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Cover image for Empire of liberty : a history of the early Republic, 1789-1815
Format:
Title:
Empire of liberty : a history of the early Republic, 1789-1815
ISBN:
9780195039146

9780199832460
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.
Physical Description:
xix, 778 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 25 cm.
Contents:
Rip Van Winkle's America -- Experiment in republicanism -- A monarchical republic -- The Federalist program -- The emergence of the Jeffersonian Republican party -- The French Revolution in America -- John Adams and the few and the many -- The crisis of 1798-1799 -- The Jeffersonian revolution of 1800 -- Republican society -- The Jeffersonian West -- Law and an independent judiciary -- Chief Justice John Marshall and the origins of judicial review -- Republican reforms -- Between slavery and freedom -- The rising glory of America -- Republican religion -- Republican diplomacy -- The War of 1812 -- A world within themselves.
Summary:
As part of the Oxford History of the United States series the author offers an 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 he 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. This volumes offers an account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.
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973.4 Wood
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973.4 Wood 2009
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Summary

Summary

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'smost 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 politicalparties 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 somethingneither 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 wasstronger 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 andoptimistic about the future of their country. Integrating all aspects of life, from politics and law to the economy and culture, 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.


Author Notes

History professor and award-winning author Gordon S. Wood was born in Concord, Massachusetts on November 27, 1933. After graduating in 1955 from Tufts University he served in the US Air Force in Japan and earned his master's degree from Harvard University. In 1964, Wood earned his Ph. D. in history from Harvard, and he taught there, as well as at the College of William and Mary and the University of Michigan, before joining the Brown University faculty in 1969.

Wood has published a number of articles and books, including The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, which won the Bancroft Prize and the John H. Dunning Prize in 1970, and The Radicalism of the American Revolution, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize in 1993. He has won many other awards in the past five decades from organizations such as the American Historical Association, the New York Historical Society, and the Fraunces Tavern Museum. Wood is a fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. In 2014, his book, The American Revolution: A History, was on the New York Times bestseller list.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Anew addition to the Oxford History of the United States, Wood's superb book brings together much of what historians now know about the first quarter-century of the nation's history under the Constitution. Acknowledged as the leading historian of the period, Wood brings authority and easy style to a tough task-wrestling into order a period of unusual anxiety, confusion, crisis and unbridled growth in the nation's affairs. The emergence of democracy and individualism is his overarching theme. No surprise there, for he's the author of a celebrated work (The Radicalism of the American Revolution) on just that topic. In this new work, he concentrates more on events, institutions, politics and diplomacy than in his earlier books yet proves himself a master of these topics, too. He offers no newfangled approaches, no strongly stated positions, no contests with other historians. Instead, we get the distillation of a lifetime's study and reflection about the era between Washington's presidency and the end of the War of 1812. A triumph of the historian's art, Wood's book will not soon be supplanted. No one interested in the era should miss it. 40 b&w illus., maps. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

Surveying American history during its first decades under the Constitution, Wood locates a baseline in the ascendance of populist over aristocratic values. Expressed in the eclipse of Federalists by Jeffersonian Republicans, by growth of commercial activity, and by the evangelism of the Second Great Awakening, alterations in American society by 1815 made it scarcely recognizable to the generation of 1776. Wood, an esteemed scholar on the early republic, composes a narrative replete with telling incidents and well-sketched personalities to support his thesis of a sociopolitical transition from aristocracy to something like democracy. Noting the trebling of population during the period, Wood tracks the movement of a restless people, such as the advance of settlers to the west. Affecting political events in the foreground, whether inducing proto-modern electioneering or inducting some unlettered representative into Congress, the leveling tendencies of this era's demographic growth underlie the history Wood relates. With attention to institutionalization of the government, as in John Marshall's makeover of the Supreme Court, Wood applies an expert but accessible pen to everything that makes this a seminal era in American history.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2009 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

