Monthly Archives: February 2013

Abstract-ing Trans-atlantic Anti-Jacobinism

Before I leave off commenting on Transatlantic Anti-Jacobinism, let me share the abstract of the article. It conveys some of the content and argument of the piece in more academic prose.

So, as a short summary:

This article identifies an important transnational political
ideology and identity in the Atlantic world in the 1790s–1810s: trans-
Atlantic Anti-Jacobinism. Opposition to the French Revolution, although
present in individual nations, gained force and variety through connections
forged between individuals from the European Continent to Great
Britain, Canada, and the United States. Lines of communication that
were formed through the practices of writing and printing, correspondence,
diplomacy, and travel kept the movement unified against a common
enemy. The two most salient elements of this Anti-Jacobinism were
concerns over political reaction and religion or, stated differently, vigorous
defenses of the established political order and the received religious belief,
Protestant or Catholic Christianity. Interlocked, these two main concerns
of Anti-Jacobins inspired active response. Ironically, a desire to defend
individual nations, political arrangements, and faith traditions led to a
political alignment that crossed national boundaries and bound individuals
together in a common cause. The formation and operation of Anti-
Jacobinism thus occurred simultaneously on subnational and supranational
levels, demonstrating the multiple valences of political opinion in the Age
of Revolutions.

And now, I have no doubt readers are ready to run out and pick up Early American Studies, volume 11, no. 1 (January 2013): 133-145. Don’t let me stop you!

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More Trans-Atlantic Anti-Jacobinism

Benjamin Park is a Ph.D. student doing some really interesting work on nationalism in the early republic. He also contributes to the Junto of Early Americanists Blog. In a round-up of recent scholarship, Park took a look at my article. His key paragraph is this one:

Jerusha Westbury and Anelise Hanson Shrout, eds., “Special Issue: Forming Nations, Reforming Empires: Atlantic Polities in the Long Eighteenth Century,” Early American Studies 11, no. 1 (Winter 2013).

Sorry, I won’t help you cheat by highlighting a single article here. This issue of EAS contains a plethora of fascinating articles on the tangled world of loyalties, allegiances, and affiliations from the early 1700s and well into the 19th century. Topics include Merchants navigating America’s growing capitalist society and their duties as church benefactors, a close analysis of belonging in Equiano’s Interesting Narrative, American Catholics’ balance of national patriotism and Roman allegiance, and Elihu Burrit’s imagined peace through an expanding Anglo-American empire in the face of the 1840s Age of Revolutions. Perhaps my favorite article was Jonathan Den Hartog’s which looks at the interweaving of religion and politics in the Atlantic world’s reaction to the French Revolution.

Thanks, Ben!

The full article is here.

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What in the World is “Trans-Atlantic Anti-Jacobinism”?

Of course, I’m sure that this is a question that troubles most readers daily. In fact, you may have tossed and turned all of last night hoping for an adequate description of such a fascinating phenomenon.

I say this because just recently I published an article in the journal Early American Studies. The article is entitled “Trans-Atlantic Anti-Jacobinism: Reaction and Religion.” (The issue is Winter 2013, Vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 133-145 for those keeping track at home.)


Well, to explain the concept, let’s break it down. To start with Jacobinism, consider that the French Revolution broke out in 1789 and continued  throughout the 1790s until (and perhaps including) the ascent of Napoleon. The pressures of the Revolution produced any number of political parties in France, but one of the significant ones was the Jacobin Party (named for their meeting hall). The Jacobins, led by Robespierre, oversaw some of the most extreme parts of the Revolution, known as the Terror. This was the period that saw the guillotine in greatest usage. It was also a period of imprisonment for those opposed to the Jacobins, attempts at creating a “Festival of Reason,” and stripping away many of the public expressions of Christianity, in a process known as de-Christianization.

It turns out that people in other places didn’t think this Jacobin approach was such a good idea, especially as the Jacobins decided to export the French Revolution by force of arms. These folks became Anti-Jacobins, and they worked in very public ways to oppose the Jacobins. This strategy had a dynamic, though, that even after the Jacobins were out of power, Anti-Jacobins could still accuse their opponents of being Jacobins. Historians have noted Anti-Jacobin impulses on the European Continent, in Great Britain, in Canada, and in the United States.

Did anything connect these opponents of Jacobinism? That is a question I started to answer and am continuing to research. I have begun to find networks that connect Anti-Jacobins in many countries, around the Atlantic at the end of the 18th century. Their connections were trans-atlantic.

So, when you put those concepts together, you have “Trans-atlantic Anti-Jacobinism.”

Whew. Aren’t you relieved? You can sleep well tonight.

If you have access to Project Muse, you can read the article here. As of now, I can’t make the article available to the world. If you’d like to correspond with me about it, though, I’d be happy to discuss the project.

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Our post from yesterday was picked up and republished over at The Way of Improvement blog, under the title “Why George Will Needs a Lesson in American Religious History.” Perhaps this will generate some further discussion. Of course, that might be until George Will starts to pick out some of my misstatements!

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George Will and Religion in the Founding

I enjoy reading George Will. I usually find his columns provocative. In a major address at Washington University in St. Louis last December, though, he made some claims about religion in the founding era and subsequently what he believes should be the place of religion in America today. In the process, he made claims about the non-belief of some of the key founders that I don’t think represented them accurately. I enlarge on this criticism in a post just up today at the Religion in U.S. History blog.

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