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The Age of Jackson Podcast
56 minutes | Jun 11, 2021
134 Nativists, Catholics, and Citizen-Soldiers in the Philadelphia 1844 Riots with Zachary M. Schrag
America is in a state of deep unrest, grappling with xenophobia, racial, and ethnic tension a national scale that feels singular to our time. But it also echoes the earliest anti-immigrant sentiments of the country. In 1844, Philadelphia was set aflame by a group of Protestant ideologues—avowed nativists—who were seeking social and political power rallied by charisma and fear of the immigrant menace.For these men, it was Irish Catholics they claimed would upend morality and murder their neighbors, steal their jobs, and overturn democracy. The nativists burned Catholic churches, chased and beat people through the streets, and exchanged shots with a militia seeking to reinstate order.In the aftermath, the public debated both the militia’s use of force and the actions of the mob. Some of the most prominent nativists continued their rise to political power for a time, even reaching Congress, but they did not attempt to stoke mob violence again.Today, in an America beset by polarization and riven over questions of identity and law enforcement, the 1844 Philadelphia Riots and the circumstances that caused them demand new investigation.At a time many envision America in flames, The Fires of Philadelphia shows us a city—one that embodies the founding of our country—that descended into open warfare and found its way out again.-Zachary M. Schrag is the author of The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro; Ethical Imperialism: Institutional Review Boards and the Social Sciences and The Princeton Guide to Historical Research.He has received grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Gerald Ford Foundation, and the Library of Congress and has been awarded the Society for American City and Regional Planning History’s John Reps Prize. He is the director of the Masters Program in History at George Mason University.
62 minutes | May 28, 2021
133 Joseph Smith for President in the Election of 1844 with Spencer W. McBride
By the election year of 1844, Joseph Smith, the controversial founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had amassed a national following of some 25,000 believers. Nearly half of them lived in the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, where Smith was not only their religious leader but also the mayor and the commander-in-chief of a militia of some 2,500 men. In less than twenty years, Smith had helped transform the American religious landscape and grown his own political power substantially. Yet the standing of the Mormon people in American society remained unstable. Unable to garner federal protection, and having failed to win the support of former president Martin Van Buren or any of the other candidates in the race, Smith decided to take matters into his own hands, launching his own bid for the presidency. While many scoffed at the notion that Smith could come anywhere close to the White House, others regarded his run—and his religion—as a threat to the stability of the young nation. Hounded by mobs throughout the campaign, Smith was ultimately killed by one—the first presidential candidate to be assassinated.Though Joseph Smith's run for president is now best remembered—when it is remembered at all—for its gruesome end, the renegade campaign was revolutionary. Smith called for the total abolition of slavery, the closure of the country's penitentiaries, and the reestablishment of a national bank to stabilize the economy. But Smith's most important proposal was for an expansion of protections for religious minorities. At a time when the Bill of Rights did not apply to individual states, Smith sought to empower the federal government to protect minorities when states failed to do so.Spencer W. McBride tells the story of Joseph Smith's quixotic but consequential run for the White House and shows how his calls for religious freedom helped to shape the American political system we know today.
59 minutes | May 21, 2021
132 American Republics, A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850 with Alan Taylor
From a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, the powerful story of a fragile nation as it expands across a contested continent.In this beautifully written history of America’s formative period, a preeminent historian upends the traditional story of a young nation confidently marching to its continent-spanning destiny. The newly constituted United States actually emerged as a fragile, internally divided union of states contending still with European empires and other independent republics on the North American continent. Native peoples sought to defend their homelands from the flood of American settlers through strategic alliances with the other continental powers. The system of American slavery grew increasingly powerful and expansive, its vigorous internal trade in Black Americans separating parents and children, husbands and wives. Bitter party divisions pitted elites favoring strong government against those, like Andrew Jackson, espousing a democratic populism for white men. Violence was both routine and organized: the United States invaded Canada, Florida, Texas, and much of Mexico, and forcibly removed most of the Native peoples living east of the Mississippi. At the end of the period the United States, its conquered territory reaching the Pacific, remained internally divided, with sectional animosities over slavery growing more intense.Taylor’s elegant history of this tumultuous period offers indelible miniatures of key characters from Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Margaret Fuller. It captures the high-stakes political drama as Jackson and Adams, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster contend over slavery, the economy, Indian removal, and national expansion. A ground-level account of American industrialization conveys the everyday lives of factory workers and immigrant families. And the immersive narrative puts us on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Mexico City, Quebec, and the Cherokee capital, New Echota.Absorbing and chilling, American Republics illuminates the continuities between our own social and political divisions and the events of this formative period.-Alan Taylor has twice won the Pulitzer Prize in History, most recently for The Internal Enemy, also a National Book Award finalist. He is Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History at University of Virginia, and lives in Charlottesville.
