America's Jubilee: HOw In 1826 A Generation Remembered Fifty Years Of Independence by Andrew Burstein, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
America's Jubilee: HOw In 1826 A Generation Remembered Fifty Years Of Independence

America's Jubilee: HOw In 1826 A Generation Remembered Fifty Years Of Independence

by Andrew Burstein
On July 4, 1826, the United States celebrated its fiftieth birthday with parades and speeches across the country. But what ultimately sanctified the national jubilee in the minds of the celebrants was an extraordinary coincidence: the nearly simultaneous deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the last pillars of the original republic, already venerated as


On July 4, 1826, the United States celebrated its fiftieth birthday with parades and speeches across the country. But what ultimately sanctified the national jubilee in the minds of the celebrants was an extraordinary coincidence: the nearly simultaneous deaths of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the last pillars of the original republic, already venerated as legends in their own time. It was a watershed in the nation's history, a bright moment when the successors to the Revolutionary dream examined their own lives as they took inspiration from and found nostalgia in the accomplishments of the founders.

In this fascinating book, the distinguished historian Andrew Burstein explores what it was to be an American in 1826. Drawing on private diaries and letters, daily newspapers, and long-buried publications, he shows us the personal lives behind the pageantry and reveals an acutely self-conscious nation–anxiously optimistic about its future, eager to romanticize the Revolutionary past.

We follow the Marquis de Lafayette, the only surviving general of the War of Independence, on his triumphant 1825 tour of all twenty-four states. We visit an Ohio boomtown on the edge of the "new West," a region influenced by the Erie Canal and the commercialism that canal culture brought with it. We see through the eyes of ordinary citizens–the wife of a Massachusetts minister, the author of a popular novel of the day, the family of a prominent statesman–and learn about their gritty understanding of life and death, the nuances of contemporary sexual politics, and the sometimes treacherous drama of public debate. And we meet headline-makers such as the orneryPresident John Quincy Adams, the controversial Secretary of State Henry Clay, and the notoriously hot-tempered General Andrew Jackson, struggling to act in a statesmanlike way as he waits to be swept into the White House.

In this evocative portrait of the United States in its jubilee year, Burstein shows how 1826 marked an unforgettable time in the republic's history, when a generation embraced the legacy of its predecessors and sought to enlarge its role in America's story.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
On July 4, 1826, America celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and the founding of the republic. America's Jubilee is a lively and well-written series of snapshots that attempts to render the pulse of the nation at that auspicious moment on the eve of jubilation and celebration.

Eighteen twenty-six was not only a year in which to rejoice about a half-century of independence. It was a very important marker in America's history. Bridging the contested election of 1824 and the emergence of the Age of Jackson in 1828, it marked the year of transition for the young nation: the end of government by the Founding Fathers. Indeed, it signaled the end of the Revolutionary War generation's domination of the White House. In 1826, America chose the path that would lead it from the end of the romantic era to the first moments of the modern age.

Professor Burstein's narrative draws on events in the lives of a number of early-19th-century America's famous and not-so-famous citizens. It employs interdisciplinary methods to weave a complex and uniquely American quilt. Some of the stories of John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and the most famous "Nation's Guest," the Marquis de Lafayette, are well known. America's Jubilee is particularly strong as it unfolds the last days of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. These two giants of the heroic generation both died, hours apart, on July 4, 1826. With their passing, we become witnesses to the death of an era. But America's Jubilee is less about retelling the myths of the Great Men then it is about giving us a lively insight into the checkered cultures that flourished across the young nation at this moment of national reflection.

The book is at its best as it recovers and re-presents to us glimpses into the world of everyday 19th-century America. We hear about mother-and-daughter novelists Hannah and Eliza Foster, already busy at romanticizing the great epoch recently past. We find a particularly lively sketch about William Wirt, an early-19th-century workaholic attorney, who juggles family obligations and duty to the state. In the portrait of Governor Ethan Allen Brown, we gain new insight into the rush to build canals, which provided the bridge between the American wilderness and the dawn of the industrial age. At the same time, as we read about everyday from the journal of Ruth Bascom, wife of Reverend Ezekiel Bascom, we get a vibrant sense of small-town New England life in the first quarter of the 19th century. Although there is no inherent drama, there is a compelling document fashioned.

