by Alan Taylor

The leaders of the American Revolution made three great gambles. First, they sought independence from the powerful British Empire, becoming the first colonies in the Americas to revolt and seek independence from their mother empire. Second, they formed a union of thirteen states, which was also unprecedented, for the colonies had long histories of bickering with one another. Third, the revolutionaries committed their new states to a republic, then a radical and risky form of government. In a republic, the people were the sovereign—rejecting the rule of a monarch and aristocrats. Today we take for granted that governments elected by the people can be stable, long lasting, and effective. But the Americans in the new nation were not so sure, given the lessons of history. In 1789, the United States was the only large republic in the world; the others were a handful of small city-states scattered in Europe, and none of the larger republics in the history of the world had lasted very long. Like the ancient republic of Rome, they had collapsed and reverted to some form of tyranny, usually by a military dictator.More »

Search path with parameters: 
Read and Ponder the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)
Inline body image(s): 
Read and Ponder the Fugitive Slave Law, 1850. (Gilder Lehrman Collection)
by Joanne B. Freeman
Header Links: 

The presidential election of 1800 was an angry, dirty, crisis-ridden contest that seemed to threaten the nation’s very survival. A bitter partisan battle between Federalist John Adams and Republican Thomas Jefferson produced a tie between Jefferson and his Republican running mate, Aaron Burr. The unfolding of this crisis tested the new nation’s durability.

Nasty political mud-slinging. Campaign attacks and counterattacks.More »

by Annette Gordon-Reed

Recent years have witnessed an explosion of interest in, and historical scholarship about, American slavery.More »

by Sylvia R. Frey
by Peter S. Onuf