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Between Sovereignty and Anarchy

Between Sovereignty and Anarchy: The Politics of Violence in the American Revolutionary Era

Patrick Griffin
Robert G. Ingram
Peter S. Onuf
Brian Schoen
Jan Ellen Lewis
Peter S. Onuf
Andrew O’Shaughnessy
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 328
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x1rcb
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  • Book Info
    Between Sovereignty and Anarchy
    Book Description:

    Between Sovereignty and Anarchyconsiders the conceptual and political problem of violence in the early modern Anglo-Atlantic, charting an innovative approach to the history of the American Revolution. Its editors and contributors contend that existing scholarship on the Revolution largely ignores questions of power and downplays the Revolution as a contest over sovereignty. Contributors employ a variety of methodologies to examine diverse themes, ranging from how Atlantic perspectives can redefine our understanding of revolutionary origins, to the ways in which political culture, mobilization, and civil-war-like violence were part of the revolutionary process, to the fundamental importance of state formation for the history of the early republic.

    The editors skillfully meld these emerging currents to produce a new perspective on the American Revolution, revealing how America-first as colonies, then as united states-reeled between poles of anarchy and sovereignty. This interpretation-gleaned from essays on frontier bloodshed, religion, civility, slavery, loyalism, mobilization, early national political culture, and war making-provides a needed stimulus to a field that has not strayed beyond the bounds of "rhetoric versus reality" for more than a generation.Between Sovereignty and Anarchyraises foundational questions about how we are to view the American Revolution and the experimental democracy that emerged in its wake.

    Contributors: Chris Beneke, Bentley University · Andrew Cayton, Miami University · Matthew Rainbow Hale, Goucher College · David C. Hendrickson, Colorado College · John C. Kotruch, University of New Hampshire · Peter C. Messer, Mississippi State University · Kenneth Owen, University of Illinois at Springfield · Jeffrey L. Pasley, University of Missouri, Columbia · Jessica Choppin Roney, Temple University · Peter Thompson, University of Oxford

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3679-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)
    PATRICK GRIFFIN

    For over a generation, the study of the American Revolution has hardly deviated from a preordained script. In 1966, Gordon Wood recognized that script, arguing that historians of the Revolution could be divided into two camps. Those he called “idealists” took the ideas and words of the revolutionaries at face value, did not concern themselves with “underlying determinants,” and construed the Revolution “as an intellectual movement,” believing that it more or less lived up to its liberating, albeit moderate, promise. Their Revolution took on a reasonable cast, and radicalism—the sort that defined, say, the French Revolution—did not animate...

  5. “The Constant Snare of the Fear of Man” Authority and Violence in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic
    (pp. 21-39)
    ANDREW CAYTON

    The fact that English-speaking people in the eighteenth century regularly killed, maimed, raped, enslaved, insulted, and generally injured each other as well as other people is not in and of itself remarkable. What is remarkable is that for many of them violencebecamea problem, a source of confusion and shame, a site of contested meaning and identity, a test of human nature and human agency. To ask why human beings were violent was to confront the nature of authority, to think about what constituted legitimate behavior and what did not. This inquiry was political as well as cultural, and...

  6. Destroying and Reforming Canaan Making America British
    (pp. 40-59)
    PATRICK GRIFFIN

    During the American Revolution, the bloodiest theater of war lay furthest from center stage. While muted or forgotten in other areas of America, violence defined the frontier War of Independence, and the nature of that bloodshed differed from the violence in other regions where ideas or class tensions animated revolutionary ferment. Gruesome warfare, an “American” way of warfare, which included “savage” behavior and torture rituals, with whites outstripping Indians in their ferocity, proved the rule and not the exception. The nature of the bloodshed and of the racial tensions associated with it became defining hallmarks of western processes. Indian removal...

  7. “Not by Force or Violence” Religious Violence, Anti-Catholicism, and Rights of Conscience in the Early National United States
    (pp. 60-83)
    CHRIS BENEKE

    The constitutional ferment that accompanied the American Revolution uprooted colonial religious establishments and delivered substantive bundles of religious rights to believers of many kinds. In states across the Union, new laws detached civil liberties from religious affiliation, eliminated inequitable taxes on religious minorities, and extended privileges of incorporation to churches that had never been legally recognized.¹ These changes were neither simultaneous nor universal. In addition to the suppression of African American and Native Americans faiths, non-Protestant whites still faced considerable constraints. Yet amid the clutter of discriminatory laws, preferential taxes, moral regulations, and office-holding requirements that remained, the principle of...

  8. Government without Arms; Arms without Government The Case of Pennsylvania
    (pp. 84-113)
    JESSICA CHOPPIN RONEY

    By spring of 1775, Philadelphia was a city on the brink. One observer warned the governor of a neighboring colony that “all ranks of Men were exasperated,” a dangerous situation made still worse by a stagnating economy and the designs of “needy, desperate Men … endeavoring to Blow up the Coal of Confusion.” And, “You know,” the letter-writer added direfully, “the Consequence of such Men among the lower sort of the Community.” From his perspective, things looked very, very bad. Philadelphia had become a hub attracting “all Men … willing to enter into Measures of the most Violent sort.” Finally,...

