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Look Inside The Reign of Terror in America

The Reign of Terror in America
Visions of Violence from Anti-Jacobinism to Antislavery


  • Date Published: March 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107403987

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About the Authors
  • In the 1790s, American conservatives were profoundly shaken when their French 'sister republic' collapsed into violent factionalism and civil war. Fearful that civic bloodshed and chaos might overwhelm their own new republic, northern Federalists and their Congregationalist allies reacted with a war of words directed at the French Revolution and at the Americans who supported it. The Reign of Terror in America traces the paths by which American fears of the French Revolution's violence gave rise, over the course of two generations, to antislavery, antiwar, and public-education movements in the United States. This book shows how the violence in France permeated political thought in the United States. Ultimately, the bloodshed in France inspired northeastern conservatives to oppose the violence of slaveholding, provided material for their attacks on Southern slavery, and helped to spark the Civil War.

    • Provides a transatlantic context
    • An original focus on violence and violent language
    • A new explanation of the origins of abolitionism
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'Historians have had a long debate over the implications of the Calvinist-Federalist response to the French Revolution. In The Reign of Terror in America, Rachel Hope Cleves definitively answers this question by focusing on their passionate condemnation of Jacobin violence and its enduring influence. Federalists feared the spread of violent mayhem to the United States, but as the Jacobin threat waned, they and their children began to turn their sights on the violence of slavery. Cleves establishes beyond dispute the complex ways in which the anti-Jacobin political culture shaped antebellum northern opinion, informing opposition to the War of 1812, the rise of a peace movement, the abolitionist response to slavery, and the northern mobilization for war in 1861. The Reign of Terror in America makes a major contribution to the history of violence in America, and to the history of American political culture.' John L. Brooke, Ohio State University

    Review of the hardback: 'The Reign of Terror in America offers a sweeping, intricate, and elegant analysis of how representations of revolutionary violence in France and the Caribbean shaped the political and intellectual culture of generations of thinkers and activists in the United States.' Laurent Dubois, Duke University

    Review of the hardback: 'In this outstanding work, Cleves expands our understanding of this age of passion and suggests its long-term significance. Joining a lamentably small but exemplary group of scholars willing to take seriously historical actors who are unsympathetic to most moderns, she finds humanitarianism in what too many historians simply dismiss as an unlikely place: among Federalists and Congregationalist divines. Based on truly exhaustive research in primary and secondary sources, this study centers on the history of violence but radiates out to illuminate many other historiographical concerns, including the histories of antislavery, the first American party system, antiwar sentiment, and education. Her unusually careful and extended efforts to understand the Federalists and their Congregationalist allies allow us to think in fresh ways about their long-term significance.' Matthew Mason, Brigham Young University

    Review of the hardback: 'The Reign of Terror in America is a persuasive account of how revulsion to French revolutionary excesses laid the deep foundations of the antebellum antislavery movement. Anti-Jacobinism offered a powerful indictment of democracy run violently amok that inspired reformers to redeem democracy's promise - ultimately by violent means. Rachel Hope Cleves gives us a fresh and provocative perspective on a complicated, crucially important chapter of our national history.' Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107403987
    • length: 314 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: revolutionary violence in the Atlantic world
    1. Violence and social order in the early American republic
    2. A scene of confusion and blood: the American reaction against the French Revolution
    3. Mortal eloquence: from anti-Jacobinism to antislavery
    4. Fighting the war of 1812
    5. Disciplining the 'Wild Beast': violence and education
    6. Growing up anti-Jacobin: the Federalist-Abolitionist connection reconsidered
    Conclusion: the problem of violence in the Early Republic
    Appendix. Digital database citations: American narratives of the French Revolution.

  • Author

    Rachel Hope Cleves, University of Victoria, British Columbia

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