See your professor’s Canvas page for instructions on using these research kits. The kits contain links to primary and secondary sources on the topics listed below and will be used to write your second paper.


Please note: the links in these kits go to either

  • a source on the web
  • an OU Libraries’ resource, requiring you to login with your OUNetID (4×4), or
  • a companion Canvas page, requiring you to enroll here before you can access the document.

The links open in a new window/tab. Report link problems to lscrivener@ou.edu.

1741 New York Slave Uprisings

In the spring of 1741, a series of suspicious fires frightened white New Yorkers. They were certain that the fires were set by Black slaves or by members of the multi-racial poor community in the city. In 1741, New York City had the second-largest slave population of any city in the Thirteen Colonies. This fact, combined with a series of rumored and real slave rebellions all over the south, made white New Yorkers anxious. Certain that Blacks and their poor white allies were plotting murder and arson against them, White officials tried to restrict Blacks from gathering together and they offered rewards — freedom for slaves or indentured servants and cash for free people — to anyone who would name names.

Accusations poured out, convincing New Yorkers of a gigantic plot. They had a series of trials, at which the accused universally claimed innocence. In the end, 18 Black New Yorkers were hung, five white Catholics were burned at the stake, and 70 slaves were deported from the colony. Historians still argue about how much of the plot was real, but New Yorkers certainly believed Black slaves threatened them. –Prof. Anne Hyde

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“‘Fire, Fire, Scorch, Scorch!’: Testimony from the Negro Plot Trials in New York, 1741.” History Matters. George Mason University. (Testimony from Peggy, a white prostitute.)

Horsmanden, Daniel. A Journal of the Proceedings in the Detection of the Conspiracy Formed by Some White People, in Conjunction with Negro and Other Slaves, for Burning the City of New-York in America, and Murdering the Inhabitants… New York: James Parker, 1744.

“A List of White Persons taken into Custody on Account of the 1741 Conspiracy.” Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. PBS.

“The New York Conspiracy of 1741.” History Now. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. (Companion Canvas page.)

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Bond, Richard. “Shaping a Conspiracy: Black Testimony in the 1741 New York Plot.” Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 5, no. 1 (May 3, 2007): 63–94.

Lepore, Jill. “Preface, Prologue, and Chapter 2.” In New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan, 5-14. 40-63. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. (Companion Canvas page.)

Plaag, Eric W. “New York’s 1741 Slave Conspiracy in a Climate of Fear and Anxiety.” New York History 84, no. 3 (2003): 275–99.

“The ‘Strange Case of Mary Burton’—The Scotch Irish.” The American Catholic Historical Researches 2, no. 3 (1906): 264.

Szasz, Ferenc M. “The New York Slave Revolt of 1741: A Re-Examination.” New York History 48, no. 3 (1967): 215–30.

The Boston Massacre, 1770

On the evening of March 5, 1770, a mob of rowdy Bostonians taunted and abused British soldiers on guard duty outside of the Customs House. As tensions escalated, soldiers fired into the crowd. When the smoke cleared, four men were dead; a fifth later died from his injuries. In the aftermath of the event, the British soldiers were put on trial and acquitted for their actions, in large part due to their defense attorney, Boston lawyer John Adams. Nevertheless, the so-called “Boston Massacre” became a compelling propaganda image for the emergent patriot movement to rally colonists to their side. In truth, how and why the violence unfolded that evening is more complicated and nuanced than a simple political dispute. This kit allows you to examine different accounts of the Boston Massacre and the ensuing trial to explore what actually happened in Boston that fateful night. –Prof. Lauren Duval

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

Images

“Boston Massacre Imagery Comparison.” Perspectives on the Boston Massacre. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Revere, Paul. “The bloody massacre perpetrated in King-Street Boston.” Print. Boston: Paul Revere, 1770. Digital Commonwealth.

