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Abigail and John Adams
The Americanization of Sensibility
G. J. Barker-Benfield
University of Chicago Press, 2010

During the many years that they were separated by the perils of the American Revolution, John and Abigail Adams exchanged hundreds of letters. Writing to each other of public events and private feelings, loyalty and love, revolution and parenting, they wove a tapestry of correspondence that has become a cherished part of American history and literature.

With Abigail and John Adams, historian G. J. Barker-Benfield mines those familiar letters to a new purpose: teasing out the ways in which they reflected—and helped transform—a language of sensibility, inherited from Britain but, amid the revolutionary fervor, becoming Americanized. Sensibility—a heightened moral consciousness of feeling, rooted in the theories of such thinkers as Descartes, Locke, and Adam Smith and including a “moral sense” akin to the physical senses—threads throughout these letters. As Barker-Benfield makes clear, sensibility was the fertile, humanizing ground on which the Adamses not only founded their marriage, but also the “abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity” they and their contemporaries hoped to plant at the heart of the new nation. Bringing together their correspondence with a wealth of fascinating detail about life and thought, courtship and sex, gender and parenting, and class and politics in the revolutionary generation and beyond, Abigail and John Adams draws a lively, convincing portrait of a marriage endangered by separation, yet surviving by the same ideas and idealism that drove the revolution itself.

A feast of ideas that never neglects the real lives of the man and woman at its center, Abigail and John Adams takes readers into the heart of an unforgettable union in order to illuminate the first days of our nation—and explore our earliest understandings of what it might mean to be an American.

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Alice Morse Earle and the Domestic History of Early America
Susan Reynolds Williams
University of Massachusetts Press, 2013
Author, collector, and historian Alice Morse Earle (1851–1911) was among the most important and prolific writers of her day. Between 1890 and 1904, she produced seventeen books as well as numerous articles, pamphlets, and speeches about the life, manners, customs, and material culture of colonial New England. Earle's work coincided with a surge of interest in early American history, genealogy, and antique collecting, and more than a century after the publication of her first book, her contributions still resonate with readers interested in the nation's colonial past.

An intensely private woman, Earle lived in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and four children and conducted much of her research either by mail or at the newly established Long Island Historical Society. She began writing on the eve of her fortieth birthday, and the impressive body of scholarship she generated over the next fifteen years stimulated new interest in early American social customs, domestic routines, foodways, clothing, and childrearing patterns.

Written in a style calculated to appeal to a wide readership, Earle's richly illustrated books recorded the intimate details of what she described as colonial "home life." These works reflected her belief that women had played a key historical role, helping to nurture communities by constructing households that both served and shaped their families. It was a vision that spoke eloquently to her contemporaries, who were busily creating exhibitions of early American life in museums, staging historical pageants and other forms of patriotic celebration, and furnishing their own domestic interiors.
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American Passage
The Communications Frontier in Early New England
Katherine Grandjean
Harvard University Press, 2015

New England was built on letters. Its colonists left behind thousands of them, brittle and browning and crammed with curls of purplish script. How they were delivered, though, remains mysterious. We know surprisingly little about the way news and people traveled in early America. No postal service or newspapers existed—not until 1704 would readers be able to glean news from a “public print.” But there was, in early New England, an unseen world of travelers, rumors, movement, and letters. Unearthing that early American communications frontier, American Passage retells the story of English colonization as less orderly and more precarious than the quiet villages of popular imagination.

The English quest to control the northeast entailed a great struggle to control the flow of information. Even when it was meant solely for English eyes, news did not pass solely through English hands. Algonquian messengers carried letters along footpaths, and Dutch ships took them across waterways. Who could travel where, who controlled the routes winding through the woods, who dictated what news might be sent—in Katherine Grandjean’s hands, these questions reveal a new dimension of contest and conquest in the northeast. Gaining control of New England was not solely a matter of consuming territory, of transforming woods into farms. It also meant mastering the lines of communication.

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Circles and Lines
The Shape of Life in Early America
John Demos
Harvard University Press, 2004

In this intimate, engaging book, John Demos offers an illuminating portrait of how colonial Americans, from the first settlers to the postrevolutionary generation, viewed their life experiences. He also offers an invaluable inside look into the craft of a master social historian as he unearths--in sometimes unexpected places--fragments of evidence that help us probe the interior lives of people from the faraway past.

The earliest settlers lived in a traditional world of natural cycles that shaped their behavior: day and night; seasonal rhythms; the lunar cycle; the life cycle itself. Indeed, so basic were these elements that "almost no one felt a need to comment on them." Yet he finds cyclical patterns--in the seasonal foods they ate, in the spike in marriages following the autumn harvest. Witchcraft cases reveal the different emotional reactions to day versus night, as accidental mishaps in the light become fearful nighttime mysteries. During the transitional world of the American Revolution, people began to see their society in newer terms but seemed unable or unwilling to come to terms with that novelty. Americans became new, Demos points out, before they fully understood what it meant. Their cyclical frame of reference was coming unmoored, giving way to a linear world view in early nineteenth-century America that is neatly captured by Kentucky doctor Daniel Drake's description of the chronography of his life.

In his meditation on these three worlds, Demos brilliantly demonstrates how large historical forces are reflected in individual lives. With the imaginative insights and personable touch that we have come to expect from this fine chronicler of the human condition, Circles and Lines is vintage John Demos.

