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Current Issue Article Abstracts

Spring 2018, Vol. 16.3

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My Land Is My Flesh: Silver Bluff, the Creek Indians, and the Transformation of Colonized Space in Early America 
pp. 405 - 430 
This essay explores how Native peoples like the Creek (Muscogee) Indians invested colonized spaces in early American society with their own material, commercial, political, and spiritual meanings and importance. In particular, Creek Indians from the town of Coweta transformed Silver Bluff, the plantation of the trader and merchant George Galphin, into a “white ground,” as a place connected to Creek Country by a “white path,” and as a space where Creek and British leaders congregated to conduct business and negotiate politics. For it is no coincidence that the treaties of Augusta in 1763 and 1773, peaceful resolutions agreed to by the Creeks with the British Empire in 1760, 1764, 1773, 1774, and 1776, the negotiations over boundary lines in 1768 and 1774, and several other instances of cross-cultural dialogue all unfolded, started, or ended at Silver Bluff. The Creeks thereby enfolded occupied spaces like Silver Bluff—and the peoples who inhabited or congregated at such places—into their own worlds and according to their own understandings of those spaces. This process of spatial assimilation by the Creeks was as much collaborative as it was contested with Europeans throughout the eighteenth century.


Wily Decoys, Native Power, and Anglo-American Memory in the Post-Revolutionary Ohio River Valley 
pp. 431 - 459 
Native Americans in the Ohio River Valley used captured white men to lure immigrant boats on the Ohio River in the decade after the American Revolution. As they entered this zone of conflict, the throngs of migrants from eastern states to Kentucky via the Ohio River saw themselves as victims of powerful Native polities. Decoys allowed Native communities to seize the material wealth floating downriver and destined for a country most agreed they had not ceded to the immigrants. The decoys, and their violent effects, created white fear of Native American power and exposed U.S. weakness on its western frontier. In turn, public narratives about Native power contributed to a pessimistic vision of U.S. expansion. Yet after a successful military campaign, a series of treaties, and the consolidation of Anglo-American power in the region, American writers celebrated their pioneer history and included white decoys. In the nineteenth century, Americans reenvisioned river decoys as an obstacle that westward migrants had overcome to bring their version of civilization to the region.


Aristocratic Pretension in Republican Ballrooms: Dance, Etiquette, and Identity in Washington City, 1804 
pp. 460 - 488 
For late eighteenth-and early nineteenth-century elite men and women, balls were the pinnacle of social occasions and a highlight of each social season. In the early years of Washington, D.C., balls became a stage for elite society to wrestle with the question of defining an American identity that served the republican values of the new nation. Focusing on one incident at a ball in 1804, this essay explores how Washington’s early elite society used the dances, deportment, and etiquette of a ball to display a civility that added legitimacy to the new seat of federal government. Paradoxically, Washington elites also used the same dances and ball etiquette to differentiate their republican society from its aristocratic European counterparts and, in so doing, established a new identity of American gentility.


“Not of the Modern French School”: Literary Conservatism and the Ancien Régime in Early American Periodicals 
pp. 489 - 513 
At the turn of the nineteenth century, after years of denouncing the French Revolution and the influence of French politics and philosophy on American culture, Federalist writers began to invoke Old Regime France as a symbol of the traditional values that they perceived to be under threat in Jeffersonian America. This essay explores the dialectical relationship between the ancien régime and “the modern French school” in Federalist periodical writing and argues that the concept of the ancien régime emerged in reaction to the embrace of an increasingly democratic, egalitarian political discourse by Jefferson’s supporters. Writers for the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States and Joseph Dennie’s Port Folio invoked an idealized image of France’s Old Regime to legitimize their own political and aesthetic values against the supposed democratization, or “leveling,” of American culture; to argue for the need for a “natural aristocracy” to govern the U.S. republic; and to establish proper taste in literature as one of the standards through which this elite class would distinguish itself. Tracing these uses of the ancien régime in Federalist periodical writing, this essay argues that the emergence of American conservatism as a self-conscious political and aesthetic project owes as much to engagements with French as with British conservatism.


Yankees, Doodles, Fops, and Cuckolds: Compromised Manhood and Provincialism in the Revolutionary Period, 1740–1781 
pp. 514 - 544 
This paper employs a broadside not consulted hitherto by scholars of the song “Yankee Doodle” and a more concerted analysis of the song’s carnivalesque references to gender and class to offer new revelations about the origins and role of the famous ditty. “Yankee Doodle” stood at the center of a contested cultural conflict over manhood and class status in the North American British colonies leading up to and during the American Revolution. Although both sides over these years of colonial struggle between American insurgents and the British reveled in the song as they hurled rhetorical shafts at their foes, its references to compromised manhood proved more potent in the hands of Patriot rebels than in the hands of British troops and Loyalists. Emerging by the end of the war as the anthem of the Revolution, “Yankee Doodle” also helped shape the intellectual starting points for the new republic in favor of American commoners, and it undermined more elitist constructions of manhood that had become associated with the effeminate tropes of the fop and the cuckold.


Curious Men and Their Curiosities: Ralph E. W. Earl’s Nashville Museum and the Precedent of Charles Willson Peale 
pp. 545 - 577
The respective early American museums of Charles Willson Peale in Philadelphia and Ralph E. W. Earl in Nashville reveal Enlightenment interest in art and the natural world in parallel ways. Peale inspired Earl’s early efforts in Nashville, and both men’s projects offer insight into the democratic foundation of the history of the American museum. With knowledge of Peale’s institution, Earl founded the Nashville Museum in 1818. The two men’s shared interests in natural philosophy, patronage, fraternal societies, exhibition culture, and early American collecting show them to be avid participants in the American Enlightenment. Telling the story of Earl’s museum for the first time, this article reveals how the effort of each man worked to advance institution building nationwide, enhancing knowledge of the world and helping create an enlightened republic.