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Summer 2017, Vol. 37.2

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"The Open Violence of Desperate Men": Rethinking Property and Power in the 1835 Baltimore Bank Riot

Adam Malka

Using the 1835 Baltimore Bank Riot as a case study, this article asserts that white workingmen deployed legitimate power as property holders. It shows that the Bank Riot, which erupted over frauds related to the closing of the Bank of Maryland, actually had two legacies: an Indemnity law that promised remuneration to future victims of mob violence, and the legal exoneration of almost everyone who participated in its violence. These two legacies, it argues, both derived from the same belief in property rights – for property in the early republic had two meanings. First and most obviously, it referred to a physical asset, like a building; this is what that the Indemnity Act was designed to protect. Less obviously, property also connoted wages and households, and these were what the pardons honored. The riot’s dual legacy ultimately demonstrated that a municipality built to protect property rights allowed more than the affluent to make claims upon it. True, the bank rioters were not as wealthy as the men whose homes they destroyed, but as wage earners and patriarchs they were rich in other ways.

Almost no one associated with the Bank Riot ever received a meaningful punishment, and that, this article concludes, foretold a future in which certain forms of popular violence would be tolerated so long as they were justified in the name of property. In a city where many of the residents did not own wages and dependents, the possession of both was a privilege fraught with real power.

Martha Ann Honeywell: Art, Performance, and Disability in the Early Republic

Laurel Daen

Martha Ann Honeywell (1786-1856) was a visual artist and performer who traveled across North America and Europe to exhibit her embroidery, waxwork, miniature writing, and paper cutting as well as her atypically-figured body, which lacked arms and hands and had just one foot with three toes. Drawing on over two hundred newspaper advertisements that she published, over one hundred samples of her visual artwork, nearly thirty visitor responses, and one surviving letter, this essay examines Honeywell’s story and the strategies that she used to appeal to consumers and cultivate her business. It argues that she capitalized on new cultural and commercial opportunities in the early republic as well as long-held conceptions of disability in productive ways. Honeywell was a relentless traveler, seeking new markets internationally and in the American West. She also catered to her patrons’ desires for miniatures and silhouettes, which held popular appeal, and utilized advancements in print culture to generate publicity. At the same time, Honeywell’s techniques for attracting clientele were informed by ideas about disability, and congenital physical anomalies in particular, with deep roots in western culture. To accommodate her spectators’ curiosities about her body, she juxtaposed her artistic capacities and physical incapacities in ways that elicited shock and amazement. In addition, to ease visitors’ fears about disability and anxieties about viewing her impairments, she presented familiar and socially acceptable traits that aligned with their expectations of the body, gender, and class. In the end, Honeywell’s mastery of these dual strategies of the spectacular and the conventional—along with the possibilities that the early national marketplace presented—produced what may seem like an unexpected outcome. Rather than condemning, fearing, or deriding her uniqueness, customers proclaimed her to be uniquely American, an exemplary woman and citizen.

Symposium on Hamilton, An American Musical

Introduction: Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton: An American Musical and the Early American Republic

Catherine E. Kelly

Will the Real Alexander Hamilton Please Stand Up?

Joanne B. Freeman

Since his death in 1804, Alexander Hamilton has appeared in American culture in many forms. Post-Civil War nationalist, Progressive-era pro-active statesman, Cold War capitalist hero: Hamilton has been all of these things and more. But he has never been what Broadway's Hamilton has made him: an American folk hero. Given Hamilton's active distrust of democracy, it's a surprising and unlikely role, but in the troublous times of twenty-first century America it has real power, presenting Americans with a glory-filled Founding myth and a heroic advocate of the American Way. This Great Man view of the Founding is problematic in many ways. But as historically inaccurate as it is, Broadway's Hamilton has much to offer, restoring a sense of contingency to what is all too often seen as an inevitable success story, humanizing historical figures in a way that brings the past to life, and inviting people to analyze the nation's Founding myths anew.

The American Revolution Rebooted: Hamilton and Genre in Contemporary Culture

Andrew M. Schocket

Hamilton: An American Musical, while distinctive, is fairly representative of recent cultural productions representing the American founding era, fitting the three main characteristics of what this article labels "American Revolution rebooted." First, patriotism is assumed of the protagonists, usually heterosexual white men; second, patriotism consists of supporting a personal, libertarian version of "freedom"; and third, consensus is achieved by the violent expulsion of others.

Crooked Histories: Re-presenting Race, Slavery, and Alexander Hamilton Onstage

Heather S. Nathans

Recovering a mostly forgotten collection of plays dating back to the turn of the nineteenth century, this article demonstrates how artists used Hamilton to consider critical moments in the nation’s passionate and often painful debates about race, citizenship, and belonging.

Toward a More Perfect Hamilton

Marvin McAllister

This essay examines the ambitious representational mission, color-conscious casting, and hip hop/musical theater fusion of the ground-breaking musical Hamilton. In particular, the piece highlights the unqualified successes of the production team, as they used performed whiteness and race-bending to reinvent casting, marketing, and story-telling on Broadway. However, the essay also acknowledges the historical and political shortcomings of this commercially unrivaled musical and suggests dramaturgical improvements for future professional and amateur productions.

World Wide Enough: Historiography, Imagination, and Stagecraft

Benjamin L. Carp

Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and director Thomas Kail is both an intriguing and imperfect vehicle for understanding the history of the American Revolutionary Era. Although the show simplified the image of Alexander Hamilton and focused on an elite narrative of the American Revolution, the show is not meant to be strict history. Instead the show benefits historians with an imaginative retelling for a contemporary audience, invites multiple interpretations of history, and encourages further conversation.

"Make 'em Laugh": Why History Cannot Be Reduced to Song and Dance

Nancy Isenberg

Historians have a stake in the Hamilton: An American Musical's multiple inaccuracies and in the larger picture Lin-Manuel Miranda paints of the founding. The Hamilton franchise, which stretches from the stage to the best-selling book and album and which is supported by commercial media, operates at a remove from academic historians’ expertise. Professional historians are therefore obliged to hold cultural producers of popular history more accountable and defend the profession and practice of history.

