Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford History of the United States)
Gordon S. Wood
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The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes three Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in the newest volume in the series, one of America's most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offers a brilliant account of the early American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812.
As Wood reveals, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life--in politics, society, economy, and culture. The men who founded the new government had high hopes for the future, but few of their hopes and dreams worked out quite as they expected. They hated political parties but parties nonetheless emerged. Some wanted the United States to become a great fiscal-military state like those of Britain and France; others wanted the country to remain a rural agricultural state very different from the European states. Instead, by 1815 the United States became something neither group anticipated. Many leaders expected American culture to flourish and surpass that of Europe; instead it became popularized and vulgarized. The leaders also hope to see the end of slavery; instead, despite the release of many slaves and the end of slavery in the North, slavery was stronger in 1815 than it had been in 1789. Many wanted to avoid entanglements with Europe, but instead the country became involved in Europe's wars and ended up waging another war with the former mother country. Still, with a new generation emerging by 1815, most Americans were confident and optimistic about the future of their country.
Named a New York Times Notable Book, Empire of Liberty offers a marvelous account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.
Democratic-Republican Societies, and eventually they came to constitute the bulk of the Republican party in the North. By the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century, these ordinary working men had transformed what it meant to be a gentleman and a political leader. Although Jefferson was an aristocratic slaveholder, it was his political genius to sense that the world of the early Republic ought to belong to people who lived by manual labor and not by their wits. Cities, he believed,
out these bodily punishments in public in front of local communities presumably had possessed the added benefit of overawing and deterring the spectators. Men and women in eighteenth-century Boston were taken from the huge cage that had brought them from the prison, tied bareback to a post on State Street, and lashed thirty or forty times “amid the screams of the culprits and the uproar of the mob.”57 Everywhere in the eighteenth-century colonies criminals had their heads and hands pilloried and
City the Sons of Liberty had burned down a theater that had defied the law against theaters. In 1774 the Continental Congress had urged Americans to discourage “every species of extravagance and dissipation,” including “exhibitions of shews, plays, other expensive diversions and entertainments.”46 Throughout the war the Congress had continued to recommend the suppression of play-going; in 1778 it declared that anyone holding an office under the United States would be dismissed if he encouraged or
end of the twentieth century, Hoffman and Albert, supplemented by occasional guest editors, brought out almost a dozen and a half volumes on various important issues connected with the American Revolution and its aftermath—everything from women, slavery, and Indians to religion, social developments, and patterns of consumption. A host of issues has been enlivened by connecting the Revolution to the decades of the early Republic and emphasizing its cultural implications. The Enlightenment, for
agricultural surplus, the Federalists thought, the country needed to develop modern commercial and manufacturing sectors and create a more balanced economy with a domestic market for its farm produce. Since the nation existed in an uncertain world, dominated by mercantilist powers, it could not rely on stable markets abroad for its farm surpluses. With the mercantilist powers able to cut back on their demand for American agricultural goods at will or find other sources, American farmers would