Historical Government Publications


Un-Compromising: Sovereignty and Slavery Sow the Seeds of Rebellion in 1850s Kansas

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If the present state of political discourse calls to mind the analogy of blood sport, spare a thought for “Bleeding Kansas,” that period from 1854-1861 when pro- and anti-slavery forces faced off in a violent prelude to the U.S. Civil War.

In Readex’s digital edition of the Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953, the politics of division becomes personal through handwritten accounts such as the following letter from Kansas Deputy Marshal William J. Preston to Governor John W. Geary, written on October 12, 1856. Preston described a party of approximately 240 “immigrants” who were stopped by federal troops near the Kansas-Nebraska border:

There was nothing in the appearance of this party indicating that they were peaceable immigrants. They had no stock of any kind, except those of draught. There were only seven families among them, with no visible furniture, agricultural implements, or mechanical tools, but on the contrary, they were amply supplied with all the requisite articles for camping and campaigning purposes. These were seen protruding from their vehicles.

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Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke gave Deputy Marshall Preston an exact reckoning of the baggage of these “peaceable immigrants:”

Un-Compromising: Sovereignty and Slavery Sow the Seeds of Rebellion in 1850s Kansas

Hostile Takeover: Utah Territory (Barely) Puts Up with its Imposed Territorial Governors

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At the beginning of the end of Utah Territory’s isolation there was Alfred Cumming, who in 1858 arrived with an army at his back to replace the popular Mormon leader Brigham Young as the federally appointed Governor. Readex’s Territorial Papers of the United States makes it clear that this was far from a casual undertaking:

Utah Affairs. Alfred Cumming appointed Governor, during recess of the Senate.

Instructed as follows: xxx “A detachment of the army is under orders to take up a position in that country, for the performance of the ordinary military duties of security and protection upon our frontiers, and alas, if necessary, to aid in the enforcement of the law. The commanding officer has been ordered to carry into effect your requisitions for the service of the troops in support of the public peace. A copy of these orders from the War Dep’t is herewith communicated. xx

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Cumming left after a couple of years; the army stayed. Relations were so fraught that in 1861 Cumming’s successor, John Dawson, couldn’t quite manage a month in the position. Following Dawson’s departure, Governor Stephen Harding eked out a few years from 1862-1863 before being driven out of office himself. For non-Mormons, being governor of Utah Territory was a thankless job exercised in a trackless waste over an intractable people.

Hostile Takeover: Utah Territory (Barely) Puts Up with its Imposed Territorial Governors

Reindeer Games: The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Reindeer Importation Program in Alaska

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It’s well established that reindeer only fly in a metaphorical sense, such as when bounding across the snowy tundra. In the 1890s, however, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Education large numbers of reindeer traveled by boat across the Bering Strait from Siberia, or by boat, rail, and boat again from Finland to what was then known as Alaska Department, or District. The following letter from Commissioner of Education William T. Harris in Readex’s Territorial Papers of the United States describes how that came to pass:

In 1890, Doctor Sheldon Jackson, General Agent of Education in Alaska, reported to me that owing to the rapid killing off of the whale and walrus in the Arctic waters of Alaska and the destruction of the fur-bearing animals of the land, the Eskimo of that region were on the verge of starvation.

With the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, Congress was asked to make a small appropriation for the introduction of the domesticated reindeer of Siberia into Alaska as a permanent food supply.

 

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Reindeer Games: The U.S. Bureau of Education’s Reindeer Importation Program in Alaska

Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953: Its Unique and Extensive Coverage of American Indian History

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Materials related to American Indians or Native Americans make up a very substantial portion of the Readex’s new digital edition of Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953. Indeed, few other topics in the database are covered in such depth. The reason for this is that the Territorial Papers of the United States contains all of the Territorial-era documents collected by the State and Interior Departments, and this means—crucially—that it contains all of the reports and correspondence of the Territorial Governors, whose chief duties and challenges often revolved around the American Indians within their territories. Because of this, this new digital resource will provide researchers with a vast amount of material on Native America—material that until now was only available by locating and researching the original documents or corresponding microfilm at the National Archives.

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Territorial Papers of the United States, 1764-1953: Its Unique and Extensive Coverage of American Indian History

“The highlight of my conference”: The Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

The Readex-sponsored breakfast presentation continues to be a must-attend event during the American Library Association Annual Conference. In a post-event survey, participants said:

“Always one of the highlights of attending ALA.”

“The Readex breakfast is the highlight of my conference every year.”

“Thanks for not shying away from possibly controversial topics. The speakers are always good.”

Invite for Blog Post ALA 2018 Highlights.JPGOn Sunday, June 24 in New Orleans, Prof. Stephen Aron—a leading authority on the American frontier—presented an alternative history of the Louisiana Territory in a fascinating talk titled “When Indians and Americans Got Along.”

Aron, professor of history and Robert N. Burr Chair at the University of California, Los Angeles, described a period of U.S. history in which Americans and Indians found common ground—at least for a time. He emphasized that the alternative history he describes actually happened, unlike “alternate history”—a genre of fiction in which one or more historical events have a different outcome from what really occurred.

Aron is currently writing a book with the working title Can We All Get Along: An Alternative History of the American West.  Throughout his research, Aron has drawn on digital primary documents, including those in Readex collections:

 

 

View the full presentation.