Newspapers and Broadsides

“[Announcement of Patrick Carr’s Death].” The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, March 19, 1770, p. 3.

The Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, March 12, 1770, pp. 3-4.

“[Excerpt].” The London Chronicle, April 26-28, 1770.

“A Poem, in Memory of the (never to be forgotten) Fifth of March, 1770.” Broadside. Boston, Mass. 1770.

“On the Trial of the Inhuman Murderers, Of the 5th of March, 1770.” Broadside. Boston, Mass. 1770.

“A Verse Occasioned by the late horrid Massacre in King-Street.” Broadside. Boston, Mass. 1770.

Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs

Adams, John, “Notes on the Boston Massacre Trials: Captn. Prestons Case.” 1770. Boston Massacre. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Committee of Boston Selectmen. “Letter to Benjamin Franklin,” July 13, 1770. Perspectives on the Boston Massacre. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Gage, Thomas. “Letter to Thomas Hutchinson,” April 30, 1770. Boston Massacre. Massachusetts Historical Society.

“George Hewes’ Recollection of the Boston Massacre.” History Matters. George Mason University.

Oliver Jr., Andrew. “Letter to Benjamin Lynde,” July 6-7, 1770. Boston MassacreMassachusetts Historical Society.

Savage, Samuel P. “Diary, 2 unnumbered pages, 1-10 March 1770.” Boston MassacreMassachusetts Historical Society.

Townsend, Gregory. “Letter to Jonathan Townsend,” March 15, 1770. Boston Massacre. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Trials and Depositions

“Deposition of Joseph Belknap regarding 5 March 1770, manuscript copy by Jeremy Belknap, [1770].” Boston Massacre. Massachusetts Historical Society.

“A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre in Boston…” 1770. Boston Massacre. Massachusetts Historical Society.

    • p. 1-38 [images 1-38]: a narrative overview and short descriptions of depositions
    • p. 81-83 [images 119-121]: an index of depositions
    • p. 39-80 [images 39-118]: primary source depositions.

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Kachun, Mitch. “From Forgotten Founder to Indispensable Icon: Crispus Attacks, Black Citizenship, and Collective Memory, 1770-1865.” Journal of the Early Republic 29, no. 2 (2009): 249–86.

Reid, John Phillip. “A Lawyer Acquitted: John Adams and the Boston Massacre Trials.” The American Journal of Legal History 18, no. 3 (1974): 189–207.

York, Neil Longley. “Rival Truths, Political Accommodation, and the Boston ‘Massacre.’” Massachusetts Historical Review 11 (2009): 57–95.

Zabin, Serena. “Intimate Ties and the Boston Massacre.” In Women in the American Revolution: Gender, Politics, and the Domestic World, edited by Barbara Oberg, 192–210. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019. (Companion Canvas page.)

The Siege of Boston, 1775-1776

After the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, the British army retreated into the city of Boston where they were besieged by various state militias. A strategic move, this entrenchment nevertheless had drastic consequences for civilians who lived in and around Boston. Residing in a besieged city altered civilians’ lives in profound ways; they faced hunger, disease, property destruction, and the pervasive threat of violence and invasion as war raged around them, including the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775. That same summer, the newly-appointed General George Washington arrived in Boston to take command of the new Continental Army. This research kit allows you to explore the intensifying military conflict in the early months of the Revolution through the daily lives and eyewitness accounts of the people who lived through this tumultuous period. –Prof. Lauren Duval

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

Adams, Samuel. “Letter to Samuel Purviance,” May 19, 1775. Siege of Boston: Eyewitness Accounts from the Collections. Massachusetts Historical Society.

“Boston Town Meeting Minutes,” April 22, 1775. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Cheever, William. “A Boston Merchant’s, Diary, 1775-1776.” Massachusetts Historical Society.

Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms, 1775. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Haslewood, Captain William. “A British Officer’s Diary, 1775” in Kellogg, Louise Phelps. “Journal of a British Officer During the American Revolution.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 7, no. 1 (1920): 51–58.

