The year 1776 typically conjures up images of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Gen. Washington crossing the Delaware. Yet, this week's featured book provides us with another view. West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, by Claudio Saunt, examines events in North America outside of the rebelling thirteen American colonies including land speculation west of the Appalachians and Russian and Spanish excursions on the West Coast. In shifting our perspective, Saunt reveals the implications that these global events of 1776 had for the future development of the United States.
In the first excerpt, we learn about an ambitious, yet illegal under British law, land scheme to settle a “fourteenth colony.” The second excerpt introduces how the settlement of Spanish missions in California and Russian fur trading posts in Alaska landed a Kumeyaay Indian named Diego in jail.
American history tends to remember loyalists in the American Revolution simply as the defeated. Yet, Maya Jasanoff's book, Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, shows us that while the victorious patriots were busy building a new country, loyalists refugees were helping to settle an empire. Those loyalists that chose to leave America after the war looked to Britain for help and the burgeoning empire facilitated their resettlement on a global scale. Jasanoff weaves the ups and downs of ten major characters as they endure the war and eventually seek asylum from Nova Scotia to Jamaica, Sierra Leone to India. The following excerpt features the two minor characters of Jacob Bailey and Louisa Wells and illustrates an exiled loyalist experience and what it meant to be an American colonist returning to the motherland after defeat.
Beginning with the immortal line, “THESE are the times that try men's souls,” Thomas Paine’s “The American Crisis, No. I” holds a revered place in American History. Composed as a patriotic rallying cry for a weary army, Paine published the first pamphlet in the series on December 19, 1776. It is said that on Christmas Eve of that year, George Washington ordered it to be read to his troops before the crossing of the Delaware and the pivotal Battle of Trenton on December 26, 1776.
For women, the Revolutionary War resulted in more than American Independence, it became a watershed moment for the development of women's political expression. Rosemarie Zagarri’s Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic, is a study of the emergence, and eventual suppression of female political activity during and after the American Revolution. Zagarri concludes that the increased political activities of women during the Revolutionary period produced a backlash in their political participation in the 19th century, but set the stage for women’s popular participation in other forms, such as benevolent societies and social reform organizations.
The following excerpt explains how political leaders asked for women’s contributions in helping the Revolutionary cause and how women came to understand their own patriotism.
Growing up in Philadelphia, author Rebecca Eckfeldt Gibby frequently heard an intriguing story about her ancestor, Adam Eckfeldt. According to family lore, Eckfeldt produced the first coins for the United States with silver donated by Martha Washington! Was it true? Gibby’s drive to uncover the history of her Revolutionary-era ancestor led her to write this engaging work of juvenile fiction. It is a perfect holiday gift for young history lovers.
At the time of the invention of photography in 1839, America’s aged Revolutionary generation was quickly passing away. Historians and photographers sought to capture the images and stories of veterans and those who lived through that momentous period. Author Maureen Taylor’s book, The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation, complied over fifty extant nineteenth-century photographs and shares known biographical information for each person.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia declared the United States a free and independent nation. Author Danielle Allen examines the Declaration of Independence, the document’s current day relevance, and the relationship between freedom and equality in her book entitled, Our Declaration.
Enslaved African Americans in North America found themselves in an unusual situation during the War for American Independence. The new American Republic touted liberty and freedom, but this did not extend to all members of society. Cassandra Pybus personalizes the wartime stories of black men and women who fled their American masters to seek freedom, and traces their footsteps around the globe.
Walter R. Borneman's book American Spring looks at the first six months of 1775. As political tensions between the colonial resistance and the British Government grew into military violence, ordinary people faced dramatic and profound decisions. Which side would an individual support as the conflict deepened and spread, the forces of the government or of the resistance? Would he or she attempt to remain neutral or become an active supporter, perhaps even by taking up arms?
As thousands of Americans faced these decisions, leaders on both sides of the argument took up their pens. The newspaper and pamphlet debate in British America during the political crisis of the late 1760s and early 1770s produced a rich and complex variety of arguments. In this section, Borneman discusses one particular strain of this debate, between a defender of the government position, Daniel Leonard, and his now-more-famous adversary, John Adams, who advocated the position of the resistance.
The Revolutionary era's newspapers are rich with stories of the major and minor conflicts that inspired the American Revolution. In Reporting the Revolutionary War, Todd Andrlik publishes an array of these fascinating news stories alongside essays by modern historians. Among them is our assistant curator, Neal Hurst, who wrote this essay about how a British decision to confiscate gunpowder under the cover of night from Williamsburg's magazine provoked outrage and action by the city's patriots.