Current Issue Article Abstracts

April 2020,  Vol. 144, No. 2

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Albert Gallatin and the Jeffersonian Political Economy, 1801–1813: Revenue, Debt, and the “Community of Interests”
Songho Ha

This article analyzes the ideas and policies of Albert Gallatin, the treasury secretary under presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison between 1801 and 1813. In particular, it highlights the importance ascribed to revenue instead of debt in Gallatin’s policy choices and analyzes the idea of the “community of interests” that Gallatin employed to galvanize the Jeffersonian vision for the new republic. It argues that Gallatin saw individual interests as the basis of the union and that his economic policies sought to strengthen the “community of interests” through internal improvements, free trade, westward expansion, and the establishment of branches of the First Bank of the United States. The article also points to the tragic results of Gallatin’s efforts, which led to increased alienation among, and oppression of, Indigenous peoples and African slaves.


Race, Rank, and Reform in Antebellum Philadelphia Social Dance
Lynn Matluck Brooks

A “Coloured Fancy Ball” held in Philadelphia in February 1828 served as a site not only of social aspiration and political concern but also of violence and satire. This article explores the nature, reportage, ramifications, and outcomes of that dance gathering. Study of the ball’s contexts— social, racial, political, economic, and aesthetic—reveals the varied meanings it held for different parties concerned with this event. This investigation further illuminates ways that sociality, behavior, and aspiration were subjects of national contest as the new United States, exemplified here by its leading revolutionary city, Philadelphia, struggled to determine who and what could be called “American.”

“Dirty Shirts” and “American Eunuchs”: Western Pennsylvania Confronts Its Railroad Investments, 1857–1863
Perry K. Blatz

Municipalities across the East and Midwest sought to speed railroad development in the 1850s by authorizing tens of millions in bonds to subscribe to stock in new projects. Expecting local lines to be completed quickly and to pay dividends consistently, Allegheny County and Pittsburgh anticipated that their more than $4 million in debt would cost little. But a lack of dividends amid economic downturn made the municipalities liable for interest to bondholders, most of whom were from Philadelphia. From 1857 to 1862, Allegheny County and Pittsburgh refused to enact and collect a massive tax increase ordered by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Outraged charges of repudiation and rebellion from the east were more than matched by vituperative resistance meetings in the west. Though the two sides compromised in 1863, this bitter dispute deepened anti-railroad sentiment in western Pennsylvania, which would explode in the railroad strike of 1877.

Sailing into Troubled Waters: A German Naval Captain Faces American Justice in World War I
David A. Gilbert

The trial of Captain Max Thierichens of the Imperial German Navy in Philadelphia in 1917 was a national sensation. His ship, the Prinz Eitel Fredrich, first sought refuge in the United States in 1915, but eventually the popularity of the captain and his crew became a liability as the country edged closer to war. In the hands of the infant Bureau of Investigation and the print media, Thierichens’s amorous adventures became federal crimes linked to an international campaign against sex trafficking. A propaganda windfall, these charges reflected the anti-German sentiments generated by the First World War, as well as other early twentieth-century social anxieties. In spite of his conviction and imprisonment, the actual facts of the case are still unclear. The personal and political purposes of the trial, however, are not. Ultimately, these highlight the vulnerability of American institutions to political pressure, popular prejudice, and social fears, especially in wartime.



The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania: A Varied People by Judith Ridner, and: Frontier Rebels: The Fight for Independence in the American West, 1765–1776 by Patrick Spero, and: Irish Presbyterians and the Shaping of Western Pennsylvania, 1770–1830 by Peter E. Gilmore (review)
Richard K. MacMaster


The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America by Scott Paul Gordon (review)
Kathleen Telling


Rethinking America: From Empire to Republic by John M. Murrin (review)
Shira Lurie


Vagrants and Vagabonds: Poverty and Mobility in the Early American Republic by Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan (review)
Richard D’Von Daily


McCarthyism in the Suburbs: Quakers, Communists, and the Children’s Librarian by Allison Hepler (review)
Richard P. Mulcahy


America in a Trance by Niko J. Kallianiotis (review)
Jamie Longazel