Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South


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Cotton Pressing in Louisiana; wood engraving from Ballou’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion, 1856.

Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South. By Adam Rothman. (Cambridge, Mass and London: Harvard University Press, 2005). pp. ix-296.

In Slave Country, Adam Rothman tries to answer why the revolutionary generation did not abolish slavery during the formation of the United States and why slavery thrived and expanded in the Early National era. He also examines the contradictory relationship the founders had with slavery: the ban on slave importation from the foreign slave trade, the creation of regulations on the internal domestic slave trade, and their (somewhat feeble) attempts at limiting the spread of slavery into new territories. He focuses his attention on the deep southern region that encompasses Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Rothman maintains that the rise of the plantation system coincided with the “transatlantic system of commodity exchange” and was supported by favorable national and local policies designed to spread slavery into the newly acquired southwest territories.

The plantation system gained a big boost from two new crops not cultivated widely in the colonial period. Sugar and cotton virtually replaced indigo and tobacco as southern cash crops and required extensive labor to produce. The sugar industry expanded in Louisiana in large part to the successful slave revolt in Saint-Domingue in 1791, which redistributed sugar production knowledge and technology throughout the Americas. Cotton also became important due to international influences. The technological advances in the textile industry in England (and later domestically in New England) spurred the demand for large quantities of hardy cotton.

Rothman, however, knows just enough Louisiana history to be dangerous. When he sticks to verifiable facts, his book is an enjoyable read but his interpretation of said facts is exceedingly irksome. He claims to explain the origins of slavery in what he terms the “Deep South” but he clearly ignores (except for a few highly cherry-picked examples) the entire history of slavery in the French and Spanish Colonial periods. What Rothman actually presents in this book without ever explicitly saying was the “Americanization” of slavery in the “Deep South,” especially in Louisiana.

If Rothman had included the sizable historiography of creolization and Americanization, he would have found an explanation of the German Coast slave riot (January 8, 1811) and for the diminishing population of free people of color. During the time period described in Slave Society, Louisiana was experiencing an abrupt transition between slavery systems: from the harsh and exploitative but still the most lenient form (i.e. the Spanish) to the harshest (i.e. the Anglo-American) in terms of legal rights, privileges, and treatment. There was also a switch from a precarious subsistence, colonial trade economy to a more stable and lucrative plantation economy. Rothman attributes the revolt to the switch in production from indigo and tobacco to sugar and cotton and in part, he is correct. However, without examining the origins of the planters themselves, whether they were Creole Louisianans or transplanted Americans, one can only tell the partial story. When the Americans came to Louisiana, they brought with them their own system of slavery and racial prejudices. By omitting an explanation of slavery under the Spanish rule, Rothman presents a skewed interpretation. His description of slavery in this book, while technically correct from an American point of view, ignores the Creole resistance to and the steady pressure of Americanization.

Under the French and Spanish rules, Louisiana gained a large, prosperous, and growing population of free people of color. Louisiana was, in fact, a tertiary society: white, mulatto, and black. During the American colonial period, that tertiary society was squashed into a binary one: white and black. The Americans systematically scaled back the rights and privileges enjoyed by New Orleans free people of color (gens de couleur libres). This had a devastating effect on that population, libres either assimilated to pass as “white” or they emigrated to France. If Rothman had included any history before 1804, he could have told a more compelling story about the darker side of Americanization. He also would not have been so shocked by the New Orleans Mulatto Militia’s contribution to the Battle of New Orleans as they had a long and distinguished service under Spanish rule.

Rothman repeatedly refers to New Orleans/Louisiana public officials in his book. But this terminology lacks precision. When he refers to public officials, he means American officials or the few Creoles who supported American expansion. The American presence in Louisiana at this time was a thin but growing veneer. In fact, the native Creole population was struggling to retain political control but found themselves increasingly accommodating the Americans or they risked being pushed out of politics altogether. The Americans do not achieve full dominance until the 1830s. Rothman ignores the Creole perspective and sources in favor of their American (and prevailing) counterpoint. This is especially evident when he discusses the public reaction to Saint-Domingue refugees entering Louisiana. The larger Francophone population welcomed the refugees with open arms as fellow countrymen. Louisiana had more socio-economic and political ties with the circum-Caribbean world than it did to the mainland. The Americans wanted to reverse this trend and to avoid the slave insurrections and political instability that the French revolution had caused in the Caribbean.


Rothman’s analysis of Louisiana slavery is another good example of favoritism for American sources. He insists that, “the broader patterns of transatlantic and intra-Caribbean slave trade, not the preferences of local planters, dictated which Africans would end up in the lower Mississippi Valley.”[1] He is correct. The Americans in Louisiana had no preference for location, but the Creoles did. Again, Rothman lacks precision. To support his statement, he quotes William Dunbar, but Dunbar himself refutes Rothman’s claim when he writes, “The Iboe nation lies under a prejudice here & may be excluded.”[2] Creoles, when possible, avoided making slaves of the Iboe people because they were warlike, aggressive, and tended to incite slave rebellions. This is one of the reasons that the British employed Iboe warriors during the Battle of New Orleans.

His use and interpretation of Gwendolyn Midlo Hall’s Louisiana Slave Database is spotty at best. Rothman uses the database to show that because the buyers did not pay more for slaves of any particular region that they did not care where they were from. Hall’s Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century, provides a better understanding of the nature of slavery in Louisiana as a whole. She did a detailed analysis of slaves’ origins and found a marked (Creole) preference for slaves from the Senegambia region of North Africa. Rothman misses a golden opportunity to compare and contrast American versus Creole slave preferences by not utilizing his Creole sources.

Rothman lumps Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama together as the “Deep South” and analyzes the effects of plantation slavery and American expansion had on each region. He also relies heavily on Thomas Jefferson’s civilizing mission of the agrarian frontier as a lens to view the results. The trouble Rothman encounters is that Jefferson’s vision was only possible if the wilderness was empty, which it was not. Rothman claims that Alabama most realized Jefferson’s vision and created the most republican society of the three in part because the planter class had less of a stranglehold on its formation. While that may have been true, Alabama territory was also the least touched by European influences having nearly always been controlled by Native Americans. Once Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Indians during the War of 1812, the area was ripe for whatever system the Americans wished to implement and there was no need for accommodating the native population. That was not the case in Louisiana and the Mississippi Territory.

A major problem arises when a new colonizing force enters into a region with significant internal improvements, especially if the new force recognizes the prior claims of the indigenous population, as was the case in Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi for the people of European descent. The difficulties surveying Federal lands and the opposition of squatters are two prime examples. Jefferson’s administration had a constant, nightmare struggle to survey, delineate, and bring these rectangular plots of land to sale. The Federal Land administration also spent years verifying Louisianans’ Royal charters and land grants from both France and Spain to weed out fraudulent claims. Because the inhabitants had recognized protections under international treaties and were of European descent, the Americans were initially forced into accommodation and thus were less successful in achieving the ideal republican society in their newly acquired territories.

The Early Republic Congressional debate about whether to allow slavery to exist in Louisiana and Mississippi Territory was exceedingly silly. They assumed that the region was a tabula rasa where slavery could either be imposed or banned while ignoring that slavery had existed in some form (first Indian enslavement, then African) since colonialization began in 1699. However, Rothman did an excellent job in demonstrating the effects that chattel slavery had on Native American peoples. He demonstrated through various examples how the Indian backcountry was not a haven for escaped slaves: many slaves nearly perished from hunger and exposure; slaves were carried off by Indians as war prizes; and slaves were targeted as reprisals against white transgressions. Another thing Rothman could have explored was the taking of Indians by whites as slaves. Because the Indians themselves had been targeted as slaves, it goes a long way in explaining their denigration of African slaves.

[1] Pp 89.

[2] Pp 88.


Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War


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A Female Rebel In Baltimore-An Everyday Scene-

Harper’s Weekly, Vol. V-No. 245; New York Saturday, September 7, 1861 A Female Rebel In Baltimore-An Everyday Scene-

Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War. By Victoria E. Ott, Ph.D. (2008) Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Pp. ix + 215. ISBN 978-0809328284. Hardback, $29.95.

The Civil War and the subsequent social upheaval created a dream deferred for the lost generation of Scarlett O’Hara and her sisters. Born to wealth and privilege, the young women who came of age during the Civil War had a reasonable expectation to assume their place among southern slaveholding society. After all, that was what was taught to them by their parents, teachers, and clergymen. They displayed remarkable courage and tenacity in their efforts to hold on to their social inheritance and were the principle architects of the Lost Cause mythos in defeat.

In Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War, Victoria Ott profiled 85 young women from across the Confederacy who left written records. The main focus of this book is to examine the impact that the Civil War had on young southern girls between the ages of 13-18 when the war started. Ott surmised that the Civil War became a “coming of age” experience that left a unique mark on this age group, not unlike the Depression and World War II did on later generations. Because of their youth, these young women experienced the war and its aftermath differently than their mothers and older female kin. She sought answers to the questions: how did young women view and contribute to southern nationalism, what did they gain from their support of the Confederacy, how did their roles in the family and society change during the conflict, what did they lose in defeat and how did they reconcile that loss?

