The Fires of New England
232 pages, 6 x 9
10 b&w illus.
Release Date:24 May 2017
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The Fires of New England

A Story of Protest and Rebellion in Antebellum America

University of Massachusetts Press
In the winter of 1834, twenty men convened in Keene, New Hampshire, and published a fiery address condemning their state's legal system as an abomination that threatened the legacy of the American Revolution. They attacked New Hampshire's constitution as an archaic document that undermined democracy and created a system of conniving attorneys and judges. They argued that the time was right for their neighbors to rise up and return the Granite State to the glorious pathway blazed by the nation's founders.
Few people embraced the manifesto and its radical message. Nonetheless, as Eric J. Morser illustrates in this eloquently written and deeply researched book, the address matters because it reveals how commercial, cultural, political, and social changes were remaking the lives of the men who drafted and shared it in the 1830s. Using an imaginative range of sources, Morser artfully reconstructs their moving personal tales and locates them in a grander historical context. By doing so, he demonstrates that even seemingly small stories from antebellum America can help us understand the rich complexities of the era.
The Fires of New England is an exceptionally deep and contextually rich case study of American culture and politics in the Early Republic. The power of the book is its illustrating and humanizing the complex effects of transformational historical developments through the lives of individuals.'—John Resch, author of Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment, and Political Culture in the Early Republic
'The story of this reformist crusade is an utterly fresh one, with lots of appeal for a twenty-first-century audience. It's fascinating to realize that the cultural frustration with U.S. legal culture might go back this far in time.'—Aaron Sachs, author of Arcadian America: The Death and Life of an Environmental Tradition
'A key virtue in Morser's treatment is his refusal to see the manifesto as the cry of pain of people left behind by history—the familiar, dreary gemeinschaft to gesellschaft story.'—The Journal of American History
'[A]n intriguing book that highlights the complexity of life in the early republic, even for characters off the beaten path . . . The book is a nuanced reminder to readers that even bit players and forgotten events can be windows into the wider, interconnected world in which rural Americans found themselves by the 1830s.'—American Historical Review
Eric J. Morser is associate professor of history at Skidmore College and author of Hinterland Dreams: The Political Economy of a Midwestern City.
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