Conflicted by power, Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and acted as Minister to France yet yearned for a quieter career in the Virginia legislature. Predicting that slavery would shape the future of America's development, this professed proponent of emancipation elided the issue in the Declaration and continued to own human property. An eloquent writer, he was an awkward public speaker; a reluctant candidate, he left an indelible presidential legacy.
Jefferson's statesmanship enabled him to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase with France, doubling the size of the nation, and he authorized the Lewis and Clark expedition, opening up the American frontier for exploration and settlement. Hitchens also analyzes Jefferson's handling of the Barbary War, a lesser-known chapter of his political career, when his attempt to end the kidnapping and bribery of Americans by the Barbary states, and the subsequent war with Tripoli, led to the building of the U.S. navy and the fortification of America's reputation regarding national defense.
In the background of this sophisticated analysis is a large historical drama: the fledgling nation's struggle for independence, formed in the crucible of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and, in its shadow, the deformation of that struggle in the excesses of the French Revolution. This artful portrait of a formative figure and a turbulent era poses a challenge to anyone interested in American history -- or in the ambiguities of human nature.
Through five case studies, Steven Carl Smith examines publishing in New York from the post–Revolutionary War period through the Jacksonian era. He discusses the gradual development of local, regional, and national distribution networks, assesses the economic relationships and shared social and cultural practices that connected printers, booksellers, and their customers, and explores the uncharacteristically modern approaches taken by the city’s preindustrial printers and distributors. If the cultural matrix of printed texts served as the primary legitimating vehicle for political debate and literary expression, Smith argues, then deeper understanding of the economic interests and political affiliations of the people who produced these texts gives necessary insight into the emergence of a major American industry. Those involved in New York’s book trade imagined for themselves, like their counterparts in other major seaport cities, a robust business that could satisfy the new nation’s desire for print, and many fulfilled their ambition by cultivating networks that crossed regional boundaries, delivering books to the masses.
A fresh interpretation of the market economy in early America, An Empire of Print reveals how New York started on the road to becoming the publishing powerhouse it is today.