THE HISTORY CLUB

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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

Current Book Weekly Reading Schedule

  1. Introduction: Rip Van Winkle’s America and Experiment in Republicanism

    Thought Questions
    - How does the Jeffersonian Humanism contrast with the Federalist Puritanism view of the nature of man and the role of government?
    - What were the Republican virtues that Revolutionary leaders thought necessary for a Republic?
    - How did Americans challenge and redefine the concept of a "gentleman" or "lady"from an aristocratic model into a Republican model?
    - How did the "man of leisure" model for a public servant conflict with the model of a public servant that the descendants of Quaker and Puritan?
    - How did the "middling sort" differ from the "gentry" and "commoners" and how did they contest the definition of each?
    - How the founding generation of Americans dealt with or failed to deal with issues had impacts in later American generations. What thematic issues does the author introduce the reader to?

    Primary Sources
    - Articles of Confederation; March 1, 1781
    - Constitution of the United States - 1787
    - Federalist Paper 25

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
  2. A Monarchical Republic

    Thought Questions:
    - What were the unanswered questions about the structure of government 1789?
    - What were the different points of view on the inclusion of a "Bill of Rights" in the Constitution?

    Primary Sources
    - The Constitution and Bill of Rights of the United States

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
  3. The Federalist Program

    Thought Questions:
    - Describe the different principles behind the "Federalist Program"
    - What were the purposes of the three major reports Hamilton prepared and what was their intended cumulative effect?

    Primary Sources
    - Hamilton's Report on the Public Credit - January 9, 1790
    - Hamilton's Report on Manufacturing - December 3, 1791
    - The Papers of Alexander Hamilton

    Articles
    - The Bank of the United States

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - The Pride of the Village by Washington Irving
  4. The Emergence of the Jeffersonian Republican Party

    Thought Questions:
    - Describe the different principles behind the "Jeffersonian Republican" shift away from Federalism.
    - What different social factors effected the debate between Jeffersonian Republicans and Federalists?
    - In what ways was the Federalist and Jeffersonian split a warning of future sectional divisions?
    - In what ways was the Federalist and Jeffersonian split not a sectional issue?

    Primary Sources
    - Hamilton's Report on a National Bank - December 11, 1790
    - Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank - February 23, 1791
    - Thomas Jefferson's Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 1791

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Begin reading "Notes on the State of Virginia" by Thomas Jefferson
  5. The French Revolution in America

    Thought Questions
    - How did the French Revolution effect the development of political factions in the United States?
    - How did the ongoing disputes between European powers effect economic relations with the United States?
    - What reasons did some Ameicans have to identify with Britain and others with France?
    - How did the French Revolution set the stage for the Jacksonian Revolution? (keep reading, this will come up again)
    - Summarize the events and issues around the George Washington administration

    Primary Sources (Pacificus and Helvidius articles are from the National Archive)
    - Pacificus No. I - June 29, 1793
    - Pacificus No. II - July 3, 1793
    - Pacificus No. III - July 6, 1793
    - Pacificus No. IV - July 10, 1793
    - Pacificus No. V - July 13, 1793
    - Pacificus No. VI - July 17, 1793
    -
    Helvidius I - August 24, 1793
    - Helvidius II - August 31, 1793
    - Helvidius III - September 7, 1793
    - Helvidius IV - September 14, 1793
    - Helvidius V - September 18, 1793
    - The Papers of George Washington - University of Virginia

    Articles
    - Madison’s “Helvidius” Essays, 24 August–18 September 1793 (Editorial Note)

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading "Notes on the State of Virginia" by Thomas Jefferson
  6. John Adams and the Few and the Many

    Thought Questions
    - How and why did the idea of an electoral college evolve and how did it become different from what it was first envisioned as?
    - What was John Adams view of government? What was his view of politics?
    - What were John Adams strengths? What were his weaknesses?
    - How was John Adams different from other Federalists?
    - How did issues of land and currency emerge in the Revolutionary era?
    - Who was William Findley and how did he change American politics?
    - How did social friction among individuals from different economic and educational backgrounds effect the development of Federalism and Republicanism?

