REVIEWS Collegiate Republic: Cultivating an Ideal Society in Early America. By Margaret Sumner. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014. Pp. 272. Cloth or ebook, $45.00.) Reviewed by Catherine O'Donnell Dickinson, Washington, Bowdoin, Williams: They are small colleges, but there are those who think they shaped the republic. In this lovely, smart book, Margaret Sumner depicts the ambitious regional liberal arts colleges founded at the start of the nineteenth century as both an idealistic nationalist project and a lucrative family business. Those who ran them sought to create an ``orderly `scheme' for the world, in which collective harmony and virtuous self-interest would bring about success'' (139). In a nation of unsettling political and economic competition, graduates would ``exert a new form of collective virtuous power'' (6). From the well-regulated classrooms and greens of Lexington, Kentucky; Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and Williamstown, Massachusetts, young men would set forth prepared to ``enter the worlds of commerce, politics, and society in waves,'' and determined to ``work together to redirect the republic's path toward a more virtuous and regulated definition of success'' (53). In ``college world,'' as Sumner wittily dubs the overlapping networks of kin, professors, and trustees, one could do well while striving to
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Aug 18, 2015
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