Current Issue Article Abstracts

Spring 2021, Vol. 41.1

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Self-Evident Walls: Reckoning with Recent Histories of Race and Nation
Eran Zelnik

Examining both older and recent scholarship of race and nation in early American history and beyond, this article reckons with myriad blind spots and with more recent attempts to alleviate them. Employing both chronological accounts of the early United States and a comparative lens, it argues that the increasingly converging histories of race and nation suggest that the United States should be considered a paradigmatic case of racial nationalism. Indeed, it was nationalism itself that led Americans, both citizens and historians--since the creation of the republic and in many ways until this day--to believe that the United States, as a nation, stood for the words of the Declaration of Independence "that all men are created equal." Recent research, however, reveals that in fact what was perhaps most "self-evident" about the early United States was that these words would prove true only for white men.

"Confidence": Private Correspondence in Daniel Parker's War Department, 1811–1846
Lindsay Schakenbach Regele

This essay uses almost three decades of Daniel Parker's private letters as a window into the conceits and personal disclosures of members of the War Department, revealing how gendered reputation, loyalty, and friendship facilitated the Department's evasion of democratic limits to its power and its establishment of bureaucratic autonomy. As chief clerk, adjutant and inspector general, and paymaster general, Parker served as a principal node in the information flows among men of different ranks and political leanings, including generals, army contractors, and secretaries of war, as they collapsed the divisions between macho congeniality and martial duty. Although private letters were ubiquitous in the early republic, most letter writers did not have the power to shape state-sanctioned violence the way War Department officials did. For these men, there was little distinction between masculine entitlement and wartime decisions, and at a time when Americans were learning how to wield political and military power at home and abroad, they relied on confidentially to build relationships, carry out policies, and hide mistakes. The consistency in the use of confidentiality in War Department correspondence, from the War of 1812 until the Mexican–American War, suggests an endurance to the ways in which cruelty and overconfidence pervaded the private and public operations of the War Department, and fueled its determination to shore up the national state's ability to wage war.

The Jewish Apostate and the American Expatriate: Leave-Taking in the Early American Republic
Nan Goodman

This essay argues that the complexities and ambiguities of the religious identity that emerge in the story of the apostasy of the Jew turned Christian missionary, Joseph Samuel Christian Frederick Frey—specifically his contested leave—taking from Judaism, his seemingly unshakeable affiliation with his original faith, and the uncertain nature of his identity as a Christian long after his apostasy-provide new insights about civic allegiance and expatriation in early America. Departing from the Protestant model that has dominated discussions of religious belonging in the early republic, the essay recovers a current of Jewish thinking as a means of deepening our understanding of civic and religious belonging in the period as a whole.

The Young America Movement, the Koszta Affair of 1853, and the Construction of Nationalism before the Civil War
Mark Power Smith

By examining a hugely significant, yet overlooked, diplomatic incident, known as the Martin Koszta Affair (1853), this article offers a new interpretation of nationalism in the antebellum United States. Martin Koszta was a Hungarian refugee who had declared his intention of becoming an American citizen after the failed revolutions of 1848. But, before the process of naturalization was complete, Koszta returned to Europe, where he was captured by Austrian authorities off the coast of Turkey. After an American naval captain rescued Koszta, the Democratic administration negotiated the Hungarian's safe return to the United States, arguing his "natural right" to expatriation trumped Austria's doctrine of perpetual allegiance, and that Koszta was entitled to U.S. protection because of his "domiciled" status. This article shows that a faction within the Democratic Party, known as the Young America movement, advocated an even more radical justification for Ingraham's actions, claiming the incident had set a precedent for protecting "inchoate" citizens beyond the borders of the Union. In doing so, they championed a form of nationalism that collapsed the boundary between natural and citizenship rights, and expanded the remit of American foreign policy. This response complicates the emphasis on sectional divisions that dominates the scholarship in this period. In fact, there was an intra-sectional conflict about the basis of nationality that hinged on the tension between a legalistic definition of citizenship and a natural rights definition, with significant implications for the way Americans perceived the Union's role in the world.


No Useless Mouth: Waging War and Fighting Hunger in the American Revolution by Rachel B. Herrmann (review)
Andrew J. O'Shaughnessy


Justifying Revolution: Law, Virtue, and Violence in the American War of Independence ed. Glenn A. Moots and Philip Hamilton (review)
Zara Anishanslin


Spain and the American Revolution: New Approaches and Perspectives ed. by Gabriel Paquette and Gonzalo M. Quintero Saravia (review)
Karen Racine


A Right to Bear Arms? The Contested Role of History in Contemporary Debates on the Second Amendment ed. by Jennifer Tucker, Barton C. Hacker and Margaret Vining (review)
James H. Read


The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution by Lindsay M. Chervinsky (review)
Todd Estes


Origins of Order: Project and System in the American Legal Imagination by Paul W. Kahn (review)
Carli N. Conklin


Criminal Dissent: Prosecutions under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 by Wendell Bird (review)
Sara Mayeux


Disestablishment and Religious Dissent: Church–State Relations in the New American States 1776–1833 ed. by Carl H. Esbeck and Jonathan J. Den Hartog (review)
Michael Baysa


Jeffersonians in Power: The Rhetoric of Opposition Meets the Realities of Governing ed. by Joanne B. Freeman and Johann N. Neem (review)
Matthew Crow


Thomas Jefferson's Lives: Biographers and the Battle for History ed. by Robert M. S. McDonald (review)
Matthew R. Costello


American Intelligence: Small-Town News and Political Culture in Federalist New Hampshire by Ben P. Lafferty (review)
Steven Carl Smith


Black Lives, Native Lands, White Worlds: A History of Slavery in New England by Jared Hardesty (review)
Christy Clark-Pujara


The Battle of Negro Fort: The Rise and Fall of a Fugitive Slave Community by Matthew J. Clavin (review)
Adam Pratt

Laid Waste!: The Culture of Exploitation in Early America by John Lauritz Larson (review)
Camden Burd


Building America: The Life of Benjamin Henry Latrobe by Jean H. Baker (review)
Ryan K. Smith


The Commerce of Vision: Optical Culture and Perception in Antebellum America by Peter John Brownlee (review)
David Henkin


The Chinese Lady: Afong Moy in Early America by Nancy E. Davis (review)
Yiyun Huang


The World of Juliette Kinzie: Chicago before the Fire by Ann Durkin Keating (review)
Patricia Kelleher


Dr. Harriot Kezia Hunt: Nineteenth-Century Physician and Woman's Rights Advocate by Myra C. Glenn (review)
Jessica C. Linker


Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan & William Rufus King by Thomas J. Balcerski (review)
Craig Thompson Friend


"There is a North": Fugitive Slaves, Political Crisis, and Cultural Transformation in the Coming of the Civil War by John L. Brooke (review)
Adam Smith