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New Men

New Men: Manliness in Early America

EDITED BY Thomas A. Foster
FOREWORD BY Mary Beth Norton
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    New Men
    Book Description:

    In 1782, J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur wrote, What then, is the American, this new man? He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced. In casting aside their European mores, these pioneers, de Crevecoeur implied, were the very embodiment of a new culture, society, economy, and political system. But to what extent did manliness shape early America's character and institutions? And what roles did race, ethnicity, and class play in forming masculinity?Thomas A. Foster and his contributors grapple with these questions in New Men, showcasing how colonial and Revolutionary conditions gave rise to new standards of British American manliness. Focusing on Indian, African, and European masculinities in British America from earliest Jamestown through the Revolutionary era, and addressing such topics that range from slavery to philanthropy, and from satire to warfare, the essays in this anthology collectively demonstrate how the economic, political, social, cultural, and religious conditions of early America shaped and were shaped by ideals of masculinity.Contributors: Susan Abram, Tyler Boulware, Kathleen Brown, Trevor Burnard, Toby L. Ditz, Carolyn Eastman, Benjamin Irvin, Janet Moore Lindman, John Gilbert McCurdy, Mary Beth Norton, Ann Marie Plane, Jessica Choppin Roney, and Natalie A. Zacek.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2847-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: New Men: Feminist Histories of Manliness in Early British America
    (pp. 1-6)

    In 1782, when J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur published his description of American society and wrestled with what it meant to be an American, he articulated a question that many were asking: “What, then, is the American, this new man?” For every generation that followed, the question has resonated.New Mentakes up Crevecoeur’s question and applies it to early America using the insights of gender history. It approaches the history of masculinity as a feminist project in that it signals the gendered subjectivity of men and highlights the social and cultural construction of that subject position, especially with...

  6. PART I. Settlement

    • 1 Gentlemen and Soldiers: Competing Visions of Manhood in Early Jamestown
      (pp. 9-30)

      On May 14, 1607, 104 men and boys landed on a small peninsula in the Chesapeake and established Jamestown. The colonists sailed not for themselves but for the Virginia Company, whose shareholders were financing this foray into the New World. Consistent with the company’s instructions, the colonists organized a government, built a settlement, and made contact with the indigenous people. Almost immediately, however, Jamestown was on the brink of collapse. Starvation and disease struck first, followed by internal dissention and war with the Powhatan Indians. In the decade that followed, the Virginia Company continued to resupply Jamestown and send hundreds...

    • 2 Indian and English Dreams: Colonial Hierarchy and Manly Restraint in Seventeenth-Century New England
      (pp. 31-48)

      In the last months of his life, Samuel Sewall—a prominent merchant and chief justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court of Judicature—had a dream so remarkable that he recorded it in his diary in great detail:

      Last night I dreamed that a little boy had got away with my watch. I found him on the Common, and by giving him another Watch, persuaded him to give me that round which was engravenAuris, mens, oculus, manus, os, pes; munere fungi Dum pergunt, praestat discere velle mori.

      When I awaked I was much startled at it. The Lord help me...

  7. PART II. Warfare

    • 3 “We are men”: Native American and Euroamerican Projections of Masculinity During the Seven Years’ War
      (pp. 51-70)

      “Your hands are like the hands of a child,” declared a Cherokee warrior to a European prisoner. “They are unfit for the chace, or for war. In the winter’s snow you must burn a fire; and in the summer’s heat you faint in the shade.” The Cherokee, on the other hand, “can always lift the hatchet: the snow does not freeze him; nor the sun make him faint. We are men.” Thomas Percival, an eighteenth-century English physician and author, directed this account to the young readers of his workA Father’s Instructions. Although intended as an allegory, the moral of...

    • 4 Real Men: Masculinity, Spirituality, and Community in Late Eighteenth-Century Cherokee Warfare
      (pp. 71-92)

      In 1761 the colonial soldier William Fyffe noted that war was the “principal study” or “beloved occupation” of Cherokee men from the southern Appalachian region.¹ As the historian John Phillip Reid noted, “Warfare to the Cherokees was a business, a grim, dangerous, exciting business so important to their way of life that its mores and values dominated their culture.”² Indeed, the Cherokee “beloved occupation” was a complex institution with gendered expectations and values that promoted leadership, brotherhood, and communal solidarity, and also validated traditional Cherokee gender roles. Virtually without exception, Cherokee men, at one time or another, participated in a...

  8. PART III. Atlantic

    • 5 “Blood and Lust”: Masculinity and Sexuality in Illustrated Print Portrayals of Early Pirates of the Caribbean
      (pp. 95-115)

      “Why is it that the pirate has, and always has had, a certain lurid glamour of the heroical enveloping him round about?” askedHoward Pyle’s Book of Pirates, a large-scale, richly illustrated book for children published in 1921. “Would not every boy . . . rather be a pirate captain than a Member of Parliament?” To answer his own question, Pyle waxed lyrical: “What a life of adventure is his, to be sure! A life of constant alertness, constant danger, constant escape! . . . What a setting of blood and lust and flames and rapine for such a hero!”¹...

    • 6 “Banes of Society” and “Gentlemen of Strong Natural Parts”: Attacking and Defending West Indian Creole Masculinity
      (pp. 116-133)

      A text that sheds much light on the social life of the West Indian colonies at the height of plantation prosperity and that has received almost no attention from historians is “Account of Travels” by Henry Hulton (1731–1790), an autobiographical account of the life of a British customs official whose travels took him throughout Europe and the American colonies, and who spent several years resident in Antigua as deputy collector of the customs in the island’s capital, St. John’s.¹ Hulton’s text—composed in the mid-1780s, when he had retired to England and wished to create a record of his...

    • 7 “Impatient of Subordination” and “Liable to Sudden Transports of Anger”: White Masculinity and Homosocial Relations with Black Men in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica
      (pp. 134-152)

      Jamaica in the middle of the eighteenth century was a very masculine society. Men outnumbered women in every sector of the population except in the free black population, where women slightly outnumbered men. The number of white men was much greater than the number of white women in the population at large, where 70 percent of whites were men, and especially in the countryside, where 76 percent of whites were men. The disproportion in the slave population between men and women was not so great, with slave men accounting for 53 percent of the slave population of just over two...

  9. PART IV. Enactment

    • 8 “Effective Men” and Early Voluntary Associations in Philadelphia, 1725–1775
      (pp. 155-171)

      Moore Trotter found herself in dire straits by 1768. An impoverished and desperate immigrant in Philadelphia, she beseeched the help of two of the wealthiest women in the city, Miss Elizabeth Graeme and Mrs. Mary McCall Plumstead. It is unclear what (if any) actions Graeme and Plumstead took immediately to help her, but they did recommend her case to the St. Andrew’s Society, a voluntary association set up for two major purposes: to celebrate Scottish heritage and to provide economic assistance to struggling Scottish immigrants. Moore Trotter qualified for their charity, and, thanks in part to the recommendations of Graeme...

    • 9 “Strength of the Lion . . . Arms Like Polished Iron”: Embodying Black Masculinity in an Age of Slavery and Propertied Manhood
      (pp. 172-192)

      In 1681, a York County, Virginia, man named Frank turned his body into a potentially lethal weapon of defiance and anger. Two neighbors, John MacCarty and Edward Thomas, had slighted him by refusing to admit his company. Furious at the insult, Frank enlisted a friend to help fight the two in a brawl. But Frank’s honor was not sufficiently restored. Frank “stript himself naked only to his Drawers and came running after Macartie with a great Clubb on his back,” according to one witness. Another witness reported that Frank had pulled up a fence stake, vowing that he “would fight...

  10. PART V. Revolution

    • 10 Of Eloquence “Manly” and “Monstrous”: The Henpecked Husband in Revolutionary Political Debate, 1774–1775
      (pp. 195-216)

      When, in the fall of 1774, the Continental Congress published the Articles of Association, announcing a scheme of non-importation, non-exportation, and non-consumption to be enforced by extralegal committees of local patriots, many British North Americans felt betrayed. Colonists who bristled at the prospect of economic resistance—either because they feared that aggressive political posturing would widen the breach between the colonies and Great Britain or simply because they dreaded the baneful financial consequences of yet another boycott—had expected the Continental Congress to embrace more conciliatory measures, much as had the Stamp Act Congress ten years before. “The hopes of...

    • 11 John Adams and the Choice of Hercules: Manliness and Sexual Virtue in Eighteenth-Century British America
      (pp. 217-235)

      In August 1776 John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, that he had proposed that the image for the seal of the new nation be the “Choice of Hercules.” Referencing the classical allegory of choosing virtue over vice, Adams selected a particularly masculine, heroic figure to represent public and private virtue. He believed individuals should choose to lead moral personal lives and devote themselves to civic duty; for him, the image captured both the heart of the nation and also, as we shall see, his view of manhood. That Adams chose a decidedly manly figure to illustrate what was increasingly...

    • 12 “Play the Man . . . for Your Bleeding Country”: Military Chaplains as Gender Brokers During the American Revolutionary War
      (pp. 236-255)

      In December 1783, the Presbyterian cleric George Duffield preached a sermon before Congress to celebrate the American triumph in war and the return of peace. His oration lauded the heroic action of American colonists against the tyranny of Britain. Though America had “contributed her liberal share” to the empire and never withheld “her blood or her treasure when requisitions were made,” England still wished to keep her under “servile submission.” To obviate this possibility, American men reacted with a militant spirit in 1775:

      The peaceful husband forsook his farm; the merchant relinquished his trade; the compassionate physician forgot his daily...

  11. Afterword: Contending Masculinities in Early America
    (pp. 256-268)

    Until recently, scholars and laypeople thought of early America as a world in which aristocratic ideals of manhood anchored in the claims of blood and honor dominated the cultural landscape. We even said that these ideals were “hegemonic.” By this we meant that other social groups deferred to elites, granting their superiority as men and their entitlement to a disproportionate share of economic and political resources. Nonaristocratic standards of manliness were at best culturally marginal and associated with less powerful social groups and individuals. In this view, the American Revolution and its rupture with the “Old World” broke the grip...

  12. About the Contributors
    (pp. 269-270)
  13. Index
    (pp. 271-281)