61 minutes | May 14, 2021
131 The War of 1812 in the West with David Kirkpatrick
The spring of 1812 found the young American republic on edge. The British Navy was impressing American seamen with impunity at an alarming rate while vicious attacks on frontier settlements by American Indians armed with British weapons had left a trail of fear and outrage. As calls for a military response increased, Kentucky, the first state west of the Appalachians, urged that only by defeating the British could the nation achieve security. The very thought conjured up embellished memories of the American Revolution, and once war was declared, many soldiers believed that the “Spirit of 76” would lead them to victory. But the conflict quickly transformed from a patriotic parade to a desperate attempt to survive against a major military power. While the War of 1812 is known mostly for later events, including the burning of Washington and the siege of Fort McHenry, much of the first two years of the war was fought in the west, with the British Army and their Indian allies nearly overrunning the Old Northwest and threatening the borders of the original colonies. In The War of 1812 in the West: From Fort Detroit to New Orleans, David Kirkpatrick chronicles the near catastrophic loss of the Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois Territories, the bitter fight against both Tecumseh’s Confederation and the Creek Nation, and the slow recovery and ultimate victory of American forces—a large portion of which was supplied by Kentucky—from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Battles such as River Raisin, Thames River, Fort Meigs, and New Orleans are placed in context to show how they secured America’s frontier and opened territory to the west to new settlement following the war. -DAVID KIRKPATRICK serves as the Genealogy/ Reference Librarian at Mercer County (Kentucky) Public Library and has spent more than a decade working as an archivist for the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. He has a BA in history from the University of Louisville and an MA in history from Western Kentucky University.
68 minutes | May 7, 2021
130 Earthquakes, Prophecy, and the Remaking of Early America with Jonathan Todd Hancock
The New Madrid earthquakes of 1811–12 were the strongest temblors in the North American interior in at least the past five centuries. From the Great Plains to the Atlantic Coast and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, a broad cast of thinkers struggled to explain these seemingly unprecedented natural phenomena. They summoned a range of traditions of inquiry into the natural world and drew connections among signs of environmental, spiritual, and political disorder on the cusp of the War of 1812. Drawn from extensive archival research, Convulsed States probes their interpretations to offer insights into revivalism, nation remaking, and the relationship between religious and political authority across Native nations and the United States in the early nineteenth century. With a compelling narrative and rigorous comparative analysis, Jonathan Todd Hancock uses the earthquakes to bridge historical fields and shed new light on this pivotal era of nation remaking.Through varied peoples' efforts to come to grips with the New Madrid earthquakes, Hancock reframes early nineteenth-century North America as a site where all of its inhabitants wrestled with fundamental human questions amid prophecies, political reinventions, and war.-Jonathan Todd Hancock is an associate professor of history at Hendrix College.
