Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans

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The first generation of Americans inherited a truly new world - and, with it, the task of working out the terms of Independence. Anyone who started a business, marketed a new invention, ran for office, formed an association, or wrote for publication was helping to fashion the world's first liberal society." "Through data gathered on thousands of people, as well as hundreds of memoirs and autobiographies, Joyce Appleby tells myriad intersecting stories of how Americans who lived between 1776 and 1830 reinvented ...
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INHERITING THE REVOLUTION

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Overview

The first generation of Americans inherited a truly new world - and, with it, the task of working out the terms of Independence. Anyone who started a business, marketed a new invention, ran for office, formed an association, or wrote for publication was helping to fashion the world's first liberal society." "Through data gathered on thousands of people, as well as hundreds of memoirs and autobiographies, Joyce Appleby tells myriad intersecting stories of how Americans who lived between 1776 and 1830 reinvented themselves and their society in politics, economics, reform, religion, and culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Fred Anderson
[It] must also command the respect of all scholars who seek to understand the origins of American culture and identity.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Edward Countryman
Appleby deals with two themes...: the historical experience of the generation after the American Revolution and conflicts within American identity.
New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An esteemed historian of early America, Appleby (UCLA) has written a social history of "the first generation of Americans"--not those who fought the American Revolution but, as her title indicates, those who inherited it, who had to figure out just what their parents' bold declarations of liberty looked like on the ground. Appleby's lens is wide: she investigates religion, business, family life and politics, examining this generation's struggles with slavery, their musings on the proper role of women and their participation in evangelical revivals. One of the more innovative discussions comes in the chapter "Careers," in which Appleby argues that those who came of age after the revolution often earned their daily bread doing tasks their parents could not have imagined. Many continued to farm, of course, but others headed to cities to run businesses, teach school, preach sermons, build buildings, publish books. Indeed, Appleby notes that in the Revolutionary era, the term "career" "denote[d] a horse-racing course"; it was only after 1800 that it was used to describe the trajectory of a person's vocation. Appleby strains to pay attention to the South, but her book betrays a certain Northern bias--her focus on the development of capitalism and the incursion of the market better describe the industrializing North than the slaveholding South, which, in historian Eugene Genovese's phrase, was in the market, but not of it. But that is a small quibble with a wonderful book, which freshly conveys the energy and creativity unleashed in a generation forging a new national identity. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
KLIATT
The generation of Americans that came of age between 1790 and 1830 inherited a brand-new country and could, to an extent, create and shape it as they went along. How they did this is the focus of this sophisticated study. The reader needs a strong background in the history of 18th-century Americans to follow the thematic presentation in this text. Chapter headings such as "Enterprise," "Careers," and "Reform" indicate the author's groupings. Appleby offers some fascinating material on the growing split between the North and the South, on the growing application of Jeffersonian ideals in the daily life of the citizen, and on the growing mobility and flexibility of the lower and middle classes, but the reader must often supply his or her own framework for the author's tapestry. This is a valuable text for enrichment at the advanced placement level. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students, and adults. 2000, Harvard Univ. Press, Belknap, 322p. illus. notes. index., $16.00. Ages 17 to adult. Reviewer: Patricia A. Moore; Brookline, MA , November 2001 (Vol. 35, No. 6)
Edward Countryman
Whitmanesque, both in its complex but coherent vision and in its elegant expression . . . does not reduce its subjects to mere bearers of ascribed categories. . . . Appleby writes about a contradictory, difficult inheritance that was worth having.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A treasure-trove of information about the early Republic, recreating an era that mixed cultural and emotional chaos with unprecedented opportunities at all levels of society. Appleby (history/UCLA) paints the early 19th century as a time of tumultuous expansion of individualism, economic growth, and political engagement. The "first generation," born in the decades immediately following the revolution, applied their parents' idealistic challenges to authority to the reinvention of politics, commerce, and intimate relationships. Although Appleby's purpose is to examine social contexts rather than anomalous individuals, the materials she uses vividly evoke the lived experience of real people. Drawn from hundreds of diaries, letters, memoirs, and records of the obscure as well as the famous, her panorama comprises men and women, African-Americans and Europeans, and rich, middle-class, and poor Americans. Appleby dramatizes daily life in a brand-new nation in which dueling was an accepted form of political discourse, counterfeit currency was nearly as valuable as genuine, and young men and women sallied forth to adventures and careers their forebears could not have imagined. In the South, slavery promoted the concentration of wealth and a rigid caste system; in the more progressive North, new avenues to prosperity opened up with technological innovations and the aspirations that motivated them. Revolutionary ideals of cultural egalitarianism helped to spread the desire for literacy and "refinement" throughout the population, creating new opportunities for work in the business of culture. But entrepreneurial enterprise valued flexibility and originality attheexpense of familial loyalty and continuity with the past, fraying the relationships that had sustained earlier generations. Throughout the nation, the post-revolution generation reinvented the notions of religion, family, and destiny, forging an ideology that celebrated individual autonomy and elevated self-improvement stories to the status of myth. Appleby presents the explosion of possibilities at the beginning of the 19th century in sparkling, jargon-free prose and vibrant detail, producing an indispensable guide to a fascinating, turbulent time. (Illustrations.)
New York Times Book Review