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Complete Writings and Selected Correspondence of John Dickinson
Volume 1
Jane E. Calvert
University of Delaware Press, 2011
The Complete Writings and Selected Correspondence of John Dickinson, vol. 1 inaugurates a multivolume documentary edition that will, for the first time ever, provide the complete collection of everything Dickinson published on public affairs over the course of his life. The documents include essays, articles, broadsides, resolutions, petitions, declarations, constitutions, regulations, legislation, proclamations, songs and odes. Among them are many of the seminal state papers produced by the first national congresses and conventions. Also included are correspondences between Dickinson and some of the key figures of his era. This edition should raise Dickinson to his rightful place among America’s founding fathers, rivaled in reputation only by Benjamin Franklin before 1776. Dickinson was celebrated throughout the colonies, as well as in England and France, as the great American spokesman for liberty, and the documents in this edition evidence his tireless political work and unmatched corpus.
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Errands into the Metropolis
New England Dissidents in Revolutionary London
Jonathan Beecher Field
Dartmouth College Press, 2012
Errands into the Metropolis offers a dramatic new interpretation of the texts and contexts of early New England literature. Jonathan Beecher Field inverts the familiar paradigm of colonization as an errand into the wilderness to demonstrate, instead, that New England was shaped and re-shaped by a series of return trips to a metropolitan London convulsed with political turmoil. In London, dissidents and their more orthodox antagonists contended for colonial power through competing narratives of their experiences in the New World. Dissidents showed a greater willingness to construct their narratives in terms that were legible to a metropolitan reader than did Massachusetts Bay’s apologists. As a result, representatives of a variety of marginal religious groups were able to secure a remarkable level of political autonomy, visible in the survival of Rhode Island as an independent colony. Through chapters focusing on John Cotton, Roger Williams, Samuel Gorton, John Clarke, and the Quaker martyrs, Field traces an evolving discourse on the past, present, and future of colonial New England that revises the canon of colonial New England literature and the contours of New England history. In the broader field of early American studies, Field’s work demonstrates the benefits of an Atlantic perspective on the material cultures of print. In the context of religious freedom, Errands into the Metropolis shows Rhode Island’s famous culture of toleration emerging as a pragmatic response to the conditions of colonial life, rather than as an idealistic principle. Errands into the Metropolis offers new understanding of familiar texts and events from colonial New England, and reveals the significance of less familiar texts and events.
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Experiment in Republicanism
New Hampshire Politics and the American Revolution, 1741-1794
Jere R. Daniell
Harvard University Press, 1970

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Facing East from Indian Country
A Native History of Early America
Daniel K. Richter
Harvard University Press, 2003

In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers. Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East from Indian Country, Daniel K. Richter keeps Native people center-stage throughout the story of the origins of the United States.

Viewed from Indian country, the sixteenth century was an era in which Native people discovered Europeans and struggled to make sense of a new world. Well into the seventeenth century, the most profound challenges to Indian life came less from the arrival of a relative handful of European colonists than from the biological, economic, and environmental forces the newcomers unleashed. Drawing upon their own traditions, Indian communities reinvented themselves and carved out a place in a world dominated by transatlantic European empires. In 1776, however, when some of Britain’s colonists rebelled against that imperial world, they overturned the system that had made Euro-American and Native coexistence possible. Eastern North America only ceased to be an Indian country because the revolutionaries denied the continent’s first peoples a place in the nation they were creating.

In rediscovering early America as Indian country, Richter employs the historian’s craft to challenge cherished assumptions about times and places we thought we knew well, revealing Native American experiences at the core of the nation’s birth and identity.

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The First Liberty
America's Foundation in Religious Freedom, Expanded and Updated
William Lee Miller
Georgetown University Press, 2003

At a time when the concept of religion-based politics has taken on new and sometimes ominous tones—even within the United States—it is not only right, but also urgently necessary that William Lee Miller revisit his profound exploration of the place of religious liberty and church and state in America. For this revised edition of The First Liberty, Miller has written a pointed new introduction, discussing how religious liberty has taken on deeper dimensions in a post-9/11 world. With new material on recent Supreme Court cases involving church-state relations and a new concluding chapter on America's religious and political landscape, this volume is an eloquent and thorough interpretation of how religious faith and political freedom have blended and fused to form part of our collective history-and most importantly, how each concept must respect the boundaries of the other.

Though many claim the United States to be a "Christian Nation," Miller provides a fascinatingly vivid account of the philosophical skirmishes and political machinations that led to the "wall of separation" between church and state. That famous phrase is Jefferson's, though it does not appear in the Declaration of Independence nor in the Constitution. But Miller follows this seminal idea from three great standard-bearers of religious liberty: Jefferson, Madison, and Roger Williams. Jefferson, who wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the precursor of the First Amendment of the Constitution; James Madison, who was politically responsible for Virginia's acceptance of religious liberty and who, a few years later, helped draft the Bill of Rights; and the even earlier figure, the radical dissenter Roger Williams, who propounded the idea of religious freedom not as a rational secularist but out of a deeply held spiritual faith.

Miller re-creates the fierce and vibrant debate among the founding fathers over the means of establishing public virtue in the absence of established religion—a debate that still reverberates in today's passionate arguments about civil rights, school prayer, abortion, Christmas crèches, conscientious objection during warfare—and demonstrates how the right to hold any religious belief has dynamically shaped American political life.

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Founding Fictions
Jennifer R. Mercieca
University of Alabama Press, 2010
An extended analysis of how Americans imagined themselves as citizens between 1764 and 1845
 
Founding Fictions develops the concept of a “political fiction,” or a narrative that people tell about their own political theories, and analyzes how republican and democratic fictions positioned American citizens as either romantic heroes, tragic victims, or ironic partisans. By re-telling the stories that Americans have told themselves about citizenship, Mercieca highlights an important contradiction in American political theory and practice: that national stability and active citizen participation are perceived as fundamentally at odds.
 
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Mahogany
The Costs of Luxury in Early America
Jennifer L. Anderson
Harvard University Press, 2012

In the mid-eighteenth century, colonial Americans became enamored with the rich colors and silky surface of mahogany. This exotic wood, imported from the West Indies and Central America, quickly displaced local furniture woods as the height of fashion. Over the next century, consumer demand for mahogany set in motion elaborate schemes to secure the trees and transform their rough-hewn logs into exquisite objects. But beneath the polished gleam of this furniture lies a darker, hidden story of human and environmental exploitation.