82 minutes | Apr 30, 2021
129 How Domestic Slave Traders Shaped America with Joshua D. Rothman
Slave traders are peripheral figures in most histories of American slavery. But these men—who trafficked and sold over half a million enslaved people from the Upper South to the Deep South—were essential to slavery's expansion and fueled the growth and prosperity of the United States.In The Ledger and the Chain, acclaimed historian Joshua D. Rothman recounts the shocking story of the domestic slave trade by tracing the lives and careers of Isaac Franklin, John Armfield, and Rice Ballard, who built the largest and most powerful slave-trading operation in American history. Far from social outcasts, they were rich and widely respected businessmen, and their company sat at the center of capital flows connecting southern fields to northeastern banks. Bringing together entrepreneurial ambition and remorseless violence toward enslaved people, domestic slave traders produced an atrocity that forever transformed the nation.-Joshua D. Rothman is a professor of history and chair of the department of history at the University of Alabama. He is the author of two prize-winning books, Flush Times and Fever Dreams and Notorious in the Neighborhood. He lives in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
66 minutes | Apr 23, 2021
128 America's First Civil Rights Movement with Kate Masur
The half-century before the Civil War was beset with conflict over equality as well as freedom. Beginning in 1803, many free states enacted laws that discouraged free African Americans from settling within their boundaries and restricted their rights to testify in court, move freely from place to place, work, vote, and attend public school. But over time, African American activists and their white allies, often facing mob violence, courageously built a movement to fight these racist laws. They countered the states’ insistences that states were merely trying to maintain the domestic peace with the equal-rights promises they found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They were pastors, editors, lawyers, politicians, ship captains, and countless ordinary men and women, and they fought in the press, the courts, the state legislatures, and Congress, through petitioning, lobbying, party politics, and elections. Long stymied by hostile white majorities and unfavorable court decisions, the movement’s ideals became increasingly mainstream in the 1850s, particularly among supporters of the new Republican party. When Congress began rebuilding the nation after the Civil War, Republicans installed this vision of racial equality in the 1866 Civil Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. These were the landmark achievements of the first civil rights movement.Kate Masur’s magisterial history delivers this pathbreaking movement in vivid detail. Activists such as John Jones, a free Black tailor from North Carolina whose opposition to the Illinois “black laws” helped make the case for racial equality, demonstrate the indispensable role of African Americans in shaping the American ideal of equality before the law. Without enforcement, promises of legal equality were not enough. But the antebellum movement laid the foundation for a racial justice tradition that remains vital to this day.-Kate Masur is a professor of history at Northwestern University. A finalist for the Lincoln Prize, she is the author of An Example for All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle over Equality in Washington, D.C.
47 minutes | Apr 16, 2021
127 John C. Fremont and the Violent Election Of 1856 with John Bicknell
The 1856 presidential race was the most violent peacetime election in American history. War between proslavery and antislavery settlers raged in Kansas; a congressman shot an Irish immigrant at a Washington hotel; and another congressman beat a US senator senseless on the floor of the Senate. But amid all the violence, the campaign of the new Republican Party, headed by famed explorer John C. Frémont, offered a ray of hope: a major party dedicated to limiting the spread of slavery. For the first time, women and African Americans actively engaged in a presidential contest, and the candidate’s wife, Jessie Benton Frémont, played a central role in both planning and executing strategy, and was a public face of the campaign. Even enslaved blacks in the South took hope from Frémont’s crusade.The 1856 campaign was also run against the backdrop of a country on the move, with settlers continuing to spread westward-facing unimagined horrors, a terrible natural disaster that took hundreds of lives in the South, and one of the most famous Supreme Court cases in history, which set the stage for the Civil War. Frémont lost, but his strong showing in the North proved that a sectional party could win a national election, blazing the trail for Abraham Lincoln’s victory four years later.-John Bicknell is the author of America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election that Transformed the Nation. He has written and edited for Watchdog.org, Congressional Quarterly, and Roll Call, and was senior editor of 2016 and 2018 Almanac of American Politics. He lives in Virginia.
59 minutes | Apr 9, 2021
126 The Radical Significance of the Free Exercise of Religion with Jack N. Rakove
Today, Americans believe that the early colonists came to the New World in search of religious liberty. What we often forget is that they wanted religious liberty for themselves, not for those who held other views that they rejected and detested. Yet, by the mid-18th century, the colonists agreed that everyone possessed a sovereign right of conscience. How did this change develop? In Beyond Belief, Beyond Conscience, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jack Rakove tracks the unique course of religious freedom in America.He finds that, as denominations and sects multiplied, Americans became much more tolerant of the free expression of rival religious beliefs. During the Revolutionary era, he explains, most of the new states moved to disestablish churches and to give constitutional recognition to rights of conscience. These two developments explain why religious freedom originally represented the most radical right of all. No other right placed greater importance on the moral autonomy of individuals, or better illustrated how the authority of government could be limited by denying the state authority to act. Together, these developments made possible the great revival of religion in 19th-century America.As Rakove explains, America's intense religiosity eventually created a new set of problems for mapping the relationship between church and state. He goes on to examine some of our contemporary controversies over church and state not from the vantage point of legal doctrine, but of the deeper history that gave the U.S. its own approach to religious freedom. In this book, he tells the story of how American ideas of religious toleration and free exercise evolved over time, and why questions of church and state still vex us.-Jack N. Rakove is William Robertson Coe Professor of History and American Studies Emeritus at Stanford University. He is the author of six books, including Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution, which won the Pulitzer Prize, and Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America, finalist for the George Washington Book Prize.
