Reading The Early Republic / Edition 1

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Overview

Reading the Early Republic focuses attention on the forgotten dynamism of thought in the founding era. In every case, the documents, novels, pamphlets, sermons, journals, and slave narratives of the early American nation are richer and more intricate than modern readers have perceived.

Rebellion, slavery, and treason--the mingled stories of the Revolution--still haunt national thought. Robert Ferguson shows that the legacy that made the country remains the idea of what it is still trying to become. He cuts through the pervading nostalgia about national beginnings to recapture the manic-depressive tones of its first expression. He also has much to say about the reconfiguration of charity in American life, the vital role of the classical ideal in projecting an unthinkable continental republic, the first manipulations of the independent American woman, and the troubled integration of civic and commercial understandings in the original claims of prosperity as national virtue.

Reading the Early Republic uses the living textual tradition against history to prove its case. The first formative writings are more than sacred artifacts. They remain the touchstones of the durable promise and the problems in republican thought

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

These fine essays analyze U.S. texts from the 1760s through the 1820s so as to illustrate the forms of expression, assumptions, conflicts, and ambivalences of the era. The texts include a remarkably broad spectrum, from the canonical Common Sense through slave narratives, notable court cases, popular novels, and the architecture of Monticello to The Last of the Mohicans. Two common themes linking the essays are that the language 'was richer and more nuanced than their inheritors' understood, and that the current generation could benefit from careful reconsideration of those complexities that are the foundation of American life. Useful insights abound.
— R. P. Gildrie

Law and History Review

[Reading the Early Republic is best described as a cohesive collection of discrete essays designed to show that very close reading of selected texts and episodes can shed new light on our understanding of the Revolutionary era broadly conceived...It is written with remarkable clarity and moves along at a varied pace that never fails to engage us. Reading the Early Republic is an innovative and distinguished contribution that enriches our understanding of the period.
— Michael Kammen

Early American Literature

Ferguson aspires to give us a knowledge of the past that remembers the intrinsic difference of its vitality, yet does not leave us to the crises of our moment without a sense of "answering relevance."
— Elisa Tamarkin

New England Quarterly

Reading the Early Republic revisits some of the most emblematic words and texts of that period and brings to the fore some forgotten individuals and documents to produce a thoroughgoing historical analysis of the new nation. In the process, Ferguson develops a portrayal of the period that serves as a powerful corrective to recent histories that emphasize national unity and ideological familiarity...Ferguson has also written a book with a surprising degree of relevance, revealing his intentions to speak to an audience outside academia.
— Carolyn Eastman

William and Mary Quarterly

A major contribution to literary and intellectual history, Reading the Early Republic also serves as a brilliant and formidable rebuttal to those policy makers, judges, and lawyers who are currently raiding the early Republic in the hope of settling current debates by recovering the original meanings of founding texts...Reading the Early Republic demonstrates why the history of political writing and rhetoric constitutes an important and distinct discipline from the history of political thought.
— Eric Slauter

History

Rejecting what he regards as over-simplified interpretations of the period's literary output, Ferguson sets out to recover the variety of meanings that these texts conveyed to contemporaries. Drawing on a range of works, from those that have become canonical to those that have been marginalized, he finds that early republican writings were significantly more nuanced, complex and volatile than even the most sensitive critics have acknowledged. Ferguson proceeds to offer fresh readings of several different kinds of sources, including novels, pamphlets, journals, legal records, and slave narratives...Reading the Early Republic is wide-ranging and insightful. Opening out the texts in this way adds a new dimension to our understanding of the essential fluidity, volatility and contested quality of the early republic.
— Keith Mason

