Elizabeth L. Bradley
Men of Letters in the Early Republic:
Cultivating Forums of Citizenship (Omohund
by Catherine O'Donnell Kaplan
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In the decades following the Revolutionary War, Americans had an opportunity––at once exhilarating and terrifying—to shape not just the politics of their new nation but also its culture. British political models abounded, of course: Thoughtful citizens could argue for William Godwin’s radical aesthetics, adopt a Shaftesburian “moral sense,” or compare Edmund Burke’s critique of the French Revolution with that of Thomas Paine. The cultural apparatus of America was likewise an import. But for all its access to the most exalted offerings of Europe, the young United States should not be idealized as the genteel, genius offspring of cultivated parents: It was, instead, nearly as fractious and backward after the Revolution as it had been before.
How could it have been otherwise? The pressures of the emerging party system
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