Mahogany traces the path of this wood through many hands, from source to sale: from the enslaved African woodcutters, including skilled “huntsmen” who located the elusive trees amidst dense rainforest, to the ship captains, merchants, and timber dealers who scrambled after the best logs, to the skilled cabinetmakers who crafted the wood, and with it the tastes and aspirations of their diverse clientele. As the trees became scarce, however, the search for new sources led to expanded slave labor, vicious competition, and intense international conflicts over this diminishing natural resource. When nineteenth-century American furniture makers turned to other materials, surviving mahogany objects were revalued as antiques evocative of the nation's past.

Jennifer Anderson offers a dynamic portrait of the many players, locales, and motivations that drove the voracious quest for mahogany to adorn American parlors and dining rooms. This complex story reveals the cultural, economic, and environmental costs of America’s growing self-confidence and prosperity, and how desire shaped not just people’s lives but the natural world.

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Making the Empire Work
London and American Interest Groups, 1690–1790
Alison Olson
Harvard University Press, 1992

The British government had few imperial administrators in the American colonies and perhaps fewer ways to exert its authority by force, yet Americans rarely questioned that authority until the eve of the American Revolution. The empire worked and Americans accepted British rule not because they feared the government, but rather because they had effective methods for influencing it to their own benefit.

Alison Olson reveals a source of that influence in networks of interest groups working cooperatively in England and America. Between 1640 and 1790 voluntary interest groups emerged in English politics. They began in London and gradually formed loose connections with smaller but similar interests in the English and American provinces. When the London groups became capable of lobbying the national government, they were willing to use their influence on behalf of the provincials as well. This “representation” of the Americans, though never official, was crucial to keeping the colonists content within the empire.

The type of interest group that could accommodate colonial participation was the associational, identified by the voluntary character of its membership. It included religious and ethnic communities—Presbyterians, Jews, Lutherans, Quakers, Baptists, Huguenots—and merchant groups. London lobbyists, acting as intermediaries between the colonies and the imperial government, gave American interests a vitally important role in the making of English imperial decisions and gave the English government a key source of information on just what decisions would and would not provoke American resistance. When these connections collapsed, the dissolution of the first British empire was not far away.

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Papers of John Adams
Edited by Gregg L. Lint, Sara Martin, C. James Taylor, Sara Georgini, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Amanda M. Norton
Harvard University Press, 2016

Volume 18 is the final volume of the Papers of John Adams wholly devoted to Adams’ diplomatic career. It chronicles fourteen months of his tenure as minister to Great Britain and his joint commission, with Thomas Jefferson, to negotiate treaties with Europe and North Africa. With respect to Britain, Adams found it impossible to do “any Thing Satisfactory, with this Nation,” and the volume ends with his decision to resign his posts. His diplomatic efforts, Adams thought, were too much akin to “making brick without straw.”

John Adams’ ministerial efforts in London were disappointing, but other aspects of his life were not. He and Jefferson failed to finalize treaties with Portugal and Great Britain, but they did, through agent Thomas Barclay, conclude a treaty with Morocco. Barclay’s letters are the earliest and most evocative American accounts of that region. Adams witnessed the marriage of his daughter, Abigail 2d, to William Stephens Smith, promoted the ordination of American Episcopal bishops, and toured the English countryside, first with Thomas Jefferson and then with his family. Most significant perhaps was the publication of the first volume of Adams’ Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. This work is often attributed to concern over Shays’ Rebellion, of which Adams knew little when he began drafting. In fact, it was Adams’ summer 1786 visit to the Netherlands that provoked his work. There, Dutch Patriot friends, involved in their own revolution, expressed interest in seeing “upon paper” his remarks “respecting Government.”

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Papers of John Adams
Edited by Gregg L. Lint, Margaret A. Hogan, C. James Taylor, Anne Decker Cecere, Richard Alan Ryerson, Jennifer Shea, and Celeste Walker
Harvard University Press, 1977

In mid-March 1781, John Adams received his commission and instructions as minister to the Netherlands and embarked on the boldest initiative of his diplomatic career. Disappointed by the lack of interest shown by Dutch investors in his efforts to raise a loan for the United States, Adams changed his tactics, and in a memorial made a forthright appeal to the States General of the Netherlands for immediate recognition of the United States. Published in Dutch, English, and French, it offered all of Europe a radical vision of the ordinary citizen’s role in determining political events. In this volume, for the first time, the circumstances and reasoning behind Adams’s bold moves in the spring of 1781 are presented in full.

In July the French court summoned Adams, the only American in Europe empowered to negotiate an Anglo–American peace, to Paris for consultations regarding an offer made by Austria and Russia to mediate the Anglo–French war. In his correspondence with France’s foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, Adams passionately insisted that the United States was fully and unambiguously independent and sovereign and must be recognized as such by Great Britain before any negotiations took place. This volume shows John Adams to be a determined and resourceful diplomat, unafraid to go beyond the bounds of traditional diplomacy to implement his vision of American foreign policy.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

No family in three generations has contributed so much to American history as the Adamses. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Charles Francis Adams, despite periods of doubt, knew that history, if not their contemporaries, would recognize their accomplishments. When the Adams Papers series is complete, the writings of these three statesmen will have been examined thoroughly.

Aside from the Legal Papers of John Adams, published in 1965, these two volumes are the first in Series III: General Correspondence and Other Papers of the Adams Statesmen. Volumes 1 and 2 of the Papers of John Adams include letters to and from friends and colleagues, reports of committees on which he served, his polemical writings, published and unpublished, and state papers to which he made a contribution.