67 minutes | Mar 26, 2021
125 The Reverse Underground Railroad Toward Slavery with Richard Bell
Philadelphia, 1825: five young, free black boys fall into the clutches of the most fearsome gang of kidnappers and slavers in the United States. Lured onto a small ship with the promise of food and pay, they are instead met with blindfolds, ropes, and knives. Over four long months, their kidnappers drive them overland into the Cotton Kingdom to be sold as slaves. Determined to resist, the boys form a tight brotherhood as they struggle to free themselves and find their way home.Their ordeal—an odyssey that takes them from the Philadelphia waterfront to the marshes of Mississippi and then onward still—shines a glaring spotlight on the Reverse Underground Railroad, a black market network of human traffickers and slave traders who stole away thousands of legally free African Americans from their families in order to fuel slavery’s rapid expansion in the decades before the Civil War.Impeccably researched and breathlessly paced, Stolen tells the incredible story of five boys whose courage forever changed the fight against slavery in America.-Richard Bell teaches Early American history at the University of Maryland. He has received several teaching prizes and major research fellowships including the National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar Award. His first book, We Shall Be No More: Suicide and Self-Government in the Newly United States, was published in 2012. He is also the author of Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home.
45 minutes | Mar 19, 2021
124 Abraham Lincoln and the Anti-Slavery Constitution with James Oakes
The long and turning path to the abolition of American slavery has often been attributed to the equivocations and inconsistencies of antislavery leaders, including Lincoln himself. But James Oakes’s brilliant history of Lincoln’s antislavery strategies reveals a striking consistency and commitment extending over many years. The linchpin of antislavery for Lincoln was the Constitution of the United States.Lincoln adopted the antislavery view that the Constitution made freedom the rule in the United States, slavery the exception. Where federal power prevailed, so did freedom. Where state power prevailed, that state determined the status of slavery, and the federal government could not interfere. It would take state action to achieve the final abolition of American slavery. With this understanding, Lincoln and his antislavery allies used every tool available to undermine the institution. Wherever the Constitution empowered direct federal action―in the western territories, in the District of Columbia, over the slave trade―they intervened. As a congressman in 1849 Lincoln sponsored a bill to abolish slavery in Washington, DC. He reentered politics in 1854 to oppose what he considered the unconstitutional opening of the territories to slavery by the Kansas–Nebraska Act. He attempted to persuade states to abolish slavery by supporting gradual abolition with compensation for slaveholders and the colonization of free Blacks abroad.President Lincoln took full advantage of the antislavery options opened by the Civil War. Enslaved people who escaped to Union lines were declared free. The Emancipation Proclamation, a military order of the president, undermined slavery across the South. It led to abolition by six slave states, which then joined the coalition to affect what Lincoln called the "King’s cure": state ratification of the constitutional amendment that in 1865 finally abolished slavery.-James Oakes is one of our foremost Civil War historians and a two-time winner of the Lincoln Prize for his works on the politics of abolition. He teaches at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
60 minutes | Mar 12, 2021
123 The Disillusionment of America's Founders with Dennis C. Rasmussen
Americans seldom deify their Founding Fathers any longer, but they do still tend to venerate the Constitution and the republican government that the founders created. Strikingly, the founders themselves were far less confident in what they had wrought, particularly by the end of their lives. In fact, most of them—including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson—came to deem America’s constitutional experiment an utter failure that was unlikely to last beyond their own generation. Fears of a Setting Sun is the first book to tell the fascinating and too-little-known story of the founders’ disillusionment.As Dennis Rasmussen shows, the founders’ pessimism had a variety of sources: Washington lost his faith in America’s political system above all because of the rise of partisanship, Hamilton because he felt that the federal government was too weak, Adams because he believed that the people lacked civic virtue, and Jefferson because of sectional divisions laid bare by the spread of slavery. The one major founder who retained his faith in America’s constitutional order to the end was James Madison, and the book also explores why he remained relatively optimistic when so many of his compatriots did not. As much as Americans today may worry about their country’s future, Rasmussen reveals, the founders faced even graver problems and harbored even deeper misgivings.A vividly written account of a chapter of American history that has received too little attention, Fears of a Setting Sun will change the way that you look at the American founding, the Constitution, and indeed the United States itself.-Dennis C. Rasmussen is professor of political science at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. His books include The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought (Princeton).
