Revolutionary America, 1750-1815: Sources and Interpretation / Edition 1

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Overview

A core text or supplementary reader for advanced undergraduate courses on the era of the American Revolution.

Unique in both coverage and focus, this collection of primary documents and original interpretive essays provides an unusually well-balanced introduction to the era of the American Revolution. Chronologically, the text explores the period from 1750 to 1815—examining sources of both stability and discontent within the British Empire (and thereby discouraging students from assuming the inevitability of the Revolution), and ending with the War of 1812 (which many Americans saw as securing independence and the ideals of the Revolution). Topically, the text covers traditional political and military subjects as well as the newer social and cultural history of the era—providing students with a broad understanding of the Revolution as both a war for independence and an occasion for political, social, and cultural conflict and transformation. The wide variety of documents range from classic texts—such as Common Sense and the Federalist—to excerpts from diaries and travelers' accounts to newspapers advertisements and selections from contemporary histories and novels.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Cynthia Kierner's excellent new collection of primary sources on the American Revolution fills a great gap in the literature. Expertly introduced by short interpretative essays that reflect the latest historiographical developments, Kierner's chapters provide rich source material for advanced courses on revolutionary America and for teachers and scholars looking for a convenient compendium of the key texts. A fine achievement." — Peter Onuf, University of Virginia

"Kierner has created well-conceptualized chapters that synthesize an enormous amount of material, and she has done so in more engaging ways than one typically finds in comparable treatments of the Revolution." — Jean B. Lee, University of Wisconsin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780130898678
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 8/20/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 404
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.89 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Read an Excerpt

The American Revolution is the single most important event in the history of the United States. It occasioned the world's first colonial war of liberation and resulted in the creation of its most stable and enduring republic. The Revolution transformed American politics, uniting thirteen disparate colonies, first in war and then in peace, and leading loyal subjects of George III to reject first their king and then monarchy itself. Revolutionary notions of liberty and equality informed a wide range of political and social reforms, from the liberalization of suffrage requirements to the abolition of slavery in the northern states. The ideals and achievements of the Revolution also justified the westward expansion of the United States and encouraged Americans to undertake a second war against Britain in 1812.

Revolutionary Americans engaged in a process of nation-building in both the institutional and cultural senses. They established political institutions that represented and empowered a republican union of states—a process that culminated with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Although most Americans today regard the drafting and adoption of the Constitution as the logical, even inevitable, result of American independence, many contemporaries opposed ratification because they saw the document's strongly national orientation as antithetical to the ideals of revolutionary republicanism. Members of the revolutionary generation also attempted to construct and define an American national identity. Seeking to promote national self-consciousness among citizens of the republic, they encouraged those citizens to imagine themselves as a purposefully united political and cultural community. A protracted and far from conclusive project, defining what it meant to be an American was nonetheless a central part of the revolutionary phenomenon for both contemporaries and subsequent generations.

Although fighting and winning the War of Independence was an essential aspect of Americans' revolutionary experience, the Revolution proved to be much more than a military conflict. Because the Revolution was also a political event, this book examines the ideas, interests, and actions that contributed to changes in how people thought about politics. In turn, these changes in political thought brought about the destruction of the old colonial order and the creation of new state and national governments. Because the Revolution was a social and cultural phenomenon, this book also explores how social rank, religion, gender, and race affected and were affected by the revolutionary experience, and how Americans used education, civic ritual, and material culture to respond to the challenges of their times.

A broad understanding of the Revolution as both a war for independence and an occasion for political, social, and cultural conflict and transformation requires an equally expansive chronology. Even if the War of Independence ended officially in 1783, and the implementation of the Constitution in 1789 formally resolved the most pressing political problems arising from independence, it took years—sometimes even decades—for Americans to sort out some of the most important ramifications of the Revolution. At the same time, while the Declaration of Independence marked the formal beginning of the Revolution—at least from the perspective of its supporters—the causes of that declaration reach back to the imperial crisis of the mid-1760s and sometimes even farther. In order to examine the sources of both instability and strength in the British Empire, my narrative begins in the mid-eighteenth century; it ends with the more or less successful conclusion of the War of 1812, which secured the ideals and objectives of the Revolution in the minds of many Americans.

