America's jubilee /

Main Author: Burstein, Andrew.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : A.A. Knopf, 2001
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Choice Review

Burstein (Univ. of Tulsa) treats readers to a rambling tour of the US on its 50th birthday, just as General Lafayette returned for a triumphal tour on the eve of the celebration. Burstein reacquaints us with contemporary politicians such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and President John Quincy Adams, reintroduces us to the more obscure political figures William Wirt, John Randolph, Ethan Allen Brown, and George McDuffie, and introduces less public persons such as sentimental novelist Eliza Foster and portraitist Ruth Henshaw Bascom. These characters and others convey not only the energy, innovation, and romantic pride Americans felt on the occasion of the Jubilee, but also the political contentiousness and anxiety for the future they simultaneously experienced. Together, sons and daughters of the Revolution celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence and reflected on the past, present, and future by constructing a useful mythology of the Revolutionary generation just as two of its most illustrious members--John Adams and Thomas Jefferson--momentously died on that memorable "fiftieth [sic] Fourth." The work helps students understand the process and purposes of constructing historical memory while it entertains the general reader with anecdotes, trivia, and coincidence. K. Gedge West Chester University of Pennsylvania

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

History professor Burstein examines the period of U.S. history from its founding to its fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1826, providing a snapshot of a nation in transition. Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died in 1826, at the respective ages of 83 and 90. The glory of the sons and daughters of the American Revolution provided the context for evaluating the progress of the nation. How does a nation build on such a foundation? Many challenges lay ahead. Slavery was the norm, but still a burning issue. Most of the land on the continent was unsettled and yet to be incorporated. Democratic ideals had to find practical application. Burstein uses personal diaries of famous and ordinary citizens, public journals, and popular literature, allowing the people of the time to tell their own stories, exploring issues that are no longer of general interest. He captures the emotional and political currents of the time and challenges the tendency to divide political periods into broad categories. This is an excellent work for viewing a period in U.S. history when the glories of the past provided a perspective for the Civil War within the next generation. --Vernon Ford

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

It has become fashionable for historians to select a given year as the focus of their inquiry and to give a portrait of a country or the whole world in that year (see Louis P. Maur's 1831, Forecasts, Dec. 11, and John E. Wills's 1688, Forecasts, Dec. 18). Burstein selects the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence as his moment in this engrossing look at America in transition from fledgling nation to great power. On July 4, 1826, the nation's last surviving founders, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both died. That year, then, was a time of both celebration and mourning for Americans. Burstein (whom readers may remember as a talking head in Ken Burns's documentary on Thomas Jefferson) introduces us to Ethan Allen BrownÄthe governor of Ohio and an avid proponent of the Erie CanalÄwho argued that Americans should improve the nation's infrastructure in the interests of connecting disparate people and advancing trade. He then discusses a year in the presidency of John Quincy Adams, who also advocated internal improvements in order to unify the nation, yet who was, Burstein says, a "failure as president" both on account of the diminishment in the power of the office after Jefferson and because of his own lack of political skill. The author also looks closely at the man soon to take power, Andrew Jackson, who had loyal friends and bitter enemies, and who spoke fiercely of the need to "defend the people's liberties." Although Burstein provides some insight into the lives of ordinary citizens of this time, his book is mostly a stately portrait of American politicians and elites in a year that, as Burstein convincingly argues, was pivotal in the nation's development. (Jan. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Based on an extensive reading of memoirs, newspapers, and other primary sources, this book provides an evocative portrait of Americans as they celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Although Burstein (history, Tulsa Univ.; The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist) pays some attention to lesser-known figures, the main focus is on people like the Marquis de Lafayette, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson. Some of the major episodes discussed include Lafayette's triumphal return to America in 1824, the nearly simultaneous deaths of Jefferson and the senior Adams in July 1826, and the presidency of the younger Adams. One underlying theme of this book is that when Americans in 1826 looked back on the past, they found inspiration while also exercising nave, patriotic mythmaking. In its first 50 years, the United States had become a strong, prosperous nation while not quite living up to its promises of equality and justice for all. This book should appeal to a wide general readership. Highly recommended.DT.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-In this engaging historical analysis, the author focuses on the jubilee generation, those Americans who remembered and celebrated 50 years of national independence. July 4, 1826, was a day of parades and speeches across the country. However, it was much more than that; it was a time of deep reverence for the Founding Fathers, of anxious optimism for the future, and of self-conscious soul searching in the present. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Burstein reviews the thoughts and actions of a host of Americans during that pivotal year. Ranging from the famous (John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson) to the unknown then or now, the author skillfully interweaves the stories of those citizens, providing the necessary political and social background to create a panoramic portrait of early 19th-century American life and character. In addition to the colorfully told anecdotes and insightful historical perspectives, teens should particularly enjoy the many striking differences between the daily lives of those people of 1826 and their own lives, as well as the equally striking similarities of deeper, universal concerns.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

An affecting portrait of the US on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. In this lyrical coda to Sentimental Democracy (1999), Burstein argues that a fondness for recasting history “continues to animate American political culture; it is at once as quaint as romance and as insidious as ideology.” He believes the videotape of American history paused briefly in the summer of 1826, when the nation looked back with deep gratitude to the Revolution and its heroes, some of whom (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams) were still alive. Americans had elected John Quincy Adams president in a contest settled acrimoniously in the House of Representatives, but they had already begun to embrace the more democratic principles of Andrew Jackson, who would win the presidency in 1828. As a prologue, Burstein describes the extraordinarily emotional return to America in 1824–25 of revolutionary hero Lafayette. The old Frenchman toured each of the 24 states, where he was feted, saluted, and hugged by former comrades-in-arms, many of whom dissolved into tears. Burstein then takes us on a tour of American culture and politics. He acquaints us with the romantic fascination with death. He teaches us about the cheese industry, the building of the great canals, fashions in footwear. He brings to life the known (John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, John Randolph) and the lesser known (William Wirt, US Attorney General for 12 consecutive years; Ethan Allen Brown, an early Ohio governor; Eliza Foster, author of the now-obscure novel Yorktown). His accounts of the deaths of Jefferson and Adams, both of whom passed away on July 4, 1826, are deeply poignant, and provide a fitting coda for the work. Burstein’s evocative reconstruction shows Americans pausing to consider where they had been and where they were going. (20 b&w illustrations, 2 maps)

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