53 minutes | Mar 5, 2021
123 Broken Hearts, Lost Souls, and Sexual Tumult in Nineteenth-Century America with Christine Leigh Heyrman
From the winner of the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize in History, a lost episode rediscovered after almost two hundred years; a thwarted love triangle of heartbreak–two men and a woman of equal ambition–that exploded in scandal and investigation, set between America’s Revolution and its Civil War, revealing an age in subtle and powerful transformation, caught between the fight for women’s rights and the campaign waged by evangelical Protestants to dominate the nation’s culture and politics.At its center–and the center of a love triangle–Martha Parker, a gifted young New England woman, smart, pretty, ambitious, determined to make the most of her opportunities, aspiring to become an educator and a foreign missionary.Late in 1825, Martha accepted a proposal from a schoolmaster, Thomas Tenney, only to reject him several weeks later for a rival suitor, a clergyman headed for the mission field, Elnathan Gridley. Tenney’s male friends, deeply resentful of the new prominence of women in academies, benevolent and reform associations, and the mission field, decided to retaliate on Tenney’s behalf by sending an anonymous letter to the head of the foreign missions board impugning Martha’s character. Tenney further threatened Martha with revealing even more about their relationship, thereby ruining her future prospects as a missionary. The head of the board began an inquiry into the truth of the claims about Martha, and in so doing, collected letters, diaries, depositions, and firsthand witness accounts of Martha’s character. The ruin of Martha Parker’s hopes provoked a resistance within evangelical ranks over womanhood, manhood, and, surprisingly, homosexuality, ultimately threatening to destroy the foreign missions enterprise.-CHRISTINE LEIGH HEYRMAN is the Robert W. and Shirley P. Grimble Professor of American History at the University of Delaware.
75 minutes | Feb 26, 2021
122 John C. Calhoun, American Heretic with Robert Elder
John C. Calhoun is among the most notorious and enigmatic figures in American political history. First elected to Congress in 1810, Calhoun went on to serve as secretary of war and vice president. But he is perhaps most known for arguing in favor of slavery as a "positive good" and for his famous doctrine of "state interposition," which laid the groundwork for the South to secede from the Union—and arguably set the nation on course for civil war.Calhoun has catapulted back into the public eye in recent years, as some observers connected the strain of radical politics he developed to the tactics and extremism of the modern Far Right, and as protests over racial injustice have focused on his legacy. In this revelatory biographical study, historian Robert Elder shows that Calhoun is even more broadly significant than these events suggest and that his story is crucial for understanding the political climate in which we find ourselves today. By excising Calhoun from the mainstream of American history, he argues, we have been left with a distorted understanding of our past and no way to explain our present.-Robert Elder is an assistant professor of history at Baylor University, where his research focuses on the American South, and the author of The Sacred Mirror: Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the American South, 1790-1860. He holds a Ph.D. from Emory University and lives in Woodway, Texas.