All of Adams’s newspaper writings, including “A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law,” are in these two volumes. In addition to being a condemnation of the Stamp Act, the “Dissertation” is shown to be one of the building blocks of the theory of a commonwealth of independent states under the king, which reaches complete statement in the Novanglus letters. For the first time, all thirteen of these letters appear in full with annotation.

The period September 1755 to April 1775 covers Adams’s public service in Braintree and Boston town meetings, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the First Continental Congress, and the First Provincial Congress of Massachusetts. During this time his political future was being shaped by circumstances not always of his choosing. He hesitated at first at the threshold of a public career, political ambition in conflict with concern for his family’s well-being. But as the confrontation with Great Britain sharpened, the crisis became acute; no choice remained. For Adams there was no shirking the path of duty.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

On the last day of December 1780, John Adams wrote that he had just spent “the most anxious and mortifying Year of my whole Life.” He had resided first at Paris, then at Amsterdam, attempting, without success, to open Anglo–American peace negotiations and to raise a Dutch loan. In volumes 9 and 10 of the Papers of John Adams, over 600 letters and documents that Adams sent to and received from numerous correspondents in Europe and America provide an unparalleled view of Adams’s diplomacy and a wealth of detail on the world in which he lived.

These volumes chronicle Adams’s efforts to convince the British people and their leaders that Britain’s economic survival demanded an immediate peace; his “snarling growling” debate with the French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, over the proper Franco–American relationship; and his struggle to obtain a loan in the Netherlands, where policies were dictated by Mammon rather than republican virtue. Adams’s writings, diplomatic dispatches, and personal correspondence all make clear the scope of his intelligence gathering and his propaganda efforts in the British, French, and Dutch press. The letters reflect his interest in Bordeaux wines, the fate of Massachusetts Constitution that he had drafted in 1779, and political developments in Philadelphia, Boston, London, and St. Petersburg. The volumes leave no doubt as to John Adams’s unwavering commitment to the American cause. Even in this most difficult year, he believed the revolution in America to be “the greatest that ever took Place among Men.” He felt honored to serve a new nation where “the Wisdom and not the Man is attended to,” whose citizens were fighting a “People’s War” from which the United States would inevitably emerge victorious to take its rightful place on the world stage.

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Papers of John Adams
Edited by Gregg L. Lint, Margaret A. Hogan, C. James Taylor, Anne Decker Cecere, Richard Alan Ryerson, Jennifer Shea, and Celeste Walker
Harvard University Press, 1977

The American victory at Yorktown in October 1781 and the fall of Lord North’s ministry in March 1782 opened the possibility that John Adams might soon be involved in negotiations to end the war for American independence. To prepare for the occasion, Adams and Benjamin Franklin discussed in their letters the fundamentals for peace. Adams made it clear to the British government that there would be no negotiations without British recognition of the United States as independent and sovereign.

This volume chronicles Adams’s efforts, against great odds, to achieve formal recognition of the new United States. The documents include his vigorous response to criticism of his seemingly unorthodox methods by those who would have preferred that he pursue a different course, including Congress’s newly appointed secretary for foreign affairs, Robert R. Livingston.

In April 1782 the Netherlands recognized the United States and admitted John Adams as its minister. For Adams it was “the most Signal Epocha, in the History of a Century,” and he would forever see it as the foremost achievement of his diplomatic career. The volume ends with Adams, at long last a full-fledged member of the diplomatic corps, describing his reception by the States General and his audiences with the Prince and Princess of Orange.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

“Once more after an Interruption of ten Years, I pronounce myself a happy Man, and pray Heaven to continue me so.” Thus wrote John Adams in late August 1784 after the arrival in Europe of his wife Abigail and daughter Nabby. Adams and his family were living together in the pleasant Paris suburb of Auteuil. There Adams, with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, formed a joint commission to conclude commercial treaties with the nations of Europe and North Africa. For the first time since he had left America in 1778 on his first diplomatic mission, Adams was no longer engaged in “militia diplomacy.”

Volume 16 of the Papers of John Adams chronicles fourteen months of Adams’ diplomatic career. As minister to the Netherlands he raised a new Dutch loan to save America from financial ruin. As joint commissioner he negotiated a commercial treaty with Prussia, proposed similar treaties with other European nations, and prepared to negotiate with the Barbary states. The commissioners also sought to resolve Anglo-American differences left over from the peace negotiations and arising from the two nations’ burgeoning trade. Volume 16 thus forms a prelude to the next phase of John Adams’ diplomatic career, for his February 1785 appointment as minister to the Court of St. James meant that the management of Anglo-American relations would be his responsibility alone.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977
Vice President John Adams and the US government faced a turbulent world of rebellion in this volume of the Papers of John Adams, which chronicles the period from March 1791 to January 1797. The grim shadow of the French Revolution and the whirlwind of a massive European war left political leaders like Adams struggling to uphold the young nation’s neutrality. “I Suffer inexpressible Pains, from the bloody feats of War and Still more from those of Party Passions,” he observed. With the federal system newly in place, fresh challenges crept in on all sides. Adams and his colleagues sought to bolster the government against the effects of the Whiskey Rebellion, a seething partisan press, a brutal yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, and violent clashes with Native peoples on the Ohio frontier. Working with George Washington and an increasingly fractious cabinet, Adams approached a set of issues that defined US foreign policy for decades to come, including the negotiation, ratification, and funding of the controversial Jay Treaty, as well as the awkward cultivation of ties with France. Revealing exchanges to Adams from son John Quincy, a junior statesman who sent rich reports from war-torn Europe, underline the family’s enduring commitment to public service. Pausing on the cusp of his presidency, John Adams amplified his lifelong dedication to sustaining democracy, amid bouts of internal and external crisis: “I am happy that it has fallen to my share to do some thing towards setting the Machine in motion,” he wrote.
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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977
John Adams’s shaping of the vice presidency dominates this volume of the Papers of John Adams, which chronicles a formative era in American government spanning June 1789 to February 1791. As the first federal Congress struggled to interpret the US Constitution and implement a new economic framework, Adams held fast to federalist principles and staked out boundaries for his executive powers. Meeting in New York City, Adams and his colleagues warred over how to collect revenue and where to locate the federal seat. They established and staffed the departments of state, treasury, and war. Adams focused on presiding over the Senate, where he broke several ties. Enduring the daily grind of politics, he lauded the “National Spirit” of his fellow citizens and pledged to continue laboring for the needs of the American people. “If I did not love them now, I would not Serve them another hour—for I very well know that Vexation and Chagrine, must be my Portion, every moment I shall continue in public Life,” Adams wrote. He plunged back into writing, using his Discourses on Davila to synthesize national progress with republican history. Whether or not the union would hold, as regional interests impeded congressional action, remained Adams’s chief concern. “There is every Evidence of good Intentions on all sides but there are too many Symptoms of old Colonial Habits: and too few, of great national Views,” he observed. Once again, John Adams’s frank letters reveal firsthand the labor of nation-building in an age of constitutions.
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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

