1. Introduction

The Boisterous Sea of Liberty

1. Introduction

The Boisterous Sea of Liberty

A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War
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Paperback 13/01/2000 ISBN13: 9780195116700 ISBN10: 0195116704 Drawing on a gold mine of primary documents--including letters, diary entries, personal narratives, political speeches, broadsides, trial transcripts, and contemporary newspaper articles--The Boisterous Sea of Liberty brings the past to life in a way few histories ever do.
Here is a panoramic look at early American history as captured in the words of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe and many other historical figures, both famous and obscure. In these pieces, the living voices of the past speak to us from opposing viewpoints--from the vantage point of loyalists as well as patriots, slaves as well as masters. The documents collected here provide a fuller understanding of such historical issues as Columbus's dealings with Native Americans, the Stamp Act Crisis, the Declaration of Independence, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Missouri Crisis, the Mexican War, and Harpers Ferry, to name but a few.
Compiled by Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Brion Davis and Steven Mintz, and accompanied by extensive illustrations of original documents, The Boisterous Sea of Liberty brings the reader back in time, to meet the men and women who lived through the momentous events that shaped our nation.

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1 / INTRODUCTION

The documents in The Boisterous Sea of Liberty offer an extraordinary window into our ancestors' values, perceptions, aspirations, anxieties, and fears. They lay bare Americans' basic beliefs, ideals, and assumptions. More importantly, The Boisterous Sea of Liberty gives students a chance to do history. It allows them to interpret and analyze the primary sources out of which we reconstruct the past, introducing them to the personal letters, newspapers, speeches, diaries, and other documents we must struggle to make sense of if we are to understand an earlier world that was just as complicated and diverse as our society is today.

Spanning the entire period from the European discovery of the New World through the Civil War, this collection provides comprehensive coverage of all the major issues that high school teachers and college professors address in survey American history classes. Balancing breadth with depth, the volume allows instructors to pursue subjects of high student interest--such as Nat Turner's Rebellion, the Amistad Affair, and the attack on Fort Sumter--intensively. Unlike many anthologies that contain only brief snippets from primary sources and that illustrate issues with a single source, The Boisterous Sea of Liberty contains a variety of documents of sufficient length to suggest alternate points of view and the development of pivotal ideas.

This volume begins with early colonization, showing how the European settlement and development of the New World depended on the introduction of chattel slavery and on a massive decline in Indian populations--developments which carried far-reaching consequences for the very meaning of America. After comparing and contrasting the societies that developed in British North America and on-going struggles with France and its Indian allies, the volume then turns to the escalating conflict over Britain's efforts to regulate and control the colonial economy, culminating in the Revolutionary War itself.

After examining the construction of the new nation's basic institutions, including the framing of the Constitution and the ratification of the Bill of Rights, the book explores the centrality of the slavery issue in the development of domestic policy and foreign affairs during the 1780s and 1790s. It pays particular attention to the question of whether there was a period of fluidity and missed opportunities in the aftermath of the Revolution during which Americans might have addressed the problem of slavery in a fundamental way. In addition, the volume analyzes the far-reaching political implications of the Haitian Revolution as well as the little-known ways that the slavery issue entered into the commercial warfare with Britain that led to the War of 1812.

The heart of the book focuses on the antebellum and Civil War eras. Among other topics, the book analyzes reformers' attempts to remove the underlying sources of inequality in American society; missionaries' efforts to assimilate and "civilize" Indians; and the paradox that the increasing opportunities available to antebellum whites coincided with the restriction of opportunities for African Americans.

The volume concludes with the nation's defining event, the Civil War. The volume examines the fears that contributed to the conflict; the Union's evolving war aims; issues involving black enlistment and participation in the war effort; and the mounting debate in the North over slave emancipation and civil rights for African Americans.