“The highlight of my conference”: The Readex Breakfast at the 2018 ALA Annual Conference

“Bustle in the House of Wisdom:” The Life and Crimes of Vermont Congressman Matthew Lyon

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Multiple choice: You’re Matthew Lyon, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1801. On the occasion of your fifty-second birthday, you’re asked what your most enduring legacy will be, that for which you’ll be remembered in two hundred years.  Which of the following answers do you choose?

  1. You were the first person convicted for violating the Sedition Act of 1798, when you accused President John Adams in print of “ridiculous pomp,” among other things.
  2. You were the first (and only) member of Congress to be reelected while imprisoned (for the above infraction).
  3. You were the first member of Congress charged with “gross indecency” and were repeatedly threatened with expulsion from office, for spitting in the face of a fellow member of Congress, and for the physical violence that ensued.
  4. You cast the deciding Congressional vote to elect Thomas Jefferson as President during the Election of 1800

With perfect hindsight from the twenty-first century, the election of Thomas Jefferson looms large in the list above, but all of these choices are notable for their impact on the course of early American history. Matthew Lyon was an Irish immigrant, an entrepreneur, and an (allegedly) disgraced Revolutionary War officer who served with Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys. Lyon was a vehement anti-Federalist. The Federalists believed in a strong central government, whereas Lyon and his fellow Democratic-Republicans feared monarchy and favored states’ rights instead.

“Bustle in the House of Wisdom:” The Life and Crimes of Vermont Congressman Matthew Lyon

The Territorial Imperative: Readex’s First Release of the Territorial Papers of the United States

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In the early days of the American republic, the territorial imperative that would develop into manifest destiny was more of an optimistic thought experiment than an imperial (or divine) mandate to subdue the wilderness. For the first release of Readex’s Territorial Papers of the United States, let’s examine a few deceptively simple terms and the concepts underlying them, namely Territory, and Paper.

A Territory denotes a specific piece of land over which a consistent level of sovereignty and law is extended. But what did that require, exactly? When surveys were perilous, expensive and imprecise, and even explicit natural boundaries were often contested, the concept of a Territory required magical thinking. Certainly American Indians took that position; the boundaries delineated in treaties and land grants took little account of indigenous traditions, alliances and patterns of settlement. In that much U.S. territories seemed quixotic and arbitrary, foisted upon established societies that could do quite well without legal title, not to mention Indian removal.

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The Territorial Imperative: Readex’s First Release of the Territorial Papers of the United States

Readex Announces New Collections Coming Fall 2018

Readex is pleased to announce several new digital collections created in partnership with such leading repositories as the American Antiquarian Society, The British Library, and others.  Coming fall 2018, these primary source collections are designed to meet wide-ranging teaching and research needs in diverse areas of American and African studies. 


African Newspapers: The British Library Collection

AN BL image.JPGCreated in partnership with the British Library, this unique database features 64 newspapers from across the African continent, all published before 1900. From culture to history to geopolitics, the pages of these newspapers offer fresh research opportunities for students and scholars interested in topics related to Africa, including European exploration, colonial exploitation, economics, Atlantic trade, early moves towards self-governance, the growth of South Africa, and much more. Because Africa produced comparatively few newspapers in the 19th century, each page in this collection is significant, offering invaluable insight into the people, issues and events that shaped the continent. Through eyewitness reporting, editorials, letters, advertisements, obituaries, and military reports, the newspapers in this one-of-a-kind collection chronicle African history and daily life as never before.


American Policy Series

Readex Announces New Collections Coming Fall 2018

Apocalypse Laos: America Loses the Laotian Civil War to the Communists

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American Proxy Wars: Korea and Vietnam is designed to feature Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) coverage of those two countries, but this database can be used for much more than researching the Korean and Vietnam wars. For example, let’s take this new Twentieth-Century Global Perspectives database “off-label” and see what it can tell us about America’s proxy war in Laos.

 

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Laos itself was a creation of French colonialism in the late nineteenth century, and achieved independence in 1954 following the First Indochina War. The Pathet Lao, a communist organization, came into being in the early 1950s in opposition to French ambitions in Southeast Asia. The Pathet Lao were similar to the Viet Cong in that they had both political and military aspirations, and the two groups worked closely together. America targeted them both during the Vietnam War when the North Vietnamese Army moved its supply operations into Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

 

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Apocalypse Laos: America Loses the Laotian Civil War to the Communists

Immersed in Primary Documents: A Conversation with Professor Daniel Feller [VIDEO]

This past January, history professor Daniel Feller delivered a highly praised presentation on shifting views of Andrew Jackson at the American Librarian Association midwinter meeting in Denver. Following his talk, Prof. Feller met with Readex to discuss how digitized primary sources have helped to unlock many important new discoveries about this controversial figure whose reputation has “undergone some remarkable somersaults over the years.” 

Feller began by describing the mission of “The Papers of Andrew Jackson”—the major project he directs at the University of Tennessee—to create a complete literary record of the nation’s seventh president by, among other things, tracking down every letter Andrew Jackson wrote, and every letter written to him. Digitized documents and the ability to use keyword search have proven critical to the project’s continued success.

“Digital databases, such as newspapers, now enable us to find things that we never would have been able to find before,” Feller said. He is also optimistic that Readex’s digital edition of The Territorial Papers of the United States will yield additional new findings critical to a fuller understanding of Jackson’s presidency.

Watch the interview to learn how a creative search strategy enabled his research team to find previously unknown letters, published as “curiosities” in newspapers, long after they were written and far from where they originated.

Immersed in Primary Documents: A Conversation with Professor Daniel Feller [VIDEO]

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