Joyce Appleby deals with two themes in this book: the historical experience of the generation after the American Revolution and conflicts within American identity. The result is Whitmanesque, both in its complex but coherent vision and in its elegant expression.
— Edward Countryman

King Features Syndicate

[A] fascinating study of how citizens of the newly constituted form of government seized the opportunities their break with the Old World offered them.
— Ralph Hollenbeck

Philadelphia Enquirer

[Appleby] examines in exhaustive (but not exhausting) detail how "the first generation of Americans" reshaped virtually every aspect of American society. Commerce, religion, domestic life, personal behavior. They left nothing untouched, operating under the assumption that their "Revolutionary heritage" was nothing less than "a call to innovation, enterprise, reform and progress"
— Michael D. Schaffer

H-Net Book Reviews

[Appleby] gives us an extended meditation on what happened to American society during the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the Revolution...Her fine, well-informed intelligence plays across this vast sea of biographical information and recreates the world her subjects inhabited...Everything is made fresh in these pages. The combination of out-of-the-way stories unearthed from the autobiographies and Appleby's own ingenuity and insight puts the familiar in a new light.
— Richard Lyman Bushman

New Criterion

In her rich new book...[Appleby] argues that the first generation of Americans...experienced a degree of political and social change unrivalled before or since...This first generation reached a kind of closure about the meaning of democracy that has made it difficult for succeeding generations to articulate a vision of America other than the one they created: a society devoted to individualism and free enterprise...What emerges is a striking tale, on its face one of the most celebratory accounts of American gumption in recent historiography.
— Marc Arkin

Washington Post Book World

Appleby documents, in precise and persuasive detail, the evolution and elaboration of assumptions about what it is to be an American that we now take completely for granted. What we think of as the "natural phenomenon" of individualism, for example, she describes as first appearing in the "prototype for the self-made man," who eventually evolved into "a new character ideal...the man who developed inner resources, acted independently, lived virtuously, and bent his behavior to his personal goals—not the American Adam, but the American homo faber, the builder."
— Jonathan Yardley

Los Angeles Times Book Review

Joyce Appleby...has created a collective portrait of the generation of men and women born in the United States between 1776 and 1800, and on the basis of their lives and values ventures an answer to Crevecoeur's query that is intriguing, sophisticated and anything but exceptionalist. Anyone curious about how Americans came to understand themselves as a people would do well to read this book. Appleby maintains that Americans first defined their national identity by infusing meaning into the Revolution to which they were heirs...Inheriting the Revolution must also command the respect of all scholars who seek to understand the origins of American culture and identity.
— Fred Anderson