Surveying the Fields


Carolyn Eastman

Fatal Convergence in the Kingdom of God: The Mountain Meadows Massacre in American History

Sarah Barringer Gordon, Jan Shipps

This article examines religion, violence, and westward migration in early national and antebellum America. In treating the Mountain Meadows Massacre of 1857, the authors demonstrate how recognition of religion enriches understanding of the event and its roots in culture and geography. Close attention to and careful interpretation of the lives of the leaders of Methodist migrants (who were killed at Mountain Meadows) and the local Mormon militia (who did the killing) yield vitally connected strands of personal and spiritual history. Placing both men in their religious communities and probing their family strategies reveals how much they had in common. These shared beliefs and practices affected Mormons’and Methodists’ understanding of the meaning of migration, as well as the role and nature of the Kingdom of God in American expansion. The approach taken here takes a panoramic view of the fatal convergence in southern Utah, and integrates religious history with scholarship on empire, slavery, patriarchy, Native dispossession, westward migration, and their reverberations in history. In light of these overlapping beliefs and histories, the massacre is revealed as more intimate, a fratricide among white men who imagined that their religious identities were locked in fatal conflict, but many of whose basic assumptions were shared. This article also engages with the challenges presented by an incomplete archive (all records of the train were lost – likely destroyed by the perpetrators), and the rewards as well as perils of using family histories and survivors’ accounts, as well as more traditional archival materials.

Comment: Borderlands of Violence

Ari Kelman

The Mountain Meadows Massacre is not only a part of Mormon or Methodist history but of American history. Empire building, patriarchy, gender, and genocide all play a role. This comment on Gordon and Shipps' article asks whether it is a non-traditional narrative intended to challenge readers’ conceptions of historical writing.

Comment: "Fatal Convergence in the Kingdom of God"

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp

This comment on Gordon and Shipps' article maintains that converging strands of religious zeal for building an earthly kingdom of God and expanding the American empire. The authors' use of vernacular history adds to the richness of competing narratives.


Building the Empire State: Political Economy in the Early Republic by Brian Phillips Murphy (review) by Naomi R. Lamoreaux

Privateers of the Americas: Spanish American Privateering from the United States in the Early Republic by David Head, and: Privateering: Patriots and Profits in the War of 1812 by Faye M. Kert (review) by Brian Rouleau

Liberty's Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America by Jen Manion (review) by Ashley Rubin

The Founders and the Idea of a National University: Constituting the American Mind by George Thomas (review) by Mark Boonshoft

The First U.S. History Textbooks: Constructing and Disseminating the American Tale in the Nineteenth Century by Barry Joyce (review) by Johann N. Neem

American Antiquities: Revisiting the Origins of American Archaeology by Terry A. Barnhart (review) by Charles Allen Wallace

Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750–1860 by Lucy Eldersveld Murphy (review) by Michel Hogue

Frontier Democracy: Constitutional Conventions in the Old Northwest by Silvana R. Siddali (review) by Nicole Etcheson

The Prophet and the Reformer: The Letters of Brigham Young and Thomas L. Kane ed. by Matthew J. Grow and Ronald W. Walker (review) by Nathaniel Wiewora

Founding Sins: How a Group of Antislavery Radicals Fought to Put Christ into the Constitution by Joseph S. Moore (review) by Ned Landsman

Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County by Jr. David F. Allmendinger (review) by Patrick Rael

The "Colored Hero" of Harper's Ferry: John Anthony Copeland and the War Against Slavery by Steven Lubet (review) by Frank Cirillo

Free Labor: The Civil War and the Making of an American Working Class by Mark A. Lause (review) by Joanne Pope Melish



Spring 2017, Vol. 37.1

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SHEAR Presidential Address

What Happened to the Three-Fifths Clause: The Relationship between Women and Slaves in Constitutional Thought, 1787–1866

Jan Ellen Lewis

Any discussion of the Three-Fifths Clause sooner or later leads to a discussion of women, but never in or of themselves, always in relationship to slaves, or, rather, the institution of slavery. Women’s assumed political incapacity was used to anchor a system of representation that rested on enslavement.

Economic history has never suffered from having a narrow definition of its topics or methodologies, and as the articles in this special issue of JER so ably demonstrate, economic historians have become ever more adventurous in incorporating new research questions, reading sources imaginatively, defining how people of past generations thought and acted in economic ways, and generally expanding the parameters of where the economy can be perceived and analyzed. The articles in this special issue, representing only a portion of the outpouring of new scholarship in economic history, assess aspects of what the field has achieved and point us toward unfinished business.


David Walker’s Nationalism—and Thomas Jefferson’s

Peter Thompson

This essay proceeds from an examination of two spectacular expressions of nationalist identity in the early republic. First, the Declaration of Independence and subsequent articulations of the exclusionary, white supremacist, character of its rights claims prompted by Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia and congressional debate over the admission of Missouri. Second, David Walker’s Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World 1829-30 and the emergence of an African-American nationalism shaped by opposition to colonization and a determination to confront racism and slavery. That these nationalisms existed in a dialectic relationship is an established feature of the literature. This essay breaks new ground by suggesting a similarity of intellectual provenance, specifically the application within both nationalist discourses of precepts derived from an ostensibly international law of law of nations to domestic relations between states and peoples within the United States of America. Departing from a previous emphasis on expression and outcome within the literature on both African-American and white supremacist nationalisms – or on themes of resistance, assimilation, separation or oppression – the essay seeks to place its examination of the provenance of American “nation making” in dialogue with an emerging scholarly literature on multiple national identities in regions of nineteenth century Europe.