IN the aftermath of the American Revolution, no question haunted the founders more than whether the young, precarious United States could survive. Would the country last in perpetuity? Or was it fated to be a bold experiment in republicanism that would ignorainiously fail? As the founders knew all too well, the examples from the rest of the world were not encouraging: with bewildering rapidity republics came and went, ever ready to disintegrate into bickering, fragmented entities, or collapsing through conquest, or dying through despotism. James Madison perhaps put it best, moaning that the United States was "in a wilderness without a single footstep to guide us." Quite true. Yet as Gordon S. Wood demonstrates in "Empire of Liberty," his superb new account of America's pivotal first quarter-century, these inchoate Americans were audacious from the very start. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, brazenly asserted that the United States was destined to be "God's own Word." Madison called America an Arcadian "paradise," while Thomas Jefferson labeled the nation "the world's best hope." And when they gazed over at the decadent, decaying monarchies of France and England, Americans concluded they were on the cusp of a new age, destined to be "an asylum to the good, to the persecuted and to the oppressed." In fact, however, the obstacles a debt-ridden America faced were monumental. Under the Articles of Confederation, its Congress had been a feeble instrument that could barely muster a quorum. Its 13 states acted like 13 independent countries, and squabbling ones at that. Laws were, as Vermont officials put it, "altered - re-altered - made better - made worse" with such dizzying speed that people scarcely knew what the law was. The national government couldn't tax, couldn't raise an army and couldn't suppress internal insurrections. Nevertheless, in 1787 the founders would fashion the Constitution, which Wood, recalling Madison's thinking in particular, rightly labels "one of the most creative moments in the history of American politics." Then somehow, against all the odds, they would go on to establish the institutions and habits of democratic self-government that, more than two centuries later, still lie at the core of the American political system. It is a remarkable story, and in Wood's masterly hands, it is told with enormous insight and unmatched scholarship. With the memories of King George III's many abuses still fresh in their minds, the founders confronted the initial challenge of how energetic to make the newly conceived presidency. Indeed, in one of the many fascinating tidbits that Wood recounts, we learn that George Washington spoke of himself in the third person, like the monarchs of Europe, and that many Americans actually thought the president would hold office for life, much like the elective king in Poland. In the first of countless gambles, the founders made the presidency powerful and kinglike precisely because they expected Washington to occupy the office. Over the next quarter-century, the founders were forced to improvise time and again. They had to wrestle with the tumult brought about by the unexpected rise of political parties or factions, as they were then called. They confronted deep dissension at home over the French Revolution, a quasi war with France and a hot war with Britain, as well as fears about foreign invasion. They were concerned about sedition from opposition parties, and from popular democratic societies cropping up all around the country. There was even a recurrent specter of secession to worry about. Much of this may be familiar, yet "Empire of Liberty" is as elegant a synopsis of the period as any I know, no small achievement given how sprawling and complex these early years were. Wood's central characters are familiar too, but presented in admirably nuanced portraits. We see the austere George Washington, whose inordinate strength was his realism; we see the perplexing Thomas Jefferson, who so eloquently championed the rights of the common people while remaining publicly silent about the evils of slavery; we see Alexander Hamilton, who helped give us capitalism and who also had profound reservations about the revolutionary tide sweeping Europe; and we see James Madison, who Wood thinks may well have been the most intellectually gifted figure the nation has ever produced. One area where Wood makes a particularly noteworthy contribution is in tracing the surprise development of America's democratic identity. "Surprise" is the word. Too often forgotten is the fact that America's patrician founders harbored great fears about the "excesses of democracy." Though the new country was to be a daring trial in self-government, it was expected to be guided less by egalitarian impulses than by the aristocratic beliefs of well-bred gentlemen. That day, however, was quickly waning. As the South Carolinian David Ramsay put it, Americans "changed from subjects to citizens." Throughout the 1790s the United States increasingly became filled with "ambitious middling men" - craftsmen and entrepreneurs like bakers and bricklayers, artisans and shopkeepers, goldsmiths and clock makers and teachers and tradesmen, all of whom clamored for a say in how they were governed, how they were to be addressed ("Mr." and "Mrs."), even how medical dissertations would be written (no longer in Latin). Thus, in the fleeting time span of some two decades, a new era in democratic politics and culture transformed the nation, effectively creating a very different country from the one the founders had envisaged. By the close of the War of 1812, which Wood labels the "strangest" but "one of the most important" conflicts in American history, anyone 40 or older had been a subject of King George III, whereas anyone younger - a staggering 85 percent of the population - had been born a republican citizen. Except, of course, for the slaves. Despite America's stirringly expansive message of liberty, the country remained marred by a brutal paradox, which Wood chronicles with considerable thoughtfulness and balance. Though progressive antislavery sentiments mounted across the nation, so, too, did racial distinctions, not only in the South but also in the North. For instance, in New York State, the legislature revoked the franchise for free blacks in part because of their race and in part because they tended to vote for Federalists. Meanwhile, black codes arose in the upper South mandating that free blacks had to carry papers or wear arm patches. Even in this formative period, the coming crisis could be perceived in the varied details of American life. A FINAL word about Gordon S. Wood himself. Who better to untangle this extraordinary but frequently overlooked story than a distinguished Pulitzer Prize winner and an author of several classic works about the Revolutionary era? On every page of this book, Wood's subtlety and erudition show. Grand in scope and a landmark achievement of scholarship, "Empire of Liberty" is a tour de force, the culmination of a lifetime of brilliant thinking and writing. In the fleeting span of two decades, a new era in democratic politics transformed the nation. Jay Winik is the author of "April 1865" and, most recently, "The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World."