    Articles
    - Hugh Henry Brackenridge Brief Biography - Pittsburgh Post Gazzette

    Primary Sources
    - Federalist #10
    - The Papers of John Adams - Massachusetts Historical Society

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Finish reading "Notes on the State of Virginia" by Thomas Jefferson
  7. The Crisis of 1798–1799

    Thought Questions
    - What was the Crisis of 1798 and how did European events effect America?
    - What was the "XYZ" scandal?
    - Who were the French Jacobins and how was the term used against Jeffersonians?
    - How was immigration and citizenship and issue in the late1790s?
    - What was the Alien Act?
    - What was the Sedition Act?
    - What were the Nationalization Acts of the 1790s?
    - What was the Alien Friends Act?
    - What was the Quasi-War of 1798?
    - What did Jefferson express regarding immigration in his Notes on the State of Virginia?
    - Summarize the events and issues around the John Adams administration

    Primary Sources
    - 1798 : The Alien Act - An Act Respecting Alien Enemies : July 6
    - 1798 : The Sedition Act - An Act in Addition to the Act, Entitled "An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes Against the United States." : July 14
    - 1798 - Virginia Resolution : December 24
    - 1798 - Kentucky Resolution : Draft; October
    - 1799 - Kentucky Resolution : December 3
    - The Jay Treaty 1794 and Associated Documents
    - The Papers of John Jay - Columbia University

    Articles
    - The Enforcement of the Alien Friends Act of 1798, James Morton Smith in the The Mississippi Valley Historical Review
    - A Brief Biography of John Jay
    - The Quasi War of 1798
    - The XYZ Affair and the Quasi-War with France, 1798–1800

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Begin reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  8. The Jeffersonian Revolution of 1800

    Thought Questions
    - In what ways can the American Revolution, the Election of 1800, the War of 1812 and the American Civil War part of a broader 100yr Anglo-American Civil War from the Stamp Act in 1765 to Appomattox in 1865 for who would control of material and human resources? (keep reading)
    - What was Jeffersonian Republicanism and how was it different from Federalism? What are the principles and causes did each faction championed?
    - How was Jeffersonian Republicanism and the idea of a "Gentleman of Leisure" a reaction against the development of capitalism in America?
    - How did the issue of a national bank effect the election of 1800?
    - What were the unintended consequences of ending the National Bank and empowering State banks and how did they create the opposite effect Jeffersonians wanted?
    - What were the major issues in the Election of 1800?
    - What was the controversy over the Election of 1800?
    - Who was Aaron Burr and what was his role in the Election of 1800?
    - What role did Alexander Hamilton play in the Election of 1800?
    - What is the 12th Amendment to the Constitution?
    - What were the objectives of Jeffersonian Republicans at the beginning of Thomas Jefferson's presidency?

    Primary Sources
    - The 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution
    - Jefferson's First Inaugural Address - March 4, 1801
    - Jefferson's First Message To Congress - December 8, 1801
    - The Papers of Thomas Jefferson - National Archives

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  9. Republican Society

    Thought Questions
    (Note: I place "mob" in quotations because these are usually not unled or random assemblies of people. Often they were little more than criminal gangs - people often joined simply for the violence and alcohol, not principles.)
    - How did population and economic development effect the development of Jeffersonian America?
    - How did westward expansion effect the early republic in the Jeffersonian Period materially and psychologically? (keep reading...)
    - How did Democracy effect Jeffersonian Republicanism?
    - What common themes run through Jeffersonian Republicanism in both North and South, Merchants and Planters, Capitalists and Laborers?
    - How did partisanship begin to emerge within Jeffersonian Republicans?
    - How were the "mobs" composition, motives and control different in the Federalist-Jeffersonian Early Republic Era from the "mobs" of the Colonial-Revolutionary Era?
    - How did the emerging diversity of early Baltimore reflect the stresses in the Early Republic American society?
    - What attitudes contributed to the animosity between Federalists and Jeffersonian Republicans?
    - Why did the use of fire by "mobs" change the attitudes of regular Americans towards "mob" action and how did authorities react?
    - How did the role of women change in the Federalist-Jeffersonian Early Republic?
    - How did Federalist-Jeffersonian conflict effect university students and education?
    - How did different types of forced labor and free labor in the North evolve in the Jeffersonian Republican Era and contribute to growing sectional differences?
    - How did Jeffersonian Republicans react to the development of cities and urban life?
    - How did Jeffersonian Republicans view of labor and leisure effect the sectional differences?

    Primary Sources
    - Charlotte Temple by Susanna (Haswell) Rowson
    - Infidelity, or The victims of sentiment. A novel, in a series of letters by Samuel Relf
    - Brief Biography of Sally Wood and available novels - Maine Historical Society
    - The Coquette; Or, The History Of Eliza Wharton; A Novel; Founded On Fact by a Lady Of Massachusetts. Hannah Webster Foster
    - Life of Washington by Parson Weems- Indiana University Bloomington

    Articles
    - The History of Parson Weems - Journal of the American Revolution

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  10. The Jeffersonian West

    Thought Questions
    - Describe the territory, occupation and organization of the Ohio country (Ohio, Indiana and Illinois)
    - How did William Henry Harrison and slave power introduce slavery into the Indiana territory and how was it eliminated?
    - Who was Timothy Pickering?
    - What were the circumstances and considerations surrounding the Louisiana Purchase?
    - Describe the territory and initial occupation and organization of the Louisiana Territory
    - Describe the territory, acquisition of East and West Florida?
    - What were the public and private reasons for the Lewis and Clark expedition?
    - Who was John Jacob Astor? Who was Zebulon Pike?
    - Who was Aaron Burr and what role did he play in the west?
    - What were some of the "scientific" theories about North American nature and how was this related to Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia"?