Victoria Ott examines in Chapter 1, “Our Bright Youth,” the social, filial and religious obligations that antebellum daughters were taught in preparation for their roles as wives and mothers. Their education, though mostly ornamental and not as extensive as their brothers’, sought to instill good personal character, intellectual capabilities useful in their later roles, and to reinforce paternalism and deference toward male authority. Young women were taught to revere the ideals of southern womanhood, which espoused “domesticity, piety, purity and submissiveness”[1] and held them above women of lower classes and slaves. This was a set of ideals many believed they could not attain without the institution of slavery remaining intact.

In “The Politicized Belle” and “Self-Sufficient Daughter,” Ott maintains that the young women contributed to southern nationalism in a conservative effort to preserve their status in the slaveholding community and how coming of age during the Civil War changed their understanding of themselves, their place in society and the South as a whole. “This effort to ensure the traditional path to womanhood encouraged civic involvement and outspoken support for the Confederacy.”[2] Whereas, “their youth permitted a degree of freedom in their patriotic expressions much greater than that permitted their mothers and older female kin.”[3]

Daughters were thoroughly indoctrinated into the Confederate cause and the tenets of States’ Rights which manifested in the young women, along with their mothers, organizing soldiers’ aid; widow’s and orphan relief societies; sewing and prayer groups and hosting community performances with patriotic tableaux to raise money for Confederate aid societies. They also transformed their fashion into political statements and defiant southern symbols by adopting homespun fabrics, wearing certain colors and flowers and discarding hoopskirts. Economic necessity and the absence of male family members often forced the young women to adopt a more self-sufficient role in the family structure. The young women took a more active responsibility in managing the household economy, defending against the confiscation of food and supplies, and enduring rampant inflation and shortages. Some daughters also, albeit reluctantly in some cases, submitted to paid employment as a means to provide for their families, with the full expectation of returning to more traditional female roles once the war was over.

The collapse of slavery brought another dimension to the shifting sands of racial relations. Thoroughly entrenched in their parent’s paternalistic teachings, the young women struggled to understand why their trusted and loyal servants would choose freedom over remaining on the plantations with the “family.” As more slaves ran away, the young women and other white southerners found explanation in increasingly racist attitudes. They offered explanations in letters and diaries of disloyalty, racial character flaws, and blamed the Union soldiers for misleading the slaves with promises of “false idea of freedom” [4] rather than blaming the institution of slavery. The breakdown of the paternalistic view of slaves created a dichotomy in the minds of white southerners between the good and faithful servant and the indolent, treacherous fugitive.

In “The Perfect Woman” and “The Confederate Belle Ideal,” Victoria Ott delves into traditional and changing romantic courtship rituals, and the creation of the Lost Cause mythos. During Antebellum and wartime, bellehood was looked upon as a time of increased freedom for the young ladies. “The Civil War…called into question the traditional courtship practices and attitudes toward marriage for this generation of southern women.”[5] The young women had to face the loss of potential suitors to war, death, disease, and reconcile themselves to the possibility of life without romance, marriage, and children. Because of their relative youth, the young women Victoria Ott sampled were able to adjust courtship practices and expectations of marriage to suit wartime conditions and, in most cases, were able to delay marriage until after the war. Confederate army movements increased the chances for young ladies to meet potential suitor especially in major cities and regions otherwise devoid of “beaux”. Many young women took advantage of this potential by organizing social events for soldiers passing through their towns. The main way that courtship changed is that instead of supervised face-to-face meetings, the couple courted via correspondence which was once only permissible between married or engaged couples. Couples used the freedom and anonymity of letters for emotion outlets and mutual support. They also explored the expectations of marital duties, adherence to masculine and feminine behavioral norm and encouraged moral fortitude. The young ladies also had to adjust their ideas of suitor’s eligibility. This adjustment manifested in a willingness to socialize with younger men, men with war scars and disfigurements, and men facing depression and alcoholism. “They [young ladies] accepted their emotional problems as part of the female burdens of war.”[6]

Ott states, that the “young women of the war generation worked to create an image of themselves in wartime that fit within the growing cultural battle to venerate the Confederacy.”[7] They offered a youthful counterpoint to the “maternal role of women” during the war which became known later as the Confederate Belle ideal. While maintaining traditional gender ideals and racial hierarchy, they expanded upon the Confederate belle ideal in diaries and letters some of which were for private use as instruction for their daughters and granddaughters, while others were produced for publication. The ideal created an image of the women as self-sacrificing daughters who put aside their youth and youthful frivolities to embrace the hardships of war, material poverty, and charity work, and who sacrificed their potential suitors to The Cause rather than their husbands and sons. One of the major consequences of this attempt meant that the women, who had reached adulthood, believed that it was their duty to aid in the recovery of white supremacy. In their writings, “issues of race and the consequences of emancipation emerged in the recollections of young women and contributed significantly to the transition from a paternalistic outlook toward slaves to harsher, more racist views of African-Americans in freedom.”[8] With the abolition of slavery, white female ex-slaveholders had nothing to distinguish themselves from their former servants. They sought to re-establish power over their domestic sphere and reinstate some semblance of the previous mistress-slave relationship.

Confederate Daughters: Coming of Age during the Civil War is a well-written and thought-provoking book with clear, straightforward language. While this book is a scholarly micro-history of a subset of historical figures, it is easily accessible to the public and would make a fine addition to anyone’s library who is interested in women in history or the Civil War.

Victoria Ott’s arguments are plausible but her sample size is much too small to generate such sweeping generalizations of this age group’s thoughts, action, and behaviors. From the material she provided, she was able to support her thesis well and anchored her scholarship on the foundation of Drew Gilpin Faust, David Potter, Jane Turner Censer, Cynthia Kierner, and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, amongst others. Ott leaves her readers with the understanding that although the young ladies of the war generation entered into uncharted waters to preserve their traditional way of life, their efforts led to fundamental “changes in the definition of southern womanhood that would come in the twentieth century.”[9]

[1] Pp. 5.

[2] Pp.36.

[3] Pp.36.

[4] Pp. 84.

[5] Pp. 101.

[6] Pp. 120.

[7] Pp. 130.

[8] Pp. 147.

[9] Pp.167.

Histiography Comparison Paper guidelines


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Comparing and contrasting two texts:

1) Start with a review/summary of text A
2) Review text B
3) Similarities between text A and B
4) Differences between A and B
5) Which one was more effective?


Look at three different variables (XYZ)

1) Talk about how text A looks at X and then how text B looks at X. Was one more effective? Did they contradict each other? Say the same thing?

2) Talk about how text A looks at Y and then how text B looks at Y. Was one more effective? Did they contradict each other? Say the same thing?

3) Talk about how text A looks at Z and then how text B looks at Z. Was one more effective? Did they contradict each other? Say the same thing?


Petticoat Wars: How Women Fought for Inclusion in the Early American Republic


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Duel in Bois de Boulogne


In the Early American Republic, politicians publicly debated what, if any, the women’s relationship to the state would be, including their rights and civic obligations. Could women be expected to adhere to the new republic’s laws without the privileges that accompany citizenship, like the right to vote, to hold public office, and the right to sit on juries? Most early politicians considered politics as inherently masculine and therefore, women were unfit for politics. John Adams summed up this sentiment best when he said, “The spirit of liberty spread where it was not intended.”[1] Few people expected the avenues of inquiry that the rhetoric of Independence and Natural Rights had opened. In the first four decades of the Republic, the top political leaders weighed in on who would be included or excluded from the national discourse. This debate created a narrow window in which the ideals of the Revolution could have reached its full potential.

This paper will discuss the various ways women took advantage of that window of opportunity. The first section delineates their passive resistance to male dominance. Passivity here means that women displayed some agency to protect their interests but they did not seek to change their overall social or legal situation within the Early Republic. The second section deals with women’s active involvement in both politics and economic matters. This involvement went beyond maintaining the status quo and could be described as the beginnings of the Women’s Right movement that first gained widespread public notice in the 1840s.


In A Midwife’s Tale, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich dissects the diary of a Maine midwife, Martha Ballard, from 1785-1812. In some respects, Martha was a typical example of a colonial goodwife. She was the head of household production, recording in her diary the results of not only her labor but also the labor of those who worked in her household. She diligently recorded entries on gardening, dairy production, and the carding, spinning, looming and weaving of cloth. In other respects, she was atypical. She kept a diary, which demonstrated that she had received a rudimentary education in reading, writing, and ciphering. Female education was not very common in the colonial era. She was an experienced social healer. She made simple medicines, helped nurse the sick, sat with the dying, attended autopsies, and helped dress the dead. She also was a successful midwife and managed this business on her own, conducting transactions and collecting debts, separate from her husband, Ephraim. As midwife, Martha had extraordinary freedom of movement and recorded in her diary her frequent comings and goings she made between neighbors’ houses to attend childbirth.

Childbirth was not a private event. It was a mostly female event. Several women were usually present to attend the laboring mother. Towards the end of Martha’s life and career, male doctors begin to enter into obstetrics and are frequently on hand to assist in delivery. Martha’s interactions with other remained largely female, with the exception of settling transactions with the husbands’ of the women she delivered and male doctors. She showed deference towards men in general, except in cases where her experience outweighed a lesser experienced doctor.

