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The Empire Has No Clothes

The Empire Has No Clothes Review Essay NANCY ISENBERG Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789­1815. By Gordon S. Wood. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. 778. Cloth, $35.00.) This Violent Empire: The Birth of an American National Identity. By Carroll Smith-Rosenberg. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. Pp. 484. Cloth, $45.00.) To read these books side by side, one would imagine the authors are writing about two completely different countries. In a way, they are. Wood's Empire of Liberty, its heft surpassing most textbooks, promises to synthesize the literature of the period 1789­1815. It is actually a reprise of his 1992 The Radicalism of the American Revolution, though the tone has become preachier in trumpeting the American dream. Wood's narrative is a morality play; his voice blends seamlessly with the overwrought writers of the early republic whom he quotes, exuberant rhetoricians who saw their ``rising empire'' as a new Elysium, a magical place where compassion, virtue, and belief in equality were omnipresent. His ``empire of liberty'' is a cultural utopia where the most optimistic effusions of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine somehow reflect what Americans ``everywhere'' (a recurrent word in this book) actually believed. There are http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the Early Republic University of Pennsylvania Press

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Publisher
University of Pennsylvania Press
Copyright
Copyright © Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.
ISSN
1553-0620
Publisher site
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Abstract

Review Essay NANCY ISENBERG Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789­1815. By Gordon S. Wood. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. 778. Cloth, $35.00.) This Violent Empire: The Birth of an American National Identity. By Carroll Smith-Rosenberg. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. Pp. 484. Cloth, $45.00.) To read these books side by side, one would imagine the authors are writing about two completely different countries. In a way, they are. Wood's Empire of Liberty, its heft surpassing most textbooks, promises to synthesize the literature of the period 1789­1815. It is actually a reprise of his 1992 The Radicalism of the American Revolution, though the tone has become preachier in trumpeting the American dream. Wood's narrative is a morality play; his voice blends seamlessly with the overwrought writers of the early republic whom he quotes, exuberant rhetoricians who saw their ``rising empire'' as a new Elysium, a magical place where compassion, virtue, and belief in equality were omnipresent. His ``empire of liberty'' is a cultural utopia where the most optimistic effusions of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine somehow reflect what Americans ``everywhere'' (a recurrent word in this book) actually believed. There are

Journal

Journal of the Early RepublicUniversity of Pennsylvania Press

Published: May 5, 2012

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