The Month in Early American History

TMEAH LogoRise and shine, it’s time to relaunch our regular(ish) roundup of breaking news from early America. To the links!

First up, enjoy a walk through life after the American Revolution with this podcast series charting the life and times of William Hamilton of The Woodlands, who “made the estate an architectural and botanical showpiece of early America.” Or put presidential parades in historical context, via Lindsay Chervinsky’s essay on George Washington’s reticence for public pomp and grandeur: “Why, then, did Washington, a man intensely proud of his military service and revered for it, reject the trappings of military honor?” In conference news, the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture unveiled the program for next month’s meeting. Elsewhere in the blogosphere, check out John Fea’s reflections on a decade(!) of posting, and what it means to teach “Public History for a Democracy.” Or flip through the newly digitized papers of polymath Benjamin Franklin. Continue reading

The JuntoCast LIVE!: Elections in Early America

The JuntoCast LIVE in Missouri PosterThe JuntoCast returns for 2016-17 with this timely episode in which Ken Owen, Michael Hattem, Roy Rogers, and special guest Jeffrey L. Pasley discuss the role and development of elections in early America from the colonial period to the antebellum era. It was recorded in front of a live (studio) audience at the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri in Columbia on October 7, 2016. The event was supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities administered by the Missouri Humanities Council. For more information about this episode, including suggestions for further reading, visit the episode page on our website. Continue reading

The Mormon National Convention, 1844

Given that we just witnessed the Democrat and Republican national conventions a few weeks ago, I thought I’d draw from a current research project and take a look back at an earlier moment in the development of presidential politics. And if you think Donald Trump’s convention was quixotic, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

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Sutcliffe Maudsley, “Lt. General Joseph Smith In Nauvoo Legion Uniform,” gouache on paper.

Whatever your feelings concerning Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founder, you have to admit the guy was confident. The first decade of his church’s existence was mired in societal and political problems, and the final year of his life was spent trying to find novel and, to some, outlandish solutions. One of his most audacious proposals was his own candidacy for the United States presidency in 1844.

Smith’s presidential run mostly strikes modern readers as amusing. Though the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had already drawn around thirty thousand converts since its founding in 1830, a majority of them were located on the banks of the Mississippi River in an Illinois town called Nauvoo. They could hardly manipulate the politics within their own state, let alone those of the nation. How then could the controversial leader of this marginalized sect have such delusions of grandeur? Continue reading

Alternative Fractions

AdamsJeffersonEarlier this week historian Rebecca Onion published an essay in Aeon arguing that historians should take more seriously the concept of counterfactuals. Though often derided by professional historians, Onion argues quite effectively that such an approach to the past can force us to reconsider our assumptions about what actually did happen and ask new and perhaps even more creative questions about the past.

Continue reading