“Letters between Abigail and John Adams,” 1775. Massachusetts Historical Society.

“Letters between Mercy Otis Warren and Hannah Winthrop,” 1774-1775. Massachusetts Historical Society.

“Letters from Mercy Otis Warren to John Adams,” 1775. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

“Siege of Boston: Eyewitness Accounts from the Collections.” Massachusetts Historical Society.”

Warren, Mercy Otis. The Blockheads: Or, The Affrighted Officers. A Farce. Boston: John Gill, 1776.  (Companion Canvas page.)

Washington, George. “Letter to John Hancock,” July 21, 1775. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Becker, Ann M. “Smallpox in Washington’s Army: Strategic Implications of the Disease during the American Revolutionary War.” The Journal of Military History 68, no. 2 (2004): 381–430.

“Editorial Note: Declaration of the Causes and Necessity for Taking Up Arms.” Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Excerpt from Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution, 274–77. New York: Viking, 2013. (Companion Canvas page.)

Royster, Charles. “1776: The Army of Israel.” In A Revolutionary People At War, 54–126.  University of North Carolina Press, 1979. (Companion Canvas page; read chapter and notes.)

Stern, Jermey A. “Jane Franklin Mecom: A Boston Woman in Revolutionary Times.” Early American Studies 4, no. 1 (2006): 147–91.

Stuart, Nancy Rubin. “Conscience of the Revolution.” American History 43, no. 3 (August 2008): 50–55.

The Haudenosaunee in the American Revolution, 1775-1794

During the American Revolution, both the new American government and the British sought to ally with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), a centuries-old powerful confederacy of six allied nations located in present day New York: the Mohawks, Oneidas, Cayugas, Senecas, Onondagas, and after 1713, a group of Tuscaroras driven from their homeland in what is currently Virginia and North Carolina by war and colonial oppression. Under the Great Law of Peace, the confederacy’s oral constitution, each nation retains its own governance, practices, and language, while uniting for common defense and the preservation of peace. Haudenosaunee, meaning, “people of the long house,” refers not only to the tribes’ traditional houses—which the confederacy symbolically evokes—but also to the kinship, harmony, and peacemaking that structures Haudenosaunee communities. The American Revolution, however, fractured the confederacy. Unable to agree on a unified strategy, most Mohawks, Cayugas, Senecas, and Onondagas allied with the British; many Oneidas and Tuscaroras sided with the American rebels. During the war, some of the Continental Army’s fiercest violence, notably the 1779 Sullivan Expedition, was directed at Haudenosaunee communities to punish British-allied tribes and deter them from challenging the westward expansion of the United States after the war—efforts which the Six Nations continued to resist long after the Revolution. This kit allows you to explore the Haudenosaunee’s diplomatic approaches to navigating the violence and disruption of the American Revolution and their postwar efforts to protect their lands from the encroachment of the new United States. –Prof. Lauren Duval

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

Choosing Sides

“Peacemaker Story [The Great Law of Peace].” In Haudenosaunee Guide for Educators., 2–3. [Washington, D.C.]: National Museum of the American Indian Education Office, 2009.  (Pages 2-3 of document or 4-5 of PDF.)

“Journals of the Continental Congress – Speech to the Six Nations; July 13, 1775.” The Avalon Project. Yale Law School.

“Oneida Declaration of Neutrality, 1775.” The American Yawp Reader: A Documentary Companion to the American Yawp.

“Message from the Six Nations, 16 May 1776.” Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

“‘The Disturbances in America give great trouble to all our Nations’: Mohawk Joseph Brant Comes to London to See the King, 1776.” History Matters. George Mason University.

“Speech to the Six Nations, December 7, 1776,” Journals of the Continental Congress, Volume 6, 1010–1011, Library of Congress. (Companion Canvas page.)