Liberty with the Sword: Jamaican Maroons, Haitian Revolutionaries, and American Liberty

Tyson Reeder

Examining dialogue about the Jamaican maroon treaties of 1739, this article locates the Haitian Revolution within a wider constellation of events that contributed to a reconceptualization of slave resistance in the United States. During the early republic, Americans drew on combined images of the Haitian Revolution, the Second Maroon War, and the Second Seminole War as they reconceived of the Jamaican maroons and their association with the violent assertion of liberty. Between 1739 and the 1780s, Anglo-Atlantic whites viewed the maroons as having rightfully won their liberty through violent resistance and as helpful allies of the Jamaican slave society. During the 1790s, confronted with the violence in Saint-Domingue and the Second Maroon War in Jamaica, some white observers began to question the mid-eighteenth-century wisdom of compromising with rebellious blacks. Others referenced the maroon treaties in recommending pragmatic negotiations with Saint-Domingue to reestablish stability in the Caribbean. Such references signified the surprising persistence of the notion that legitimizing slave resistance by treaty could diffuse an otherwise disastrous race war. Finally, between the 1810s and the Civil War, Americans dichotomized discourse about the maroons into pro- and antislavery narratives, both of which strayed from predominant eighteenth-century descriptions of the maroons. Advocates of slavery challenged the perception of the maroons as a legitimately free body of people contributing to the stability of society. In contrast, slavery’s detractors cast them as racial warriors fighting against bondage rather than as a community of free blacks allied with the slavocracy.

Building the Future: White Women, Black Education, and Civic Inclusion in Antebellum Ohio

Kabria Baumgartner

This essay traces the origins of the Ohio Ladies’ Education Society, an organization committed to the cause of both radical abolition and African American education in antebellum Ohio. From 1838 to 1848, this organization filed petitions for common school reform, raised funds to support black independent schools, and recruited and compensated teachers who taught in Ohio’s black settlements. This essay argues that the white female leadership of the Ohio Ladies’ Education Society was drawn to the cause of African American education because they envisioned schooling as a route for African Americans to gain citizenship and to experience civic inclusion. These white women abolitionists sought to advance a rival racial ideology whereby schools could fit African Americans for freedom and civic membership. Through their activism, these abolitionists actually redefined the meaning and practice of civic inclusion, specifically, and American citizenship, broadly. The best citizens were learned, moral, and benevolent Christians who participated fully in the civic affairs of a community. This essay reveals how the fight for abolition, African American education, and the civic ideal of building peaceful, egalitarian communities converged in the battleground of the West.

Review Essay

The Mainstreaming of Visual Culture in U. S. History

Richard Wightman Fox

Steadily the study of visual culture has moved into the mainstream of U. S. historiography. More and more scholars have realized that the pictures they long used to illustrate their books and lectures possess a history of their own, as material objects and as ways of seeing. Decades ago Michel Foucault and an assortment of linguistic “turners” alerted historians to textuality—the constant play of language-forms within structures of power and consciousness—and now we see that cultural discourses comprise the visual as much as the verbal. Images and words intertwine as people refashion their rituals and conventions. Two recent studies of celebrated ex-slaves and abolitionists Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass--Darcy Grimaldo Grigsby's Enduring Truths and John Stauffer, Zoe Trodd, and Celeste-Marie Bernier's Picturing Frederick Douglass--show how far we have come in granting the pictorial its proper place alongside the spoken, the written, and the read. Among the most charismatic wordsmiths of their day, Truth and Douglass excelled as orators and authors (the illiterate Truth dictated her published Narrative of 1850 to reformer Olive Gilbert). They knew that distributing their likenesses would promote the cause of liberty. And they learned that politicizing their appearance did more than contribute to the battle for freedom. It gave them experience in living as free people in a modern commercial world. While some militant abolitionists followed Thoreau in affirming the old republican dichotomy between commerce and virtue, Douglass and Truth in effect celebrated the virtue of commerce.


Practicing Democracy: Popular Politics in the United States from the Constitution to the Civil War ed. by Daniel Peart and Adam I. P. Smith (review) by Michelle Orihel

For Liberty and the Republic: The American Citizen as Soldier, 1775–1861 by Ricardo A. Herrera (review) by Rachel Engl

A Powerful Mind: The Self-Education of George Washington by Adrienne M. Harrison (review) by Kevin J. Hayes

Against Self-Reliance: The Arts of Dependence in the Early United States by William Huntting Howell (review) by Rob Koehler

Thomas Jefferson’s Ethics and the Politics of Human Progress: The Morality of a Slaveholder by Ari Helo (review) by Hannah Spahn

Wolf by the Ears: The Missouri Crisis, 1819–1821 by John R. Van Atta (review) by Ken S. Mueller

The Origins of American Religious Nationalism by Sam Haselby (review) by Hunter Price

Christian Imperialism: Converting the World in the Early American Republic by Emily Conroy-Krutz (review) by Jennifer Fish Kashay

Rebels in Paradise: Sketches of Northampton Abolitionists by Bruce Laurie (review) by Matthew Mason

The Fight for Interracial Marriage Rights in Antebellum Massachusetts by Amber D. Moulton (review) by Terri L. Snyder

Intellectual Manhood: University, Self, and Society in the Antebellum South by Timothy J. Williams (review) by Jennifer R. Green

Fortune’s Fool: The Life of John Wilkes Booth by Terry Alford (review) by Scott C. Martin

Winter 2016 Vol. 36.4

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Economic History at a Crossroads: Reconsidering Methods, Spaces, and Peoples

Cathy Matson

Economic history has never suffered from having a narrow definition of its topics or methodologies, and as the articles in this special issue of JER so ably demonstrate, economic historians have become ever more adventurous in incorporating new research questions, reading sources imaginatively, defining how people of past generations thought and acted in economic ways, and generally expanding the parameters of where the economy can be perceived and analyzed. The articles in this special issue, representing only a portion of the outpouring of new scholarship in economic history, assess aspects of what the field has achieved and point us toward unfinished business.

Gender’s Value in the History of Capitalism

Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor

The History of Capitalism, with its focus on ocean-spanning networks, commodity flows, and the financialization of exchange, largely takes for granted a male/female gender binary. As a result, women play little part in its core narratives and gender appears as a cultural gloss on economic transformations. But, as the institution of the auction demonstrates, women and gender were essential to capitalism’s emergence. Understanding how households, gendered divisions of labor, and female bodies acquired and incubated value opens up a far more dynamic picture of economic change. Households varied dramatically in size and stability in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which supported different distributions of power between the men and women within them. What constituted “men’s work” and “women’s work” was always in flux and not necessarily linked to particular bodies, although capitalist institutions used laws governing inheritance and slavery to link monetary value to specific ideas about gender. Simultaneously, cultural stereotypes such as the frivolous female consumer, the poor widow, or the fecund slave woman spread through popular culture. As a result, nineteenth-century capitalism and the ideas about masculinity and femininity familiar to us today created one another.The Mission Complex: Economic Development, “Civilization,” and Empire in the Early Republic.

