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Essays on the American Revolution

Stephen G. Kurtz

These eight original essays by a group of America's most distinguished scholars include the following themes: the meaning and significance of the Revolution; the long-term, underlying causes of the war; violence and the Revolution; the military conflict; politics in the Continental Congress; the role of religion in the Revolution; and the effect of the war on the social order. This is the product of the celebrated Symposium on the American Revolution held in 1971 by the institute.

Originally published 1973.

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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Establishing Religious Freedom

Jefferson's Statute in Virginia

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Eutaw Springs

The Final Battle of the American Revolution's Southern Campaign

Robert M. Dunkerly

The Battle of Eutaw Springs took place on September 8, 1781, and was among the last in the War of Independence. It was brutal in its combat and reprisals, with Continental and Whig militia fighting British regulars and Loyalist regiments. Although its outcome was seemingly inconclusive, the battle, fought near present-day Eutawville, South Carolina, contained all the elements that defined the war in the South. In Eutaw Springs: The Final Battle of the American Revolution’s Southern Campaign, Robert M. Dunkerly and Irene B. Boland tell the story of this lesser known and under-studied battle of the Revolutionary War’s Southern Campaign. Shrouded in myth and misconception, the battle has also been overshadowed by the surrender of Yorktown Eutaw Springs represented lost opportunities for both armies. The American forces were desperate for a victory in 1781, and Gen. Nathanael Greene finally had the ground of his own choosing. British forces under Col. Alexander Stewart were equally determined to keep a solid grip on the territory they still held in the South Carolina lowcountry. In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, both armies sustained heavy casualties with each side losing nearly 20 percent of its soldiers. Neither side won the hard-fought battle, and controversies plagued both sides in the aftermath. Dunkerly and Boland analyze the engagement and its significance within the context of the war’s closing months, study the area’s geology and setting, and recount the action using primary sources, aided by recent archaeology.

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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 Federalist Papers

The Gideon Edition

George Carey

The Federalist, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, constitutes a text central to the American political tradition. Published in newspapers in 1787 and 1788 to explain and promote ratification of the proposed Constitution for the United States, which up to then were bound by the Articles of Confederation, The Federalist remains today of singular importance to students of liberty around the world.

The new Liberty Fund edition presents the text of the Gideon edition of The Federalist, published in 1818, which includes the preface to the text by Jacob Gideon as well as the responses and corrections prepared by Madison to the McLean edition of 1810. The McLean edition had presented the Federalist texts as corrected by Hamilton and Jay but not reviewed by Madison.

The Liberty Fund Federalist also includes a new introduction, a Reader’s Guide outlining—section by section—the arguments of The Federalist, a glossary, and ten appendixes, including the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Virginia Resolution Proposing the Annapolis Convention, and other key documents leading up to the transmission of the Constitution to the governors of the several states. Finally, the Constitution of the United States and Amendments is given, with marginal cross-references to the pertinent passages in The Federalist that address, argue for, or comment upon the specific term, phrase, section, or article of the Constitution.

Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804) was secretary and aide-de-camp to Washington in 1777–81, a member of the Continental Congress in 1782–83 and 1787–88, a representative from New York to the Annapolis Convention in 1786 and to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, first U. S. secretary of the treasury in 1789–95, and inspector general of the army, with the rank of major general, from 1798 to 1800. His efforts to defeat Aaron Burr for the presidency in 1800-01 and for the governorship of New York in 1804 led to his fatal duel with Burr.

John Jay (1745–1829) was a member of the Continental Congress in 1774 through 1779 and its president in 1778–79, drafter of New York’s first constitution in 1777, chief justice of the New York supreme court from 1777 to 1778, U. S. minister to Spain in 1779, a member of the commission to negotiate peace with Great Britain in Paris in 1787, U. S. secretary of foreign affairs from 1784 to 1789, Chief Justice of the United States from 1789 to 1795, and governor of New York from 1795 to 1801.