Choice Review

Historian Wood (emer., Brown) carries forward the story in his The Radicalism of the American Revolution (CH, Sep'92, 30-0534) and The Creation of the American Republic (CH, Oct'69). His approach is synthesis--almost textbook-like and sometimes predictable--with a grand narrative tracing the tumultuous changes in American society from 1789 to 1815. Territorial expansion, increased population, democratization, and commercial growth were such that "by 1815 Americans had experienced a transformation in the way they related to one another and in the way they perceived themselves and the world around them" (p. 2). With forays into art, literature, religion, economics, and war, the text centers on political personalities, especially Jefferson, about whom Wood writes, "as long as there is a United States he will remain the supreme spokesman for the nation's noblest ideals and highest aspirations" (p. 277). Wood concludes with the War of 1812 and its aftermath. The American character was now defined by middling Americans claiming to be heirs of the revolution in the guise of Franklin's "self made man" (p. 714). Tragically, the American character forged in Jefferson's "empire of liberty" also had deep within it the fatal flaw of slavery. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. M. G. Spencer Brock University


Library Journal Review

In tackling the turbulent years of America's early republic, Wood (Alva O. Way Professor of History Emeritus, Brown Univ.; The Radicalism of the American Revolution) brings his considerable talents to a series that has already produced three Pulitzer Prize winners. Wood's outstandingly eloquent and cerebral analysis commences in the aftermath of the contentious ratification of the U.S. Constitution, a time when republican ideals, from classical virtue to "disinterestedness," remained the principal animating force in the political life of the fledgling republic. Wood sees the initial optimism quickly dashed in the fiery confrontation between the Hamiltonian Federalists seeking to establish an energetic national government and the Jeffersonian Republicans and their "Empire of Liberty." Skillfully traversing seminal topics such as slavery, westward expansion, social leveling, diplomacy, evangelicalism, the arts and sciences, and the transformation of the American legal system, Wood's authoritative and compelling narrative presents a picture of early Americans engaged in pursuit of cultural, social, and economic self-discovery. Most distinctively, Wood avoids the mere celebratory retelling of big events such as the Louisiana Purchase, instead conveying the currents and contours of the era as a whole. VERDICT Wood has provided academics and general readers alike with a brilliant, definitive, and thought-provoking historical synthesis; sure to become indispensable to any study of the era.-Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. ix
Editor's Introductionp. xvii
Abbreviations Used in Citationsp. xvii
Introduction: Rip Van Winkle's Americap. 1
1 Experiment in Republicanismp. 5
2 A Monarchical Republicp. 53
3 The Federalist Programp. 95
4 The Emergence of the Jeffersonian Republican Partyp. 140
5 The French Revolution in Americap. 174
6 John Adams and the Few and the Manyp. 209
7 The Crisis of 1798-1799p. 239
8 The Jeffersonian Revolution of 1800p. 276
9 Republican Societyp. 315
10 The Jeffersonian Westp. 357
11 Law and an Independent Judiciaryp. 400
12 Chief Justice John Marshall and the Origins of Judicial Reviewp. 433
13 Republican Reformsp. 469
14 Between Slavery and Freedomp. 508
15 The Rising Glory of Americap. 543
16 Republican Religionp. 576
17 Republican Diplomacyp. 620
18 he War of 1812p. 659
19 A World Within Themselvesp. 701
Bibliographical Essayp. 739
Indexp. 753