Book picks similar to
William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic by Alan Taylor
Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution
Bernard Bailyn - 1986
"Voyagers to the West is a superb book. . . . It should be equally admired by and equally attractive to the general reader as to the professional historian."--R.C. Simmons, Journal of American Studies
The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher
Debby Applegate - 2006
The blithe, boisterous son of the last great Puritan minister, he seemed destined to be overshadowed by his brilliant siblings—especially his sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, who penned the century’s bestselling book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But when pushed into the ministry, the charismatic Beecher found international fame by shedding his father’s Old Testament–style fire-and-brimstone theology and instead preaching a New Testament–based gospel of unconditional love and healing, becoming one of the founding fathers of modern American Christianity. By the 1850s, his spectacular sermons at Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights had made him New York’s number one tourist attraction, so wildly popular that the ferries from Manhattan to Brooklyn were dubbed “Beecher Boats.” Beecher inserted himself into nearly every important drama of the era—among them the antislavery and women’s suffrage movements, the rise of the entertainment industry and tabloid press, and controversies ranging from Darwinian evolution to presidential politics. He was notorious for his irreverent humor and melodramatic gestures, such as auctioning slaves to freedom in his pulpit and shipping rifles—nicknamed “Beecher’s Bibles”—to the antislavery resistance fighters in Kansas. Thinkers such as Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Twain befriended—and sometimes parodied—him.And then it all fell apart. In 1872 Beecher was accused by feminist firebrand Victoria Woodhull of adultery with one of his most pious parishioners. Suddenly the “Gospel of Love” seemed to rationalize a life of lust. The cuckolded husband brought charges of “criminal conversation” in a salacious trial that became the most widely covered event of the century, garnering more newspaper headlines than the entire Civil War. Beecher survived, but his reputation and his causes—from women’s rights to progressive evangelicalism—suffered devastating setbacks that echo to this day.Featuring the page-turning suspense of a novel and dramatic new historical evidence, Debby Applegate has written the definitive biography of this captivating, mercurial, and sometimes infuriating figure. In our own time, when religion and politics are again colliding and adultery in high places still commands headlines, Beecher’s story sheds new light on the culture and conflicts of contemporary America.
The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties
Mark E. Neely Jr. - 1991
Indeed, Lincoln's record on the Constitution and individual rights has fueled a century of debate, from charges that Democrats were singled out for harrassment to Gore Vidal's depiction of Lincoln as an absolute dictator. Now, in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fate of Liberty, one of America's leading authorities on Lincoln wades straight into this controversy, showing just who was jailed and why, even as he explores the whole range of Lincoln's constitutional policies. Mark Neely depicts Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus as a well-intentioned attempt to deal with a floodtide of unforeseen events: the threat to Washington as Maryland flirted with secession, disintegrating public order in the border states, corruption among military contractors, the occupation of hostile Confederate territory, contraband trade with the South, and the outcry against the first draft in U.S. history. Drawing on letters from prisoners, records of military courts and federal prisons, memoirs, and federal archives, he paints a vivid picture of how Lincoln responded to these problems, how his policies were actually executed, and the virulent political debates that followed. Lincoln emerges from this account with this legendary statesmanship intact--mindful of political realities and prone to temper the sentences of military courts, concerned not with persecuting his opponents but with prosecuting the war efficiently. In addition, Neely explores the abuses of power under the regime of martial law: the routine torture of suspected deserters, widespread antisemitism among Union generals and officials, the common practice of seizing civilian hostages. He finds that though the system of military justice was flawed, it suffered less from merciless zeal, or political partisanship, than from inefficiency and the friction and complexities of modern war. Informed by a deep understanding of a unique period in American history, this incisive book takes a comprehensive look at the issues of civil liberties during Lincoln's administration, placing them firmly in the political context of the time. Written with keen insight and an intimate grasp of the original sources, The Fate of Liberty offers a vivid picture of the crises and chaos of a nation at war with itself, changing our understanding of this president and his most controversial policies.
Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam
Fredrik Logevall - 2012
Fought over a period of three decades, the conflict drew in all the world’s powers and saw two of them—first France, then the United States—attempt to subdue the revolutionary Vietnamese forces. For France, the defeat marked the effective end of her colonial empire, while for America the war left a gaping wound in the body politic that remains open to this day. How did it happen? Tapping into newly accessible diplomatic archives in several nations and making full use of the published literature, distinguished scholar Fredrik Logevall traces the path that led two Western nations to lose their way in Vietnam. Embers of War opens in 1919 at the Versailles Peace Conference, where a young Ho Chi Minh delivers a petition for Vietnamese independence to President Woodrow Wilson. It concludes in 1959, with a Viet Cong ambush on a U.S. outpost outside Saigon and the deaths of two American officers whose names would be the first to be carved into the black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In between come years of political, military, and diplomatic maneuvering and miscalculation, as leaders on all sides embark on a series of stumbles that makes an eminently avoidable struggle a bloody and interminable reality. Logevall takes us inside the councils of war—and gives us a seat at the conference tables where peace talks founder. He brings to life the bloodiest battles of France’s final years in Indochina—and shows how from an early point, a succession of American leaders made disastrous policy choices that put America on its own collision course with history: Harry Truman’s fateful decision to reverse Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s policy and acknowledge France’s right to return to Indochina after World War II; Dwight Eisenhower’s strenuous efforts to keep Paris in the fight and his escalation of U.S. involvement in the aftermath of the humiliating French defeat at Dien Bien Phu; and the curious turnaround in Senator John F. Kennedy’s thinking that would lead him as president to expand that commitment, despite his publicly stated misgivings about Western intervention in Southeast Asia. An epic story of wasted opportunities and tragic miscalculations, featuring an extraordinary cast of larger-than-life characters, Embers of War delves deep into the historical record to provide hard answers to the unanswered questions surrounding the demise of one Western power in Vietnam and the arrival of another. This book will become the definitive chronicle of the struggle’s origins for years to come.Advance praise for Embers of War “Fredrik Logevall has gleaned from American, French, and Vietnamese sources a splendid account of France’s nine-year war in Indochina and the story of how the American statesmen of the period allowed this country to be drawn into the quagmire.”—Neil Sheehan, author of A Bright Shining Lie, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award “Fredrik Logevall is a wonderful writer and historian. In his new book on the origins of the American war in Vietnam, he gives a fascinating and dramatic account of the French war and its aftermath, from the perspectives of the French, the Vietnamese, and the Americans. Using previously untapped sources and a deep knowledge of diplomatic history, Logevall shows to devastating effect how America found itself on the road to Vietnam.”—Frances FitzGerald, author of Fire in the Lake, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
Joseph J. Ellis - 2000
Ellis focuses on six discrete moments that exemplify the most crucial issues facing the fragile new nation: Burr and Hamilton's deadly duel, and what may have really happened; Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison's secret dinner, during which the seat of the permanent capital was determined in exchange for passage of Hamilton's financial plan; Franklin's petition to end the "peculiar institution" of slavery--his last public act--and Madison's efforts to quash it; Washington's precedent-setting Farewell Address, announcing his retirement from public office and offering his country some final advice; Adams's difficult term as Washington's successor and his alleged scheme to pass the presidency on to his son; and finally, Adams and Jefferson's renewed correspondence at the end of their lives, in which they compared their different views of the Revolution and its legacy.In a lively and engaging narrative, Ellis recounts the sometimes collaborative, sometimes archly antagonistic interactions between these men, and shows us the private characters behind the public personas: Adams, the ever-combative iconoclast, whose closest political collaborator was his wife, Abigail; Burr, crafty, smooth, and one of the most despised public figures of his time; Hamilton, whose audacious manner and deep economic savvy masked his humble origins; Jefferson, renowned for his eloquence, but so reclusive and taciturn that he rarely spoke more than a few sentences in public; Madison, small, sickly, and paralyzingly shy, yet one of the most effective debaters of his generation; and the stiffly formal Washington, the ultimate realist, larger-than-life, and America's only truly indispensable figure.Ellis argues that the checks and balances that permitted the infant American republic to endure were not primarily legal, constitutional, or institutional, but intensely personal, rooted in the dynamic interaction of leaders with quite different visions and values. Revisiting the old-fashioned idea that character matters, Founding Brothers informs our understanding of American politics--then and now--and gives us a new perspective on the unpredictable forces that shape history.
Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution
Jack N. Rakove - 1996
From abortion to same-sex marriage, today's most urgent political debates will hinge on this two-part question: What did the United States Constitution originally mean and who now understands its meaning best? Rakove chronicles the Constitution from inception to ratification and, in doing so, traces its complex weave of ideology and interest, showing how this document has meant different things at different times to different groups of Americans.
Across the Wide Missouri
Bernard DeVoto - 1947
Across the Wide Missouri tells the compelling story of the climax and decline of the Rocky Mountain fur trade during the 1830s. More than a history, it portrays the mountain fur trade as a way of business and a way of life, vividly illustrating how it shaped the expansion of the American West.
The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics
Don E. Fehrenbacher - 1978
On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Supreme Court's decision against Dred Scott, a slave who maintained he had been emancipated as a result of having lived with his master in the free state of Illinois and in federal territory where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise. The decision did much more than resolve the fate of an elderly black man and his family: Dred Scott v. Sanford was the first instance in which the Supreme Court invalidated a major piece of federal legislation. The decision declared that Congress had no power to prohibit slavery in the federal territories, thereby striking a severe blow at the legitimacy of the emerging Republican party and intensifying the sectional conflict over slavery. This book represents a skillful review of the issues before America on the eve of the Civil War. The first third of the book deals directly with the with the case itself and the Court's decision, while the remainder puts the legal and judicial question of slavery into the broadest possible American context. Fehrenbacher discusses the legal bases of slavery, the debate over the Constitution, and the dispute over slavery and continental expansion. He also considers the immediate and long-range consequences of the decision.
Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery
Leon F. Litwack - 1979
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book AwardBased on hitherto unexamined sources: interviews with ex-slaves, diaries and accounts by former slaveholders, this "rich and admirably written book" (Eugene Genovese, The New York Times Book Review) aims to show how, during the Civil War and after Emancipation, blacks and whites interacted in ways that dramatized not only their mutual dependency, but the ambiguities and tensions that had always been latent in "the peculiar institution."
Paul Revere and the World He Lived In
Esther Forbes - 1942
An elegant storyteller and expert historian, Esther Forbes paints a memorable portrait of American colonial history and of this most legendary of revolutionary heroes -- "not merely one man riding one horse on a certain lonely night of long ago, but a symbol to which his countrymen can yet turn."
David Hackett Fischer - 2003
A powerful British force had routed the Americans at New York, occupied three colonies, and advanced within sight of Philadelphia.Yet, as David Hackett Fischer recounts in this riveting history, George Washington--and many other Americans--refused to let the Revolution die. On Christmas night, as a howling nor'easter struck the Delaware Valley, he led his men across the river and attacked the exhausted Hessian garrison atTrenton, killing or capturing nearly a thousand men. A second battle of Trenton followed within days. The Americans held off a counterattack by Lord Cornwallis's best troops, then were almost trapped by the British force. Under cover of night, Washington's men stole behind the enemy and struck themagain, defeating a brigade at Princeton. The British were badly shaken. In twelve weeks of winter fighting, their army suffered severe damage, their hold on New Jersey was broken, and their strategy was ruined.Fischer's richly textured narrative reveals the crucial role of contingency in these events. We see how the campaign unfolded in a sequence of difficult choices by many actors, from generals to civilians, on both sides. While British and German forces remained rigid and hierarchical, Americansevolved an open and flexible system that was fundamental to their success. The startling success of Washington and his compatriots not only saved the faltering American Revolution, but helped to give it new meaning.
Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People
Elizabeth A. Fenn - 2014
We know of them mostly because Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1804-1805 with them, but why don't we know more? Who were they really? In this extraordinary book, Elizabeth A. Fenn retrieves their history by piecing together important new discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, geology, climatology, epidemiology, and nutritional science. Her boldly original interpretation of these diverse research findings offers us a new perspective on early American history, a new interpretation of the American past. By 1500, more than twelve thousand Mandans were established on the northern Plains, and their commercial prowess, agricultural skills, and reputation for hospitality became famous. Recent archaeological discoveries show how these Native American people thrived, and then how they collapsed. The damage wrought by imported diseases like smallpox and the havoc caused by the arrival of horses and steamboats were tragic for the Mandans, yet, as Fenn makes clear, their sense of themselves as a people with distinctive traditions endured. A riveting account of Mandan history, landscapes, and people, Fenn's narrative is enriched and enlivened not only by science and research but by her own encounters at the heart of the world.
The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861
David Morris Potter - 1976
Potter’s magisterial The Impending Crisis is the single best account to date of the coming of the Civil War.” —Civil War History“The magnum opus of a great American historian.” —NewsweekNow in a new edition for the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, David Potter’s Pulitzer Prize-winning history of antebellum America offers an indispensible analysis of the causes of the war between the states. The Journal of Southern History calls Potter’s incisive account, “modern scholarship’s most comprehensive account of the coming of the Civil War,” and the New York Times Book Review hails it as “profound and original…. History in the grand tradition.”
Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America
T.J. Stiles - 2015
George Armstrong Custer that radically changes our view of the man and his turbulent times.In this magisterial biography, T. J. Stiles paints a portrait of Custer both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, proving how much of Custer’s legacy has been ignored. He demolishes Custer’s historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person—capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years). The key to understanding Custer, Stiles writes, is keeping in mind that he lived on a frontier in time. In the Civil War, the West, and many areas overlooked in previous biographies, Custer helped to create modern America, but he could never adapt to it. He freed countless slaves yet rejected new civil rights laws. He proved his heroism but missed the dark reality of war for so many others. A talented combat leader, he struggled as a manager in the West. He tried to make a fortune on Wall Street yet never connected with the new corporate economy. Native Americans fascinated him, but he could not see them as fully human. A popular writer, he remained apart from Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain, and other rising intellectuals. During Custer’s lifetime, Americans saw their world remade. His admirers saw him as the embodiment of the nation’s gallant youth, of all that they were losing; his detractors despised him for resisting a more complex and promising future. Intimate, dramatic, and provocative, this biography captures the larger story of the changing nation in Custer’s tumultuous marriage to his highly educated wife, Libbie; their complicated relationship with Eliza Brown, the forceful black woman who ran their household; as well as his battles and expeditions. It casts surprising new light on a near-mythic American figure, a man both widely known and little understood.