James Madison (1751–1836) was a member of the Virginia legislature in 1776–80 and 1784–86, of the Continental Congress in 1780–83, and of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, where he earned the title “father of the U. S. Constitution.” He was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives from 1789 to 1797, where he was a sponsor of the Bill of Rights and an opponent of Hamilton’s financial measures. He was the author of the Virginia Resolutions of 1798 in opposition to the U. S. alien and sedition laws. He was U. S. secretary of state in 1801–09, President of the U. S. in 1809–17, and rector of the University of Virginia, 1826–36.

George W. Carey is a professor of government at Georgetown University and the editor of several works on American government. He is the author of In Defense of the Constitution, published by Liberty Fund.

James McClellan (1937-2005) was James Bryce Visiting Fellow in American Studies at the Institute of United States Studies, University of London, and the author of Liberty, Order, and Justic

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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 First Presidential Contest

1796 and the Founding of American Democracy

The Presidential election of 1796, memorialized in history tomes for the bitter divisions the campaign mirrored among citizens in the fledgling Republic, receives innovative and refreshing analytical consideration in this eminently readable and clever account of the Adams-Jefferson contest.

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For Fear of an Elective King

George Washington and the Presidential Title Controversy of 1789

by Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon

In the spring of 1789, within weeks of the establishment of the new federal government based on the U.S. Constitution, the Senate and House of Representatives fell into dispute regarding how to address the president. Congress, the press, and individuals debated more than a dozen titles, many of which had royal associations and some of which were clearly monarchical. For Fear of an Elective King is Kathleen Bartoloni-Tuazon's rich account of the title controversy and its meanings.

The short, intense legislative phase and the prolonged, equally intense public phase animated and shaped the new nation’s broadening political community. Rather than simply reflecting an obsession with etiquette, the question challenged Americans to find an acceptable balance between power and the people’s sovereignty while assuring the country’s place in the Atlantic world. Bartoloni-Tuazon argues that the resolution of the controversy in favor of the modest title of "President" established the importance of recognition of the people's views by the president and evidence of modesty in the presidency, an approach to leadership that fledged the presidency’s power by not flaunting it.

How the country titled the president reflected the views of everyday people, as well as the recognition by social and political elites of the irony that authority rested with acquiescence to egalitarian principles. The controversy’s outcome affirmed the republican character of the country’s new president and government, even as the conflict was the opening volley in increasingly partisan struggles over executive power. As such, the dispute is as relevant today as in 1789.

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For the People

American Populist Movements from the Revolution to the 1850s

Ronald P. Formisano

For the People offers a new interpretation of populist political movements from the Revolution to the eve of the Civil War and roots them in the disconnect between the theory of rule by the people and the reality of rule by elected representatives. Ron Formisano seeks to rescue populist movements from the distortions of contemporary opponents as well as the misunderstandings of later historians.

From the Anti-Federalists to the Know-Nothings, Formisano traces the movements chronologically, contextualizing them and demonstrating the progression of ideas and movements. Although American populist movements have typically been categorized as either progressive or reactionary, left-leaning or right-leaning, Formisano argues that most populist movements exhibit liberal and illiberal tendencies simultaneously. Gendered notions of "manhood" are an enduring feature, yet women have been intimately involved in nearly every populist insurgency. By considering these movements together, Formisano identifies commonalities that belie the pattern of historical polarization and bring populist movements from the margins to the core of American history.

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Forced Founders

Indians, Debtors, Slaves, and the Making of the American Revolution in Virginia

Woody Holton

In this provocative reinterpretation of one of the best-known events in American history, Woody Holton shows that when Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and other elite Virginians joined their peers from other colonies in declaring independence from Britain, they acted partly in response to grassroots rebellions against their own rule.

The Virginia gentry's efforts to shape London's imperial policy were thwarted by British merchants and by a coalition of Indian nations. In 1774, elite Virginians suspended trade with Britain in order to pressure Parliament and, at the same time, to save restive Virginia debtors from a terrible recession. The boycott and the growing imperial conflict led to rebellions by enslaved Virginians, Indians, and tobacco farmers. By the spring of 1776 the gentry believed the only way to regain control of the common people was to take Virginia out of the British Empire.

Forced Founders uses the new social history to shed light on a classic political question: why did the owners of vast plantations, viewed by many of their contemporaries as aristocrats, start a revolution? As Holton's fast-paced narrative unfolds, the old story of patriot versus loyalist becomes decidedly more complex.

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