Writing North Carolina History

By Jeffrey J. Crow; Larry E. Tise | Go to book overview

3
A Troubled Culture: North Carolina in the New Nation, 1790-1834

by Robert M. Calhoon

The traditional history of North Carolina from ratification of the federal Constitution in 1789 until the eve of the second state constitutional convention in 1835 is a story of progress, but progress impeded time and again by capricious fate. This forty-five-year period has disappointed chroniclers of the Old North State. Conditioned by events at the national level to consider 1815 as a dividing line between the early national period and the so-called Era of Good Feelings, North Carolina historians have depicted 1790 to 1815 as a period when the great energies mobilized and released by the Revolution played themselves out and dissipated. After 1815 a languishing economy and torpid political and social life earned North Carolina the name Rip Van Winkle State--a pastoral, lethargic entity within a buoyant, restless new nation.

Hugh Lefler and the late Albert Ray Newsome demonstrated the vitality and persuasiveness of this framework in

____________________

I am grateful to Blackwell P. Robinson and Donald G. Mathews for answering many questions about North Carolina and southern religion. Alice Cotten of the North Carolina Collection and Richard A. Shrader of the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Library, were most helpful. Loren Schweninger, Jeffrey B. Allen, Robert M. Weir, Jeffrey J. Crow, and Karl A. Schleunes read and discussed the paper with me and made valuable suggestions. Most of all I appreciate the critical guidance of Robert Polk Thomson, who wrote a bracing yet understanding critique of the paper and who introduced me, in a memorable seminar at Western Reserve University some years ago, to the study of early American cultural history.

-76-

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