Houses Divided: The Cultural Economy of Emancipation in the Civil War North

Brian P. Luskey

This essay examines late-antebellum portrayals of Irish servant women in popular culture and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society’s (PAS) wartime correspondence with northern employers eager to obtain access to southern freedpeople. In these sources, white northerners filtered their characterizations of women’s bodies and behaviors through ideologies of gender and race to create submissive and transgressive social types representing ideal and less-than-ideal workers. These declarations about workers, yoked to the northern argument that emancipation was both an act of benevolence and a period of necessary instruction for black southerners in the habits and practices of wage labor, propelled northern benevolent associations, armies, and the state to forge a transportation network that they hoped would ensure the flow of workers northward. This network proved short-lived, ultimately foundering on a lack of funding and employers’ and employees’ mutual disappointment with each other. And yet, because of their wartime cultural work, employers could pivot to a position of even greater strength over white and black workers in the political economy of wage labor.

Seeking a Quantitative Middle Ground: Reflections on Methods and Opportunities in Economic History

Caitlin Rosenthal

Historical research into economic topics is booming: The history of capitalism is on the march, Atlantic and Pacific histories have invigorated research on trade and merchants, and environmental history is increasingly economic. But this new popularity has generally not been accompanied by increased collaboration or even interaction with colleagues working in departments. The sources of this standoff are many, but prominent among them is the role of numbers. What should we count? And what should we do with the multitude of numbers and tables that punctuate early American documents? We have much to gain from more extensive use of quantitative sources. However, historians should return to quantification with caution: Not as novice cliometricians, but as the beneficiaries of cultural and social history. New research has already begun to stake out a kind of quantitative middle ground, combining close and distant reading and approaching numerical sources both as sources of data and as narrative structures with politics.


Danielle Skeehan

Reading eighteenth-century Atlantic media with an eye to the material conditions of production, circulation, and consumption provides new ways of understanding how the circulation of goods—in this case, texts and textiles—fosters new forms of expression as well as new kinds of subjects. Textiles were central to the rise of eighteenth-century print culture and public prints have more to tell us than the words inked on the page: printed on rag paper and stitched together with a variety of different threads, texts bear the mark of men and women laboring in flax fields and as spinners, weavers, seamstresses, and laundresses and as rag pickers and papermakers. In this sense, literature and commerce—discourse and economy—collide to produce new forms of expression that, in turn, foster consuming publics of both words and goods. By approaching the texts and objects that facilitate commercial exchange with an eye to their poetic or formalistic qualities, we can see how the formal elements of the writing reflect and comment on manufacturing processes and commercial exchanges. That is, we can see how words might have a material presence, as well as how goods might participate in the discursive production of culture.

There Are Still Atlanticists Now: A Subfield Reborn

Michelle Craig McDonald

Scholarship connecting the Americas to each other, as well as to Africa and Europe on the Atlantic’s eastern shores, has appeared in print since the early twentieth century, but the codification of “Atlantic history” as a discrete academic endeavor gained momentum in the late 1980s. This article traces the development of Atlantic history in the last three decades, with a special emphasis on the last ten years, or since the supposed “decline” in scholarly support for the field. Atlantic scholars have justifiably been criticized, even from some of its foremost former practitioners, for too narrowly defining the scope of their research—chronologically and geographically, and as well as racially and ethnically. Far from declining, however, a survey of work published in three journals indicates that the subfield continues to offer a useful scholarly framework, one that has been reinvigorated by new inter-disciplinary and poly-linguistic approaches that seek to mediate earlier lacuna while still emphasizing the vibrant synergies that connected the countries and colonies that ring the Atlantic Ocean.

Mind the Global U-Turn: Reorienting Early American History in a Global and Commercial Context

Edward P. Pompeian

This article evaluates the global approach to the early United States and reconsiders the significance of Atlantic history for historians of the Early American Republic. It focuses on the multivalent way that commerce forged cross-cultural relations between the United States and other world regions through commodity chains and trade network, many of which originated long before the independence of the United States. This survey suggests that those who seek to understand the Early Republic in a global context would be best served by a long-nineteenth-century-perspective that looks backward to the eighteenth century rather than forward to the mid- to late-nineteenth century. It calls for historians of the Early American Republic to apply trans-local analysis to reorient the field in new directions and to realize the promise of the global approach. To properly understand the country’s early economy, society, and culture in a global or transnational context, historians of the early United States must adopt multi-lingual and multi-archival research methodologies that account for all sides of cross-cultural exchange. By resisting circular analytical and methodological pathways that start the global approach with the nation-state and end with the nation-state, they might better understand the significance and effects of global entanglements for the Early Republic and other peoples and places outside the United States too. Thereby, they might avoid the global U-turn.

What Counts?: Political Economy, or Ways to Make Early America Add Up

Dael A. Norwood

The field of early American political economy has quietly grown in the last decade, as historians have used a flexible framework to analyze how a wide variety of economic practices and ideas related to formal and informal political formations. Using capacious definitions of “political economy,” historians have followed in the footsteps of their sources, early American political economists, who, unsure of the range of the mechanisms and forces they were trying to describe, were wary of too narrowly delimiting their field of investigation. In contrast to other methodological approaches to early American economic practice, historians investigating political economy have largely been keen to “keep early America weird,” recognizing the unfamiliar and the dissonant in the past while generating important new perspectives on topics of perennial interest, such as the links between slavery and economic growth, and opening new inquiries into state-formation, market-creation, and the import of the early republic’s global connections. This essay highlights some of the common themes and questions driving recent work, delineates how histories of political economy both fit within and diverge from new histories of capitalism, and offers suggestions for further study.

