In the 1790s agricultural improvers in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States began to promote the growth of a domestic maple sugar industry, and their enthusiasm for this regional product resulted in a short-lived "maple sugar bubble" that remains an understudied episode in early American food politics. Not only did these boosters conduct their own maple experiments, but they composed a series of poems, pamphlets, and personal correspondence in support of the movement. Merging the tradition of georgic literature with abolitionist rhetoric, these maple sugar georgics imagined a form of agricultural and economic resistance to the injustices of slavery; thus, they constitute an alternative antislavery georgic that promises to enrich our understanding of the relationship among political discourse, agricultural reform, and artistic production in the early republic. In the maple sugar writings of Benjamin Rush, Tench Coxe, David Humphreys, and Thomas Jefferson, three key aspects of agricultural discourse come to light: its use of the georgic mode to promote economic and ethical agendas; its concern for questions of environmental justice; and its struggle to negotiate factors of environmental and cultural resistance.


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pp. 353-380
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