This book includes both contemporary documents and an interpretive narrative. Although the latter can tell students what historians have said about the revolutionary era and supply background and context for the uninitiated, my main purpose in writing this book was to allow a representative cross section of people from the revolutionary era to speak for themselves.

I have benefited from the assistance and insights of many individuals and institutions in the course of preparing this text. The Interlibrary Loan staff at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte flawlessly processed my countless requests for obscure books and documents. The Graduate School at UNC-Charlotte provided funding for some of this book's illustrations. Students in my seminar on Revolutionary America tested documents for the final chapter on historical memory. Professor Jean B. Lee, University of Wisconsin, Madison, offered valuable input. At the New-York Historical Society, Mariam Touba reproduced a particularly rare newspaper that was not available on microfilm, for which I am most grateful. At Prentice Hall, Charles Cavaliere was patient, knowledgeable, and supportive—in short, an ideal editor. Jean Lapidus ably saw the project through production, and Stephen C. Hopkins was an excellent copyeditor. At home, Tom, Zachary, and Anders let me work, and then went to the beach with me when I was done.

The author also thanks the following reviewers for their valuable input: Professor Sheila Skemp, University of Mississippi; Professor Scott Casper, University of Nevada, Reno; Professor Stanley Harrold, South Carolina State University; Professor Joseph C. Morton, Northeastern Illinois University; and Professor Virginia DeJohn Anderson, University of Colorado.

Cynthia A. Kierner
Charlotte, North Carolina

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Table of Contents

1. The Bonds of Empire.

“The Revolution Ode” (1760). Montesquieu, “On the Constitution of England” (1748). Britain's Commercial Interest Explained and Improved (1757). “Just Imported … by William and Joseph Whipple” (1764). Letter to the People of Pennsylvania (1760). Jonathan Mayhew, Observations on the Charter and Conduct of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (1763). John Adams on the British Constitution (1766). The Supremacy of Parliament (1766).

2. Languages of Liberty.

Gilbert Tennent, The Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry (1740). Elisha Williams, The Essential Rights and Liberties of Protestants (1744). John Woolman, Some Considerations on Keeping Negroes (1762). The Paxton Boys' Remonstrance (1764). Richard Bland, The Colonel Dismounted … Containing a Dissertation upon the Constitution of the Colony (1764). Stephen Hopkins, The Rights of the Colonies Examined (1765). James Otis, A Vindication of the British Colonies (1765). Grievances of the North Carolina Regulators (1769).

3. Reform and Resistance.

A French Traveler Visits Virginia's House of Burgesses (1765). Daniel Dulany, Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies (1765). Destruction of the Home of Thomas Hutchinson (1765). Proceedings of the Stamp Act Congress (1765). The New York Stamp Act Riot (1765). John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania (1767-68). “Address to the Ladies” (1767). The “Liberty Song” and the Parody (1768). Virginia Nonimportation Resolutions (1769). An Exemplary Funeral (1769).

4. The Road to Rebellion.

The Soldiers and the “Mob” (1770). The Boston Massacre (1770). Bostonians Oppose the Tea Act (1773). A Peaceable Uprising (1773). A Gentleman Fears the Power of the People (1774). The Continental Association (1774). A Virginia County Committee Punishes an “Enemy to America” (1774). “The Testimony of the People Called Quakers” (1775). Janet Schaw on the Mistreatment of North Carolina Loyalists (1775).

5. Asserting Independence.

The Mecklenburg Resolves (1775). Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775). The Olive Branch Petition (1775). Proclamation of George III (1775). Lord Dunmore's Appeal to the Slaves of Virginia (1775). A White Virginian's Response to Dunmore's Proclamation (1775). A Call to Revolution: Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776). An Appeal to Caution: James Chalmers, Plain Truth (1776). The Declaration of Independence (1776).