56 minutes | Feb 19, 2021
121 Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee Brothers who Defied a Nation with Peter Cozzens
The first biography of the great Shawnee leader in more than twenty years, and the first to make clear that his misunderstood younger brother, Tenskwatawa, was an equal partner in the last great pan-Indian alliance against the United States. Until the Americans killed Tecumseh in 1813, he and his brother Tenskwatawa were the co-architects of the broadest pan-Indian confederation in United States history. In previous accounts of Tecumseh's life, Tenskwatawa has been dismissed as a talentless charlatan and a drunk. But award-winning historian Peter Cozzens now shows us that while Tecumseh was a brilliant diplomat and war leader--admired by the same white Americans he opposed--it was Tenskwatawa, called the "Shawnee Prophet," who created a vital doctrine of religious and cultural revitalization that unified the disparate tribes of the Old Northwest. Detailed research of Native American society and customs provides a window into a world often erased from history books and reveals how both men came to power in different but no less important ways.Cozzens brings us to the forefront of the chaos and violence that characterized the young American Republic, when settlers spilled across the Appalachians to bloody effect in their haste to exploit lands won from the British in the War of Independence, disregarding their rightful Indian owners. Tecumseh and the Prophet presents the untold story of the Shawnee brothers who retaliated against this threat--the two most significant siblings in Native American history, who, Cozzens helps us understand, should be writ large in the annals of America.-Peter Cozzens is the author or editor of sixteen acclaimed books on the American Civil War and the Indian Wars of the American West, and a member of the Advisory Council of the Lincoln Prize. In 2002 he was awarded the American Foreign Service Association's highest honor, the William R. Rivkin Award, given annually to one Foreign Service Officer for exemplary moral courage, integrity, and creative dissent. He lives in Kensington, Maryland.
69 minutes | Feb 12, 2021
120 Politics and Memory in the American Revolution with Michael D. Hattem
In Past and Prologue, Michael Hattem shows how colonists’ changing understandings of their British and colonial histories shaped the politics of the American Revolution and the origins of American national identity. Between the 1760s and 1800s, Americans stopped thinking of the British past as their own history and created a new historical tradition that would form the foundation for what subsequent generations would think of as “American history.” This change was a crucial part of the cultural transformation at the heart of the Revolution by which colonists went from thinking of themselves as British subjects to thinking of themselves as American citizens. Rather than liberating Americans from the past—as many historians have argued—the Revolution actually made the past matter more than ever. Past and Prologue shows how the process of reinterpreting the past played a critical role in the founding of the nation.-Michael D. Hattem is Associate Director of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute. He has taught history at Knox College and Lang College at The New School.
57 minutes | Feb 5, 2021
119 The Unmanifest Future of the Jacksonian United States with Thomas Richards Jr.
Most Americans know that the state of Texas was once the Republic of Texas―an independent sovereign state that existed from 1836 until its annexation by the United States in 1846. But few are aware that thousands of Americans, inspired by Texas, tried to establish additional sovereign states outside the borders of the early American republic. In Breakaway Americas, Thomas Richards, Jr., examines six such attempts and the groups that supported them: "patriots" who attempted to overthrow British rule in Canada; post-removal Cherokees in Indian Territory; Mormons first in Illinois and then the Salt Lake Valley; Anglo-American overland immigrants in both Mexican California and Oregon; and, of course, Anglo-Americans in Texas.Though their goals and methods varied, Richards argues that these groups had a common mindset: they were not expansionists. Instead, they hoped to form new, independent republics based on the "American values" that they felt were no longer recognized in the United States: land ownership, a strict racial hierarchy, and masculinity.Exposing nineteenth-century Americans' lack of allegiance to their country, which at the time was plagued with economic depression, social disorder, and increasing sectional tension, Richards points us toward a new understanding of American identity and Americans as a people untethered from the United States as a country. Through its wide focus on a diverse array of American political practices and ideologies, Breakaway Americas will appeal to anyone interested in the Jacksonian United States, US politics, American identity, and the unpredictable nature of history.-Thomas Richards, Jr. earned his PhD in American history from Temple University. He is a history teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
58 minutes | Jan 29, 2021
118 The True-Crime Story of Amelia Norman in Old New York with Julie Miller
In Cry of Murder on Broadway, Julie Miller shows how a woman's desperate attempt at murder came to momentarily embody the anger and anxiety felt by many people at a time of economic and social upheaval and expanding expectations for equal rights.On the evening of November 1, 1843, a young household servant named Amelia Norman attacked Henry Ballard, a prosperous merchant, on the steps of the new and luxurious Astor House Hotel. Agitated and distraught, Norman had followed Ballard down Broadway before confronting him at the door to the hotel. Taking out a folding knife, she stabbed him, just missing his heart.Ballard survived the attack, and the trial that followed created a sensation. Newspapers in New York and beyond followed the case eagerly, and crowds filled the courtroom every day. The prominent author and abolitionist Lydia Maria Child championed Norman and later included her story in her fiction and her writing on women's rights.The would-be murderer also attracted the support of politicians, journalists, and legal and moral reformers who saw her story as a vehicle to change the law as it related to "seduction" and to advocate for the rights of workers. Cry of Murder on Broadway describes how New Yorkers, besotted with the drama of the courtroom and the lurid stories of the penny press, followed the trial for entertainment. Throughout all this, Norman gained the sympathy of New Yorkers, in particular the jury, which acquitted her in less than ten minutes.Miller deftly weaves together Norman's story to show how, in one violent moment, she expressed all the anger that the women of the emerging movement for women's rights would soon express in words.-Julie Miller is the author of Abandoned: Foundlings in Nineteenth-Century New York City. She taught in the history department at Hunter College, City University of New York, before moving to Washington, DC.