History

Inheriting the Revolution is a welcome addition to the now-rich literature on the early American republic. Informed by Joyce Appleby's deep knowledge of the period's politics and political ideology, it portrays a society in a fresh stage of development, and a people defining themselves in the context not just of a new nationhood, but of the material and geographical circumstances the American Revolution created. No one concerned with the early United States or the longer trajectory of US development should ignore this book.
— Christopher Clark

William and Mary Quarterly

The life histories are indeed a rich source, providing Appleby with the parade of arresting stories and anecdotes that grace her text…Joyce Appleby has accomplished the very difficult task of demonstrating ways in which men and women, simply by living and striving in what was for them a free environment, created the connection among revolutionary liberty, individual self-improvement, and national growth that became a powerful version of American-ness in the nineteenth century.
— Paul E. Johnson

The Journal of the Early Republic

In this sweeping and gracefully-written interpretation of the Republic's early decades, Joyce Appleby examines the aspirations and achievements of Americans who came of age between roughly 1790 and 1830…Appleby is sensitive to differences in race and gender, and she incorporates both African Americans and white women into her larger analysis of the period. Indeed, because she often uses stories of individual lives to illustrate general social and cultural trends, this book includes some fascinating vignettes of self-made women and men.
— Cynthia A. Kierner

The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

The result is an empirically grounded yet extraordinarily dynamic foray into the multivalent experience of America's first nation-builders…Appleby has nonetheless written a brilliant page-turner, filled with insights, and truly a feast of period detail for general history readers…Appleby has successfully taken on one of the most difficult tasks for early American historians: discovering the origins of American national identity in the welter of social and cultural forces shaping the new republic, while mindful of the civil calamity between North and South lying ahead.
— Dee E. Andrews