6. Times that Tried Men's Souls.

Thomas Paine, “The Crisis #1” (1776). Anne Terrel Addresses the Wives of Continental Soldiers (1776). Baroness Riedesel at Saratoga (1777). The Burning of Fairfield, Connecticut (1779). A Winter Encampment (1779-80). The Murder of Hannah Caldwell (1780). The Sentiments of an American Woman (1780).

7. A World Turned Upside Down.

North Carolina Tories Await the British (1778). The British Capture Savannah (1778). Charleston Prepares for Invasion (1779). Eliza Wilkinson's Wartime Experience (1779). Partisan War in the Carolina Backcountry (1779-81). Life and Death on the British Prison Ships (1780-81). A Common Soldier's Account of the Battle of Yorktown (1781). Petition of the Whig Women of Wilmington, North Carolina (1782). The British Evacuate Charleston (1782).

8. Who Should Rule at Home.

“A Dialogue between Orator Puff and Peter Easy” (1776). Ethan Allen, A Vindication of the … Inhabitants of Vermont (1779). Petition of the Inhabitants of the Western Country (1787). Virginia Baptists Oppose Religious Privilege (1776). Philadelphia Jews Seek Civil Rights (1784). The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1786). “Remember the Ladies” (1776). Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes” (1790). Massachusetts Antislavery Petition (1777). Virginia Proslavery Petition (1785). Petition of Grace Davis and Richard Davis (1791).

9. Confederation and Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation (1777). Phillis [Wheatley] Peters, Liberty and Peace: A Poem (1784). Alexander Hamilton, “The Continentalist No. VI” (1782). William Livingston, “Primitive Whig, No. II” (1786). Shays's Rebellion (1786). “Our Affairs Are Drawing Rapidly to a Crisis” (1786). The Constitution of the United States (1787).

10. Federalists and Antifederalists.

Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, #1 (1787). James Madison, The Federalist, #10 (1787). James Madison, The Federalist, #51 (1787). Brutus, #3 (1787). George Mason, Objections to the Constitution of Government Formed by the Convention (1787). Patrick Henry's Speech to the Virginia Ratifying Convention (1788). A Procession in Honor of the Constitution of the United States (1788). The Bill of Rights (1789).

11. The Federalist Era.

Alexander Hamilton, First Report on the … Public Credit (1790). Alexander Hamilton, “Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank” (1791). “Public Opinion” (1791). “The Union: Who Are Its Real Friends?” (1792). Washington's Indian Policy (1791). Virginians Celebrate the French Republic (1794). Hugh Henry Brackenridge, “Thoughts on the Excise Law” (1792). “Incendiaries of the Public Peace” (1794). The Sedition Act (1798).

12. Forging a National Culture.

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1782). A Circular Letter … to the State Societies of the Cincinnati (1784). Benjamin Rush, Plan for the Establishment of Public Schools (1786). Benjamin Rush, Thoughts upon Female Education (1787). Preface to The Columbian Magazine, or Monthly Miscellany (1787). Noah Webster, The American Spelling Book (1789). “Essay on the City of Washington” (1795). Susanna Rowson, Charlotte; A Tale of Truth (1791). Mason Locke Weems, The Life of George Washington (1809).

13. Securing the Revolution.

A Federalist Views the Election of 1800 (1801). Jefferson's First Inaugural Address (1801). “The Greatest Cheese in America for the Greatest Man in America” (1802). Peopling the West (1803). David Ramsay, An Oration on the Cession of Louisiana to the United States (1804). Madison's War Message (1812). Margaret Bayard Smith's Account of the Burning of Washington (1814). “Our Heroes Died Not in vain.” (1815).

14. Remembering the Revolution.

“Adams and Jefferson Are No More” (1826). “All Men and Women Are Created Equal” (1848). The Domestication of Deborah Sampson (1848). Crispus Attacks and the Quest for African American Citizenship (1851). “What, to the American Slave, Is Your 4th of July?” (1852). The Age of Romantic Nationalism (c.1860). The Fourth of July: A Confederate Holiday? (1861). George Fitzhugh, “The Revolutions of 1776 and 1861 Contrasted” (1863). Abraham Lincoln Interprets the Revolution (1863).