  9. Stamps and Popes Rethinking the Role of Violence in the Coming of the American Revolution
    (pp. 114-138)
    PETER C. MESSER

    On August 14, 1765, an elaborate pageant hung from a large elm tree on the principal road connecting Boston with the surrounding countryside. It consisted of an effigy of a man with a boot slung over its shoulder, out of which peered a devil. Such displays were a common feature of Pope’s Day pageants in the city, during which Boston’s laboring population, with the half-hearted approval of the middling and better sorts, commemorated England’s deliverance from a Catholic conspiracy. This pageant, however, was different. Instead of depicting the Pope, as it usually did, the display featured Andrew Oliver, the colonial...

  10. Social Death and Slavery The Logic of Political Association and the Logic of Chattel Slavery in Revolutionary America
    (pp. 139-164)
    PETER THOMPSON

    No utterance of Continental Congress, not even the proposition that all men are created equal, offered up a greater hostage to fortune than the eleventh article of the Association ratified by Congress on 20 October 1774. To enforce an agreement to suspend imports from and exports to Britain unless and until the Intolerable Acts were repealed, to support the seizure and redistribution of contraband property, and to require of American Patriots proof of commitment to the cause via a renunciation of various frivolous and selfinterested behaviors; Congress, an extralegal body, sanctioned the creation in every county, town, and city of...

  11. Violence and the Limits of the Political Community in Revolutionary Pennsylvania
    (pp. 165-186)
    KENNETH OWEN

    TheGeneral Advertiserof 25 July 1794 brought “disagreeable news” to the people of Philadelphia—telling of the opening events of the Whiskey Rebellion. “The post lately arrived from Pittsburgh” reported “riotous proceedings in that quarter.”¹ Excise inspector John Neville had attempted to serve warrants on tax delinquents in Washington County, a task that for the most part had passed off uneventfully. On attempting to serve the final warrant, however, Neville became involved in a skirmish. Angry militiamen surrounded his house, shots were fired on both sides. The house was eventually burned to the ground, though not before the leader...

  12. Whiskey Chaser Democracy and Violence in the Debate over the Democratic-Republican Societies and the Whiskey Rebellion
    (pp. 187-215)
    JEFFREY L. PASLEY

    Postmodern methods of cultural history have opened out the study of American political history in countless ways, helping scholars to find means of reading political texts beyond the speeches and votes that white men produced. Parades, toasts, riots, slave rebellions, and other forms of popular political expression have allowed historians to incorporate slippery issues of personal identity and the multivalent perspectives of subaltern groups into political history.¹

    Cultural historians have also been able to expose the hidden depths of the patriarchal power and violence that lurked even, or especially, in the libertarian political rhetoric and rationalist institutions of the Enlightenment,...

  13. Escaping Insecurity The American Founding and the Control of Violence
    (pp. 216-242)
    DAVID C. HENDRICKSON

    A succession of wars mark the era in which the founders of the United States grew to maturity and governed. In 1754 a great war began (called the Seven Years’ War in Europe, the French and Indian War in America) that culminated in the expulsion of the French government from North America and the apparent dominion of Great Britain over eastern North America. It was followed by the War of American Independence only a decade later, after which Britain lost its claim to dominion over the thirteen continental colonies of the seaboard. No sooner was the 1787 Constitution made than...

  14. American Hercules Militant Sovereignty and Violence in the Democratic-Republican Imagination, 1793–1795
    (pp. 243-262)
    MATTHEW RAINBOW HALE

    The standard account of American politics in the 1790s revolves around Democratic-Republicans’ aversion to power. Having fought a revolution against British encroachment on the sovereignty of the colonies, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and their followers were by no means prepared to let George Washington’s presidential administration usurp the autonomy of the new American states. Particularly threatening in this regard were Hamiltonian attempts to construct a strong fiscal-military state. Federalists argued that a national bank, an efficient tax-collecting apparatus, and some type of army and navy were necessary to promote American interests in an unstable world. Democratic-Republicans countered by characterizing these...

  15. The Battle of Fallen Timbers An Assertion of U.S. Sovereignty in the Atlantic World along the Banks of the Maumee River
    (pp. 263-284)
    JOHN C. KOTRUCH

    On 20 August 1794, Major General Anthony Wayne and the Legion of the United States decisively crushed the British-sponsored Indian Confederacy of the Old Northwest at the Battle of Fallen Timbers along the north bank of the Maumee River, near present day Toledo, Ohio. More than a decade after the Revolutionary War, General Wayne and the Legion pursued the defeated warriors, their Canadian militia accomplices, and their British Army advisors two miles beyond the battlefield. They lay siege to the British garrisoned at Fort Miamis, well within United States territory. The Legion withdrew after a tense three-day stalemate that brought...

  16. Epilogue
    (pp. 285-302)
    PETER S. ONUF

    What did Americans achieve with their Revolution? At the time, and ever since, custodians of the national narrative have answered that question by invoking the principles that justified patriotic resistance to the authority of king and Parliament in the years leading up to independence. Once loyal subjects of George III celebrated their escape from monarchical despotism and embraced their continental destiny: the sovereign “people” now would be the source of legitimate authority in their new republican world.

    Intensely conscious of their place in history, Americans saw the break with Britain both as a culminating moment in the progress of constitutional...

  17. List of Contributors
    (pp. 303-306)
  18. Index
    (pp. 307-314)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-316)