Follow the Money: The Return of Finance in the Early Republic

Stephen Mihm

The recent resurgence of interest in economic and business history -- popularly known as the new “history of capitalism” -- has prompted many American historians to revisit subjects long neglected in their particular subfields. Much of this new work has focused on a particular dimension of capitalism: finance. For historians of the early American republic, the history of finance has been especially neglected. This article examines why these subjects have generally escaped attention, and offers a theoretical framework for understanding finance during this period. Finally, it offers a detailed roadmap to new avenues for research into a range of promising, if little-studied, topics.


“James Madison Problems”: Three New Works

Greg Weiner

The Mind of James Madison: The Legacy of Classical Republicanism. By Colleen Sheehan. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. 275. Cloth, $95.00.)

James Madison and Constitutional Imperfection. By Jeremy D. Bailey. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Pp. 181. Paper, $29.99.)

Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention
. By Mary Sarah Bilder. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015. Pp. 358. Cloth, $35.00.)


A History of Stepfamilies in Early America by Lisa Wilson (review) 
Mary Beth Sievens

Becoming Men of Some Consequence: Youth and Military Service in the Revolutionary War by John A. Ruddiman (review)

J. L. Bell 

The American Revolution in New Jersey: Where the Battlefront Meets the Home Front ed. by James J. Gigantino II (review)

Mark Edward Lender 

Washington’s Revolution: The Making of America’s First Leader by Robert Middlekauff (review)

Jeff Broadwater 

The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston: North America and Lower Canada, 1796–1800 ed. by Louise V. North (review)

Daniel Kilbride 

Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 12, March 1797–April 1798 ed. by Sara Martin, et al. (review)

Edith B. Gelles 

Glorious Victory: Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans by Donald R. Hickey (review)

Alexander V. Marriott 

The Life of William Apess, Pequot by Philip F. Gura (review)

Rochelle Raineri Zuck 

Professional Indian: The American Odyssey of Eleazer Williams by Michael Leroy Oberg (review)

Edward E. Andrews 

True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity by Dane A. Morrison (review)

Will B. Mackintosh 

Slavish Shore: The Odyssey of Richard Henry Dana Jr by Jeffrey L. Amestoy (review)

Brian Rouleau

Amistad’s Orphans: An Atlantic Story of Children, Slavery, and Smuggling by Benjamin N. Lawrance (review)

Craig Hollander 

The British Gentry, the Southern Planter, and the Northern Family Farmer: Agriculture and Sectional Antagonism in North America by James L. Huston (review)

James Brewer Stewart

Summer 2016 Vol. 36.2

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The Etymology of Nigger: Resistance, Language, and the Politics of Freedom in the Antebellum North

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor

Recent scholarship presumes that the word “nigger” has always been a racist epithet thrust upon African Americans to demean Black social identity in the United States. But how is it, then, that the word “nigger” emerge as a slur more virulent than other racially coded language from the post-revolutionary period such as “African,” “Black,” and “darky?” This article demonstrates that before 21st century hip hop made popular the word “nigga” with a soft “a,” “nigger” had long been two words with multiple meanings: one for Black speakers and another for white. Using evidence drawn from blackface literary and cultural productions from the 1770s to the 1840s and from the writings, speeches and memoirs of Black activists and authors from the 1820s to the 1860s, this article shows that the violence and power behind the word was based precisely on the fact that African American laborers used the word themselves. “Nigger” had once described an actual labor category. Black laborers thus adopted it into their own vocabulary as a social identity to claim a sense of national belonging, akin to a proto-pan-Africanism. Once blackface theatrical productions gained popularity in the early 1830s, in a trick of ventriloquy, white performers and later their audiences put the word “nigger” into the mouths of Black caricatures to authenticate these anti-Black portrayals. In doing so, whites blamed Black people for using language meant to subjugate them and thus accused African Americans for being self-acknowledged “niggers,” a discursive weapon in the fight for white supremacy that, in turn, buttressed white notions of national belonging. In response, Black transatlantic abolitionists denounced white usage as a great verbal symbol of American hypocrisy.

“Anti Societies Are Now All the Rage”: Jokes, Criticism, and Violence in Response to the Transformation of American Reform, 1825–1835

Maartje Janse

Taking a series of popular jokes about fictitious “anti-societies” as its point of departure, this article explores the responses to the transformation of reform in the decade between 1825 and 1835 and places them in the context of social and political change brought about by Evangelicalism and Jacksonian democracy. Rooted in the tradition of the moral reform society, through specialization of its aims, the anti-society seemed to become a democratic pendant of older reform societies and was thought to play a divisive role in local communities. Critics denounced the new societies for their prescriptive character, the prominent role women played, and the “spirit of opposition” they triggered.

Contemporaries increasingly understood the evolution of reform culture from the relatively harmonious religious and moral reform societies of the Benevolent Empire of the first quarter of the 19th century to the oppositional and highly contested organizations of radical antislavery and temperance of the 1830s as a serious threat to the social order and the future of the United States. Using the Benign Violation Theory of Humor, this article argues that the American reaction to anti-societies suggests that while they were broadly perceived as a threat to the social order from the late 1820s on, this threat was at first understood to be benign, and thus could be laughed off, while from 1833 on, anti-societies were increasingly regarded as a destructive force, and provoked substantial fears that could justify violent responses as an alternative way to reinforce the “normal” order of things.

Slaves, Spaniards, and Subversion in Early Louisiana: The Persistent Fears of Black Revolt and Spanish Collusion in Territorial Louisiana, 1803–1812

Eric Herschthal

Scholars of the early republic have tended to overlook the extent to which elite U.S. officials feared that enslaved and free people of color might collude with local Spanish officials in the Louisiana borderlands, and in so doing threaten plans for westward expansion. By exposing these fears and explaining the reasons for them, this article attempts to show how enslaved and free people of color, combined with local Spanish officials, posed a serious challenge to the United States’ attempt to gain control over the trans-Appalachian west. Several factors explain why U.S. officials feared Spanish and black collusion: First, U.S. officials worried that Louisiana’s black population might rebel at the loss of the rights granted to them during period of Spanish colonial rule. Second, after the U.S. took control of Louisiana, slaves continually escaped to Spanish Texas with the explicit encouragement of local Spanish officials, who tried to weaken U.S. authority over Louisiana. Last, enslaved and free people of color exploited the tumult unleashed by the Spanish Atlantic empire’s rapid collapse. By the end of the territorial period, U.S. officials’ fears of a slave revolt, I argue, had less to do with the Haitian Revolution than with the Latin American Wars of Independence, which began in 1810. Ultimately, this paper suggests the need to take seriously the joint role played by local Spanish and black actors in the broader imperial struggle for the trans-Appalachian west.