“Huzza for the new World and farewell to the Old One,” John Adams wrote in late 1787, wrapping up a decade’s worth of diplomatic service in Europe. Volume 19 of the Papers of John Adams chronicles Adams’s last duties in London and The Hague. In the twenty-eight months documented here, he petitioned the British ministry to halt impressment of American sailors, toured the English countryside, and observed parliamentary politics. Adams salvaged U.S. credit by contracting two new Dutch loans amid the political chaos triggered by William V’s resurgence. Correspondents like Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette mulled over the Anglo–American trade war that followed the Revolution and reported on the French Assembly of Notables—topics that Adams commented on with trademark candor. He wrote the final two volumes of his work, A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.

Adams yearned to return home and see the American republic take shape. “For a Man who has been thirty Years rolling like a stone,” Adams wrote, the choice was whether to “set down in private Life to his Plough; or push into turbulent scenes of Sedition and Tumult; whether be sent to Congress, or a Convention or God knows what.” Back on his native soil of Massachusetts in June 1788, Adams settled into rural retirement with wife Abigail and watched the U.S. Constitution’s ratification evolve. By volume’s end, John Adams again resumes public life, ready to serve as America’s first vice president.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

"You may well Suppose that I was the Focus of all Eyes," John Adams wrote on 2 June 1785 of his first audience with George III, which formally inaugurated the post of American minister to Great Britain. Eager to restore "the old good Nature and the old good Humour" between the two nations, Adams spent the following months establishing the U.S. legation at No. 8 Grosvenor Square. For Adams, it was a period of multiple responsibilities and mixed success. He remained minister to the Netherlands and one of the joint commissioners charged with negotiating commercial treaties with the nations of Europe and North Africa--sensitive duties that occasionally called for Adams to encode his correspondence with the aid of his new secretary and future son-in-law, Col. William Stephens Smith.

Rebuffed by the British ministry in his mission to enforce the peace treaty of 1783 and renew Anglo-American commerce, Adams identified and achieved other goals. He preserved American credit despite the bankruptcy of a Dutch banking house that handled U.S. loans, petitioned for the release of impressed sailors, marked the ratification of the Prussian-American treaty, championed the needs of the American Episcopal Church, and laid the groundwork for negotiations with the Barbary States. His attention was not confined solely to foreign affairs. John Adams's letters from London, laced with his trademark candor, demonstrate his ripening Federalist view of the new American government's vulnerability and promise.

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Papers of John Adams
Adams FamilyEdited by Gregg L. Lint, C. James Taylor, Robert F. Karachuk, Hobson Woodward, Margaret A. Hogan, Sara B. Sikes, Mary T. Claffey, and Karen N. Barzilay
Harvard University Press, 1977

On September 3, 1783, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay signed the definitive Anglo-American peace treaty. Adams and his colleagues strived to establish a viable relationship between the new nation and its largest trading partner but were stymied by rising British anti-Americanism.

Adams’ diplomatic efforts were also complicated by domestic turmoil. Americans, in a rehearsal for the later Federalist-Antifederalist conflict over the United States Constitution, were debating the proper relationship between the central government and the states. Adams, a Federalist as early as 1783, argued persuasively for a government that honored its treaties and paid its foreign debts. But when bills far exceeding the funds available for their redemption were sent to Europe, he was forced to undertake a dangerous winter journey to the Netherlands to raise a new loan and save the United States from financial disaster.

None of the founding fathers equals the candor of John Adams’ observations of his eighteenth-century world. His letters, always interesting, reveal with absolute clarity Adams’ positions on the personalities and issues of his times.

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Papers of John Adams
Edited by Gregg L. Lint, Margaret A. Hogan, C. James Taylor, Hobson Woodward, Mary T. Claffey, Sara B. Sikes, and Judith S. Graham
Harvard University Press, 1977

John Adams reached Paris on October 26, 1782, for the final act of the American Revolution: the peace treaty. This volume chronicles his role in the negotiations and the decision to conclude a peace separate from France. Determined that the United States pursue an independent foreign policy, Adams's letters criticized Congress's naive confidence in France. But in April 1783, frustrated at delays over the final treaty and at real and imagined slights from Congress and Benjamin Franklin, Adams believed the crux of the problem was Franklin's moral bankruptcy and servile Francophilia in the service of a duplicitous Comte de Vergennes.

Volume 14 covers more than just the peace negotiations. As American minister to the Netherlands, Adams managed the distribution of funds from the Dutch-American loan. Always an astute observer, he commented on the fall of the Shelburne ministry and its replacement by the Fox-North coalition, the future of the Anglo-American relationship, and the prospects for the United States in the post-revolutionary world. But he was also an anxious father, craving news of John Quincy Adams's slow journey from St. Petersburg to The Hague. By May 1783, Adams was tired of Europe, but resigned to remaining until his work was done.