    Primary Sources
    - The Louisiana Purchase Treaty
    - The Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819
    - Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson

    Articles
    - Brief Biography of Zebulon Pike
    - Brief Biography of Timothy Pickering
    - Aaron Burr's Arrest - Encyclopedia of Alabama
    - Synopsis of the Aaron Burr Trial: 1807
    - Acquisition of Florida: Treaty of Adams-Onis (1819) and Transcontinental Treaty (1821)

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  11. Law and an Independent Judiciary

    "The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln's Inn Hall, at the very heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery." - Charles Dickens, Bleak House, Chapter 1

    Thought Questions
    - How did the courts before the American Revolution differ from the Judicial branch that developed in the United States?
    - What functions that we normally consider Judicial were handled by Executive officials?
    - What functions that we normally consider Executive were handled by Judicial officials?
    - How were Executive and Judicial functions related and interdependent in the early era of the Republic?
    - Why were courts viewed as "un-Republican" by Jeffersonians?
    - What were the reasons for having an independent Judiciary?
    - In what ways was the debate over the Judicial branch related to the creation of a Bill of Rights?
    - How did Federalists view the Judiciary differently from Anti-Federalists?
    - How did unanswered questions and ambiguous language in the Constitution contributed to the debate over the form and function of the Judicial Branch?
    - In what ways does Charles Dickens reflect American fears about courts in Bleak House chapter 1?
    - What are the provisions of each of the three sections in Article 3 of the United States Constitution?
    - What are the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th amendments to the Constitution in the Bill of Rights?
    - What are the provisions of the Judiciary Act and what structure did it give to the federal courts?
    - How is the Bill of Rights designed to primarily but not exclusively impact the powers of the Legislative Branch (1st and 2nd), the Executive Branch (2nd, 3rd and 4th), the Judicial Branch (4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th) and the states (9th and 10th)?
    - What is "concurrent cognizance"?
    - How did political experience effect the appointment of judges? In early American justice, how could political skill be beneficial to society? (Think about the expressions "might makes right" and "possession is 9/10ths of the law" in the context of rural America).
    - How did the Colonial American experience effect the development of the American Judiciary?
    - Who was John Jay and what precedent did he set for American Judicial leader taking part in international law (Wood mentions one, the Nuremberg trials are another).
    - How were issues of British-American debts a foreign policy issue that the courts were involved with?
    - What is the 11th amendment to the Constitution and how is it related to the case of Chiholm v. Georgia in 1793?
    - What were the issues surrounding the concept of an "American Common Law"?
    - What actions did Federalists take regarding the Judiciary at the end of the Adams administration?
    - Describe the issues and events surround the impeachment of Federalist judges?
    - How was federal power to enforce slavery in the United States through Judicial power foreshadowed in the Federalist - Jeffersonian divide (Fugitive Slave Law, Dred Scott, et al)?
    - Describe the motives and concerns of the Federalists in this period
    - Describe the motives and concerns of the Jeffersonians in this period.

    Primary Sources
    - Bleak House - Chapter 1: In Chancery by Charles Dickens (the opening section)
    - The United States Constitution - Article 3
    - The United States Bill of Rights
    - The Judiciary Establishment Act of 1789
    - Chisholm v. Georgia 2 U.S. 419 (1793)
    - The Federal Judiciary Act of 1801
    - Jefferson's Draft on an Amendment to the Constitution, 1803

    Articles
    - Chisholm v. Georgia (1793)
    - Judiciary Act of 1801
    - Samuel Chase Impeached
    - Senate Prepares for Impeachment Trial (1804)

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  12. Chief Justice John Marshall and the Origins of Judicial Review

    For more about John Marshall, see John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court by R. Kent Newmyer
    For a good history of the Supreme Court, see A History of the Supreme Court by Schwartz Bernard

    Thought Questions
    - Who was John Marshall and what was his background before his Supreme Court appointment?
    - Who were the first two Chief Justices of the Supreme Court and what did they accomplish?
    - What changes did John Marshall make to the nature of the Supreme Court?
    - How did John Marshall's temperament and personality effect the development of the Judiciary?
    - In what ways could the United States have developed differently if Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe had been in the positions of George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton? (keep reading...)
    - What is the broad and narrow understandings of the concept of "Judicial Review"?
    - What is the concept of "Fundamental Law" and how did leaders interpret it from Federalist and Jeffersonian perspectives?
    - Describe how control over interpretation of the Constitution was struggled over by the three branches of government in this era