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Preface

The American Revolution is the single most important event in the history of the United States. It occasioned the world's first colonial war of liberation and resulted in the creation of its most stable and enduring republic. The Revolution transformed American politics, uniting thirteen disparate colonies, first in war and then in peace, and leading loyal subjects of George III to reject first their king and then monarchy itself. Revolutionary notions of liberty and equality informed a wide range of political and social reforms, from the liberalization of suffrage requirements to the abolition of slavery in the northern states. The ideals and achievements of the Revolution also justified the westward expansion of the United States and encouraged Americans to undertake a second war against Britain in 1812.

Revolutionary Americans engaged in a process of nation-building in both the institutional and cultural senses. They established political institutions that represented and empowered a republican union of states—a process that culminated with the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Although most Americans today regard the drafting and adoption of the Constitution as the logical, even inevitable, result of American independence, many contemporaries opposed ratification because they saw the document's strongly national orientation as antithetical to the ideals of revolutionary republicanism. Members of the revolutionary generation also attempted to construct and define an American national identity. Seeking to promote national self-consciousness among citizens of the republic, they encouraged those citizens to imagine themselves as a purposefully united political and cultural community. A protracted and far from conclusive project, defining what it meant to be an American was nonetheless a central part of the revolutionary phenomenon for both contemporaries and subsequent generations.

Although fighting and winning the War of Independence was an essential aspect of Americans' revolutionary experience, the Revolution proved to be much more than a military conflict. Because the Revolution was also a political event, this book examines the ideas, interests, and actions that contributed to changes in how people thought about politics. In turn, these changes in political thought brought about the destruction of the old colonial order and the creation of new state and national governments. Because the Revolution was a social and cultural phenomenon, this book also explores how social rank, religion, gender, and race affected and were affected by the revolutionary experience, and how Americans used education, civic ritual, and material culture to respond to the challenges of their times.

A broad understanding of the Revolution as both a war for independence and an occasion for political, social, and cultural conflict and transformation requires an equally expansive chronology. Even if the War of Independence ended officially in 1783, and the implementation of the Constitution in 1789 formally resolved the most pressing political problems arising from independence, it took years—sometimes even decades—for Americans to sort out some of the most important ramifications of the Revolution. At the same time, while the Declaration of Independence marked the formal beginning of the Revolution—at least from the perspective of its supporters—the causes of that declaration reach back to the imperial crisis of the mid-1760s and sometimes even farther. In order to examine the sources of both instability and strength in the British Empire, my narrative begins in the mid-eighteenth century; it ends with the more or less successful conclusion of the War of 1812, which secured the ideals and objectives of the Revolution in the minds of many Americans.

This book includes both contemporary documents and an interpretive narrative. Although the latter can tell students what historians have said about the revolutionary era and supply background and context for the uninitiated, my main purpose in writing this book was to allow a representative cross section of people from the revolutionary era to speak for themselves.

I have benefited from the assistance and insights of many individuals and institutions in the course of preparing this text. The Interlibrary Loan staff at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte flawlessly processed my countless requests for obscure books and documents. The Graduate School at UNC-Charlotte provided funding for some of this book's illustrations. Students in my seminar on Revolutionary America tested documents for the final chapter on historical memory. Professor Jean B. Lee, University of Wisconsin, Madison, offered valuable input. At the New-York Historical Society, Mariam Touba reproduced a particularly rare newspaper that was not available on microfilm, for which I am most grateful. At Prentice Hall, Charles Cavaliere was patient, knowledgeable, and supportive—in short, an ideal editor. Jean Lapidus ably saw the project through production, and Stephen C. Hopkins was an excellent copyeditor. At home, Tom, Zachary, and Anders let me work, and then went to the beach with me when I was done.

The author also thanks the following reviewers for their valuable input: Professor Sheila Skemp, University of Mississippi; Professor Scott Casper, University of Nevada, Reno; Professor Stanley Harrold, South Carolina State University; Professor Joseph C. Morton, Northeastern Illinois University; and Professor Virginia DeJohn Anderson, University of Colorado.

Cynthia A. Kierner
Charlotte, North Carolina

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