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Young America

Young America: Land, Labor, and the Republican Community

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Young America
    Book Description:

    The National Reform Association (NRA) was an antebellum land reform movement inspired by the shared dream of a future shaped by egalitarian homesteads. Mark A. Lause's Young America argues that it was these working people's interest in equitable access to the country's most obvious asset--land--that led them to advocate a federal homestead act granting land to the landless, state legislation to prohibit the foreclosure of family farms, and antimonopolistic limitations on land ownership._x000B_Rooting the movement in contemporary economic structures and social ideology, Young America examines this urban and working-class "agrarianism," demonstrating how the political preoccupations of this movement transformed socialism by drawing its adherents from communitarian preoccupations into political action. The alliance of the NRA's land reformers and radical abolitionists led unprecedented numbers to petition Congress and established the foundations of what became the new Republican Party, promising "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men." _x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09169-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1854, residents of Ripon braved the bitter Wisconsin February to protest the bipartisan congressional decision to open the new Kansas Territory to slavery. Their presiding officer at these meetings, Alvan Earl Bovay, persuaded the participants—half of them women—to call for a new party of social reform and to call it “Republican.” For decades, even party-sponsored histories acknowledged the humble birth and christening of the “Grand Old Party,” although without clearly identifying Ripon as the former socialist community of Ceresco or Bovay as the ex-secretary of the National Reform Association (NRA), already embraced by the Communist League in...


    • 1 National Reform: Agrarianism and the Origins of the American Workers’ Movement
      (pp. 9-20)

      Three working printers launched the National Reform Association at New York City in the winter of 1843–44. George Henry Evans, the labor editor, recruited John Windt, a blacklisted union organizer, with whom he had worked for over fifteen years. By late February, the two had enlisted Thomas Ainge Devyr, a veteran of the most insurrectionary faction of the Chartist movement in Britain and an upstate newspaper advocate for the familiar plight of the tenant farmers.¹ Together, they hoped to rebuild a local political labor movement and make it national in scope.

      In American history, “agrarianism” emerged among such city...

    • 2 Working-Class Antimonopoly and Land Monopoly: Building a National Reform Association
      (pp. 21-34)

      The founders of the National Reform Association knew that theirs was initially but a partial white, urban, Anglo-American perspective on the working-class experience. George Henry Evans adopted the “comprehensive phrase of a black writer” to describe the origins of a civilization in the policies of a white king who “stole the black man from his land,” took land “from the red men,” and apportioned “the stolen bodies and the stolen land among a few of his own color, to whom he made the remainder of the whites as dependent for the means of existence as were the blacks themselves.” Alvan...

    • 3 A John-the-Baptist Work: The Agrarian Politicalization of American Socialism
      (pp. 35-46)

      Before 1845, socialists in the United States hoped to change the world by forming distinct communities around the philanthropic ideals of thinkers like Robert Owen or Charles Fourier. In that year, however, the leading American socialist, Albert Brisbane, not only embraced the land reform idea but also the NRA’s sense that mass political action rather than philanthropy would be necessary because “from the capitalists, there is no hope.” That spring’s NRA ticket brought Brisbane to the polls for the first time in his life, along with many other Fourierists.¹ In a very real sense, land reform made socialism political.


    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)

    • 4 The Social Critique: Individual Liberty in a Class Society
      (pp. 49-59)

      Ideas of class identity and interests defined National Reform. “We are poor ourselves, and have always been so; we have nothing to lose but our energies and our labor,” declared George Henry Evans, who “identified with the working classes both by interest and by principle.” A sympathetic observer noted that most NRA activists “have a handicraft and consequently a deep interest in the rights of labor,” whereas the hostile DemocraticNew York Heralddismissed them as “a limited number of working men” without “a single name of high note in public affairs” or “a single man of wealth.” National Reformers,...

    • 5 Means and Ends: Pure Democracy, Self-Organization, and the Revolution
      (pp. 60-71)

      Lucius Alonzo Hine and his comrades believed, with the founders of their nation, that even good governments were, at their best, “a necessary evil to counteract greater evils” in the chaos that would take place without government. Unlike the American founders, they also thought that a better civilization could mitigate the magnitude of those evils and cultivate a citizenry capable of self-rule as the ultimate check on an ever-threatening state power. National Reform saw itself as a vital part of a “constant improvement until the nation shall be consummated in a genuine Democracy” and “the destruction of all government.”¹


    • 6 Race and Solidarity: The Test of Rhetoric and Ideology
      (pp. 72-84)

      In 1848 Joshua King Ingalls, a self-defrocked minister-turned-agitator toured upstate New York on behalf of the NRA. One Sunday, he delivered his address at Little Falls on behalf of “land and freedom.” By then, NRA leaders urged political action to ensure access to land and Nature’s bounty for the nation’s “lacklanders.” Ingalls opened and closed his argument with an invitation for his listeners to join with others in the campaign, to sign a petition, to take the NRA pledge, and to devote time convincing other citizens. In recalling this speech, he hinted at no variation, although Ingalls gave this “altar...


    • 7 Free Labor: The Coalition with the Abolitionists
      (pp. 87-98)

      The NRA’s national lecturer H. H. Van Amringe minced no words in discussing slavery by 1847. He still regularly disassociated his antislavery stance from that of “Factory lords, Land lords, Banks, Speculators and usurers in the North” but described himself “an abolitionist and will go for no national reformer unless he is an abolitionist.”¹ Having outlived the longevity of earlier working-class political associations, the NRA now faced an issue that now had to be met directly.

      Just as the NRA had largely subsumed the political concerns of preexisting radical currents, it found itself drawn into antislavery politics. By 1848, it...

    • 8 Free Soil and Cheap Land: National Reform and the Struggle for Radical Agrarianism
      (pp. 99-111)

      Making National Reform “national” turned largely on the Midwest. After his initial appointment in June 1847, H. H. Van Amringe—the national lecturer of the National Industrial Congress—turned steadfastly toward Ohio and worked his way west, entering Wisconsin at Mineral Point in October and giving daily talks on land limitation and woman’s rights at Dodgeville, Madison, Ceresco (presently Ripon), Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine, Rochester, Southport (presently Kenosha) and other towns. In March 1848, he returned to Illinois, organized an auxiliary at Chicago, attended the May Day rally at Cincinnati, got his mandate renewed at the 1848 NIC, and returned to...

    • 9 The Republican Revolution: Victories beyond and by the Ballot
      (pp. 112-124)

      In fall 1853, the the wage earners in the NRA helped to launch a new trades assembly more strictly focused on trade union concerns. As committed as ever to land reform, Benjamin F. Price signed the call to found the assembly and participated in it, as did his comrades K. A. Bailey and Julian A. Magagnos. They knew that the stronger unions might win the kinds of immediate concessions that the quest for political power had failed to attain. Realizing that such a move would have included the immigrant workers, they adopted the program of the new Allgemeine Arbeiterbund, or...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 125-138)

    Within days of the U.S. adoption of the Homestead Act, Albert Sidney Johnston conjured the specter of federally sponsored expropriation and social revolution to motivate his troops before their assault on the Union soldiers camped along the Tennessee River. What actually inspired the blue-clad Federals around Shiloh Meeting House reflected the complex and often contradictory concerns that created the Republican and Unionist coalition, but it certainly included an Agrarian component. Thirty-nine-year-old William Haddock, who had helped launch the NRA eighteen years before, had become disgusted with the failure of the workers to respond quickly and with overwhelming force, so he...

    (pp. 139-155)
    (pp. 156-157)
    (pp. 158-158)
    (pp. 159-168)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 169-228)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 229-240)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-242)