Martha’s diary recorded the daily life and the difficulties of taming the wilderness in Hallowell, Maine. It also gives one a peek at the sexual mores of the town. Premarital sex and pregnancy were common in the colonial era, but it there seems to be little stigma attached to either and was not a barrier to participation in society. Marriage was generally expected to follow pregnancy and/or birth. It was only scandalous when it did not. Unwed mothers were interrogated by midwives at the height of labor pains about the paternity of the child. It was thought that the pain rendered women were incapable of lying. In a coded series of entries, Martha records the rape of the minister’s wife, Rebecca Foster, by Judge North. These entries give one a clue about how vulnerable women could be outside of society’s protection.

wife selling

Wife selling

The Wicked Agency of Others discusses the social and legal contract of coverture. Under coverture laws, women’s legal existence is suspended during marriage. Husbands assume complete legal control of their wife’s property, money, and labor and in return, he agrees to support her and their dependents financially to the best of his ability. Coverture forced a woman’s legal and economic dependence on her husband. In this article, Mary Beth Sievens examines the breakdown of marital relations in Vermont between 1790 and 1830. She uses newspaper notices published by discordant couples which advertised a withdrawal of support for one spouse or the other and claims of desertion or infidelity.

Public notices were a way to garner support from the community either to facilitate a resumption of marital duties or to gather witness for divorce proceedings. Communities legitimated marriage, enforced behavioral standards on both spouses, and judged whether or not the couple fulfilled their martial obligations to each other and the community at large. Couples used public approval and disapproval to force compliance on an unwilling spouse. Both genders used the notice to damage their spouse’s reputation within the community. Men most often brought charges of adultery or sexual misconduct against their wives. Women usually countered with an accusation that their husbands failed to provide adequate financial support. Although a small percentage of women also levied accusations of their husband’s infidelity. Women, in general, had little legal recourse against their husband’s withdrawal of support, infidelity, or cruelty. They could, however, use informal, personal networks to damage their husband’s credit and good standing within their community.

Sievens found that the majority of the notices were published by men which demonstrated their dominant legal position. The few women who did respond to their husband’s notices were careful to apologize for stepping further into the public’s notice. They realized their precarious situation and took pains not to draw further negative public notice. Most women did not seek legal redress against their husbands nor were they trying to change coverture laws. The female responders only sought to have their interests and protections under the law honored, maintained, or reinstated.

Linda Kerber, in The Paradox of Women’s Citizenship in the Early Republic, examines the question of women’s political agency and argues that Martin vs. Massachusetts presented an early challenge of the relationship of a married woman to the state. In 1805, James Martin sued Massachusetts, demanding that the Commonwealth return the property it had confiscated after the American Revolution from his mother, Anna Gordon Martin. The question at the heart of this case was whether a wife should have her property confiscated under the Confiscation Act. Was she an “inhabitant and member of the state”, as required by the Act, or did her status as femme covert make her merely an inhabitant but not a member of the state?[1] Could Anna Martin be complicit in her Loyalist husband’s treason because she dutifully followed him out of the State? Or was she simply fulfilling her obligations to him under established martial coverture laws of the day?

James Martin’s attorneys argued the latter, that the femme covert “has no political relation to the state any more than an alien.”[2] For a brief moment, Kerber argues that, the possibility for women’s full civic participation was debated openly. However,

“In the end, all four judges chose common law over natural law, English precedent over republican potential, narrow interpretation over loose construction…The judges spoke in terms of deference, of obligation, of what women owed to their husbands, what men had a right to demand of their wives.”[3]

The judges unanimously found against Massachusetts upholding every aspect of coverture despite the expense and inconvenience to the Commonwealth.

The Revolution changed men’s relationship to the state; however, men retained the highly patriarchal legal contract between husbands and wives despite its apparent incongruity to the new republican ideals. Female citizenship seriously challenged coverture laws because “citizenship, involves claims of rights, notably suffrage, but also the right to pursue happiness and to be free of constraints. It also involves a wide range of civic obligations.”[4] This case was a strictly male dialogue on the rights, privileges, and obligations that women owed the federal government and totally lacked female agency or voice. The women discussed by the judges were not newly-minted ideas of the republican mother but rather an older archetype of the colonial goodwife.

republican womanhood

Women in the New Republic

In Revolutionary Bodies, Susan Klepp discusses the declining fertility rates and smaller family sizes experienced in the United States in the post-revolution period. There was a marked shift from lifelong fertility patterns to one of shorter and less frequent duration. In natural fertility societies, women give birth as frequently as biology allows and the number of children produced depends on the age of the mother at time of marriage, the length of marriage, how long the mother breastfeeds, and other societal constraints. In parity-specific societies, or more modern low fertility societies, couples choose a specific number of children desired and stop procreating once the desired number has been achieved. Klepp argues that women were the prime motivators for limiting the size of their families. “The new vocabulary [the revolutionary rhetoric of independence] proclaimed a selfless, domestic womanhood while allowing expanded choices and a limitation of traditional obligation.”[5] The new language called for restraint, sensibility, and rational childbearing. “Women applied egalitarian ideas and virtuous, prudent sensibility to their bodies and to their traditional images of self as revolution inspired discussion and debate.”[6]

Accompanying this new vocabulary was a change in the way women’s bodies were viewed. In the colonial era, “women’s bodies created abundance and a symbolic, if not actual, form of wealth…Women attained consequence through their productive powers, especially as harnessed in their husband’s interest.”[7] Pregnancy and the ability to withstand labor were a source of pride for women while men competed with other men over their wives’ fertility; the more children a man fathered the more standing he acquired in the community, especially if he fathered sons. After the Revolution, pregnancy was viewed as an unnatural state and disruptive to a woman’s good health because of the risk of maternal death. The focus of pregnancy shifted from a celebration of the woman to an emphasis on the child, though not in the modern sense. Throughout the Early Republic, parents displayed an unsentimental attitude toward their children, just as husbands’ did their wives. Children were view as the inevitable result of marital love and a fulfillment of the marital contract. Excessive fertility was no longer viewed positively as bountiful but negatively as a plague or a swarm. Breeding emerged as a term of contempt and was applied to slaves, immigrants, and pigs.

The American Revolution raised the possibility of gender equality. Women were celebrated for their minds and intelligence and their bodies were de-emphasized. Pregnant bodies were no longer commemorated. Pregnancy obligations were conceived as a voluntary expectation that was carefully planned and controlled rationally according to the republican ideals of virtue and prudence.

In Bringing Rapes to Court, Sharon Block discussed the topic of rape in early British America and the Early Republic. Woman, who had been assaulted, found it difficult, if not impossible, to seek legal redress for the crimes committed against them. First, they needed absolute proof that the assault occurred without the consent of the victim. Second, they needed sympathetic family, friends, and community support. And third, they needed a male sponsor to bring the rape to court. Rape convictions were punishable by death. Rapes by trusted male authorities often went unreported or un-prosecuted because people were reluctant to impose the death penalty, families did not want public exposure, or to face the horrors of a loved one’s rape, prosecution sometimes was more detrimental to the victims status or financial situation, and the public did not want to believe that prominent or well-liked community members were capable of such an act. Of course, this only applied to white women. African-American and slave women had no legal redress because they were not allowed to testify against whites in court, had ineffectual community supports and faced harsh reprisals if they spoke publicly about the assault.

In Unruly Americans, Woody Holton discussed the economic and political origins of the American Constitution and turbulent first decades of the Republic. The turbulent eight year war and subsequent removal from the British Trade Empire sent the American economy into the toilet. Many political commentaries blamed the economic decline on women and lambasted them for their frivolous luxury and extravagance. “According to male authors, the woman who draped herself in luxury garments was not actually interested in increasing her comfort, just in keeping up with the neighbors or even standing ‘at the head of her acquaintance.’”[8] Some men complained that women consumed too much and produced too little, that women bought most of what they used to make in their household and they spent too much time displaying themselves publicly and politically. The men that brought these complaints to the national stage blamed over indulgent fathers, husbands and brothers for this change to occur. They also blamed the education of women for their political pretensions.

“While most women were castigated for exacerbating the economic downturn, others were celebrated as pointing the way to recovery.”[9] Some women ostentatiously flaunted their frugality and austerity measures in running their households. The made public pacts to limit extravagance, held boycotts of foreign goods, and made and wore homespun clothing by carding, spinning and weaving their own cloth. Women were asked to reform their husband and son’s spending habits for the public good. Despite all this, the criticism of luxury and extravagance persisted. Women, nevertheless, fought back against the charges levied against them. Woody’s portrayal of women is nearly non-existent. These women barely displayed their own economic agency and they certainly were not challenging the political status-quo.


Linen Spinners

Women spinning linen yarn, about 1783

In Scraping By, Seth Rockman explores the lives of low-wage earners in early Baltimore and gives a nuanced assessment of women’s labor, whether free, indentured, or slave, on the edge of economic sustainability and the consequences of their failure. He demonstrates the openness and diversity of the labor pool that Baltimore business leaders and merchants could marshal. The elite carefully maintained this diversity and in so doing were able to keep wages low, workers from unionizing, and keep menial jobs from splintering along racial, gender, and class lines as they had in other cities like New York and Charleston. Rockman also did an excellent job in illuminating women’s struggles to earn a living wage. As more women were becoming heads-of household, they needed to have the ability to support themselves and their dependent children.