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Papers of John Adams
Edited by Gregg L. Lint, Margaret A. Hogan, C. James Taylor, Jessie May Rodrique, Mary T. Claffey, and Hobson Woodward
Harvard University Press, 1977

A new chapter in John Adams's diplomatic career opened when the Dutch recognized the United States in April 1782. Operating from the recently purchased American legation at The Hague, Adams focused his energies on raising a much needed loan from Dutch bankers and negotiating a Dutch-American commercial treaty. This volume chronicles Adams's efforts to achieve these objectives, but it also provides an unparalleled view of eighteenth-century American diplomacy on the eve of a peace settlement ending the eight-year war of the American Revolution.

John Adams was a shrewd observer of the political and diplomatic world in which he functioned and his comments on events and personalities remain the most candid and revealing of any American in Europe. His correspondence traces the complex negotiations necessary to raise a Dutch loan and throws new light on his conclusion of a treaty of amity and commerce with the Netherlands, achievements of which he was most proud. Events in England and elsewhere in Europe also provided grist for his pen. Would the establishment in July of a new ministry under the earl of Shelburne hinder or advance the cause of peace? That question bedeviled Adams and his correspondents for the fate of the new nation literally rode on its answer. The volume ends with Adams's triumphal departure from The Hague to face new challenges at Paris as one of the American commissioners to negotiate an Anglo-American peace treaty.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

These volumes provide an unparalleled account of the conduct of American diplomacy in the early years of the republic, while the war with Britain continued and after the treaty of alliance with France was signed. John Adams served for ten months as a commissioner to France. Though he was the newest member of the three-man commission, he was its chief administrator, handling most of its correspondence, and his papers are the first full documentary record of the commission ever published. They provide a wealth of detail on every aspect of diplomacy, from negotiations with ministers of state to the arranging of prisoner exchanges.

The documents throw new light on Adams’s relations with his fellow commissioners, Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee. Historians have depicted Adams as hostile to Franklin and supportive of Lee, but the record shows that he found himself increasingly in disagreement with Lee, while working harmoniously with Franklin from the outset. Moreover, after the commission was disbanded in February 1779 and Franklin was appointed Minister to France—a move Adams had advocated—he undertook an important mission at Franklin’s behest. It is now clear that the rift that developed between the two statesmen did not begin until after Adams’s return to Paris in 1780.

Legal and constitutional scholars will find Volume 8 of particular interest. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, drafted by John Adams in 1779, served as a crucial source for the Constitution of the United States; today it is the oldest written constitution in the world still in effect. The earliest surviving version of Adams’s text, the Report of a Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is here published with full annotation for the first time. It is John Adams’s most enduring constitutional work.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

These volumes document John Adams’s thinking and actions during the final years of his congressional service and take him through his first five months as a Commissioner in France in association with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee.

While Adams was still in Philadelphia, military matters continued to he his major concern. Most demanding was his presidency of the Board of War, which took up his “whole Time, every Morning and Evening.” In general, though, the documents and reports of his conduct reveal a commitment to a national outlook. Congress should be a national legislature, and personal, state, and regional rivalries should give way to concern for the greater good—these were his deeply held convictions.

When chosen a Commissioner to France, Adams was reluctant to go. But duty and the honor of the position, along with the encouragement of an understanding and self-sacrificing wife, persuaded him to accept. With son John Quincy for a companion, he crossed the Atlantic to a new career. His initiation into the complexities of diplomacy brought a growing awareness of European affairs and the problems facing the new nation in the diplomatic arena. Letters deal with such varied topics as the supervision of American commercial agents in French ports, regulation of privateers, settlement of disputes between crews and officers, negotiation of loans, and help for American prisoners in England. Personal letters run the gamut from Adams’s views on the proper conduct of American diplomacy to strangers’ pleas for aid in locating relatives in America. Contrary to the usual impression of Adams as little more than a clerk for the Commission, evidence shows that he was its chief administrator.

Acclimation to living abroad among diplomats did not stifle Adams’s yearning for the simplicities of private life in the midst of his family. Yet as the important and interesting documents of this volume show, the groundwork was being laid for his even more significant role in diplomacy.

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Papers of John Adams
John Adams
Harvard University Press, 1977

As the American colonies grew more restive, and a break with the mother country ceased to be unthinkable, John Adams was forced to spend less and less time with his beloved family. Although burdened by ever-expanding responsibilities in the Second Continental Congress, he found time for an amazing amount of correspondence. The majority of his letters were written to secure the facts that would enable this duty-ridden man to decide and act effectively on the issues being debated. Military affairs, a source of never-ending concern, provide some of the most fascinating subjects, including several accounts of the Battle of Bunker Hill, assessments of various high-ranking officers, and complaints about the behavior of the riflemen sent from three states southward to aid the Massachusetts troops.

The heated question of pay for soldiers and officers strained relations between New England and southern colonies early. By refusing to confront the issue of slavery when it was raised by several correspondents, Adams sought to avoid exacerbating regional sensitivities further. When the question of independent governments for former colonies arose, at the request of several colleagues Adams sketched a model, Thoughts on Government, three versions of which are included here.

His optimistic republicanism, however, was balanced by fear that a “Spirit of Commerce” would undermine the virtue requisite for republican institutions. Adams' important committee work included his draft in 1775 of rules for regulation of the Continental Navy, which have remained the basis for the governance of the United States Navy down into our own time, and his plan of treaties, which would guide American diplomats up to World War II. Both were derivative, but he skillfully adapted his materials to American needs and circumstances. These volumes reflect the spirit of those tumultuous years when the leaders emerging in America confronted each other, and exciting new ideas, as they tried to resolve the issues of a revolutionary period.

