The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War

The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War

The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War

The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War

Synopsis

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 American history from the voyages of Columbus through the bloody Civil War, as captured in the words of Ben 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--providing a more sophisticated understanding of the forces that have shaped our society, from the power of public opinion to the nearly absolute power of the slaveholder. For instance, on the issue of race, we find first-hand accounts of oppression suffered by Indians and slaves; the antislavery argument made before the Supreme Court by John Quincy Adams; the writings of Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists; and the bitter response of Southern politicians--all to give a richer portrait of this complex issue. Likewise, 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.

Excerpt

Nothing can overcome apathy, boredom, or contempt for the past as quickly and effectively as primary sources. Eyewitness accounts of a battle or bitter legislative debate can have the power of a fax or e-mail just received, evaporating the gap between past and present. Such sources enable readers to identify with men and women long dead and to suddenly understand how decisions made in the past continue to haunt our lives. No less important, as we learn to listen to these voices we gain a growing sense of the complexity and contingency of past events. How different would America be today if the British had defeated the Americans in their struggle for independence, or if the United States had been drawn into England's war against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, or if Jefferson had lost the election of 1800 to Aaron Burr, or if the South had moved before the Civil War toward gradual emancipation of slaves while enacting strict "black codes" to maintain a servile labor force and white supremacy, or if Britain and France had recognized and actively aided the southern Confederacy?

Primary sources can encourage readers to see history from opposing viewpoints and to understand the values and perspectives of history's losers. If we wish to comprehend the decisions, forces, and institutions that have shaped American society, it is essential to hear the arguments of Loyalists and British generals as well as American patriots, Jefferson and Madison as well as Hamilton and John Marshall, proslavery theorists as well as abolitionists. If we are to benefit from history we must even learn to see the world through the eyes of rogues and villains, including the worst perpetrators of evil, such as eighteenth-century slave traders and twentieth-century Nazis. How else, after all, can we understand the roots of human depravity or the convergence of events that make evil happen? Like it or not--and America's antihistorical culture has long attempted to conceal this fact--the past shapes and governs much of our present-day reality; and whatever liberation we can achieve from that unknown past depends in large part on accurate knowledge. To deny this truth is to chain ourselves even more rigidly to a past misunderstood and easily mythologized in terms of the children of light overcoming the children of darkness, or of demonic forces subverting a golden age.

This interpretive anthology of 366 documents moves from the European discovery . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.