Women were excluded from all skilled crafts and occupations, except dressmaking. They were permitted to take in laundry and boarders for income, or garner income from other household chores and labor. But wages were kept deliberately low because of the prevailing belief that women were suppose to derive all their financial support from male relatives. Women’s labor, while mostly invisible, was crucial for urban economic development and social reproduction. “In addition to birthing and raising the next generation of workers, women did the washing, feeding, sheltering, and provisioning necessary for any port to function.”[10] However, childbearing and rearing interfered with a woman’s ability to retain employment, if she was lucky to obtain it in the first place. “Alongside their peers who exchanged labor for wages in textile mills or whose cottage industry made the countryside a hot bed of early American manufacturing, urban women also found themselves in the midst of new market relations that converted their labor to a commodity.”[11] Similar to the men in Wicked Agency of Others, women harbored the same fears as men over the economic dependence wage labor created and worried over its ability to curtail republican independence.

The Early Republic began a period of social stratification where upper class ladies no longer did menial housework, but rather hired women of lower social classes instead. Domestic service became the largest portion of women’s labor market. For free women, the goal was to land and keep a job long-term in the hope of supporting oneself financially. For slave women, the goal was to minimize the amount of work and to avoid damage to one’s dignity at the same time. Domestic service allowed employers to set the terms of employment and gave them control over their employees’ reputations, thereby exerting control over the employees’ future prospects. This posed serious risks for female wage earners who were highly susceptible to physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers.

In The Woman Who Wasn’t There, Jeanne Boydston seeks to reintegrate women’s participation in the market revolution. She argues that the market revolution did not insist upon women’s exclusion from the economic marketplace but rather placed a greater dependence on the availability and flexibility of women’s labor and productivity. She claims that women’s place as wage earners had long been acknowledged by scholars even though they were excluded from the historical narrative. One reason for this is that women’s labor was seldom self-owned. They rarely possessed the means of capital. It was also more flexible than male labor with a greater variety of occupations and was of smaller scale.

The traditional story of the market revolution was male-dominated and often told from the artisans’ point of view. In the Early Republic, male claims to citizenship rested on economic and financial independence. Wage labor and women’s participation in the marketplace complicated those claims. This period experienced the upheavals of war and many displaced peoples wound up in urban centers of commerce. There was also a small but growing portion of household headed by women, often widowed, single migrants, or newly freed, in the case of some African-American women. “In this reconstituted urban landscape [after the Revolution], women were everywhere visible as aggressive and ostensibly independent economic agents…They claimed their place in the market assertively.”[12]

Early workers of both genders strove for domestic security, which depended on an increase of overall household productivity and women’s paid labor and production inside and outside of the home. “Most non-elite households required the direct economic participation of both partners, often in ways that sent wives into the streets alongside female heads-of-households.”[13] The market revolution complicated colonial household relations, sexual divisions of labor, and engendered disagreements over authority. It also had adverse affects on coverture laws. Women were at a severe economic disadvantage due to the practice of femme covert. Republican widows’ inherited less than colonial widows, while their daughters inherited more with sons’ taking the lion’s share of their fathers’ estates.

Women’s participation in the marketplace gave them a feeling of competence and social autonomy which led to greater civic engagement and female activism. Women participated in protesting mobs against financial creditors in the Panic of 1792 and against predatory merchant practices in various food riots. Female activism, “reflected their increased economic importance within their households—a heightened sense of the precariousness of their household economies and a greater readiness to take matters into their own hands.”[14] This practical self-reliance and civic engagement sparked questions of women’s political participation in the new government which triggered a growing discomfort amongst male politicians and wage-earners alike.

In the end, artisan republicanism, which emphasized the marketplace as a masculine sphere, triumphed. The language of domesticity encouraged women to withdraw from public involvement into the private and feminine sphere of the home. Working women, many of whom could not afford to withdraw, were label as prostitutes. The women, who were able withdraw, were referred to as republican mothers. Female “exclusion was inscribed into the new federal Constitution, which fixed in law long-standing prejudices against females in office and denied to women direct participation in federal legislative debates over the direction of the Republic’s political economy.”[15]

In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes, David Waldstreicher discusses how Nationalism and Popular Sovereignty combined with political pageantry unified public experiences for American citizens of all classes between 1776 and 1820. Public participation in the Grand Federal Processions broadened who could be considered respectable citizenry to include upper- and middle class women and artisans. Women took an active interest in national celebrations, especially Washington’s Birthday, and marched in parades, attended banquets, heard orations and participated in toasts. They were appealed ostensibly to make national unity possible by bringing together disparate groups and interests. Men represented women in the political sphere but invited them to informally participate as spectators and supporters. Women also participated in partisan politics and non-partisan nationalism. At first, their involvement gave partisan politics a level or respectability. Increasingly “uncomfortable with their partisanship and the politicization of women that partisanship encouraged, men continued to rely on the ideal of republican motherhood to explain women’s political activity and their own solicitation of that activity.”[16]

Federalists and Jeffersonians used gendered language, referring to the new Republic as feminine, a virtuous maid, innocent and pure. Maternity became a metaphor for politics. Female political participation became another way to mother, especially if republican sons and daughters were created. Women began to co-opt national celebrations to proclaim women’s rights: education, the right to own/control their own property, divorce, and political relevance. “Jeffersonian women were more likely to use the languages of revolutionary republicanism and universalism, even to the point of claiming women’s rights as equal rights, but they were no more able to do so within the structure of partisan politics than Federalist women.”[17] Women’s involvement in politics, while endorsing women’s rights, never seriously challenged gendered notions of republicanism. They could not participate in partisan politics and work to change women’s roles in the public sphere. Nor could they espouse women’s rights and practice partisanship. Eventually the public sphere pushed women to the margins of political culture altogether.


1792 Genius of Lady’s Magazine kneels before Columbia (Lady Liberty) with a petition for the rights of women. Lady’s Magazine. Library Company of Philadelphia

In Revolutionary Backlash, Rosemarie Zagarri argues that the universal and inalienable rights espoused by political leaders during the Colonial era opened up a new conversation over the rights of women in the Early Republic. Public leaders began to define the scope of what it meant to be a new citizen in the emerging United States and what part, if any, should women be allowed to take. Using the politics of the street, rallies, parades, Fourth of July celebrations, and the newly emerging print culture, Zagarri was able to demonstrate that women took an active interest in the politics of the day, engaged in partisan politics themselves, and were actively sought out by politicians for their support on various issues in the first two decades of the republic. This window of opportunity, however, did not remain open for long. By the Age of Jackson, women were actively dissuaded from pursuing politics. Instead, they turned their attention to moral and social reform becoming active in benevolent, temperance, and abolitionist societies. Zagarri and Waldstreicher agree on women’s participation in partisan politics but Zagarri takes it a step further by claiming women, themselves, shrank from the destabilizing influence they had in politics.

In One Woman So Dangerous to Public Morals, Kristen E. Wood discusses the Eaton affair, otherwise known as the “Petticoat War,” which consumed most of President Andrew Jackson’s first term. Margaret “Peggy” Eaton was a woman of interesting character, described by many as an “immoral woman.” Rumor had it that she had courted her second husband, John Eaton, while she was still married to her first husband, John Timberlake. Timberlake died under mysterious circumstances at sea and within the year, Margaret and John Eaton were married. It caused a huge scandal in Washington D.C. society. Further scandal ensued when Eaton was appointed to Jackson’s Cabinet making Margaret a Cabinet lady. This immoral woman was too close to the center of political power and for two and a half years, Washington ladies ostracized and shunned Mrs. Eaton. Jackson, having none of the snobbery and female meddling, outright insisted that the ladies accept Mrs. Eaton and vouched for her modesty and virtue.

This incident, while seemingly farcical in nature, went to the heart of gendered Jacksonian politics. It was about political relevance and who controlled it: men or women? Jackson saw “only men as significant actors on the national stage.”[18] Men only were to be the authority and the arbiters of political morally. However, women believed that they were the guardians of public morals which gave them a legitimate right to political expression and influence. Mrs. Eaton’s alleged sexual improprieties complicated this moral mandate. Washington ladies wanted to “stamp out vice…They believed that even the slightest contact with a sinful woman could irreparably harm their own reputations” and tainted their own modest influence over political interactions within their social sphere.[19] Anti-Eatonists believed that women had the right to choose their own society.

The trouble was that social exclusion was both personal and political. Politics, the government, and social life were tightly interconnected in the District of Columbia. The patronage system worked on the basis of personal relationships. Dinners, parties and balls worked as a social lubricant bringing together people with different view and interests. Women believed that their “moral scruples should take precedent over men’s political alliances in shaping Washington’s social interactions.”[20] For them, social disruption was preferable to moral corruption. Jackson disagreed. He dissolved his Cabinet. His exclusion of women from politics closed the chapter on the revolutionary promise of political and universal rights for women for nearly a half century.


Charlotte, Sorrows of the Female Heart, 1832

In The Significance for the “Global Turn,” Rosemarie Zagarri discusses women’s social activism, especially with regards to Christian missionary work in India. As women were increasingly pushed out of politics, they began to channel their energies by “join[ing] a wide variety of charitable organizations, benevolent organizations, and societal reform movement,” both domestically and abroad.[21] Women joined temperance movements, abolitionist societies and foreign missionary organizations. They collected money for the poor, built schools, and sent bibles and other religious pamphlets. Very few American women actually became foreign missionaries. Print culture helped make the ones that did into secular saints and “influenced American attitudes toward missionary work in India.”[22] Most other women stayed stateside and aggressively campaigned and garnered grass root support for their various causes.

