Let’s kick another weekly roundup of early American history links off with this fascinating and fun look at Revolutionary-era pronunciations of the word “Huzza(h)!” over at Journal of the American Revolution (hint: it rhymes with “fray”). Continuing with the general theme of historical language and pronunciation, Sam Sack’s New Yorkerreview of Ben Tarnoff’s newly-released, The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers who Reinvented American Literature, includes some reflections on Twain’s use of “unrefined idiomatic English” and “how America learned to hear itself talk.”Continue reading →
The ratification of the Federal Constitution is a notoriously difficult historical event to categorize. On the one hand, it is a watershed moment; the creation of a consolidated federal government with extensive power is a clear break with the immediate post-Independence traditions of American governance. Yet at the same time, it is traditionally seen as the final achievement of a revolutionary generation—the fulfillment of the ideals of the Revolution. Continue reading →
Was the purpose of the constitution to protect democracy from being ruined by the people or to protect commerce from being ruined by democracy? This was one of the questions put to Gordon Wood and Woody Holton in a debate held a few weeks ago at the University of South Carolina. A full video of the event has just been released on YouTube, and is embedded below. For anyone familiar with the work of these two historians, the debate will constitute a useful recap of the distinction between their two interpretations of the origins of the federal constitution. And for others, I hope it might be a kind of teaser for their excellent books! Continue reading →
On October 14, Columbia University’s Center for American Studies sponsored the “Charles Beard at 100” roundtable to commemorate the centennial of Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States. The event, organized by Columbia Historian and Director of the American Studies program Casey Blake, featured Eric Foner (Columbia), Jan Lewis (Rutgers), and David Waldstreicher (Temple) as panelists, with Herb Sloan (Barnard) as moderator. The following blog post synthesizes some of the main themes of the roundtable. I hope that many of the excellent points raised by the panelists can serve as a basis for discussion here on The Junto.