American Revolution is all around us. It is pictured as big as billboards and
as small as postage stamps, evoked in political campaigns and car advertising campaigns,
relived in museums and revised in computer games. As the nation’s founding
moment, the American Revolution serves as a source of powerful founding myths,
and remains the most accessible and most contested event in U.S. history: more
than any other, it stands as a proxy for how Americans perceive the nation’s
aspirations. Americans’ increased fascination with the Revolution over the past
two decades represents more than interest in the past. It’s also a site to work
out the present, and the future. What
are we using the Revolution to debate?
over the Founders, Andrew M. Schocket explores how politicians,
screenwriters, activists, biographers, jurists, museum professionals, and
reenactors portray the American Revolution. Identifying competing
“essentialist” and “organicist” interpretations of the American Revolution,
Schocket shows how today’s memories of the American Revolution reveal
Americans' conflicted ideas about class, about race, and about gender—as well
as the nature of history itself. Fighting over the Founders plumbs
our views of the past and the present, and illuminates our ideas of what United
States means to its citizens in the new millennium.
Andrew M. Schocket is Director of American Culture Studies and Associate Professor of History and American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University (OH). He is the author of Founding Corporate Power in Early National Philadelphia.
While Jefferson’s supporters organized festivals in his honor where they praised him in speeches and songs, his detractors portrayed him as a dilettante and demagogue, double-faced and dangerously radical, an atheist and "Anti-Christ" hostile to Christianity. Characterizing his beliefs as un-American, they tarred him with the extremism of the French Revolution. Yet his allies cheered his contributions to the American Revolution, unmasking him as the now formerly anonymous author of the words that had helped to define America in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson, meanwhile, anxiously monitored the development of his image. As president he even clipped expressions of praise and scorn from newspapers, pasting them in his personal scrapbooks.
In this fascinating new book, historian Robert M. S. McDonald explores how Jefferson, a man with a manner so mild some described it as meek, emerged as such a divisive figure. Bridging the gap between high politics and popular opinion, Confounding Father exposes how Jefferson’s bifurcated image took shape both as a product of his own creation and in response to factors beyond his control. McDonald tells a gripping, sometimes poignant story of disagreements over issues and ideology as well as contested conceptions of the rules of politics. In the first fifty years of independence, Americans’ views of Jefferson revealed much about their conflicting views of the purpose and promise of America.
Widowed and in need of a livelihood following a disastrous lawsuit over her husband’s will, Royall decided to earn her living through writing--first as a travel writer, journeying through America to research and sell her books, and later as a journalist and editor. Her language and forcefully expressed opinions provoked people at least as much as did her inflammatory behavior and aggressive marketing tactics. An ardent defender of American liberties, she attacked the agents of evangelical revivals, the Bank of the United States, and corruption in government. Her positions were frequently extreme, directly challenging the would-be shapers of the early republic’s religious and political culture. She made many enemies, but because she also attracted many supporters, she was not easily silenced. The definitive account of a passionate voice when America was inventing itself, A Notorious Woman re-creates a fascinating stage on which women’s roles, evangelical hegemony, and political involvement were all contested.
and White assert that the most emblematic of the political tensions of the time
is the figure of Aaron Burr, whose rise and fall were detailed in the
literature of his time: his electoral tie with Thomas Jefferson in 1800,
the accusations of seduction, the notorious duel with Alexander Hamilton, his
machinations as the schemer of a breakaway empire, and his spectacular treason
trial. The authors venture a psychoanalytically-informed exploration of post-revolutionary
America to suggest that the figure of “Burr” was fundamentally a displaced
fantasy for addressing the Haitian Revolution. Drexler and White expose how the
historical and literary fictions of the nation’s founding served to repress the
larger issue of the slave system and uncover the Burr myth as the crux of that
repression. Exploring early American novels, such as the works of Charles
Brockden Brown and Tabitha Gilman Tenney, as well as the pamphlets, polemics,
tracts, and biographies of the early republican period, the authors speculate
that this flourishing of political writing illuminates the notorious gap in
U.S. literary history between 1800 and 1820.