“The incongruity of a white American woman journeying to distant regions occupied by non-white heathens challenged notions of feminine timidity while at the same time affirming women’s role as the promoter of moral and religious values.”[23] Missionary work reinforced prevailing gender roles and reaffirmed Western superiority, elevating white, middle-class American women above non-Christian, non-white women in other regions. American women may not have achieved full gender equality, but at least they had it better than Indian women, who were doubly degraded because they were heathens and severely oppressed by a highly patriarchal society. “In effect, by comparing themselves to women in India and other non-Christian parts of the world, white middle class American women may have found it easier to rationalize their subordinate status.”[24] Social activists found it easier to Christianize heathens abroad than to tackle inequality and slavery at home.

In the years following the Revolution, some women fought to maintain the status quo and to retain the meager rights and privileges they had attained during the colonial era. Other women imbibed the spirit of the revolutionary rhetoric and applied it to their own lives, either passively by limiting the number of children they bore, or in active ways like participation in the marketplace and agitating for political influence. Regardless of their own agency, or lack thereof, the promise of citizenship and gender equality was debated openly in the Early Republic, but the push of republican motherhood and the cult of domesticity eventually succeeded in marginalizing women’s influence and participation in the public sphere. Women, who remained in the public eye, lost the respect and protection of the respectable citizenry and faced heavy public censure. Women channeled their thwarted political ambition into more socially acceptable and charitable causes. Theirs was a dream deferred for another generation to fulfill.

[1] Linda K. Kerber, The Paradox of Women’s Citizenship in the Early Republic: The Case of Martin vs. Massachusetts, 1805, in The American Historical Review. Vol. 97, No. 2 (April 1992). Pp. 369.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., pp. 373.

[4] Ibid., pp. 350.

[5] Susan E. Klepp. Revolutionary Bodies: Women and the Fertility Transition in the Mid-Atlantic Region, 1760-1820 in The Journal of American History, Vol. 85, No. 3 (December 1998). Pp. 911.

[6] Ibid., pp. 916.

[7] Ibid., pp. 920.

[8] Woody Holton. Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution. (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007). pp. 49.

[9] Ibid., pp. 50.

[10] Seth Rockman. Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore. (Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2009). pp. 101.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Jeanne Boydston. The Woman Who Wasn’t There: Women’s Market Labor and the Transition to Capitalism in the United States in Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 16, No. 2, Special Issue on Capitalism in the Early Republic (Summer 1996), pp. 192-193.

[13] Ibid., pp. 194.

[14] Ibid., pp. 196.

[15] Ibid., pp. 201.

[16] David Waldstreicher. In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820. (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1997). pp. 233.

[17] Ibid., pp. 236

[18] Kristen E. Wood. ‘One Woman so Dangerous to Public Morals’: Gender and Power in the Eaton Affair in Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Summer 1997). pp. 242.

[19] Ibid., pp. 255-256.

[20] Ibid., pp. 249.

[21] Rosemarie Zagarri. The Significance of the “Global Turn” for the Early American Republic: Globalization in the Age of Nation-Building in Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring 2001). pp. 19.

[22] Ibid., pp. 21.

[23] Ibid., pp. 20.

[24] Ibid., pp. 24.

Up In Arms: How Presidents from George Washington to Ulysses S. Grant Responded to Open Domestic Insurrection


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Tarring & Feathering an Excise Officer


Laws made by common consent must not be trampled upon by individuals. ~George Washington

The United States Constitution is a series of laws and compromises that form the basis of American life and liberty. In it is enshrined the duties and privileges of the majority rule and protection for minority opinion. However, in the course of human events, circumstances arise that challenge our understanding of what it means to live in a democratic republic. What happens when one finds oneself in the political minority? How does one dissent and what form should it take: peaceful or violent? Presidents from George Washington to the present have confronted this problem. This paper will discuss how Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant handled armed domestic insurrections and how Washington’s decision to sent the militia to suppress the Whiskey Rebellion crisis affected subsequent president’s responses to civil disobedience.

In the summer of 1794, western Pennsylvania erupted into chaos and violence. The people were protesting Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s nine cent excise tax on whiskey and other spirits. In what became known as the “Whiskey Rebellion”, twenty counties in four states openly engaged in seditious acts; rebelled against the established law and order; disrupted the collection of taxes; tarred and feathered tax collectors; and obstructed militia recruitment. The tax, passed in 1791, was part of Hamilton’s fiscal policy geared towards paying off America’s wartime debt. To build the United States foreign credit, he had pushed for the national government’s assumption of individual state debts. Western Pennsylvania, however, had been hit hard by recession in the aftermath of the American Revolution and was under a constant fear of Indian attack. The farmers felt the “luxury and/or sin” tax unduly targeted their economic interests and kept them from being competitive with eastern wheat farmers. Westerners traditionally turned their excess grain into whiskey to supplement their income and, as hard currency was scarce in the region, whiskey also became the basis for a barter system.

whiskeyWith the threat of armed violence spreading, President George Washington considered the rebellion as a violation of the Constitution and a “direct threat to the authority of the Federal Government.”[1] He asked Congress to declare a state of anarchy and authorize him to use the militia to reassert the rule of law. Washington’s critics, namely Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, felt that this was a gross violation of executive authority and would infringe on the peoples’ right to protest an unjust law or government. “No taxation without representation” had been a popular slogan during the Revolution, but Washington firmly believed that sentiment was not applicable in this case. The farmers had representation and that representation had either supported the tax or had been outvoted by the opposition.

“From Washington’s perspective, the republic established by the Constitution created a government of laws that must be obeyed once the duly elected representatives had reached a decision.”[2] Congress agreed with the president and gave him permission to use the militia to quell the rioters. “He was not disputing the right of aggrieved citizens to dissent, but he was insisting that dissent could not take the form of flagrant violation of federal authority.”[3] Stung by criticism, Washington appointed a peace convention and issued a statement “commanding all the insurgents to disperse peaceably by the first day of September.”[4] The peace commissioners offered them full pardons for the crimes they had committed and forgiveness for their unpaid taxes.

But by September 1794, it was clear to Washington and his peace commissioners that the protestors, heady with their supposed successful thwarting of governmental authority, would not return home peacefully. Washington, along with 13,000 militiamen, marched into Western Pennsylvania. The rebellion immediately collapsed. The protestors had not figured on Washington’s personal magnetism and an actual invasion of the Federal army. With the rebellion over, the president returned to the Capitol and left Hamilton in charge of rounding up the worst of the offenders.



Thirty-eight years later, during the Nullification Crisis of 1832, Andrew Jackson faced a similar dilemma, though not on a similar scale, during his second term as president. South Carolina and Vice-President John C. Calhoun argued that states had a right “to nullify a law if and until the Constitution were to be made specifically amended to the law in question part and parcel of the Constitution.”[5] The law that most aggrieved the South was the Tariff of 1828, a protective trade tax designed to protect Northern industrial output from being overwhelmed by cheaper, foreign-made goods. The South relied heavily on imported goods, mostly from England and France, as the region had little to no manufacturing of its own. It also indirectly restricted England’s ability to trade merchandise for cotton, the South’s major cash crop. South Carolina declared the tariff to be unconstitutional, and went on to add, that the Constitution was a non-binding agreement between the States themselves and that the Federal Government had overstepped its authority by imposing a burdensome tax on the people. This move directly challenged the authority of the president. South Carolina, then, absolved itself of the obligations and duties regarding other states and moved towards creating and organizing its own separate sovereign government.

Jackson saw thing differently, however. His challenge was “to preserve the Union without appearing so tyrannical and power-hungry that other Southern states might want to join with South Carolina, precipitating an even greater crisis that could lead to the secession of several states.”[6] Jackson used a three-pronged approach to this crisis. First, he surreptitiously sent arms and munitions to South Carolina, armed the Unionists and ensured that loyal, Jackson men headed the state militia in case actual insurrection occurred. Second, he issued his annual message to Congress. In language designed to mollify the nullifiers, Jackson made clear that he opposed nullification and advocated tariff reforms. This earned the president criticism from his detractors for surrendering to the nullifiers. Third, a week later, he issued a proclamation demanding that South Carolina recognize the authority of the Constitution and the Federal Government’s right to levy taxes. He re-enforced this demand with the threat of military action, which Congress had authorized.


A 1833 lithograph by Endicott & Swett, New York

Jackson managed to isolate South Carolina from other southern states, who had been considering nullification as an intellectually sound doctrine in support of State’s Rights. Without the other states’ support, South Carolina backed down. Jackson firmly believed that nullification was “incompatible with the existence of the union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”[7] By forestalling the crisis in South Carolina, Andrew Jackson created a “doctrine of a permanent and indivisible Union, which later became the basis of Lincoln’s actions in the more serious secession crisis that followed a generation later.”[8]

It was Abraham Lincoln’s singular fate to guide the nation through the most turbulent and poignant era in American history. The long shadow of slavery could no longer be avoided and the sins of the fathers visited themselves upon their sons. When he was elected in the fall of 1860, seven southern states seceded, in what later became known as the Secession crisis of 1860-1861.[9] “Having secured the presidency upon a platform opposing the expansion of slavery, Republicans—Lincoln most of all—had to ponder whether to surrender the party’s principles to the blackmail of secession.”[10] Lincoln had no intention of allowing slavery to expand into the western territories, nor was he inclined to interfere with slavery where it already existed. This idea of containment and noninterference would put the peculiar institution on the road to extinction in the minds of many unwilling to see slavery ended by bloodshed and war.