New York Times Book Review - Edward Countryman
Joyce Appleby deals with two themes in this book: the historical experience of the generation after the American Revolution and conflicts within American identity. The result is Whitmanesque, both in its complex but coherent vision and in its elegant expression.
King Features Syndicate - Ralph Hollenbeck
[A] fascinating study of how citizens of the newly constituted form of government seized the opportunities their break with the Old World offered them.
Philadelphia Enquirer - Michael D. Schaffer
[Appleby] examines in exhaustive (but not exhausting) detail how "the first generation of Americans" reshaped virtually every aspect of American society. Commerce, religion, domestic life, personal behavior. They left nothing untouched, operating under the assumption that their "Revolutionary heritage" was nothing less than "a call to innovation, enterprise, reform and progress"
H-Net Book Reviews - Richard Lyman Bushman
[Appleby] gives us an extended meditation on what happened to American society during the generation that grew up in the aftermath of the Revolution...Her fine, well-informed intelligence plays across this vast sea of biographical information and recreates the world her subjects inhabited...Everything is made fresh in these pages. The combination of out-of-the-way stories unearthed from the autobiographies and Appleby's own ingenuity and insight puts the familiar in a new light.
Jan Lewis
Joyce Appleby perfectly captures the world created by the sons and daughters of the American Revolution. Enterprising and energetic, mad about money and seemingly constantly on the move, deeply pious and convinced of their own capacity to shape their own destinies, they took their Revolutionary legacy and made it into the world that we still inhabit, if with a little less optimism and a better sense of its contradictions.
Jon Butler
Pungent, vivid narrative, magisterial sweep, and imaginative explorations fuel Appleby's compelling account of the early republic's improbable, extraordinary birth--a masterful achievement by one of our most distinguished historians.
Peter S. Onuf
Joyce Appleby's influential argument for the democratic transformation of post-revolutionary America takes on new power and persuasiveness in her engaging biographical portrait of The First Generation. Artfully weaving personal narratives and sophisticated analyses into an evocative account of a new people's coming of age, Appleby sets the agenda for a new generation of scholarship. While never losing sight of the conflicts and contradictions that jeopardized the nation's future prospects, she brilliantly captures the dynamism and energy of her extraordinary cohort.
Mary Kelley
Joyce Appleby's dazzling narrative takes us into the lives of the Americans who inherited the Revolution. With Appleby we glimpse the men and women--black and white, immigrant and old stock--who invented the distinctive social and cultural forms that we ourselves have inherited. We see ourselves anew in the originating impulses of participatory politics, in the rise of capitalist culture, in the shifting relation between the personal and the civic, and in the myriad ways in which we struggle to fulfill the promise of America. Reading Inheriting the Revolution we reckon with the America we are still making.
Daniel W. Howe
A highly original book, written very engagingly, by an author with a gift for apt phrases. The autobiographies include many fascinating accounts of little known people. Appleby's book will take an important place in the ongoing debates about its period. Inheriting the Revolution reflects the enthusiasm, maturity, common sense, and wisdom of its author.
New Criterion - Marc Arkin
In her rich new book...[Appleby] argues that the first generation of Americans...experienced a degree of political and social change unrivalled before or since...This first generation reached a kind of closure about the meaning of democracy that has made it difficult for succeeding generations to articulate a vision of America other than the one they created: a society devoted to individualism and free enterprise...What emerges is a striking tale, on its face one of the most celebratory accounts of American gumption in recent historiography.
Washington Post Book World - Jonathan Yardley
Appleby documents, in precise and persuasive detail, the evolution and elaboration of assumptions about what it is to be an American that we now take completely for granted. What we think of as the "natural phenomenon" of individualism, for example, she describes as first appearing in the "prototype for the self-made man," who eventually evolved into "a new character ideal...the man who developed inner resources, acted independently, lived virtuously, and bent his behavior to his personal goals--not the American Adam, but the American homo faber, the builder."
Los Angeles Times Book Review - Fred Anderson
Joyce Appleby...has created a collective portrait of the generation of men and women born in the United States between 1776 and 1800, and on the basis of their lives and values ventures an answer to Crevecoeur's query that is intriguing, sophisticated and anything but exceptionalist. Anyone curious about how Americans came to understand themselves as a people would do well to read this book. Appleby maintains that Americans first defined their national identity by infusing meaning into the Revolution to which they were heirs...Inheriting the Revolution must also command the respect of all scholars who seek to understand the origins of American culture and identity.
History - Christopher Clark
Inheriting the Revolution is a welcome addition to the now-rich literature on the early American republic. Informed by Joyce Appleby's deep knowledge of the period's politics and political ideology, it portrays a society in a fresh stage of development, and a people defining themselves in the context not just of a new nationhood, but of the material and geographical circumstances the American Revolution created. No one concerned with the early United States or the longer trajectory of US development should ignore this book.
William and Mary Quarterly - Paul E. Johnson
The life histories are indeed a rich source, providing Appleby with the parade of arresting stories and anecdotes that grace her text…Joyce Appleby has accomplished the very difficult task of demonstrating ways in which men and women, simply by living and striving in what was for them a free environment, created the connection among revolutionary liberty, individual self-improvement, and national growth that became a powerful version of American-ness in the nineteenth century.
The Journal of the Early Republic - Cynthia A. Kierner
In this sweeping and gracefully-written interpretation of the Republic's early decades, Joyce Appleby examines the aspirations and achievements of Americans who came of age between roughly 1790 and 1830…Appleby is sensitive to differences in race and gender, and she incorporates both African Americans and white women into her larger analysis of the period. Indeed, because she often uses stories of individual lives to illustrate general social and cultural trends, this book includes some fascinating vignettes of self-made women and men.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography - Dee E. Andrews
The result is an empirically grounded yet extraordinarily dynamic foray into the multivalent experience of America's first nation-builders…Appleby has nonetheless written a brilliant page-turner, filled with insights, and truly a feast of period detail for general history readers…Appleby has successfully taken on one of the most difficult tasks for early American historians: discovering the origins of American national identity in the welter of social and cultural forces shaping the new republic, while mindful of the civil calamity between North and South lying ahead.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674002364
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2000
  • Series: Belknap Press Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Joyce Appleby is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 1
2 Responding to a Revolutionary Tradition 26
3 Enterprise 56
4 Careers 90
5 Distinctions 129
6 Intimate Relations 161
7 Reform 194
8 A New National Identity 239
Notes 269
Index 313
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