“Speech to the Six Nations, December 3, 1777,” Journals of the Continental Congress, Volume 9, 994–998, Library of Congress. (Companion Canvas page.)

“Board of War Report, June 11, 1778.” Journals of the Continental Congress, 587-591.

“The War for Independence Through Seneca Eyes: Mary Jemison Views the Revolution, 1775–79.” History Matters. George Mason University.

“Speech to Oneida Indians, July–August 1778.” Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Sullivan Expedition (1779)

Schuyler, Major General Philip. “Letter to George Washington,” March 1-7, 1779. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Washington, George. “Letter to Major General John Sullivan,” May 31, 1779. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Sullivan, Major General John. “Letter to George Washington,” September 28, 1779. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

The Journal of Lieut. John L. Hardenbergh of the Second New York Continental Regiment from May 1 to October 3, 1779, in General Sullivan’s Campaign against the Western Indians.Auburn, N.Y.: [Knapp & Peck, printers], 1879.  (Contains multiple diaries, see especially chapter entitled, “Expedition Against the Cayugas.”)

An Uneasy Peace

Kappler, Charles Joseph, ed. “Treaty with the Six Nations, 1784.” In Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Volume II: Treaties, 5–6. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904.

“A Confederation of Native peoples seek peace with the United States, 1786.” The American Yawp Reader: A Documentary Companion to the American Yawp. 

“Treaty With the Six Nations : 1789.” The Avalon Project. Yale Law School.

Seneca Chiefs. “Letter to George Washington.” December 1, 1790. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Washington, George. “Letter to the Seneca Chiefs.” December 29, 1790. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Seneca Chiefs. “Letter to George Washington.” January 10, 1791. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Washington, George. “”Letter to the Seneca Chiefs.” January 19, 1791. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Seneca Chiefs. “Letter to George Washington.” March 17, 1791. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

King, Rufus. “Letter to Alexander Hamilton.” March 24, 1791. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Oneida Indians. “Letter to George Washington.” April 7, 1793. Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

Kappler, Charles Joseph, ed. “Treaty with the Six Nations, 1794.” In Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Volume II: Treaties, 34-37. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904.

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Fitz, Caitlin A. “‘Suspected on Both Sides’: Little Abraham, Iroquois Neutrality, and the American Revolution.” Journal of the Early Republic 28, no. 3 (August 3, 2008): 299–335.

Kane, Maeve. “‘She Did Not Open Her Mouth Further’: Haudenosaunee Women as Military and Political Targets during and after the American Revolution.” In Women in the American Revolution: Gender, Politics, and the Domestic World, edited by Barbara Oberg, 83-102. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019.  (Companion Canvas page.)

Lee, Wayne E. “From Gentility to Atrocity: The Continental Army’s Ways of War.” Army History, no. 62 (2006): 4–19.

Martin, James Kirby. “Forgotten Heroes of the Revolution: Han Yerry and Tyona Doxtader of the Oneida Indian Nation.” In Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation, edited by Alfred F. Young, Gary B. Nash, and Ray Raphael, 199–215. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. (Companion Canvas page.)

Pearsall, Sarah M.S. “Madam Sacho: How One Iroquois Woman Survived the American Revolution.” Humanities 36, no. 3 (June 2015).

Taylor, Alan. “The Divided Ground: Upper Canada, New York, and the Iroquois Six Nations, 1783-1815.” Journal of the Early Republic 22, no. 1 (2002): 55–75.

Tiro, Karim M. “A ‘Civil’ War? Rethinking Iroquois Participation in the American Revolution.” Explorations in Early American Culture 4 (2000): 148–65.

