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.
principles, not of like boundaries. As long as Americans believed in certain ideals, he said, they remained Americans, regardless of the territory they happened to occupy.33 In 1799, for example, the famous pioneer Daniel Boone moved his extended family from Kentucky to Missouri—into Spanish territory!—without any sense that he had become less American. The Spanish government had simply promised ample portions of cheap land for him and his family, and that was enough, not just for him but for
width, on which the foot of civillized man had never trodden, the good or evil it had in store for us was for experiment yet to determine,” he could not have been happier. “This little fleet,” he said, “altho’ not quite so rispectable as those of Columbus or Capt. Cook, were still viewed by us with as much pleasure as those deservedly famed adventurers ever beheld theirs; and I dare say with quite as much anxiety for their safety and preservation.”53 Despite his happiness in getting his
of the nearly two and a half decades of war was astonishing—nearly three hundred thousand killed and over a billion pounds in money.2 Although the war took place in all parts of the world, it was not a single continuous war like the world wars of the twentieth century; instead, it was a series of wars, most of them very short and distinct. Every one of the great Continental powers—Austria, Prussia, and Russia—formed and dissolved coalitions against France in accordance with their particular
Entertainment, 154. 56. Elson, Guardians of Tradition, 233. 57. Latrobe, “Anniversary Oration,” Port Folio, 3rd Ser., 5 (1811), 30. 58. Joseph Hopkinson, “Annual Discourse, Delivered Before the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts” (1810), in Wood, ed., Rising Glory of America, 334. 59. James Thomas Flexner, The Light of Distant Skies: American Painting, 1760–1835 (New York, 1954), 152. 60. Hopkinson, “Annual Discourse,” in Wood, ed., Rising Glory of America, 330; Oliver W. Larkin,
effort to influence or to stop Americans moving into Kentucky and Tennessee, Spain closed the Mississippi River to American trade. In response to this crisis, the American secretary of foreign affairs, John Jay, in 1785–1786 negotiated an agreement with the experienced Spanish minister to the United States, Don Diego de Gardoqui. Although the Confederation Congress had instructed Jay not to surrender America’s right to navigate the Mississippi in his negotiations with the Spanish minister, Jay