who participated openly in local society were perceived as far more than stereotypical dangerous blacks.

Based on his work building a cross-referenced database containing individual records for nearly five thousand documents, von Daacke reveals a detailed picture of daily life in Albemarle County. With this reinsertion of individual free blacks into the neighborhood, community, and county, he exposes a different, more complicated image of the lives of free people of color.

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Freedom's Prophet

Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers

Richard Newman

An Interview with the Author on the History News Network

A Founding Father with a Vision of Equality: Richard Newman's op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer

Author Spotlight in The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

"Gold" Winner of the 2008 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award, Biography Category

Freedom's Prophet is a long-overdue biography of Richard Allen, founder of the first major African-American church and the leading black activist of the early American republic. A tireless minister, abolitionist, and reformer, Allen inaugurated some of the most important institutions in African-American history and influenced nearly every black leader of the nineteenth century, from Douglass to Du Bois.

Allen (1760–1831) was born a slave in colonial Philadelphia, secured his freedom during the American Revolution, and became one of the nations leading black activists before the Civil War. Among his many achievements, Allen helped form the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, co-authored the first copyrighted pamphlet by an African American writer, published the first African American eulogy of George Washington, and convened the first national convention of black reformers. In a time when most black men and women were categorized as slave property, Allen was championed as a black hero. As Richard S. Newman writes, Allen must be considered one of America's black Founding Fathers.

In this thoroughly engaging and beautifully written book, Newman describes Allen's continually evolving life and thought, setting both in the context of his times. From Allen's early antislavery struggles and belief in interracial harmony to his later reflections on black democracy and black emigration, Newman traces Allen's impact on American reform and reformers, on racial attitudes during the years of the early republic, and on the black struggle for justice in the age of Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Washington. Whether serving as Americas first black bishop, challenging slaveholding statesmen in a nation devoted to liberty, or visiting the President's House (the first black activist to do so), this important book makes it clear that Allen belongs in the pantheon of Americas great founding figures. Freedom's Prophet reintroduces Allen to today's readers and restores him to his rightful place in our nation's history.

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A French Aristocrat in the American West

The Shattered Dreams of De Lassus De Luzieres

Carl J. Ekberg & Foreword by Marie-Sol de La Tour d'Auvergne

 

In 1790, Pierre-Charles de Lassus de Luzières gathered his wife and children and fled Revolutionary France. His trek to America was prompted by his “purchase” of two thousand acres situated on the bank of the Ohio River from the Scioto Land Company—the institution that infamously swindled French buyers and sold them worthless titles to property. When de Luzières arrived and realized he had been defrauded, he chose, in a momentous decision, not to return home to France. Instead, he committed to a life in North America and began planning a move to the Mississippi River valley.
            De Luzières dreamed of creating a vast commercial empire that would stretch across the frontier, extending the entire length of the Ohio River and also down the Mississippi from Ste. Genevieve to New Orleans. Though his grandiose goal was never realized, de Luzières energetically pursued other important initiatives. He founded the city of New Bourbon in what is now Missouri and recruited American settlers to move westward across the Mississippi River. The highlight of his career was being appointed Spanish commandant of the New Bourbon District, and his 1797 census of that community is an invaluable historical document. De Luzières was a significant political player during the final years of the Spanish regime in Louisiana, but likely his greatest contributions to American history are his extensive commentaries on the Mississippi frontier at the close of the colonial era.
            A French Aristocrat in the American West: The Shattered Dreams of De Lassus de Luzières is both a narrative of this remarkable man’s life and a compilation of his extensive writings. In Part I of the book, author Carl Ekberg offers a thorough account of de Luzières, from his life in Pre-Revolutionary France to his death in 1806 in his house in New Bourbon. Part II is a compilation, in translation, of de Luzières’s most compelling correspondence. Until now very little of his writing has been published, despite the fact that his letters constitute one of the largest bodies of writing ever produced by a French émigré in North America.
            Though de Luzières’s presence in early American history has been largely overlooked by scholars, the work left behind by this unlikely frontiersman merits closer inspection. A French Aristocrat in the American West brings the words and deeds of this fascinating man to the public for the first time.

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The French Navy and American Independence: A Study of Arms and Diplomacy, 1774-1787

Jonathan R. Dull

Military history is an essential component of wartime diplomatic history, Jonathan R. Dull contends, and this belief shapes his account of the French navy as the means by which French diplomacy helped to win American independence. The author discusses the place of long-range naval requirements in the French decision to aid the American colonists, the part played by naval rivalry in the transition from limited aid to full-scale war, and the ways naval considerations affected French wartime diplomacy. His book focuses on military strategy and diplomatic requirements in a setting in which military officers themselves did not participate directly in decision-making, but in which diplomats had to take continual account of military needs.

Since military action is a means of accomplishing diplomatic goals, even military victory can prove hollow. The author examines the American war not as a successful exercise of French power, but rather as a tragic failure based on economic and political miscalculations. Among the questions he asks are: What relationship did the war bear to overall French diplomacy? What strains did the limited nature of the war impose on French diplomacy and war strategy? How did the results of the war relate to the objectives with which France entered the conflict?

Originally published in 1976.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

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Freshwater Passages

The Trade and Travels of Peter Pond

David Chapin

Peter Pond, a fur trader, explorer, and amateur mapmaker, spent his life ranging much farther afield than Milford, Connecticut, where he was born and died (1740–1807). He traded around the Great Lakes, on the Mississippi and the Minnesota Rivers, and in the Canadian Northwest and is also well known as a partner in Montreal’s North West Company and as mentor to Alexander Mackenzie, who journeyed down the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Sea. Knowing eighteenth-century North America on a scale that few others did, Pond drew some of the earliest maps of western Canada.

 

In this meticulous biography, David Chapin presents Pond’s life as part of a generation of traders who came of age between the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution. Pond’s encounters with a plethora of distinct Native cultures over the course of his career shaped his life and defined his career. Whereas previous studies have caricatured Pond as quarrelsome and explosive, Chapin presents him as an intellectually curious, proud, talented, and ambitious man, living in a world that could often be quite violent. Chapin draws together a wide range of sources and information in presenting a deeper, more multidimensional portrait and understanding of Pond than hitherto has been available.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
 

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