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  • From the Editor
  • Elaine Forman Crane

Language and its relationship to political culture unexpectedly dominate this issue of Early American Studies. Taken together, the five articles that focus on the persuasive power of speech and writing demonstrate how words effect and affect social change. In his article on James Fenimore Cooper’s maritime novels, Bryan Sinche shows how an artfully constructed turn of phrase could mold shipboard hierarchies at sea, while Michael Besso’s revisionist essay reveals how Hooker’s sermon advanced God’s will (rather than popular sovereignty) on land. Whose words resonate most powerfully? Despite the Puritan insistence on the force of divine intervention, Robb Haberman maintains that print culture in the form of magazines was equally responsible for nation building in the early republic. In the same postrevolutionary decades, as G. J. Barker-Benfield explains, the concept of sensibility relied on a language to define it as well as a gendered subtext to communicate it. These ideas made their way into the correspondence of national figures such as Abigail and John Adams. Not only did that same gendered language reinforce sensibility, but, as Catherine Allgor concludes in her analysis of Margaret Bayard Smith’s travel diary, Smith made it a useful political tool: she used the language of domesticity to ease the transition from one presidential administration to another.

The two remaining essays in this issue build on previous scholarship about race and religion in unusual and compelling ways. Felicity Donohoe explores the sexual attitudes of southeastern Indians and how they were distorted by Euro-Americans who interpreted a series of sexual attacks within the Indian community from their own perspective. And in a thoughtful inquiry into the relationship between Catholicism and slavery in the United States, Maura Jane Farrelly considers the possibility that slavery might have been integral to the formation of a unique Catholic identity because of their symbiotic development in an American context.

Lots of good cold-weather reading between the covers of this issue of Early American Studies! [End Page 1]

Elaine Forman Crane
Winter 2012


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