Secession placed Lincoln into a difficult position. “The president-elect insisted that ‘the right of a state to secede is not an open or debatable question…It is the duty of a President to execute the laws and maintain the existing government.’”[11] He could neither accede nor reject Southerners’ demands without it being a “total collapse of legitimate politics.”[12] Nor was he willing to sacrifice the preservation of the Union for mere political expediency. Lincoln rejected nearly all of the compromise proposals in the winter of 1860-61 that would allow for the expansion of slavery into the territories. Before drafting this inaugural address, Lincoln asked for a copy of the United States Constitution, Daniel Webster’s 1830 reply to Robert Y. Hayne, Andrew Jackson’s Nullification Proclamation of 1832, and Henry Clay’s Compromise speech of 1850. All of these documents directly or indirectly concerned States’ Rights and helped inform Lincoln on the precedents regarding slavery and secession. In the inaugural address, he reiterated his stance on slavery and promised not to open hostilities with the South. “There was no doubt, however, that as much as Lincoln wanted to avoid war, he would accept it as an alternative to disunion.”[13]


South Carolina’s “Ultimatum”.

Lincoln’s next crisis was whether or not the he should maintain federal authority over Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor and Fort Pickens off the coast of Pensacola, the only two southern forts that remained in U.S. possession. Lincoln learned that Fort Sumter was in immediate need of resupply to avoid starvation and evacuation. Lincoln was faced with a choice to resupply the fort and risk initiating war or abandon the fort and appease the insurgents. William Seward, the Secretary of State, argued in favor of abandoning the fort. “Giving up the fort voluntarily would signal the peaceful intentions of the new administration, strengthening southern unionist sentiment, and allow the passions of secession to fizzle out.”[14] Postmaster General Montgomery Blair argued “to vacate Sumter would display weakness and embolden secessionists.”[15]


The Union is Dissolved!

Lincoln agreed with Blair and chose to resupply the fort. He informed the Confederate government that he would be resupplying the fort with provisions only and not with weapons. Jefferson Davis, the Confederate President, authorized his commanders at Charleston to open fire on the fort before federal supplies could arrive in the hopes that this act would provoke Lincoln into calling for troops which would push the Upper South and Border States into secession. On April 12, 1861, Confederate General P.T.G. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter and after 34 hours of continuous bombardment, Major General Robert Anderson, Federal commander of Sumter, surrendered. Three days later on April 15, Lincoln called for 75,000 militia to serve for 90 days, the maximum allowed by law. This “coercive” act led Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and a reluctant North Carolina into secession.

Lincoln worked hard to keep the four remaining Border States (Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri) within the Union. Missouri also issued articles of secession but pro-Union forces kept it from being enforceable and the state dissolved into its own intra-state civil war. Kentucky declared its neutrality in the coming conflict and warned both sides against violating its sovereignty, which the Confederacy did early in the Civil War. He greatly expanded the role of the presidency through what he called executive war powers. Lincoln argued that the president had the “constitutional authority to do whatever was necessary to preserve, protect, and defend the nation—including its capital” and the Constitution in a time of dangerous emergency.[16] He blocked the Maryland State Assembly from gathering to keep the state from convening a secession convention and joining the Confederacy. He suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, which allowed for the for a speedy trial by a jury of one’s peers and the suspension allowed for the indefinite detention of suspected southern sympathizers and potential threats to the union. By asking for 75,000 volunteers and ordering the blockade of southern ports, Lincoln infringed on Congress’s sole right to declare war. Many of his detractors labeled Lincoln a tyrant.

The American Civil War lasted four years, from April 1861 to April 1865, and ended in a Union victory. “In May 1861, Lincoln explained that the ‘central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us, of proving that popular government is not an absurdity, we must settle this question now, whether in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose.”[17] Not only was secession deemed unconstitutional but so was slavery, the latter ensured with three constitutional amendments: Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1864, shattering his and the South’s hopes for a lenient Reconstruction. Vice-President Andrew Johnson became president and ruined the Radical Republicans’ hopes of fundamental change in Southern society. Johnson had proven himself the wrong man to lead the Reconstruction effort. He was a southerner from East Tennessee and while he hated the Secessionists, but he hated the Negro more. He fought the Radical agenda to give the freedman suffrage and enfranchisement and established a fairly lenient Reconstruction policy. This infuriated the Radicals who impeached Johnson.


The Freedman’s Bureau

General Ulysses S. Grant was elected to the presidency in 1869. Many Republicans hoped he would rescue the peace which the Union forces had fought hard for and won. Grant’s election was supposed to put an end to the political controversy created during Johnson’s administration because the General was seen as apolitical. Grant was to secure the fruits of the Union victory which was in serious danger of being lost because of the growing unpopularity of Reconstruction policies. Republicans were divided overall on many economic issues and Southern Republicans were concerned with the loss of power if the Democrats regained control of the Southern states and disenfranchised the black vote.

“Grant saw his task [as president], as any decent man would have, as being to bring about peace and reconciliation between the north and south and to enforce the rights of citizens for blacks. He soon learned that he could not do both.”[18] Grant wanted to be president to all Americans: to ex-slaves who felt betrayed by Lincoln’s legacy and to ex-Confederates, who wanted no part in Negro enfranchisement. His Southern strategy “simultaneously sought to protect black civil and political rights and conciliate white southerners in aiming to establish a stable postwar political order resting on the consent of all of the governed, white and black.”[19]

By 1868, all but four states had regained statehood.[20] Grant recommended to Congress to reinstate the remaining states, which it did in 1870. Reconstruction had already been fiercely contested since the end of the Civil War and many Northerners believed that enough had been done already with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, and they were ready to move on to other things. Republican rule in the south was based more on collaboration than compulsion with Southern Republicans relying more of Southerners’ support than black voters. White supremacist groups, like the Ku Klux Klan and the Knights of the White Camellia, frequently disrupted the North’s efforts to maintain control of the new political order and their ability help the freedman.

By the time of Grant’s inauguration, public support was greatly diminished and only extremely violent circumstances warranted federal intervention. Intervention was a contentious policy. “Not to intervene left Southern Republicans to defend themselves against acts of intimidation and violence; to intervene left the impression that Southern Republicanism could not survive on its own and was dependent on outside support, rendering difficult its search for legitimacy and acceptance as part of the postwar political order.”[21] The prevailing attitude was that the more the federal government intervened the more it would have to intervene and that was becoming increasingly unacceptable to northern opinion. Grant had difficulty in mobilizing Northern support to protect blacks from Southern violence. Nonetheless, he still had enough political clout to get the Ku Klux Act passed in 1871. It was legislation designed to protect life, liberty, and property and the enforcement of the laws in all part of the United States. It gave the president the authorization to call out military force and suspend the writ of habeas corpus to enforce court orders and black suffrage.


Thomas Nast. “The Union as it was / The Lost Cause, worse than slavery.” Harper’s Weekly, v. 18, no. 930 (24 Oct 1874), p. 878. The Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-128619.

When violence erupted in South Carolina, Grant sent twelve companies of infantry and four of cavalry to end the insurrection. The terrorists, who viewed the conflict as a struggle for political survival, had targeted black voters and their Republican supporters. The president was criticized for the occupation and charged by his opponents as creating a military dictatorship. The election season of 1872 proved to be a mixed bag for the Republican Party. Georgia’s legislature was redeemed and became Democratic, due mostly to blatant Republican corruption under Governor Rufus B. Bullock’s administration, while Republicans gained ground in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Mississippi. “But the results in Louisiana were under dispute, and there were rival claimants for the state government there as well as in Arkansas and Alabama.”[22] Louisiana was so contentions that the rivals both claimed victory and held inaugural balls. Violence erupted in New Orleans. Grant intervened in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama to insure a Republican victory but was displeased at the kind of unscrupulous men he was forced to endorse.

More violence erupted across the south during 1874, when only four states were still controlled by the Republicans. Grant dispatched General Phil Sheridan to New Orleans to stop the crisis, but Sheridan issued a declaration that the only way to deal with the insurgents was to pronounce them ‘banditti’ and try them in a military court and execute the terrorists. This shocked many Northerners. When Mississippi violently “redeemed” itself in 1875, Grant “had lost interest in helping southern Republicans who did not help themselves, especially when to do so might cost the party votes in the North” and refused to send troops.[23] “By this time he succumbed to the deep rage of the white Southerners, whose fury at the ‘impudence of those niggers’ was so monumental.”[24] Reconstruction had seriously damaged Grant’s enormous popularity, and the man who never wanted to be president decided not to run for a third term, throwing his support behind Rutherford B. Hayes for the Republican nomination. In a highly disputed election, Southerners agree to a Hayes victory and in exchange, the Republicans withdraw the remaining troops from Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina ending finally the nightmare of Reconstruction. “In other words, the Republicans surrendered the Negro to the Southern ruling class, and abandoned the idealism of Reconstruction, in return for the peaceable inauguration of their president.”[25]



Their heads on a platter: Presidential portrait tray. Susan H. Douglas Collection of Political Americana, Cornell University Library.

Washington set the presidential precedent of federal interventions in domestic insurrections. For him, it was a simple matter of what form dissent among the populous allowed (or not) to take. He recognized that every American at some point would strongly disagree with the majority opinion. But that dissent must be channeled through the established political channels. Violent opposition would destroy the fragile American Republic. Washington, however, was very aware that everything he did while president would set a precedent. His decision to use military force against the population was necessary to ensure that established rules of law and order were followed. Subsequent presidents have looked to Washington and the Whiskey Rebellion ever since when faced with disgruntled and violent citizenry.