Choice - R. P. Gildrie
These fine essays analyze U.S. texts from the 1760s through the 1820s so as to illustrate the forms of expression, assumptions, conflicts, and ambivalences of the era. The texts include a remarkably broad spectrum, from the canonical Common Sense through slave narratives, notable court cases, popular novels, and the architecture of Monticello to The Last of the Mohicans. Two common themes linking the essays are that the language 'was richer and more nuanced than their inheritors' understood, and that the current generation could benefit from careful reconsideration of those complexities that are the foundation of American life. Useful insights abound.
Law and History Review - Michael Kammen
[Reading the Early Republic is best described as a cohesive collection of discrete essays designed to show that very close reading of selected texts and episodes can shed new light on our understanding of the Revolutionary era broadly conceived...It is written with remarkable clarity and moves along at a varied pace that never fails to engage us. Reading the Early Republic is an innovative and distinguished contribution that enriches our understanding of the period.
Early American Literature - Elisa Tamarkin
Ferguson aspires to give us a knowledge of the past that remembers the intrinsic difference of its vitality, yet does not leave us to the crises of our moment without a sense of "answering relevance."
New England Quarterly - Carolyn Eastman
Reading the Early Republic revisits some of the most emblematic words and texts of that period and brings to the fore some forgotten individuals and documents to produce a thoroughgoing historical analysis of the new nation. In the process, Ferguson develops a portrayal of the period that serves as a powerful corrective to recent histories that emphasize national unity and ideological familiarity...Ferguson has also written a book with a surprising degree of relevance, revealing his intentions to speak to an audience outside academia.
William and Mary Quarterly - Eric Slauter
A major contribution to literary and intellectual history, Reading the Early Republic also serves as a brilliant and formidable rebuttal to those policy makers, judges, and lawyers who are currently raiding the early Republic in the hope of settling current debates by recovering the original meanings of founding texts...Reading the Early Republic demonstrates why the history of political writing and rhetoric constitutes an important and distinct discipline from the history of political thought.
History - Keith Mason
Rejecting what he regards as over-simplified interpretations of the period's literary output, Ferguson sets out to recover the variety of meanings that these texts conveyed to contemporaries. Drawing on a range of works, from those that have become canonical to those that have been marginalized, he finds that early republican writings were significantly more nuanced, complex and volatile than even the most sensitive critics have acknowledged. Ferguson proceeds to offer fresh readings of several different kinds of sources, including novels, pamphlets, journals, legal records, and slave narratives...Reading the Early Republic is wide-ranging and insightful. Opening out the texts in this way adds a new dimension to our understanding of the essential fluidity, volatility and contested quality of the early republic.
Choice
These fine essays analyze U.S. texts from the 1760s through the 1820s so as to illustrate the forms of expression, assumptions, conflicts, and ambivalences of the era. The texts include a remarkably broad spectrum, from the canonical Common Sense through slave narratives, notable court cases, popular novels, and the architecture of Monticello to The Last of the Mohicans. Two common themes linking the essays are that the language 'was richer and more nuanced than their inheritors' understood, and that the current generation could benefit from careful reconsideration of those complexities that are the foundation of American life. Useful insights abound.
— R. P. Gildrie
History
Rejecting what he regards as over-simplified interpretations of the period's literary output, Ferguson sets out to recover the variety of meanings that these texts conveyed to contemporaries. Drawing on a range of works, from those that have become canonical to those that have been marginalized, he finds that early republican writings were significantly more nuanced, complex and volatile than even the most sensitive critics have acknowledged. Ferguson proceeds to offer fresh readings of several different kinds of sources, including novels, pamphlets, journals, legal records, and slave narratives...Reading the Early Republic is wide-ranging and insightful. Opening out the texts in this way adds a new dimension to our understanding of the essential fluidity, volatility and contested quality of the early republic.
— Keith Mason
New England Quarterly
Reading the Early Republic revisits some of the most emblematic words and texts of that period and brings to the fore some forgotten individuals and documents to produce a thoroughgoing historical analysis of the new nation. In the process, Ferguson develops a portrayal of the period that serves as a powerful corrective to recent histories that emphasize national unity and ideological familiarity...Ferguson has also written a book with a surprising degree of relevance, revealing his intentions to speak to an audience outside academia.
— Carolyn Eastman
William and Mary Quarterly
A major contribution to literary and intellectual history, Reading the Early Republic also serves as a brilliant and formidable rebuttal to those policy makers, judges, and lawyers who are currently raiding the early Republic in the hope of settling current debates by recovering the original meanings of founding texts...Reading the Early Republic demonstrates why the history of political writing and rhetoric constitutes an important and distinct discipline from the history of political thought.
— Eric Slauter
Law and History Review
[Reading the Early Republic is best described as a cohesive collection of discrete essays designed to show that very close reading of selected texts and episodes can shed new light on our understanding of the Revolutionary era broadly conceived...It is written with remarkable clarity and moves along at a varied pace that never fails to engage us. Reading the Early Republic is an innovative and distinguished contribution that enriches our understanding of the period.
— Michael Kammen
Early American Literature
Ferguson aspires to give us a knowledge of the past that remembers the intrinsic difference of its vitality, yet does not leave us to the crises of our moment without a sense of "answering relevance."
— Elisa Tamarkin
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674022362
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.83 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert A. Ferguson is George Edward Woodberry Professor in Law, Literature, and Criticism at Columbia University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. The Earliness of the Early Republic

2. The Dialectic of Liberty

3. The Commonalities of Common Sense

4. Becoming American

5. The Forgotten Publius

6. Finding Rome in America

7. Gabriel's Rebellion

8. Jefferson at Monticello

9. Charity in the City of Brotherly Love

10. The Last Early Republican Text

Epilogue

Notes

Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    A performance by a deeply learned and imaginative intellect

    A combination of literary analysis and historical imagination. Even after reading numerous biographies of the Founders, several volumes of correspondence, and an assortment of general and specialized histories over several years, Ferguson's volume is an original delight. A companion volume on the American Enlightenment is also highly recommended.

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