Guest Post: Strange Constitutional Bedfellows: The First and Third Amendments in the Mormon Quest for Religious Liberty

Today’s guest post comes from Spencer W. McBride, who has blogged with us before. Dr. McBride received his PhD at Louisiana State University in 2014 and is now a historian and documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers. His research examines the politicization of clergymen during the American Revolution and in the early American republic.

JS LegionOf the ten amendments that comprise the United States Bill of Rights, the third amendment is arguably the least controversial. Go ahead, think back to your high school civics class and try to remember what rights are protected by the third amendment. Can’t remember? Don’t feel too bad. It is rarely invoked by politicians and political activists, it does not often spark heated debates in the media, and the U.S. Supreme Court has never heard a case in which it was the primary basis. Let’s face it, since the adoption of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, Americans have not been overly concerned that the government will quarter troops in the homes of private citizens without their consent. Continue reading

The Junto Enters the Terrible Twos!

I acknowledge the generous help of Michael Hattem in gathering all the statistics and relevant information for this post. And just as he is the real puppeteer behind the curtain of the post, he serves a similar function for the entire blog in general; appreciation is herein expressed, once again, to him.

BIRTHDAY-CAKE-2-year-oldTwo years ago today, The Junto announced its entrance into the academic blogging world. When I originally conceived of the idea for the blog and pitched it to three fellow grad students (Michael Blaakman, Katy Lasdow, and Eric Herschthal) in an uptown Manhattan coffee shop in September(ish) 2012, I merely wanted to come up with a small community that could alleviate my alone-ness of studying American history while living in the UK. A few months later, the blog was born; two years later, our empire expands. It is becoming fairly common to meet people at an academic conference and, after I share my name, the person replies, “Oh, you’re Ben Park from The Junto?” It makes me smile every. single. time. I could have hardly conceived of where the blog has gone since our humble beginnings. Yet here we are. What follows is a general report of what has taken place since we last celebrated our blog’s birthday. Continue reading

Guest Post: Megan Brett on the Papers of the War Department, 1784-1800

Today’s guest poster is Megan R. Brett. Brett is a doctoral student in History at George Mason University where her dissertation will focus on the challenges faced by early American diplomatic families stationed overseas. She is also a Digital History Associate at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 5.11.52 PMThe Papers of the War Department, 1784-1800, is a rich resource, not only for its content but also as a community transcription project. Only a small percentage of the transcribers identify as educators or academics; what draws people to volunteer their time deciphering 18th century handwriting? Continue reading

George Robert Twelves Hewes and the Politics of Historical Pedagogy

How does an ordinary person win a place in history?

Such is the line that Alfred Young opened his classic The Shoemaker and the Tea Party: Memory and the American Revolution (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). In a way, the phrase captures much of his overall scholarship. Other contributions to this roundtable have/will cover(ed) how he did this in his influential books, essays, and edited collection. In my post, I want to focus on how he translated his approach into a work that is probably read more than any of his other books. Indeed, Shoemaker and the Tea Party is a popular book in the classroom, both undergrad and graduate, since it tells a fascinating tale with an important message.  Continue reading

WMQ-EMSI Workshop CFP: Early American Legal Histories

The Omohundro Institute and the University of Southern California-Huntington Library Early Modern Studies Institute are pleased to announce the tenth in a series of William and Mary Quarterly-EMSI workshops designed to identify and encourage new trends in understanding the history and culture of early North America and its wider world.

Participants will attend a two-day meeting at the Huntington Library (May 29–30, 2015) to discuss a precirculated chapter-length portion of their current work in progress along with the work of other participants. Subsequently, the convener may write an essay elaborating on the issues raised at the workshop for publication in the William and Mary Quarterly. The convener of this year’s workshop is Sarah Barringer Gordon of the University of Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Guest Post: “A Display of Folly and Show”: Joseph Smith’s Impressions of Congress

Today’s guest poster, Spencer McBride, received his PhD at Louisiana State University in 2014 and is now a historian and documentary editor at the Joseph Smith Papers.  His research examines the politicization of clergymen during the American Revolution and in the early American republic.

JS uniformIn my work at The Joseph Smith Papers, I have recently been examining dozens of documents surrounding the trip Joseph Smith made to Washington D.C. in 1839. As I have prepared these documents for publication in one of the project’s future volumes, they have drawn my mind to the way men and women living in rural America during the nineteenth century perceived the federal government and what they thought occurred in its different branches. Though Smith’s experience in this regard is but one example, I think that it is a telling one. Continue reading

The Problem with Big Books; Or, Alan Taylor’s Biggest Sin

[Headlines are supposed to draw readers, right?]

TaylorOne of the first things I did after finishing my dissertation a couple of months back (other than sleeping for an entire week, of course), was reading Alan Taylor’s latest tome, An Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1776-1832 (New York: W. W. Norton, 2013), which recently won the Pulitzer Prize. (One could argue that Taylor’s biggest sin, other than the one I’m about to discuss, is hogging all the major book awards.) As one would expect given Taylor’s track record, I was floored by the book’s exhaustive research and lyrical prose. I made a mental note that this would be a great book to assign to students. Now that I’m prepping for this fall, when I’ll be teaching a Jeffersonian America course, I gave the idea more serious consideration. However, I soon realized the biggest problem, which more seasoned teachers probably already know.

The book is just too big.

Continue reading