Politics in and of Women's History in the Early Republic

Introduction: Politics in and of Women’s History in the Early American Republic

Carol Lasser 

This introduction to a forum interrogates whether the vast explosion of scholarship about women in the early American republic has changed the way in which the history of that period is now written. It locates the work of forum contributors Lori Ginzberg, Patricia Cline Cohen, Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor, Amy Dru Stanley and Jennifer L. Morgan in relation to each other, and to relevant historiography.

Mainstreams and Cutting Edges

Lori D. Ginzberg

In this think piece, the author argues that the “grand American narrative” has remained surprisingly impervious to several decades of the feminist challenge. She muses about why this might be the case, notes some political implications of sustaining a traditional narrative, and offers several metaphors to help historians re-imagine a new history.

On Integrating the History of Women into the Narrative of the Early Republic: A Forty-Year Perspective

Patricia Cline Cohen

This essay assesses the degree to which the field of nineteenth-century U.S. Women’s History has had an impact on the basic narrative of U.S. History as presented in general survey courses and associated textbooks over the last four decades. What methods did scholars in the 1970s envision to mainstream this new body of specialized knowledge into the curriculum? How successful has that project been?

The Personal Is Political Economy

Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor

The study of the history of political economy seems indifferent to gender or the actions of women. Emphasis on financialization rather than industrialization de-emphasizes the role of paid and unpaid women’s labor. Highlighting gender makes for a truer, richer history.

Histories of Capitalism and Sex Difference

Amy Dru Stanley

This essay argues that the insights of a previous generation of feminist historians about the significance of sex and gender in the history of American political economy have been overlooked by scholars calling for the writing of a "new" history of capitalism.

Periodization Problems: Race and Gender in the History of the Early Republic

Jennifer L. Morgan

In this article, Jennifer Morgan considers the scholarship on histories of gender and slavery with a particular focus on the conceptual framework of "Early Republic," and how periodizing frames both highlight and occlude the historiography of gender and slavery.

Surveying the Fields

The Religious and the Secular in the Early American Republic

Christopher Grasso

Scholarship on religion in the early American republic is often shaped by two historical narratives. One is the story of the efflorescence of religion—its power, pervasiveness, and plurality. The second is the account of secularization. Once seen as the waning of religion’s power with the advent of modernity, secularization has recently been reimagined and recast by scholars in several disciplines. But to explore some themes at the intersection of recent religious histories of the early republic and neo-secularization theory is no easy task because of the instability and ambiguity of the very terms at the center of discussion: the religious and the secular. This essay reviews recent studies of the Enlightenment, the Revolution, and disestablishment and shows how they employ the categories of the religious and the secular in strikingly different ways. Seeing how these authors construct (or assume) these categories brings their works into a more productive conversation.

Review Essay

The Significance of the Frontier in American History

Daniel Walker Howe


Founding Friendships: Friendships between Men and Women in the Early American Republic by Cassandra Good (review)

C. Dallett Hemphill

Patriotism and Piety: Federalist Politics and Religious Struggle in the New American Nation by Jonathan J. Den Hartog (review)

Benjamin E. Park

Tyrannicide: Forging an American Law of Slavery in Revolutionary South Carolina and Massachusetts by Emily Blanck (review)

James J. Gigantino II

Amelioration and Empire: Progress and Slavery in the Plantation Americas by Christa Dierksheide (review)

Douglas R. Egerton

A Tale of Two Plantations: Slave Life and Labor in Jamaica and Virginia by Richard S. Dunn (review)

John N. Blanton

The Lives of Chang & Eng: Siam’s Twins in Nineteenth Century America by Joseph Andrew Orser (review)

Matthew Wittmann

Capitalism by Gaslight: Illuminating the Economy of Nineteenth-Century America ed. by Brian P. Luskey and Wendy A. Woloson (review)

Gautham Rao

The Many Panics of 1837: People, Politics, and the Creation of a Transatlantic Financial Crisis by Jessica M. Lepler (review)

Sara T. Damiano

The Creole Affair: The Slave Rebellion That Led the U.S. and Great Britain to the Brink of War by Arthur T. Downey (review)

Michael Schoeppner

With Sails Whitening Every Sea: Mariners and the Making of an American Maritime Empire by Brian Rouleau (review)

David Head

A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg (review)

Matthew Mason

Rush to Gold: The French and the California Gold Rush, 1848–1854 by Malcolm J. Rohrbough (review)

Emmanuelle Perez Tisserant


Spring 2016 Vol. 36.1

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Science in the Early Republic

The Long Life of William Blanding: Doctor, Apothecary, Naturalist

Ann Fabian

William Blanding, physician and naturalist, was born in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, in 1773. He graduated from Rhode Island College (Brown University), studied with a Massachusetts doctor and moved to Camden, South Carolina, where he spent the next several decades, treating patients and running an apothecary shop. In the 1830s, he retired to Philadelphia and then finally returned to Massachusetts to die in 1857 on the farm where he’d been born. This essay, based on the 2015 SHEAR presidential address, uses Blanding’s correspondence to explore connections between the everyday concerns of this man and his family and the larger economic, political, and cultural issues that shape the history of the Early American Republic. It explores Blanding’s place in a network of amateur American naturalists, looks at the importance of his wife’s benevolent networks, traces his ties to the slave-based economy of South Carolina and to former slaves settled in Liberia, and, using the Cistuda blandingii (“Blanding’s turtle”) that bears his name, teases out histories behind the specimens Blanding collected and donated to Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences.