In telling all these stories and others, Professor Burstein weaves an American quilt as complex as the many crises the young republic faced and survived in its earliest years. As we moved in 1826 from the issues that formed and fashioned us to those which would bring us to the brink of civil war, we stopped as a young nation, and celebrated the past, wildly enthusiastic for what was still ahead. America's Jubilee sets us on the road to illuminate our evolution, while it explores and demystifies our most cherished collective national memories.

Elena Pinto Simon lives in New York City.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It has become fashionable for historians to select a given year as the focus of their inquiry and to give a portrait of a country or the whole world in that year (see Louis P. Maur's 1831, Forecasts, Dec. 11, and John E. Wills's 1688, Forecasts, Dec. 18). Burstein selects the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence as his moment in this engrossing look at America in transition from fledgling nation to great power. On July 4, 1826, the nation's last surviving founders, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both died. That year, then, was a time of both celebration and mourning for Americans. Burstein (whom readers may remember as a talking head in Ken Burns's documentary on Thomas Jefferson) introduces us to Ethan Allen Brown--the governor of Ohio and an avid proponent of the Erie Canal--who argued that Americans should improve the nation's infrastructure in the interests of connecting disparate people and advancing trade. He then discusses a year in the presidency of John Quincy Adams, who also advocated internal improvements in order to unify the nation, yet who was, Burstein says, a "failure as president" both on account of the diminishment in the power of the office after Jefferson and because of his own lack of political skill. The author also looks closely at the man soon to take power, Andrew Jackson, who had loyal friends and bitter enemies, and who spoke fiercely of the need to "defend the people's liberties." Although Burstein provides some insight into the lives of ordinary citizens of this time, his book is mostly a stately portrait of American politicians and elites in a year that, as Burstein convincingly argues, was pivotal in the nation's development. (Jan. 23) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Based on an extensive reading of memoirs, newspapers, and other primary sources, this book provides an evocative portrait of Americans as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Although Burstein (history, Tulsa Univ.; The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist) pays some attention to lesser-known figures, the main focus is on people like the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson. Some of the major episodes discussed include Lafayette's triumphal return to America in 1824, the nearly simultaneous deaths of Jefferson and the senior Adams in July 1826, and the presidency of the younger Adams. One underlying theme of this book is that when Americans in 1826 looked back on the past, they found inspiration while also exercising na ve, patriotic mythmaking. In its first 50 years, the United States had become a strong, prosperous nation while not quite living up to its promises of equality and justice for all. This book should appeal to a wide general readership. Highly recommended.--T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-In this engaging historical analysis, the author focuses on the jubilee generation, those Americans who remembered and celebrated 50 years of national independence. July 4, 1826, was a day of parades and speeches across the country. However, it was much more than that; it was a time of deep reverence for the Founding Fathers, of anxious optimism for the future, and of self-conscious soul searching in the present. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Burstein reviews the thoughts and actions of a host of Americans during that pivotal year. Ranging from the famous (John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson) to the unknown then or now, the author skillfully interweaves the stories of those citizens, providing the necessary political and social background to create a panoramic portrait of early 19th-century American life and character. In addition to the colorfully told anecdotes and insightful historical perspectives, teens should particularly enjoy the many striking differences between the daily lives of those people of 1826 and their own lives, as well as the equally striking similarities of deeper, universal concerns.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In 1826 Americans remembered and celebrated fifty years of independence with parades and speeches. America's Jubilee uses private diaries, letters, newspapers and publications to reveal the personal lives behind the pageantry and celebrations, and the survivors of the War of Independence. Chapter provide the words and experiences of ordinary citizens.

Product Details

Knopf Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.63(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.28(d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Burstein is the author of two previous books on American political culture: Sentimental Democracy: The Evolution of America's Romantic Self- Image (1999) and The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist (1995). He has had a varied career, working as a China scholar and international trade consultant before earning his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. At present he is a professor of history and coholder of the Mary Frances Barnard Chair at the University of Tulsa.

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