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Religious Enthusiasm in the New World
Heresy to Revolution
David S. Lovejoy
Harvard University Press, 1985

In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England and America, established society branded as "enthusiasts" those unconventional but religiously devout extremists who stepped across orthodox lines and claimed an intimate, emotional relationship with God. John of Leyden, Anne Hutchinson, William Penn, and George Whitefield all shared the label "enthusiast." This book is a study of the enthusiasts who migrated to the American colonies as well as those who emergedthere--from Pilgrim Fathers to pietistic Moravians, from the martyr-bound Quakers to heaven-bent revivalists of the 1740s.

This study of the role of religious enthusiasm in early America tells us much about English attitudes toward religion in the New World and about the vital part it played in the lives of the colonists. Both friends and enemies of enthusiasm revealed in their arguments and actions their own conceptions of the America they inhabited. Was religion in America to be an extension of Old World institutions or truly a product of the New World? Would enthusiasm undermine civilized institutions, not only established churches, but government, social structure, morality, and the economy as well? Calling enthusiasts first heretics, then subversives and conspirators, conventional society sought ways to suppress or banish them. By 1776 enthusiasm had spilled over into politics and added a radical dimension to the revolutionary struggle.

This timely exploration of the effect of radical religion on the course of early American history provides essential historical perspective to the current interest in popular religion.

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A Revolutionary Friendship
Washington, Jefferson, and the American Republic
Francis D. Cogliano
Harvard University Press, 2024

The first full account of the relationship between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, countering the legend of their enmity while drawing vital historical lessons from the differences that arose between them.

Martha Washington’s worst memory was the death of her husband. Her second worst was Thomas Jefferson’s awkward visit to pay his respects subsequently. Indeed, by the time George Washington had died in 1799, the two founders were estranged. But that estrangement has obscured the fact that for most of their thirty-year acquaintance they enjoyed a productive relationship. Precisely because they shared so much, their disagreements have something important to teach us.

In constitutional design, for instance: Whereas Washington believed in the rule of traditional elites like the Virginia gentry, Jefferson preferred what we would call a meritocratic approach, by which elites would be elected on the basis of education and skills. And while Washington emphasized a need for strong central government, Jefferson favored diffusion of power across the states. Still, as Francis Cogliano argues, common convictions equally defined their relationship: a passion for American independence and republican government, as well as a commitment to westward expansion and the power of commerce. They also both evolved a skeptical view of slavery, eventually growing to question the institution, even as they took only limited steps to abolish it.

What remains fascinating is that the differences between the two statesmen mirrored key political fissures of the early United States, as the unity of revolutionary zeal gave way to competing visions for the new nation. A Revolutionary Friendship brilliantly captures the dramatic, challenging, and poignant reality that there was no single founding ideal—only compromise between friends and sometime rivals.

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Revolutionary Politics in Massachusetts
The Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Towns, 1772-1774
Richard D. Brown
Harvard University Press, 1970

More than a century and a half ago, John Adams urged scholars investigate the communications of the Boston Committee of Correspondence, the most radical and important of the revolutionary committees of correspondence. Such a study, Adams suggested, would reveal the underlying impetus of the revolutionary movement. Now, for the first time, Richard D. Brown has made an exhaustive and systematic analysis of the committee that set a pattern for America and for the world by keeping alive the revolutionary spirit at a time when the issues were cloudy and public interest was dormant.

The Boston committee, organized to arouse the people of Massachusetts and to inform them of their rights, initiated the use of local committees of correspondence and went on to become a major revolutionary institution which helped bring about fundamental changes in Massachusetts politics. Mr. Brown's book focuses on the years 1772 to 1774, when the inhabitants of Massachusetts moved from quiet accommodation with the British imperial system to massive rebellion against it. His investigations of the records of the Boston committee and of voluminous town records never before studied have resulted in a revision of previous interpretations regarding the interaction between leaders in Boston and the people in the towns.

The author's findings indicate that the Boston committee did not control Massachusetts political action, manipulating the political behavior of the towns, as earlier theorists have suggested. Though Boston was a leader, the towns generally acted independently, and government by consent developed effectively on the local level. The letters which passed between the capital and the countryside reveal an expanding political consciousness and an ever-increasing political sophistication at the grass-roots level. They articulate an essentially radical view of politics based on popular sovereignty.

As an account of the process of political integration among a colonial people engaged in an independence movement, this book will appeal not only to historians but also to political scientists concerned with the emerging nations of the twentieth century.

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Rhetoric, Independence, and Nationhood, 1760–1800, Volume II
Stephen E Lucas
Michigan State University Press, 2022
Few periods of American history have been studied more extensively or debated more intensely than the last four decades of the eighteenth century, during which the thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, won their independence on the battlefield, created the United States Constitution, and implemented a new national government. Scholars have approached these developments from a variety of perspectives—economic, social, political, religious, legal, and diplomatic, to name a few. This volume adopts a rhetorical perspective, which foregrounds the art of effective expression as a means of influencing political perceptions, values, and behaviors. It presents eleven essays by an interdisciplinary group of scholars who bring to bear a variety of methods, backgrounds, perspectives, and specializations. The essays illuminate key rhetors, works, controversies, and moments that helped shape American discourse and politics during the years 1760–1800.
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The Selected Writings of John Witherspoon
Edited by Thomas P. Miller
Southern Illinois University Press, 1990
Considered the first significant teacher of rhetoric in America, John Witherspoon also introduced Scottish moral philosophy to this country and as president of Princeton University reformed the curriculum to give emphasis to both studies. He was an active pamphleteer on religious and political issues and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Editor Thomas P. Miller argues that Witherspoon’s career exemplifies the Ciceronian ideal, and the eight selections Miller presents from the 1802 American edition of the Works corroborate that claim. This paperback edition includes a new preface by the editor that surveys the scholarship published on Witherspoon over the past twenty-five years and discusses how Miller’s own perspective on Witherspoon has changed during that time.
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The Southern Debate over Slavery
Volume 1: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1778-1864
Edited by Loren Schweninger
University of Illinois Press, 2001
An incomparably rich source of period information, The Southern Debate over Slavery offers a representative sampling of the thousands of petitions about issues of race and slavery that southerners submitted to their state legislatures between the American Revolution and the Civil War.
 