Freedom Suits in Revolutionary America

The American Revolution reinvigorated longstanding debates throughout the Anglo-American Atlantic world about Black liberty and the abolition of slavery. Before, during, and after the war, Black Americans, both enslaved and free, seized upon this moment to argue against the institution of slavery, and in the case of the enslaved, to advocate for their own freedom—often with reference to the revolutionaries’ assertion “that all men are created equal” and entitled to the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These petitions and writings were critical in undermining the institution of slavery, which was deeply embedded in the economies, households, and politics of the new nation. This kit allows you to explore Black freedom suits from the revolutionary era, as well as the writings of prominent Black intellectuals and thinkers from the years surrounding the American Revolution, as Black Americans sought to expand the conception of liberty and claim freedom for themselves, their families, and their communities. –Prof. Lauren Duval

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“Phillis Wheatley’s Poem on Tyranny and Slavery in the Colonies, 1772.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Bogin, Ruth. “‘Liberty Further Extended’: A 1776 Antislavery Manuscript by Lemuel Haynes.” The William and Mary Quarterly 40, no. 1 (1983): 85–105.

“‘Natural and Inalienable Right to Freedom’: Slaves’ Petition for Freedom to the Massachusetts Legislature, 1777.” History Matters. George Mason University.

“Pennsylvania – An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, 1780.” The Avalon Project. Yale Law School.

“‘Having Tasted the Sweets of Freedom‘: Cato Petitions the Pennsylvania Legislature to Remain Free.” 1781. History Matters. George Mason University.

“Belinda Sutton Petition, 1783.” The Royall House and Slave Quarters.
(Background information: “Belinda Sutton and Her Petitions.” The Royall House and Slave Quarters.)

“Charge of Chief Justice Cushing in the Quock Walker Case (1783).” Africans in America. PBS.
(Background information: Africans in America. PBS.)

“James Petitioned the General Assembly, November 30, 1786.” Library of Virginia.
(Background information: Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities.)

“Petition of 1788 by Slaves of New Haven for the Abolition of  Slavery in Connecticut.” World History Archives.

Washington, George. “Letter to Tobias Lear.” April 12, 1791. Founds Online. National Archives and Records Administration.

“‘I Began to Feel the Happiness, Liberty, of which I Knew Nothing Before’: Boston King Chooses Freedom and the Loyalists during the War for Independence (1798).” History Matters. George Mason University.

“Washington’s Runaway Slave,” The Liberator (August 22, 1845) [Orig. Pub: Rev. T. H. Adams, “Washington’s Runaway Slave and How Portsmouth Freed Her,” The Granite Freeman (Concord, New Hampshire), May 22, 1845]. Encyclopedia Virginia.

Sedgewick, Catherine Maria. “Slavery in New England.” 1853. Sedgwick Stories: The Periodical Writings of Catharine Maria Sedgwick.

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Blanck, Emily. “Seventeen Eighty-Three: The Turning Point in the Law of Slavery and Freedom in Massachusetts.” The New England Quarterly 75, no. 1 (2002): 24–51.

Carden, Allen. “Stumbling Forward: Emancipation Proceeds in New England and Pennsylvania.” In Freedom’s Delay: America’s Struggle for Emancipation, 1776-1865, 45–60. Chicago: University of Tennessee Press, 2014.  (Notes to this chapter, scroll down.)

Dunbar, Erica Armstrong. “‘I Knew That If I Went Back to Virginia, I Should Never Get My Liberty’: Ona Judge Staines, the President’s Runaway Slave.” In Women in Early America, 225–45. New York: NYU Press, 2015. (Companion Canvas page.)

Finkenbine, Roy E. “Belinda’s Petition: Reparations for Slavery in Revolutionary Massachusetts.” The William and Mary Quarterly 64, no. 1 (2007): 95–104.

Frey, Sylvia R. “The British and the Black: A New Perspective.” The Historian 38, no. 2 (1976): 225–38.

King, LaGarrett J., and Jason Williamson. “The African Americans’ Revolution: Black Patriots, Black Founders, and the Concept of Interest Convergence.” Black History Bulletin 82, no. 1 (2019): 10–14.

