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“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

‘A warning to all wicked people”: Highlights from the newest supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

Recently released material from Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society, 1801-1819, includes these three exceptionally rare printed works: an illustrated book of children’s games, a handbook offering methods of clairvoyance, and a tale of the perils suffered by drunkards and blasphemers.


Youthful Sports (1802)

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In addition to its detailed images of carefree children at play, this imprint includes a warning to boys playing with weapons.

Bows and arrows are not so commonly in use as they were formerly, and when little boys get them, they are not always sufficiently careful how they use them. I knew a little boy who had one of his eyes shot out by an arrow, which his companion unthinkingly aimed at him. Those who are allowed to use the bow, ought to shoot at some mark, or at the trunk of a tree; but never at little birds, as it is very cruel to hurt harmless creatures.

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The discussion of cricket offers this heeding:

‘A warning to all wicked people”: Highlights from the newest supplement to Early American Imprints, Series II

‘Seize the Whole of This Unsuspecting Multitude’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The most recent release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains an 18th-century history of Algiers, a debate on the slave-trade in the British Parliament, and a speech on the Compromise of 1850 from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

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A Complete History of Algiers (1728)

By Joseph Morgan

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Joseph Morgan was an early 18th century British historian and editor. In this history of Algiers, “to which is prefixed, an epitome of the general history of Barbary, from the earliest times: interspersed with many curious passages and remarks, not touched on by any writer whatever,” Morgan covers vast expanses of time and territory. He also includes the following information about a well-known desert traveler.

‘Seize the Whole of This Unsuspecting Multitude’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

‘A Rope of Sand’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

The June release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes an 1862 speech from the House floor in favor of the “confiscation of rebel property,” a history of the war by a Morgan's Raid commander, and a speech honoring “the remarkable career and character of Edward Augustus Wild,” a local war hero from Brookline, Massachusetts.


Confiscation of Rebel Property (1862)

Speech of Hon. William Kellogg, of Illinois, delivered in the House of Representatives, May 24, 1862

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William Kellogg (1814-1872) served in both the Illinois and U.S. House of Representatives. After refusing an appointment to be Minister to Guatemala, Kellogg accepted the position of Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court of the Nebraska Territory.

While serving in the U.S House, Kellogg was vocal in debates related to the onset of the war. In 1860, he was appointed to the Committee of Thirty-Three which was charged with proposing a path to avert war. The next year Kellogg introduced a substitute to the proposal of the committee. His proposal allowed slavery to continue in limited states and territories. He was criticized for this position and in the following year argued in favor of war power and the power of confiscation by the state.

In this speech on the “Confiscation of Rebel Property, delivered from the House floor, Kellogg said:

‘A Rope of Sand’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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

“Children naturally love truth”: Rare Illustrated Works of Juvenile Literature

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This month’s release of Early American Imprints, Series II: Supplement 3 from the American Antiquarian Society highlights three of the rarest early 19th-century books for children—all of which are distinguished by their illustrations.


 

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Juvenile Miscellany, Including Some Natural History, for the Use of Children. Ornamented with Eighteen Engravings (1803)

The intaglio prints which adorn this imprint are as varied as the text. The author declares his serious intent:

“Children naturally love truth, and when they read a story, enquire whether it is true? If they find it true, they are pleased with it; if not, they value it but little; and soon it becomes insipid.”

Admitting this sentiment as sound doctrine, the editor of the present little volume has been careful to select such matter for his young friends, as cannot fail to interest them, and at the same time, leave on their minds some useful impression.

The text is an admixture of moral tales and axioms:

When you are lawfully engaged in the business of life, take heed that your heart and affections cleave not to the dust.

Our principles only become pleasing and delightful, when by the influence of them we learn to calm and govern our passions; and are formed by them into such a temper, as renders us capable of cheerfully enjoying the blessings of the present world, and the higher happiness of a better.

“Children naturally love truth”: Rare Illustrated Works of Juvenile Literature

‘Keep Them in Subjection’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

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The May release of The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922: From the American Antiquarian Society includes differing perspectives on American slavery from a British naturalist and a British religious leader.  Also included is a report by a Congressional select committee investigating the 1866 riots in New Orleans.


Life in the South (1863)

By Catherine Cooper Hopley

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In this two-volume book, British author, artist, and naturalist Catherine Cooper Hopley (1817-1911) is sympathetic to the Confederacy and slave owners. She recounts her observations of the social culture in Virginia from the spring of 1860 to August 1862.  Contrasting the attitudes of Northerners and Southerners toward the English, Hopley writes:

By this time one could scarcely fail to remark how essentially the characters of the Northern and Southern people differ. Here it was common to hear one’s country and one’s countrymen extolled with a generosity quite untainted by the petty envyings and jealousies, fostered, if not expressed, by the Yankee proper towards the rival Englishman. The Southern people were ever ready to speak in praise of any English person they had happened to know, and appeared to take pleasure in so doing; and the more the hostile feeling increased towards the North the more cordial did they appear in their welcome to the descendants of their ancestral England.

‘Keep Them in Subjection’: Highlights from The American Civil War Collection, 1860-1922

"Using the Weed" and Other 19th-Century Plays for ‘Female Characters Only’

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This month’s release of Nineteenth-Century American Drama: Popular Culture and Entertainment, 1820-1900, adds several plays with all-female casts. Three such works are highlighted here.


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Written by George Melville Baker and first published in 1865, “Using the ‘Weed’” takes place in a small boarding school for young ladies. There are seven characters including Miss Betty Bookworm who is the principal of the school, her assistant Mrs. Starch, three young ladies, and the twin sister aunts of student Clarissa Harlowe Smithers.

Clarissa is a playful girl who takes pleasure in rattling her spinster guardians. To the distress of her classmates, she is dedicated to her sewing machine:

Mary. I declare, Clari, you will wear yourself out at the sewing machine.

Fanny. Your devoted attachment to that useful but tiresome instrument is really surprising.

Clarissa. Law, girls, I shall never tire of it. You know it is a novelty to me.

Fanny. Novelty! Why, I imagined there was not a family in the world without one.

Mary. Mother has had one ever since I can recollect.

Fanny. The idea that a young lady, with such a romantic name as Clarissa Harlowe Smithers, should become such a devoted slave to the needle and treadle is very surprising.

"Using the Weed" and Other 19th-Century Plays for ‘Female Characters Only’

‘The Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The May release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia contains a 1767 address against slavery by an American physician, diplomat and politician; a memoir of travels through Africa by the self-described discoverer of the source of the Blue Nile; and Civil War-era campaign literature by the author of “Negro-mania.”

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Extract From an Address, in the Virginia Gazette, of March 19, 1767 (1767)

By Arthur Lee

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Arthur Lee (1740-1792) served as an American diplomat to Britain and France during the Revolutionary War. Prior to the war he was educated in both law and medicine. He practiced the former in London and upon returning to Virginia served as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In this early work, Lee speaks against slavery, arguing:

Permit me in your Paper, to address the Members of our Assembly, on two points, in which the public interest is very nearly concerned.

The abolition of slavery, and the retrieval of a specie in this colony, are the subjects, on which I would bespeak their attention.

‘The Prospect of Anarchy and Dissolution Is Upon Us’: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

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