    Primary Sources
    - The Judiciary Act; September 24, 1789
    - The Judiciary Act of 1802
    - The Judicary Act of 1801
    - Marbury v. Madison (1803)
    - Hylton v. United States 3 U.S. 171 (1796)
    - Cooper v. Telfair 4 U.S. 14 (1800)
    - Hayburn's Case 2 U.S. 409 (1792)

    Articles
    - Landmark Legislation: Judiciary Act of 1802
    - Landmark Legislation: Judiciary Act of 1801
    - Marbury v. Madison (1803)
    - The Midnight Appointments
    - Hayburn’s Case

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  13. Republican Reforms

    Thought Questions
    - How did early 19th century America view the future? What reasons did different Americans have for hope in the future, specifically small freeholders, women and slaves?
    - How did the reasons for hope in the future by non-Native Americans effect the situation and outlook of Native Americans?
    - How were Republicans reforms an attempt at "Americanization" social engineering?
    - What was the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and what were the different provisions it contained?
    - What do the provisions of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 reveal about the thoughts and intentions of the founding generation in regards to reform?
    - What is and how did the "Three Tiered" system of education develop and effect Americans?
    - How did Republican Reforms effect the development of American education?
    - Who was Benjamin Rush and what role did he play in Republican Reforms?
    - Who was Noah Webster and what role did he play in Republican Reforms?
    - How did education spread from being a private institution into a civic function?
    - In what ways did Literacy and the spread of informal educational societies effect the development of Republican Reforms?
    - Describe the development of the American postal system and the effect it had on developing American cultures and sectional differences?
    - Describe the events, motives and achievements in early 19th century American communication and transportation
    - How did communication and transportation changes effect the development of early 19th century Americas?
    - How did religious organizations develop and effect Republican Reforms?
    - Describe the contrast between the 18th century paternalistic gentry based benevolent societies and the development of civic Republican benevolent societies in the 19th century.
    - How did Republicans reforms in the United States have an international impact and how did international reform movements impact the United States?
    - How did Republican reforms effect the nature of justice, punishment and correctional reform in America?
    - How did gender and the family structure effect Republican Reforms?
    - How did gender roles begin to become more Republican and what were the unanticipated effects of this changing situation?

    Primary Sources
    - The Northwest Ordinance of 1787
    - The "Blue Book Speller" or "The American spelling book: containing the rudiments of the English language : for the use of schools in the United States"
    - The Postal Act of 1792
    - The Militia Act of 1792
    - The Travellers A Tale. Designed for Young People by Catharine Sedgwick
    - The Poor Rich Man, and the Rich Poor Man by Catharine Sedgwick
    - Catharine Maria Sedgwick Papers
    - The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
    - Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

    Articles
    - Benjamin Rush Brief Biography
    - Noah Webster Brief Biography
    - Noah Webster's Blue Back Speller
    - How the Post Office Made America
    - Catharine Sedgwick Brief Biography

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohican's; A narrative of 1757 by James Filmore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  14. Between Slavery and Freedom

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohican's; A narrative of 1757 by James Filmore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  15. The Rising Glory of America

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - The Papers of James Madison

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  16. Republican Religion

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  17. Republican Diplomacy

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  18. The War of 1812

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Continue reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)
  19. A World Within Themselves and Bibliographical Essay

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    American Literature Focus Reading
    - Finish reading The Last of the Mohicans; A narrative of 1757 by James Fenimore Cooper
    (We will be reading this until the end of the current book - Empire of Liberty)

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 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)
  4. The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815-1846 by Charles Sellers
  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
  7. The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government by Fergus M. Bordewich
  8. Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans by Joyce Appleby
  9. Trans-Appalachian Frontier, Third Edition: People, Societies, and Institutions, 1775-1850 by Malcolm J. Rohrbough
  10. John Marshall and the Heroic Age of the Supreme Court by R. Kent Newmyer
  11. John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan
  12. Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
  13. Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 by Elizabeth R. Varon
  14. America's First Great Depression: Economic Crisis and Political Disorder after the Panic of 1837 by Alasdair Roberts
  15. Adams vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 by John Ferling
  16. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies by Alan Taylor
  17. The Birth of Modern Politics: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Election of 1828 by Lynn Hudson Parsons
  18. America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion, and the Presidential Election That Transformed the Nation by John Bicknell
  19. A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg
  20. Lone Star Nation: The Epic Story of the Battle for Texas Independence by H.W. Brands
  21. A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America by Jon Kukla
  22. The Great Divide: The Conflict between Washington and Jefferson that Defined a Nation by Thomas Fleming
  23. Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. Wood
  24. Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation by John Ferling
  25. Madison and Jefferson by Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg

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.