These petitions, filed by slaveholders and nonslaveholders, slaves and free blacks, women and men, abolitionists and staunch defenders of slavery, constitute a uniquely important primary source. Petitioners were compelled to present the most accurate and fully documented case they could, since their claims would be subject to public scrutiny and legal verification. Unlike the many reminiscences and autobiographies of the period, these petitions record with great immediacy and minute detail the dynamics, common understandings, and legal restrictions and parameters that shaped southern society during this period.
 
Arranged chronologically, with their original spelling and idiosyncratic phraseology intact, these documents reveal the grim and brutal nature of human bondage, the fears of whites who lived among large concentrations of blacks, and the workings of the complicated legal system designed to control blacks. They tell about the yearning of bondspeople to gain their freedom, the attitudes of freed blacks who were forced to leave the South, and the efforts of African Americans to overcome harsh and restrictive laws. They also underscore the unique situation of free women of color and the reliance of manumitted (formally freed) blacks on their former owners for protection, travel passes, guardianship papers, and reference letters.
 
Astonishingly intimate and frank,The Southern Debate over Slavery illuminates how slavery penetrated nearly every aspect of southern life and how various groups of southerners responded to the difficulties they confronted as a result of living in a slave society.
 
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The Southern Debate over Slavery
Volume 2: Petitions to Southern County Courts, 1775-1867
Edited by Loren Schweninger
University of Illinois Press, 2007

An incomparably rich source of period information, the second volume of The Southern Debate over Slavery offers a representative and extraordinary sampling of the thousands of petitions about issues of race and slavery that southerners submitted to county courts between the American Revolution and Civil War. These petitions, filed by slaveholders and nonslaveholders, slaves and free blacks, women and men, abolitionists and staunch defenders of slavery, constitute a uniquely important primary source. The collection records with great immediacy and minute detail the dynamics and legal restrictions that shaped southern society.

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The Urban Crucible
The Northern Seaports and the Origins of the American Revolution, Abridged Edition
Gary B. Nash
Harvard University Press, 1986
The Urban Crucible boldly reinterprets colonial life and the origins of the American Revolution. Through a century-long history of three seaport towns—Boston, New York, and Philadelphia—Gary Nash discovers subtle changes in social and political awareness and describes the coming of the revolution through popular collective action and challenges to rule by custom, law and divine will. A reordering of political power required a new consciousness to challenge the model of social relations inherited from the past and defended by higher classes. While retaining all the main points of analysis and interpretation, the author has reduced the full complement of statistics, sources, and technical data contained in the original edition to serve the needs of general readers and undergraduates.
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Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England
A Documentary History 1638-1693, Second Edition
David D. Hall
Duke University Press, 2007
This superb documentary collection illuminates the history of witchcraft and witch-hunting in seventeenth-century New England. The cases examined begin in 1638, extend to the Salem outbreak in 1692, and document for the first time the extensive Stamford-Fairfield, Connecticut, witch-hunt of 1692–1693. Here one encounters witch-hunts through the eyes of those who participated in them: the accusers, the victims, the judges. The original texts tell in vivid detail a multi-dimensional story that conveys not only the process of witch-hunting but also the complexity of culture and society in early America. The documents capture deep-rooted attitudes and expectations and reveal the tensions, anger, envy, and misfortune that underlay communal life and family relationships within New England’s small towns and villages.

Primary sources include court depositions as well as excerpts from the diaries and letters of contemporaries. They cover trials for witchcraft, reports of diabolical possessions, suits of defamation, and reports of preternatural events. Each section is preceded by headnotes that describe the case and its background and refer the reader to important secondary interpretations. In his incisive introduction, David D. Hall addresses a wide range of important issues: witchcraft lore, antagonistic social relationships, the vulnerability of women, religious ideologies, popular and learned understandings of witchcraft and the devil, and the role of the legal system. This volume is an extraordinarily significant resource for the study of gender, village politics, religion, and popular culture in seventeenth-century New England.

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The World of Plymouth Plantation
Carla Gardina Pestana
Harvard University Press, 2020

An intimate look inside Plymouth Plantation that goes beyond familiar founding myths to portray real life in the settlement—the hard work, small joys, and deep connections to others beyond the shores of Cape Cod Bay.

The English settlement at Plymouth has usually been seen in isolation. Indeed, the colonists gain our admiration in part because we envision them arriving on a desolate, frozen shore, far from assistance and forced to endure a deadly first winter alone. Yet Plymouth was, from its first year, a place connected to other places. Going beyond the tales we learned from schoolbooks, Carla Gardina Pestana offers an illuminating account of life in Plymouth Plantation.

The colony was embedded in a network of trade and sociability. The Wampanoag, whose abandoned village the new arrivals used for their first settlement, were the first among many people the English encountered and upon whom they came to rely. The colonists interacted with fishermen, merchants, investors, and numerous others who passed through the region. Plymouth was thereby linked to England, Europe, the Caribbean, Virginia, the American interior, and the coastal ports of West Africa. Pestana also draws out many colorful stories—of stolen red stockings, a teenager playing with gunpowder aboard ship, the gift of a chicken hurried through the woods to a sickbed. These moments speak intimately of the early North American experience beyond familiar events like the first Thanksgiving.

On the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower landing and the establishment of the settlement, The World of Plymouth Plantation recovers the sense of real life there and sets the colony properly within global history.

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