But why did this policy work reasonably well for Washington, Jackson and Lincoln when it failed for Grant? And how are these four men similar? Differences? And did their similarities/dissimilarities factor into their success or failure to quell the insurrections they faced as Commander-in-chief?

Military experience is an obvious common trait, with Washington, Jackson, and Grant all reaching the rank of general. Lincoln famously (or infamously) served for three months as a volunteer in the Black Hawk War. He only reached the rank of captain. Lincoln had no battlefield experience to speak of but was a rather successful president. Washington was rather unsuccessful on the battlefield having lost nearly every battle he commanded. However, he too was a successful president. Grant had the opposite problem: successful on the battlefield, unsuccessful as president., while Jackson was successful at both.

Another common trait is political experience. With the exception of Grant, each man held at least one political office. Washington was the president of the Constitutional Convention before being elected as the first President of the United States. Jackson was a delegate to Tennessee’s constitutional convention, as well as, a U.S. Representative and a Senator for the state. Lincoln was elected as a Illinois state legislator before serving one term as a U.S. Representative. Grant’s sole political experience came through his military career. One has to be pretty politically savvy to reach the rank of general, but that experience does not necessarily translate into the public arena.

But the real issue is one of duration and scale. The Whiskey Rebellion only lasted a few months and encompassed parts of four states. Grant, however, had to contend with an entire geographical region under near-constant upheaval his entire eight years in office. If the roles were reversed and Washington had to deal with a longer uprising than he faced, historians might not feel the same way about the Whiskey Rebellion as they currently do. Each president takes a hit politically from their opposition when they send troops against their fellow Americans. Even Washington, though his opposition did not come out strongly or directly against him. Grant “lost” Reconstruction because he lost the support of the people. It had dragged on too long and was too bloody and people simply became fatigued. Lincoln faced a similar experience. The North became increasingly frustrated with the war because their generals would not fight and each battle ended in defeat or stalemate with more of their boys either dead or maimed. Lincoln would have been a one-term president, if not for the Union victories at Vicksburg, Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea, which gave the North some hope that overall victory was possible.

In a democratic republic, governed by laws, its citizenry must abide by the majority opinion. While dissent is allowed, it must take the form of exercising ones’ political rights and voting against issues one disagrees with. Dissent cannot take the form of violent insurrection. Minority opinion is valued and protected under the Constitution but it must and should not be allowed to subvert the political system with violence and anarchy. Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Grant believed strongly in the rule of law and order, and sought an appropriate and measured constitutional response to the instances of domestic insurrection facing each administration. Only Grant failed. He lost the will of the people and black Americans were sacrificed for political expediency and peace.


Ambrose, Stephen E. To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian. New York and London: Simon & Schster, 2002.

Brinkley, Alan and Davis Dyer, ed. The American Presidency. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

Ellis, Joseph J. Founding Brotheres: The Revolutionary Generation. New York: Vintage Books: A Division of Random House, 2000.

—. His Excellency George Washington. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

McPherson, James M. Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. New York: Penguin Books, 2008.

Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2009.

Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas , 1998.

Smith, Richard Norton. Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Nation. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.

Waugh, Joan. U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009.

[1] Joseph J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (New York: Vintage Books, 2000), pp. 140.

[2] Ibid., pp. 145.

[3] Joseph J. Ellis, His Excellency George Washington (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), pp. 225.

[4] Richard Norton Smith, Patriarch: George Washington and the New American Republic (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993), pp. 214.

[5] Jon Meacham, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2009), pp. 184.

[6] Ibid., pp. 223.

[7] Ibid., pp. 227.

[8] Harry L. Watson, “Andrew Jackson” in The American Presidency, ed. Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004), pp. 100.

[9] South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

[10] Brooks D. Simpson, The Reconstruction Presidents (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1998), pp. 12.

[11] James M. McPherson, Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief (New York: Penguin Books, 2008), pp. 10.

[12] Simpson, pp. 12.

[13] Simpson, pp. 15.

[14] Simpson, pp. 15.

[15] Simpson, pp. 15.

[16] McPherson, pp. 29.

[17] McPherson, pp. 5.

[18] Stephen E. Ambrose, To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian (New York and London: Simon &Schuster, 2002), pp. 63.

[19] Simpson, pp. 135.

[20] Virginia, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas

[21] Simpson, pp. 136.

[22] Simpson, pp. 165.

[23] Simpson, pp. 188.

[24] Ambrose, pp. 70.

[25] Ambrose, pp. 70.

Once more, this time with feeling…


So here we are again. Doing research. Blogging. Abject fear. Lack of motivation. Procrastination.

Since graduation, I have definitely let my research fade into the background and gather cobwebs. Yesterday, I ordered several books off of my bibliography. The books will arrive on Saturday. I’m going to dust my History 711 paper off after……three(?) years!?! I’m setting myself the twin goals of taking what I currently have and submitting it to peer-review publications and expanding the paper into a full-blown book.

Blogging isn’t easy for me, never has been. But I’m absolutely crap at filling my days recently and I’m going to use this blog to set goals and to give myself the motivation necessary to see my sexy 711 paper come to fruition.

 The first round of books arrived a day early!!!!books

If you have to steal, steal from the best…


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This week’s eleventh assignment is about the wonderful world of prose. Historians fall all along the perspective when it comes to style. Some have the ability to elevate a moment to the sublime. While others have the unfortunate ability to make even the most sublime moment seem deadly dull. Our assignment this week is to analyze and slavishly imitate another historian’s style. To this end, I have chosen David Starkey, a British Monarchy historian and author of Elizabeth: The Struggle to the Throne.

Starkey employs two distinct modes of language in this book. One is bold, sweeping language of empire, littered with recognizable mythological and literary references (pp. 60):

How quickly men forget. Henry VIII had bestridden England like a colossus and, on 31 January, when his death was finally announced to a dumbstruck parliament, everyone, led by the Lord Chancellor, wept copious tears. Were they crying for Henry? Or for fear of their own, uncertain futures, now that the royal rock on which England had been rebuilt was gone?

The other is a more intimate, quirky, and thoroughly English staccato, with phrases like “willy-nilly” and “pernickety” thrown in for good measure (pp 18-19).

When Mary [Tudor] arrived at Hatfield, she set herself to be as difficult as possible. And, since she was a Tudor, she succeeded. She spent days in her chamber, weeping uncontrollably. She fell ill. When she convalesced, her peculiar dietary requirements set the household in turmoil and greatly increased its costs. And there was one thing she would not do. She would not acknowledge Elizabeth as Princess. She was, she explained, prepared to call her sister, just as she referred to the King’s bastard son, the Duke of Richmond, as her brother. But she would never address her as Princess. And, despite Lady Shelton’s threats (rather unwillingly administered), her father’s studied neglect, the loss of her jewels and the refusal to serve her food in her chamber which forced her to dine in the hall, she stuck to her guns. Elizabeth was a highly precocious child, so it is just possible that some of her earliest memories were of Mary, red-eyed and resentful, stamping her foot as she refused to curtsy to her baby half-sister.

I will attempt to emulate David Starkey’s staccato style by rewriting a paragraph from my History 711 paper entitled, The Curious Case of Marie Glass.

Under Spanish law, women occupied an interesting position in society. Spanish society, Catholic and highly patriarchal, held women responsible for Original Sin. They, therefore, were placed in a specially protected legal category, along with children, mentally handicapped, and criminals. Their lives were controlled by their fathers, brothers, or other male relatives, until they married or reached majority at 25 years of age. This, however, did not extend to les femmes de couleur libre. Their fair complexions triggered the male urge to protect them as white women. But their negro ancestry signaled their vulnerability to be acquired for a price. Because of their negro ancestry, les femmes de couleur libre were attributed with a sultry, hyper-sexuality. They were perceived as highly seductive and a bit dangerous, just like the ancient Sirens’ song.

Gumbo Ya-Ya


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Taking Possession of Louisiana and the River Mississippi by Cavalier De La Salle (c. 1860) This color lithograph by Bocquin was printed by Lemercier & Cie. It illustrates the historic moment when the newfound territory received its name in honor of King Louis XIV of France. The Historic New Orleans Collection

For this week’s tenth assignment, we are examining historical theory, a big, unifying idea that historians use to understand trends in human events. For Frederick Jackson Turner, that unifying event was the American Frontier. For Richard White in, “Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America,” it was the transcontinental railroad. I think a more apt framework to view American history through would be “borderlands” theory. This theory is similar to the frontier theory but lacks its western biases. Whereas the frontier theory implies that The West was largely empty until white settlers arrived, the borderlands theory studies the interaction of indigenous and immigrant peoples on the edges of civilizations. Oxford Bibliographies Online defines borderland as “both a place and a historiographic methodology, although historians often combine the two uses. A borderland, in its loosest definition, is a place where two entities (usually nations or societies) border each other. As a methodology, borderlands studies question what happens when distinct societies rub against each other or contest lands in between. What do those situations tell us about both the core societies and the spaces in between?”