The Point of Perfection: Cattle Portraiture, Bloodlines, and the Meaning of Breeding, 1760-1860

Emily Pawley

Portraits of famous cattle, sheep and horses crowded the agricultural journals on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1830s, 40s, and 50s. More than simple representations, these images were intended to shape the animals they showed-establishing standards of taste that would allow breeders to create “thrifty” meat-producing bodies, while advertising the bloodlines of already thrifty animals. In doing so, they became central to the expansion of a new form of domestic animal: the “improved breed.” In the early eighteenth century, “breeds” had been understood to emerge from particular kinds of places. Emerging in the mid-eighteenth “improved breeds” came to be defined by rules of ‘blood’ and kinship. Improved cattle were novel bodies; they grew to enormous sizes, came in new shapes and colors, and dominated the new agricultural fairs. Their blood relationships, the source of their value, were recorded not only in internationally circulated record books, but also in a linked and elaborate tradition of portraiture. This article shows how the transatlantic circulation of cattle portraits shaped both the changing definition of breed and the bodies of the animals defined. As cattle were bred to match new forms of taste, made concrete by prices in the market, portraits and cattle became more uniform. At the same time, the paper argues, ideas about the meaning of these changes diverged and fragmented. Recorded over generations by portraits, changing cattle bodies lent themselves to radically different ideas about nature, and about human and divine capacity to shape living bodies.

Science in Early America: Print Culture and the Sciences of Territoriality

Conevery Bolton Valencius, David I. Spanagel, Emily Pawley, Sara Stidstone Gronim, Paul Lucier

This collaboration promotes a broad reconsideration of science in the early American republic. We argue that scientific activity permeated early American society, but appeared in different forms and in different places than most historical literature has identified. Mathematical tables and astronomical charts in almanacs, snippets on chemistry and climate in agricultural journals, illustrations of mineral resources in geological maps, accessibly-written resource analysis in consulting reports, and articles in local newspapers arguing about causes of phenomena from the mundane to the surprising: all express a pervasive commitment to scientific ideas, questions, and investigation. These diverse genres of print, moreover, evidence a society that strongly valued studies of the natural world for their connections with important contemporary human endeavors. In the early republic scientific questions were deeply interwoven with commerce, with territorial claims, and with moral order: Early Americans mapped the world conceptually in order to claim it for some people and not for others. We identify a constellation of interests that we call the ‘‘sciences of territoriality’’ centered on the description and appropriation of natural resources. Our investigation of print culture both emphasizes an often-ignored facet of the early American republic-that scientific thinking was as ubiquitous and as taken for granted as religion or politics-and reveals particular, often unrecognized, characteristics of science in the early United States. The commercial and moral forces underlying the ‘‘sciences of territoriality,’’ combined with widespread literacy and an active broad-based print culture, deeply shaped early epistemological hierarchies in the United States.


The Foreign Intercourse Bill of 1798 and the Debate over Early American Foreign Relations

Robert W. Smith

Between January and March of 1798 the House of Representatives debated the foreign intercourse bill, which would fund the diplomatic corps for the next two years. This was a generally a routine function, but it soon became a wide-ranging debate over the basis nature of American diplomacy, and of the American republic itself. The debate revealed something important about the politics of the 1790s. Given that republics were inherently fragile, even seemingly small matters might destroy the American republic. Both Republicans and Federalists proceeded from this assumption. The debate fell into three broad categories. First was the question of who should be appointed. The Republicans accused President Adams of using additional diplomatic appointments as a vehicle to create a patronage machine that would corrupt Congress. The Federalists that countered that amount of patronage available was insignificant, and that that the president was justified in excluding Republicans from office. Second was the question of who should control the appointments. This led back to the control of American foreign policy. The Republicans argued for congressional control through the appropriation and war powers. The Federalists contended for presidential control through the treaty and appointment powers. Third was the question of whether diplomats should be appointed at all. The Republicans believed that trade would allow the United States to secure its diplomatic goals without recourse to the normal institutions of diplomacy. The Republicans considered the United States as existing outside the European balance of power. The Federalists saw no choice but to play by the generally established rules, and thus must appoint diplomats.

Review Essay

Beckert Is Liverpool, Baptist Is New Orleans: Geography Returns to the History of Capitalism

Dan Rood


Siblings: Brothers and Sisters in American History by C. Dallett Hemphill (review)

Vivian Bruce Conger

Sex and the Founding Fathers: The American Quest for a Relatable Past by Thomas A. Foster (review)

Brian Steele

Propaganda 1776: Secrets, Leaks, and Revolutionary Communications in Early America by Russ Castronovo (review)

William B. Warner

A Hercules in the Cradle: War, Money, and the American State, 1783-1867 by Max M. Edling (review)

Terry Bouton

Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City by Catherine McNeur (review)

Gergely Baics

A Lenape among the Quakers: The Life of Hannah Freeman by Dawn G. Marsh (review)

Gunlög Fur

Native Tongues: Colonialism and Race from Encounter to the Reservation by Sean P. Harvey (review)

Phillip Round

The Settlers’ Empire: Colonialism and State Formation in America’s Old Northwestby Bethel Saler (review)

Lawrence B. A. Hatter

Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War by Lowell J. Soike (review)

Brie Swenson Arnold

The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865 by James J. Gigantino (review)

Jonathan Mercantini

Freedom’s Delay: America’s Struggle for Emancipation, 1776-1865 by Allen Carden (review)

Michael D. Robinson

Emotional and Sectional Conflict in the Antebellum United States by Michael E. Woods (review)

Erin Austin Dwyer

Winter 2015 Vol. 35.4

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Reassessing Responses to the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions: New Evidence from the Tennessee and Georgia Resolutions and from Other States

Wendell Bird

The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798, which headed the Republican attack on the Alien and Sedition Acts, are almost always described as being “rebuffed by all the other states” so that “none of the other fourteen state legislatures followed” in “declaring the Alien and Sedition Acts unconstitutional.” That is puzzling, since Madison’s and Jefferson’s resolutions are also generally regarded as the opening shots of the election of 1800, in which by contrast the Republicans were far from rebuffed or rejected.