Nash, Gary B. “Could Slavery Have Been Abolished?” In The Forgotten Fifth, 69–122. Harvard University Press, 2006. (Companion Canvas page.)

Newman, Richard S., and Roy E. Finkenbine. “Black Founders in the New Republic: Introduction.” The William and Mary Quarterly 64, no. 1 (2007): 83–94. 

Schweninger, Loren. “Freedom Suits, African American Women, and the Genealogy of Slavery.” The William and Mary Quarterly 71, no. 1 (2014): 35–62. 

Waldstreicher, David. “The Wheatleyan Moment.” Early American Studies 9, no. 3 (2011): 522–51.

Zilversmit, Arthur. “Quok Walker, Mumbet, and the Abolition of Slavery in Massachusetts.” The William and Mary Quarterly 25, no. 4 (1968): 614–24.

Creating A New Nation: The Constitutional Convention, 1787-1789

In the summer of 1787, fifty-five delegates met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. The convention instead went far beyond this stated purpose and crafted a new governing document for the young nation: the Constitution. Both during the Constitutional Convention and in the subsequent ratification debates from 1787-1789, Americans deliberated the form and function of the federal government, the responsibilities and rights of citizens, how to protect those rights, and critically, who was entitled to those rights in the new nation. This kit will allow you to explore the process of creating and ratifying the Constitution by reading the journals of prominent politicians and the vibrant public debates between those who supported and opposed the document. –Prof. Lauren Duval

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“’All Men Are Born Free and Equal’: Massachusetts Yeomen Oppose the ‘Aristocratickal’ Constitution, January, 1788.” History Matters. George Mason University.

Federal Farmer. “Federal Farmer IV,” October 12, 1787. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

“Gerry, Mason, and Randolph Decline to Sign the Constitution.” Constitutional Convention, September 10, 12, 15, 17, 1787. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

Hamilton, Alexander (Publius). “Federalist No. 84,” July 16, 1788. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

Hamilton, Alexander. “Letter to James Madison,” July 19, 1788. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

Hamilton, Alexander. “Speech on the Compromises of the Constitution,” June 20, 1788. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

Lee, Richard Henry. “Letter to Edmund Randolph with Objections to the Constitution,” October 16, 1787. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

Madison, James. “Notes on the Debates in the Federal Convention.” 1787. The Avalon Project. Yale Law School.

Madison, James. “The Federalist Papers : No. 10.” 1787. The Avalon Project. Yale Law School.

Randolph, Edmund. “The Virginia Plan,” May 29, 1787. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

“The Revised Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan.” Constitutional Convention, June 13, 1787. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

“The Rules of the Convention.” Constitutional Convention, May 28, 1787. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

United States House of Representatives. “Bill of Rights, The House Version,” July 28, 1789, August 13, 1789, August 24, 1789. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

United States Senate. “Bill of Rights, The Senate Version,” August 25, 1789 and September 9, 1789. TeachingAmericanHistory.org. Ashland University.

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Boonshoft, Mark. “Doughfaces at the Founding: Federalists, Anti-Federalists, Slavery, and the Ratification of the Constitution in New York.” New York History 93, no. 3 (2012): 187–218. 

Holton, Woody. “Did Democracy Cause the Recession That Led to the Constitution?” The Journal of American History 92, no. 2 (2005): 442–69.

Holton, Woody. “‘Rebel against Rebel’: Enslaved Virginians and the Coming of the American Revolution.” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 105, no. 2 (1997): 157–92.

Spencer, Mark G. “Hume and Madison on Faction.” The William and Mary Quarterly 59, no. 4 (2002): 869–96.

Politics and Family Life in the Early US, John and Abigail Adams, 1796-1797

John Adams was the second president of the United States. He took office in 1797 after George Washington, a stunning moment for the world because no republic had ever changed presidents or political parties without a war or a coup. The nation was in a disastrous financial condition. Adams wife, Abigail Smith Adams, was well-educated and politically talented. John counted on Abigail’s practical advice and political savvy during their entire lives. Their relationship was unusual as was the number of letters that has survived.

