Current Issue Article Abstracts
Winter 2018, Vol. 38.4
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On New Year’s Day in 1837, one American Indian man killed another in the western region of the Wisconsin Territory. This, at least was the ruling of the circuit court judge at Prairie du Chien. The facts of the case were not in dispute, a man named Chigawaasking shot and killed a man named Alfred Aitkin. The crime occurred at Red Cedar Lake in the newly organized Wisconsin Territory where both men resided. In a ruling that shocked the Aitkin family, the American judge presiding over the trial of Chigawaasking determined that “our laws did not recognize Indian murder,” and he set the accused free. For the jury the issue at stake was not murder but race. Alfred Aitkin was the son of an American fur trader and an Anishinaabe woman. In order to adjudicate his murder as a crime at least one man involved in the incident needed to be white and or a citizen of the United States. When the jury examined the case, however, they could only see red. They ruled that both men were Natives and therefore non-citizens with no legal standing in an American court of law. This article examines the fate of both Chigawaasking and Alfred Aitkin in the context of America’s western expansion, studying other murder trials involving Native assailants and their white and Native victims. These cases provide a means of thinking about America as a republic and as a colonial power whose expansion required the systematic dispossession of Native peoples.
This article examines abolitionist Lucretia Mott’s views on the Underground Railroad. In 1856 Mott publicly dismissed fugitive slave assistance, comparing it to Liberian colonization, both of which she considered unable to compete with natural increase of slaves and thus ineffective in toppling U.S. slavery. Such a position was incongruous with the general attitude among U.S. abolitionists who categorically denounced Liberian colonization as a racist, pro-slavery movement while amplifying their Underground Railroad activism in the 1850s. The article attributes the timing of Mott’s 1856 remark to a partisan abolitionist strife spanning the Atlantic and explains her disregard of fugitive assistance to her puristic commitment to women’s rights.
Hoping to win back the thirteen colonies, Parliament in 1778 relinquished its power over internal taxation and regulation and gave the Carlisle Peace Commission wide discretion to suspend British policies in order to negotiate a truce. Because the Continental Congress consistently rejected these peace offerings and achieved independence, few historians have given serious attention to the interaction between Congress and the Commissioners. This article argues that the process of rejecting the Commission’s gestures marked an important watershed in the conceptualization of congressional power and national unity. Congress donned a public face of confidence and unanimity even as its leadership worried about dissent and disloyalty. This tension mirrored the paradoxes of American sovereignty, touted in terms of high principle and consent, but secured through force and diplomatic opportunism. The timing of the offers, after Saratoga and during negotiations for a French alliance, only highlighted the peculiarities of American sovereignty, which claimed command over as well as deference to the states. As the months passed, Congress and the Commissioners engaged in an argument over their authority to rule, exposing contradictions in their governing logic, and resorted increasingly to desperate appeals to the individual states and to shows of force to maintain mastery over the continent. Occurring at a unique moment in the reconciliation of the paradoxes of imperial sovereignty, Congress’s response to the Commission deserves a special place in the history of the U.S. nation-state’s formation.
debates over the citizen’s political role in a republic. A liberty pole was a wooden mast with a flag or sign that expressed opposition to the government as tyrannical. During the American Revolution, Patriots raised liberty poles to symbolize their resistance to British rule. In most cases, redcoats tore them down, eliciting fights with Patriot pole-raisers. In the 1790s, grassroots Republicans revived the practice of raising liberty poles to protest the Washington and Adams administrations as monarchists and tyrants. Echoing the British response, the Federalist supporters of government destroyed the poles, leading to vicious confrontations in both person and print.
Using a case study drawn from Reading, Pennsylvania in 1799, this essay argues that liberty poles operated as the flashpoint for conflict over the place of protest in the new nation among grassroots partisans. Republicans advocated for an activist citizenry that aimed to impede any unjust exercise of federal power. Federalists, however, argued that representative government implied an obligation for citizens to defer to their elected officials. By raising and destroying liberty poles, both sides put into practice the type of popular participation they envisioned for the republic.
Slavery’s Capitalism: A New History of American Economic Development ed. by Sven Beckert, Seth Rockman, and: The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815–1860 by Calvin Schermerhorn (review)
pp. 736 - 740
Index — Volume 38, 2018
pp. 741 - 746
Journal of the Early Republic: Volume 37, 2018
pp. 747 - 749