That conventional description, besides being puzzling, is false. This article revisits the legislative journals, manuscript evidence, and period newspapers for each of the other states, and concludes that only half the sixteen states opposed the resolutions, while fully half of the sixteen states either supported or did not oppose the resolutions. It finds that Virginia and Kentucky received the support they requested through overlooked Tennessee and Georgia Resolutions (which called for repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts), and that legislatures divided in two states, while legislatures chose not to oppose the resolutions in the remaining two states. These findings, based on original research, challenge the conventional view of the abject failure of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, and of their rejection by the other states.

There are many broader implications of an accurate view of the reception of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, which challenge conventional views about constitutional theories of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson in the Resolutions, about their expansive view of freedoms of press and speech being newly formulated, and about the Republican interest being undeveloped and far from a coordinated political party.

A “Voice of Benevolence from the Western Wilderness”: The Politics of Native Philanthropy in the Trans-Mississippi West

Anelise Hanson Shrout

In 1847, Cherokee and Choctaws in Indian Territory raised over $800 to help victims of famine in Ireland. Their donations were part of one of the earliest instances of transnational disaster philanthropy, and Cherokees and Choctaws were extremely unlikely donors. Just over a decade earlier they had forced off of their lands in the American southeast and marched west along the “Trail of Tears.” These events cost much in both property and lives. In the aftermath of this trauma, American Indians found the resources – both monetary and emotional – to give to a suffering population an ocean away. While many American commentators considered these contributions as evidence of the success of missions to “civilize the Indian,” this article argues that these philanthropic acts should be read neither as acts of acculturative generosity nor as unconnected and unique charitable outbursts. Rather, I see them as engagements with American political culture, as ways to comment on missionaries’ projects and to engage with American Indian policy. These donations were products of intersecting loyalties, sympathies and animosities that grew out of parallels between Indians’ experiences at the hands of the American government, and Irish experiences at the hands of the British government. The Cherokee and Choctaw donations exemplified a new set of meanings that came to be ascribed to philanthropy in the nineteenth century. This article positions Native philanthropy as part of a constellation of familiar, but nonetheless deeply political practices that those excluded from formal politics were able to deploy in nineteenth-century America.

Trick or Constitutional Treaty?: The Jay Treaty and the Quarrel over the Diplomatic Separation of Powers

Amanda C. Demmer

Scholars have long recognized the Jay Treaty as a definitive, divisive moment in early American political culture. As the first treaty the U.S. negotiated with a European power under the Constitution, this moment also marked the first public debate over many of the Constitution’s foreign policy provisions. To a greater extent than has been traditionally acknowledged, the Jay Treaty debate was a controversy about which branch(es) of government would dominate American foreign policy.

This essay examines that debate, with a focus on Republican criticisms levied during the summer of 1795. While Republicans disapproved of the Jay Treaty for many reasons, they immediately and consistently charged the treaty was unconstitutional. The sum and spirit of their critique rested on the premise that the treaty violated the separation of powers. More specifically, Republicans maintained that President George Washington and the Senate had usurped their constitutional authority by exercising powers that were reserved to the legislature, or the Senate and House of Representatives in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. The fight over the Jay Treaty quickly became about much more than the specific terms of the Jay Treaty or treaty-making in general; because the nation’s foreign and domestic affairs were intertwined, the Republican experiment itself seemed at risk. The debate over the Jay Treaty demonstrates the difficulty of putting abstract constitutional principles like the separation of powers into practice and reminds us that many precedents that would later be taken as givens remained undefined in the 1790s.

“The Music of a well tun’d State”: “The Star Spangled Banner” and the Development of a Federalist Musical Tradition

William Coleman

The Star Spangled Banner is typically considered in relation to the immediate story of its composition – that during the War of 1812, while in full view of battle, Francis Scott Key found the inspiration to write a truly and enduringly patriotic anthem. However, it’s less well understood that Key’s moment of patriotic inspiration occurred within a particular political context and that its composition built on a long legacy of Federalist musical thought and action. This article connects Key and The Star Spangled Banner to an older Federalist conception of music in politics and in so doing contributes to an ‘elite turn’ in our understanding of early American political culture. Through a distinctively historical approach to the examination of music and politics it is found that Federalism may bear more responsibility for the rise of popular American political culture than commonly thought. Influenced by contemporaneous English debates, Federalists justified their own top-down approach to popular patriotic music by appealing to music’s capacity to moderate the temperament, to instill support in the nation’s leaders, and to soothe rather than inflame factional differences. The composition of The Star Spangled Banner, in effect, represented a culmination of Federalist efforts to use music as part of a political strategy to ensure their elite values were reflected in national culture.

Review Essay

Digitizing Dolley, and Eliza and Harriott Pinckney

Mary Carroll Johansen


Edited by Sean P. Harvey and Lucia McMahon

Paul W. Mapp

Dangerous Guests: Enemy Captives and Revolutionary Communities during the War for Independence by Ken Miller (review)

Friederike Baer

The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding by Eric Nelson (review)

Robert W. T. Martin

Founders as Fathers: The Private Lives and Politics of the American Revolutionariesby Lorri Glover (review)

Charlene Boyer Lewis

Robert Morris’s Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder by Ryan K. Smith (review)

Gabrielle M. Lanier

Ingenious Machinists: Two Inventive Lives from the American Industrial Revolutionby Anthony J. Connors (review)

Robert Martello

Era of Experimentation: American Political Practices in the Early Republic by Daniel Peart (review)

Andrew Shankman

Parading Patriotism: Independence Day Celebrations in the Urban Midwest, 1826–1876 by Adam Criblez (review)

Kelly Wenig

Gender and Race in Antebellum Popular Culture by Sarah N. Roth (review)

Holly M. Kent

The Weston Sisters: An American Abolitionist Family by Lee V. Chambers (review)

Beth A. Salerno

The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republicby John Demos (review)

Kariann Akemi Yokota

Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation by Rebecca J. Scott and Jean M. Hébrard (review)

Christopher Hodson