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In 1899, before Theodore Roosevelt ran for national office, Secretary of State John Hay orchestrated an international agreement with six imperial powers to collectively guarantee the maintenance of free trade in Chinese ports, a potentially lucrative market for American goods and a primary cause of friction among covetous foreign traders.
‘“Chris’mas, we allus had plenny good sumpin’ t’eat, an’ we all got tegether an’ had lots er fun,”’ stated Rias Body, an ex-slave from Alabama, to a Federal Writers’ Project interviewer.
Gary Gerstle’s Liberty and Coercion is a tour de force account of American governance that manages to survey the chronological and geographical breadth of US history with a judicious depth of precise detail and example.
For the past five years, American historians have been knee-deep in the American Civil War. The 150th anniversary of this historical moment has brought on a deluge of writing on the subject; an exhilarating, exhausting experience. A mountain of work on the war now strains already groaning library shelves. The result, however, has yielded some surprises.
If posterity remembered her at all, Louisa Catherine Adams probably knew that it would be as the other Mrs. Adams. She was the wife of John Quincy Adams, whose one-term presidency was arguably as disastrous as that of his father, John Adams. She was also the daughter-in-law of the formidable Abigail Adams, who, beginning in the 19th century, became a paragon of revolutionary womanhood.
In the last decade the history of American capitalism has monopolized the attention of US scholars and students alike. From the halls of Harvard to the front pages of the New York Times, the history of this financial system has become a hot topic.
In February 1862, the Pennsylvanian Republican John W. Forney read aloud George Washington’s ‘Farewell Address’ on the Senate Floor. The occasion? It was the 130th anniversary of the first President’s birth. Each year the United States Senate continues to observe Washington’s Birthday in the same manner, alternating between speakers from each party.
The ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865 marked the crowning achievement in the history of American abolitionism. The sesquicentennial anniversary of this amendment has led to a recent avalanche of scholarship on the downfall of American slavery and the coming of freedom for more than four million slaves. Who abolished slavery? How was slavery abolished?
It was hardly to be expected that the sesquicentennial might come and go without the Civil War’s most preeminent historian offering his thoughts on the subject, and James McPherson has not let us down. Not that The War that Forged a Nation is in any direct sense a comment on or reaction to the sesquicentennial; it is neither.
We are now a generation into an ‘Atlantic turn’ in writing early American history. Jordan Landes and Abram C. Van Engen make welcome, but different, contributions through their arguments about emotions in Puritan New England and networking by London Quakers.