57 minutes | Jan 22, 2021
117 Latter-day Saints and the American Apocalypse with Christopher James Blythe
The relationship between early Mormons and the United States was marked by anxiety and hostility, heightened over the course of the nineteenth century by the assassination of Mormon leaders, the Saints' exile from Missouri and Illinois, the military occupation of the Utah territory, and the national crusade against those who practiced plural marriage. Nineteenth-century Latter-day Saints looked forward to apocalyptic events that would unseat corrupt governments across the globe, particularly the tyrannical government of the United States. The infamous "White Horse Prophecy" referred to this coming American apocalypse as "a terrible revolutionEL in the land of America, such as has never been seen before; for the land will be literally left without a supreme government." Mormons envisioned divine deliverance by way of plagues, natural disasters, foreign invasions, American Indian raids, slave uprisings, or civil war unleashed on American cities and American people. For the Saints, these violent images promised a national rebirth that would vouchsafe the protections of the United States Constitution and end their oppression.In Terrible Revolution, Christopher James Blythe examines apocalypticism across the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, particularly as it took shape in the writings and visions of the laity. The responses of the church hierarchy to apocalyptic lay prophecies promoted their own form of separatist nationalism during the nineteenth century. Yet, after Utah obtained statehood, as the church sought to assimilate to national religious norms, these same leaders sought to lessen the tensions between themselves and American political and cultural powers. As a result, visions of a violent end to the nation became a liability to disavow and regulate. Ultimately, Blythe argues that the visionary world of early Mormonism, with its apocalyptic emphases, continued in the church's mainstream culture in modified forms but continued to maintain separatist radical forms at the level of folk-belief.-Christopher James Blythe is a research associate at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. He is the editor of the Journal of Mormon History and was a documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers from 2015 to 2018.
57 minutes | Jan 8, 2021
116 George Washington and the Creation of an American Institution with Lindsay M. Chervinsky
The US Constitution never established a presidential cabinet―the delegates to the Constitutional Convention explicitly rejected the idea. So how did George Washington create one of the most powerful bodies in the federal government?On November 26, 1791, George Washington convened his department secretaries―Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph―for the first cabinet meeting. Why did he wait two and a half years into his presidency to call his cabinet? Because the US Constitution did not create or provide for such a body. Washington was on his own.Faced with diplomatic crises, domestic insurrections, and constitutional challenges―and finding congressional help lacking―Washington decided he needed a group of advisors he could turn to. He modeled his new cabinet on the councils of war he had led as commander of the Continental Army. In the early days, the cabinet served at the president’s pleasure. Washington tinkered with its structure throughout his administration, at times calling regular meetings, at other times preferring written advice and individual discussions.Lindsay M. Chervinsky reveals the far-reaching consequences of Washington’s choice. The tensions in the cabinet between Hamilton and Jefferson heightened partisanship and contributed to the development of the first party system. And as Washington faced an increasingly recalcitrant Congress, he came to treat the cabinet as a private advisory body to summon as needed, greatly expanding the role of the president and the executive branch.-Lindsay M. Chervinsky is Scholar in Residence at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies at Iona College, Senior Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, and Professorial Lecturer at the School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.
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