New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Natchez historically functioned as an interrelated system

My research focus and my heart lies with New Orleans and South Louisiana. This region is an amalgamation of five distinct cultural influences: Native American, French, Spanish, Senegambian Africans, and after the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, Anglo-American. It is a veritable gumbo ya-ya, an expression meaning, everyone talking at once, or less traditional, a mixture of different cultures. New Orleans was founded in 1699 by brothers, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville and Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville on a high natural levee at the furthermost point an ocean-going vessel could safely navigate the Mississippi River. For the first 100 years, the European influence (first France, then Spain) mixed somewhat peacefully with Native populations, the Natchez, Choctaw, Bayougoula peoples. About 1726, slaves from Senegambia region of North Africa began to be transported to Louisiana. For the most part, these four cultural groups co-existed simultaneously with only a handful of half-hearted attempts at cultural dominance by the Europeans. These attempts were mostly directed at the Native American populations and led to several brief “wars” with the Natchez Indians in the 1720-30s. The slave and gens du couleur libre (or free people of color) communities kept their African culture and traditions fairly well intact throughout both the French and Spanish Period. It was not until the American period where this trend was forcibly reversed.

Two Mardi Gras Maskers

Louisiana during its colonial period was never more than a backwater post. France never made much investment into its infrastructure. The intent was to make Louisiana into a supply hub for raw materials to support France’s other Caribbean colonies but the other colonies had little need of the abundant supply of furs that Louisiana produced. For a time, France used Louisiana to rid its own population of prostitutes, criminals, and destitute. Frontier borderland conditions and a lack of guaranteed survival created a lessening of societal constraints imposed upon colonists. Native American, African and European populations were able to mix and cohabit with complete disregard to the desires of European metropole and colonial authorities. Its inhabitants were reliant on the Native Indians for survival and food, since the colony was nearly always on the verge of starvation and prone to outbreaks of yellow fever. Because of the close contact and a lack of suitable European women, single male colonists took Indian women for wives and concubines. The same occurred once African slaves were imported to Louisiana. Civil and religious authorities were divided on European-Native American unions and debated the practicalities and harm the offspring of these unions caused. However, there was no debate on European-African unions. They were adamantly opposed and banned by law. But despite official disapproval, both practices continued.

Congo Square, a gathering place for slaves and free people of color. Its now the site of Louis Armstrong Park, home to Jazz Fest.

Buried in the archives of the French Superior Council and the Spanish Cabildo, are the daily records of the Louisiana Colony. The cultural mash-up described above is clearly visible in the files. There are many defamation of character suits brought about by people intent on maintaining (or re-establishing) good characters, which was vital in a region infamous as dumping ground for undesirables. There are many wills and probates, which stipulate how property was to be divided. A careful reading of these documents will give the researcher information on the racial makeup of the offspring in question. *hint* “Natural” children refer to offspring of a plaçage relationship, between a wealthy European man and a femme du couleur libre (or freeborn woman of color). There are trials for assaults, theft, and murder where you can clearly see the effects of color, class, and gender being played out.

Several Mardi Gras Indians paraded through the streets. These costumes are all handmade and hand-beaded by the men themselves each year.

This cultural mash-up is still present today. The Mardi Gras Indians and Zulu are two great examples. The Mardi Gras Indians are African-Americans who claim that their ancestors mixed with the Native Americans and have adopted traditional (with a twist) Indian apparel. Zulu pays homage to several different traditions: Native African culture and black-face minstrelsy. The Zulu king wears a grass skirt and is followed by A Witch Doctor, usually distinguishable by the bone in his nose. The Jazz Funeral and the Call and Answer songs go back to Africa as well. And speaking of Jazz,  Louis Armstrong Park the current location where Jazz Fest is held every year, was once the site of the Famous Congo Square, where slaves and gens du couleur libres gathered on Sundays to dance and sing in traditional African ways, and to market their wares. The Vieux Carré, better known as the French Quarter, is actually Spanish in architecture. And who could forget Mardi Gras?

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Cause I sure do!

New Orleans Celebrates Mardi Gras

More that just a Cup o’ Joe



Krimmel's The Quilting Frolic (1813)

This week’s eighth assignment pertains to objects and material culture. No offense to Freud but sometimes a cigar is more than just a cigar. Objects can tell us a lot about its parent culture: what they thought or believed; what they memorialized or celebrated; and some objects could have covert or subversive meanings which could be hidden in plain sight. For this assignment we are examining objects in a painting by John Lewis Krimmell entitled, The Quilting Frolic (1813).

I chose the coffee mill in the lower right corner of the painting. The object is a box mill coffee grinder which received its first United States patent in 1798 and was the twenty-six patent issued by the Federal government. In 1832, the second U.S. patent for box mills was granted to the Parker brothers, who manufactured their mill until 1932. The box mill consisted of a small box with a brass or iron hopper, where the roasted coffee beans would be placed, a crank burr grinder, and a drawer below the hopper to catch the ground coffee.

London Coffee house 17th c.

Coffeehouse satire

There has been some scholarly debate about the role coffee played in the revolutionary period and the early republic. One side claims that American’s love of coffee stemmed from a rejection of all things British (i.e. tea) and that drinking coffee was a way of showing support for America’s independence. Coffee was subversive and the stimulant of choice after the self-imposed ban on British tea which American patriots dumped into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. The other side rejects this notion by citing the proliferation of coffee-houses in England starting in the late 1600s. They claim that the drink itself had nothing to do with revolutionary forces but that the culture that sprang up around coffeehouses offered intellectuals a public forum to discuss the issues (social, economic, and political) of the day.

Krimmel’s completed his painting in 1813 one year into the War of 1812, which pitted America against Britain in what some claim to be the Second American Revolution. British blockades of U.S. ports created a shortage of tea, which was probably a better explanation for Americans’ preference for the dark, seductive beverage. Coffee from Brazil was closer and cheaper to import than tea from Ceylon and India. America was also experiencing a love affair with all things French and the French were avid coffee drinkers. By 1830, Americans consumed about three pounds per person a year. It soared to five and a half pounds by 1850 and to a whopping eight pounds by 1859. The Civil War cemented America’s love of coffee as soldiers on both sides received coffee bean rations. By 1900, Americans drank nearly half of the world’s supply of coffee annually.

Coffee has always been a communal activity. It’s not surprising that Krimmel chose to represent it in his painting. Whether you agree or disagree on its subversive properties, coffee is usually enjoyed in groups and it leads to an exchange of ideas. It has been celebrated for its stimulating properties: socially, physically, and intellectually.

Allen, Stewart Lee. The Devil’s Cup: Coffee the Driving Force in History. (New York: Soho Press, 1999).

Pendergrast, Mark. Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed Our Lives. (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

Wild, Antony. Coffee: A Dark History. (New York and London: W.W. Norton & Co, 2004).

The Trouble with Maps

Barrow Plantation Map

This week’s seventh assignment deals with maps; their usefulness and their ability to be misleading. In this assignment, we examining the 1860 and 1881 maps of the Barrow Plantation in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. The original use of these maps was to show how a southern plantation when from being a consolidated system prior to the American Civil War to an atomized series of tenant farms during the Reconstruction.

David C. Barrows Jr

The Barrow Plantation map as it is traditionally shown has an error. From its current orientation, most readers will assume incorrectly that the plantation is situated on a river with a north-south flow. However, the Little River actually flows east-west. The map is sideways. It was first printed by David Crenshaw Barrow in a Scribners Monthly magazine article in 1881, entitled, “A Georgia Plantation.” In my search for the actual location of the plantation, I searched the census records for the author of the above article. David C. Crenshaw, (Jr.) was born on his father’s plantation, Syll’s Fork Place, on October 18, 1852. He became the Chancellor of the University of Georgia in 1905 and he was honored by the State of Georgia by having a county (Barrow County) named after him. On the 1860 census, the post office was listed as Lexington, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. I entered that location into Google maps. I zoomed in as much as it would go and turned on the terrain feature, which gave the names of all the rivers, creeks, and bodies of water and dragged the map around until I found the Little River which was about 16 miles southeast of Lexington, Ga. The Syll’s fork (map) is currently called Slys Fork; Branch Creek is Andrew Branch; Wright Creek is White Creek; Little River is North Fork Little River and the unnamed road is Jackson Place Rd NW, just off of GA-22/Lexington Road NW.

Satellite view of Barrow Plantation

From an extreme close up satellite view, I was unable to determine it the plantation house still existed. There were large roughly cleared areas which were not smooth enough for farming. The next patch to this one appeared to contain juvenile pine trees planted in neat rows. If I had to venture a guess, I would say that this was now some sort of sustainable timber business and not a working farm.

Terrain map of Barrow Plantation

Location relative to other Georgia cities

From the 1860 Slave census, David C. Barrow, Sr. was reported to own eighty slaves; of which four of them were above 70 years old and six were fugitives from the state (runaways). They lived in twenty slave cabins on his plantation. He owned $95,670 in real estate and $240,000 in personal property. By the 1870 census, he owned $100,000 in real estate but only had $20,000 in personal property. The significant drop in wealth shows us in real terms how much slaves were intrinsically worth. Barrow Sr’s household contained 19 domestic servants; of which twelve were mulattos and 7 were black. Their surnames are Tucker, Payne, Smith, Morton, and Pope. On the 1880 census, I was able to locate a few of the names listed in the 1881 map of Barrow Plantation. (i.e. Tom Thomas, Ben Thomas, Reuben Barrow, Isaac,  Tom Wright, Lem Douglas, and several Popes, but none with first names that matched the map)

David Barrow Sr will: