A place for history teachers, students and enthusiasts

The American Early Republic Era
History Reading Group

This is a friendly group of people interested in reading great books about the American Early Republic Period c.1789 to 1848. It is intended to cover general surveys of the period and significant issues and events within the American Early Republic Era.

Please Read: Suggestions on how to Meaningfully and Constructively Participate in our History Reading Groups

Thank you for your interest.

Our Current Book and Reading

More Information

Weekly Reading Table of Contents

Complete Table of Contents

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

What Hath God Wrought Table

Week 1: Introduction and Prologue | Week 3: Chapter 1

American Notes Table

Week 2: Boston

Democracy in America Table

Starting Soon

Current Book Weekly Reading Schedule

  1. Week 1 :: What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe: Introduction and Prologue

    Thought Questions (keep these in mind as you continue reading)
    - Why does the author begin his work with a focus on the twin revolutions of communication and transportation?
    - What were the elements, time line, consequences and repercussions of the communication and transportation revolutions in the United States during the early Republic?
    - What political statement was being sent by the use of Numbers 23:23 and its reference to Jacob and Israel (transformation)? How does this reflect "post-millennialism" in a deist culture (a "golden age" is coming closer as we overcome our problems)?
    - Morse was a Calvinist (think predestination and manifest destiny) but most of the people he was interacting with were utilitarian "gentry" deists (think secular Conquistador). How did this convergence (not uncommon in the borderlands between New England and the rest of the North) compliment each other? How was this similar to the colonial era Colonizers?
    - Why does the author begin the Prologue with the story of Jackson? How does this relate to the author's thesis in the Introduction?

    - Brief Biography: Samuel F. B. Morse
    - The Battle of New Orleans
    - Samuel Morse’s Other Masterpiece

    Primary Sources
    - Index of links to patents related to the telegraph
    - Samuel F. B. Morse Papers at the Library of Congress
    - Samuel Morse - Artworks

    Supplemental Reading
    - Begin American Notes by Charles Dickens, Chapters 1 and 2
  2. Week 2 :: American Notes by Charles Dickens, Chapter 3: Boston
    Last week we began reading American Notes. This week we focus on the third chapter which gives Dickens' impression of Boston and an amazing story. Next week we will read continue with Chapter 1 of What Hath God Wrought.

    Free Kindle Text of American Notes by Charles DIckens
    Free Online Text of American Notes Chapter 3

    Thought Questions
    - The theme of "transformation" from Chapter 1 of "What Hath God Wrought" will be a consistent companion during our reading. How does Dickens' comments about customs houses and government institutions reflect the economic transformation (the "market revolution") during Jacksonian America?
    - How does the story of The Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind and Laura Bridgman reflect the process of social transformation (reform) taking place in America? How does this relate to Dickens' reform work in England? (this story is a wonderful gift to American History teachers)
    - How does Dickens comments regarding the plurality and form of religion in America reflect social transformation during this period?
    - Who were the "Boylston Boys" and how do they represent an issue that England and America had been facing since before the American colonial era? How does this reflect transformation? What happened to convert a "problem" into an "advantage"? Why was this possible?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "Here, as in many institutions, no uniform is worn; and I was very glad of it, for two reasons. Firstly, because I am sure that nothing but senseless custom and want of thought would reconcile us to the liveries and badges we are so fond of at home. Secondly, because the absence of these things presents each child to the visitor in his or her own proper character, with its individuality unimpaired; not lost in a dull, ugly, monotonous repetition of the same unmeaning garb: which is really an important consideration."

    Additional Resources
    - The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (Free on Kindle)
    - Perkins Institutional History: Publications, Clippings, and Manuscripts Finding Aid
    - Laura Bridgman Collection Finding Aid
    - Boylston, Massachusetts Historical Society
  3. Week 3 :: What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe: Chapter 1

    Thought Questions
    (Please note: In this context America will refer to Canada, the United States and Mexico (including Central America)
    - Why does the author state the history of the United States cannot be understood apart from its continental setting?
    - In what ways was American society transformed between 1815 and 1846?
    - How did communication and transportation effect the transformation of America?
    - Describe the process of transformation along the Southwestern and Pacific Frontier with Mexico?
    - How did colonial expansion effect Native agriculture?
    - What does the phrase “beneficiaries of catastrophe” mean?
    - What was the typical life of an American farmer around 1815? How did this change in the period leading to 1846?
    - In what ways did Aaron Fuller represent the American farm family's expectations and experiences
    - What roles did women usually play on the family farm around 1815?
    - How did the evolution of the fur trade from colonial times effect Americans and Natives?
    - What was the myth of the "noble savage"?
    - How did slavery and the slave trade (both continental and oceanic) evolve in the Northern states?
    - Why did slavery evolve the way it did in the North?
    - How did slavery and the slave trade evolve in the American borderland states (Southern, Western and Middle)?
    - Why did slavery evolve the way it did in the American borderland states (Southern Western and Middle)?
    - In what ways was the Southern plantation class “the great consumers of the American economy”?
    - How did slavery and communalism enable the creation of a non-laboring consumers?
    - How did American capitalism conflict with the values embodied in slavery and communalism?
    - How did the American individualism of yeoman farmers in both the North and South conflict with the values embodied in slavery and communalism?
    - In what ways did American capitalism and individualism in the North and slavery and communism in the South effect regional development?

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "Many white contemporaries, even if compassionate, agreed with Alexis de Tocqueville that the Indians were “doomed” to die out entirely."
    - "Despite all the mutual cultural borrowing between Native and Euro-Americans, neither cultural synthesis nor multicultural harmony achieved acceptance with the white public or government."

    Supplemental Reading
    - Begin Reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, Chapters 1 and 2. These chapters compliment our current reading in What Hath God Wrought. Next week our main focus will be on Chapter 3 and 4 in Democracy in America

We will be reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville and American Notes by Charles Dickens while reading this book. This will provide a valuable insight into how the European gentry, intellectual and property classes viewed the United States "experiment". Regardless of bias, individuals such as this were significant because their views filtered into and effected European society - including soon to be immigrants and the young European leaders that in time would make decisions that effected the United States during the Civil War.

Ideas and migrants evolve and move in interesting ways.

Reading Discussion

The surveys below blend political, economic, social and military aspects of the American Early Republic era.

American Early Republic Group Reading List

  1. Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood
  2. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe
    (We will also be reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville and American Notes by Charles Dickens while reading this book)
  3. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 by Charles Sellers
    (We will continue reading Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville and American Notes by Charles Dickens while reading this book)
  4. The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution by Charles R. Morris
    (We'll be listening to The Great Courses lectures on the Industrial Revolution by Professor Patrick N. Allitt while reading this book)
  5. A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent by Robert W. Merry
    (We will be reading A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States by Timothy J. Henderson while reading this book)
  6. American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard
    (We will be reading Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America by Susan Schulten while reading this book)
  7. The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government by Fergus M. Bordewich
    (We will be reading Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans by Joyce Appleby while reading this book)
  8. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies by Alan Taylor
    (We will be reading The Naval War of 1812: A Complete History by Theodore Roosevelt while we read this book)
  9. Trans-Appalachian Frontier, Third Edition: People, Societies, and Institutions, 1775-1850 by Malcolm J. Rohrbough
    (We will be reading The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720–1830 by R. Douglas Hurt while we read this book)
  10. Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
    (We will be reading Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams by Joseph J. Ellis while we read this book)
  11. American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund S. Morgan
    (We will also be reading Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South by Adam Rothman while reading this book)
  12. The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828 by Lynn Hudson Parsons
    (We will be reading America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election That Transformed the Nation by John Bicknell while we read this book)
  13. Kentucke's Frontiers by Craig Thompson Friend
    (We will be reading Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition by John R. Finger while reading this book)
  14. John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan
    (We will be reading Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War by Fred Kaplan while we read this book)
  15. The Wisconsin Frontier by Mark Wyman
    (We will be reading Creating an Old South: Middle Florida's Plantation Frontier before the Civil War by Edward E. Baptist while reading this book)
  16. Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
    (We will be reading America's First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837 by Alasdair Roberts while we read this book)
  17. Lone Star Nation: The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence by H.W. Brands
    (We will be reading A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg while reading this book)
  18. The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation by Thomas Fleming
    (We will be reading John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court by R. Kent Newmyer while reading this book)
  19. Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 by Elizabeth R. Varon
    (We will be reading A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America by Jon Kukla while we read this book)
  20. Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood
    (We will be reading Madison and Jefferson by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg while reading this book)

After the first books listed above we will select the next books we read from the list here.

Provide us feedback and suggestions for our next book by clicking here.