In the 1770s, John wrote to Abigail when his work for the circuit court took him away from home and when John served in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777. When he served as President and travelled between Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, John and Abigail wrote to each other almost every day with frank advice and observations about what was going on in the new U.S. and in their private lives. The letters were often short notes but some were many, many pages. The letters here are from the first year of Adam’s Presidency in 1797. –Prof. Anne Hyde

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“Thirty-Two Letters between John and Abigail Adams During His Presidency,” 1796-1797. Adams Family Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society.

  1. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 27 November 1796
  2. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 November 1796
  3. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 December 1796
  4. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 4 December 1796
  5. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 4 December 1796
  6. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 December 1796
  7. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 December 1796
  8. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 December 1796
  9. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 9 December 1796
  10. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 12 December 1796
  11. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 14 December 1796
  12. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 December 1796
  13. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 16 December 1796
  14. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 December 1796
  15. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 19 December 1796
  16. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 December 1796
  17. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 December 1796
  18. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 23 December 1796, “I received by the last post…”
  19. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 23 December 1796, “Mr. Beals will deliver this…”
  20. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 25 December 1796
  21. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 December 1796, “The inclosed extract of a Letter…”
  22. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 December 1796, “I received yours of the 14…”
  23. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 December 1796
  24. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 December 1796
  25. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 1 January 1797
  26. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 January 1797
  27. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 January 1797
  28. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 5 January 1797, “I dined Yesterday…”
  29. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 5 January 1797, “Mrs. Swan and her Daughters,…”
  30. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 January 1797
  31. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 9 January 1797
  32. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 11 January 1797

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Barker-Benfield, G. J. “Stillbirth and Sensibility: The Case of Abigail and John Adams.” Early American Studies 10, no. 1 (2012): 2–29.

Crane, Elaine Forman. “Political Dialogue and the Spring of Abigail’s Discontent.” The William and Mary Quarterly 56, no. 4 (1999): 745–74.

Garbaye, Linda. “Women and Politics in North America: The Experience of Abigail Adams.” Nuevo Mundo – Mundos Nuevos, April 1, 2014.

Holton, Woody. “Abigail Adams, Bond Speculator.” The William and Mary Quarterly 64, no. 4 (2007): 821–38. 

Lewis, Jan. “The Republican Wife: Virtue and Seduction in the Early Republic.” The William and Mary Quarterly 44, no. 4 (1987): 689–721. 

Scobie, Ingrid Winther. “American First Ladies and the Question of Identity.” Journal of Women’s History 7, no. 4 (1995): 137–50.

Slavery in Texas, 1836-1861

Texas, like other parts of the cotton south, was part of vast expansion of African slavery in the decades between 1820 and 1850. Because of the booming cotton industry, American slaveholders migrated to the Mexican province of Texas in the 1820s. They established a society like those developing at the same time in Mississippi and Alabama. Tensions quickly rose between these Anglo settlers and the government of Mexico, which repeatedly attempted to outlaw slavery in Texas, because slavery was illegal in the rest of Mexico. Settlers in the region eventually rebelled from Mexico in 1836 and established the Republic of Texas. From 1836 to 1845, slaveholders from the American South poured into this new nation between the borders of the United States and Mexico to protect the institution of slavery.

When Texas became a U.S. state in 1845, slavery, like other aspects of Texas, was different than in other parts of the US. Because slaves lived on isolated plantations, ranches, and farms, owners could treat them however they chose. However, because they lived close to Mexico, where slavery was illegal, it was also more possible for slaves to escape and run to Mexico. Slave owners in Texas worked very hard to create laws that protected their rights to own other humans and to get them back when slaves ran away. –Prof. Anne Hyde

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“Houston Runaway Slave Ads.” Texas Runaway Slave Project. East Texas Digital Archives. Stephen F. Austin State University.

“Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council of the Republic of Texas,” January 1, 1836. Texas Slavery Project.

“Slave Population from the Census,” Texas Slavery Project.

“Ten Letters,” James Perry Papers, 1830s. Texas Slavery Project.

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Carrigan, William D., and Clive Webb. “The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928.” Journal of Social History 37, no. 2 (2003): 411–38.

Hamilton, Matthew K. “‘To Preserve African Slavery’: The Secession Commissioners to Texas, 1861.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 114, no. 4 (2011): 354–76.

Kelley, Sean. “‘Mexico in His Head’: Slavery and the Texas-Mexico Border, 1810-1860.” Journal of Social History 37, no. 3 (2004): 709–23.

Lewis, Danny. “An Archive of Fugitive Slave Ads Sheds New Light on Lost Histories.” Smithsonian.Com (Smithsonian Magazine), May 25, 2016.

Waldstreicher, David. “Reading the Runaways: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture, and Confidence in Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic.” The William and Mary Quarterly 56, no. 2 (1999): 243–72.

Families and Goldrushers on the Overland Trail, 1849-1851

In 1849, the news of a gold discovery in California was announced in President Polk’s last state of the union address. That news sent hundreds of thousands of young men to leave their homes and farms and to walk, ride mules or horses, or take wagons to California. Very few found gold and while many men stayed in California, most returned home with empty pockets.

Those young men joined a large movement of people already underway, families heading to Oregon and California to get a new start on new land. Because this was an adventure for everyone, goldrushers and overland trail families, and because everyone left friends and families at home, they wrote letters and kept diaries about this moment in their lives. The young men, and a few women, who went to find gold, had different expectations and problems when they began traveling and when they reached California. The families who traveled, mostly multigenerational and from the Midwest, had money and experience that goldrushers didn’t, but everyone faced new situations. –Prof. Anne Hyde

Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

Allen, Eleanor. “Diary of Esther Belle Hanna, March 1852.” In Canvas Caravans. North American Women’s Letters and Diaries Database. Portland, Or: Bingords & Mort, 1946.

Delano, Alonzo. Life on the Plains and among the Diggings, Being Scenes and Adventures of an Overland Journey to California with Particular Incidents of the Route, Mistakes and Sufferings of the Emigrants, the Indian Tribes, the Present and Future of the Great West. New York: Miller, Orton and co, 1857.

Duniway, David, and Kenneth L. Holmes. “Diary of Mariett Foster Cummings, June, 1852.” In Covered Wagon Women: Diaries & Letters from the Western Trails. North American Women’s Letters and Diaries Database. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

Swain, William, and Swain, Sabrina. “Letters,” 1849-1851 . New Perspectives on the West. PBS.org. (Companion Canvas page.)

Watson, William J. Journal of an Overland Journey to Oregon Made in the Year 1849. Jacksonville: E.R. Roe, 1851. 

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Carter, Robert W. “‘Sometimes When I Hear the Winds Sigh’: Mortality on the Overland Trail.” California History 74, no. 2 (1995): 146–61.

Holliday, J. S. “Preface.” In The World Rushed in: The California Gold Rush Experience, 2–12. Red River Books. Norman University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. (Companion Canvas page.)

Keyes, Sarah. “‘Like a Roaring Lion’: The Overland Trail as a Sonic Conquest.” The Journal of American History 96, no. 1 (2009): 19–43.

Johnson, Susan Lee. “Bulls, Bears, and Dancing Boys: Race, Gender, and Leisure in the California Gold Rush.” Radical History Review 1994, no. 60 (October 1, 1994): 5–37.

Reid, John Phillip. “Punishing the Elephant: Malfeasance and Organized Criminality on the Overland Trail.” Montana: The Magazine of Western History 47, no. 1 (1997): 2–21.