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Jefferson's Empire Jefferson's Empire: The Language of American Nationhood the Language of American Nationhood
Thomas Jefferson believed that the American revolution was a transformative moment in the history of political civilization. He hoped that his own efforts as a founding statesman and theorist would help construct a progressive and enlightened order for the new American nation that would be a model and inspiration for the world. Peter S. Onuf's new book traces Jefferson's vision of the American future to its roots in his idealized notions of nationhood and empire. Onuf's unsettling recognition that Jefferson's famed egalitarianism was elaborated in an imperial context yields strikingly original interpretations of our national identity and our ideas of race, of westward expansion and the Civil War, and of American global dominance in the twentieth century. Jefferson's vision of an American "empire for liberty" was modeled on a British prototype. But as a consensual union of self-governing republics without a metropolis, Jefferson's American empire would be free of exploitation by a corrupt imperial ruling class. It would avoid the cycle of war and destruction that had characterized the European balance of power. The Civil War cast in high relief the tragic limitations of Jefferson's political vision. After the Union victory, as the reconstructed nation-state developed into a world power, dreams of the United States as an ever-expanding empire of peacefully coexisting states quickly faded from memory. Yet even as the antebellum federal union disintegrated, a Jeffersonian nationalism, proudly conscious of America's historic revolution against imperial domination, grew up in its place. In Onuf's view, Jefferson's quest to define a new American identity also shaped his ambivalent conceptions of slavery and Native American rights. His revolutionary fervor led him to see Indians as "merciless savages" who ravaged the frontiers at the British king's direction, but when those frontiers were pacified, a more benevolent Jefferson encouraged these same Indians to embrace republican values. African American slaves, by contrast, constituted an unassimilable captive nation, unjustly wrenched from its African homeland. His great panacea: colonization. Jefferson's ideas about race reveal the limitations of his conception of American nationhood. Yet, as Onuf strikingly documents, Jefferson's vision of a republican empire--a regime of peace, prosperity, and union without coercion--continues to define and expand the boundaries of American national identity.
Those who enjoyed Jeannette Walls's The Glass Castle will find much to admire ( Booklist , starred review) in this thoroughly engrossing ( The New York Times Book Review ) memoir about a boy on the run with his mother, as she abducts him to Latin America in search of the revolution. Carol Andreas was a traditional 1950s housewife from a small Mennonite town in central Kansas who became a radical feminist and Marxist revolutionary. From the late sixties to the early eighties, she went through multiple husbands and countless lovers while living in three states and five countries. She took her youngest son, Peter, with her wherever she went, even kidnapping him and running off to South America after his straitlaced father won a long and bitter custody fight. They were chasing the revolution together, though the more they chased it the more distant it became. They battled the bad isms (sexism, imperialism, capitalism, fascism, consumerism), and fought for the good isms (feminism, socialism, communism, egalitarianism). Between the ages of five and eleven, Peter lived in more than a dozen homes, moving from the comfortably bland suburbs of Detroit to a hippie commune in Berkeley to a socialist collective farm in pre-military coup Chile to highland villages and coastal shantytowns in Peru. When they secretly returned to America they settled down clandestinely in Denver, where his mother changed her name to hide from his father. A luminous memoir ( Publishers Marketplace , starred review) and an illuminating portrait of a childhood of excitement, adventure, and love ( Kirkus Reviews ) this is an extraordinary account of a deep mother-son bond and the joy and toll of growing up in a radical age. Peter Andreas is an insightful and candid narrator of a profound and enlightening book that will open readers up to different ideas about love, acceptance, and the bond between mother and son ( Library Journal , starred review).
In the summer of 1968 Peter Matthiessen met Cesar Chavez for the first time. They were the same age: forty-one. Matthiessen lived in New York City, while Chavez lived in the Central Valley farm town of Delano, where the grape strike was unfolding. This book is Matthiessen s panoramic yet finely detailed account of the three years he spent working and traveling with Chavez, including to Sal Si Puedes, the San Jose barrio where Chavez began his organizing. Matthiessen provides a candid look into the many sides of this enigmatic and charismatic leader who lived by the laws of nonviolence. Sal Si Puedes is less reportage than living history. In its pages a whole era comes alive: the Chicano, Black Power, and antiwar movements; the browning of the labor movement; Chavez s fasts; the nationwide boycott of California grapes. When Chavez died in 1993, tens of thousands gathered at his funeral. It was a clear sign of how beloved he was and how important his life had been. A new foreword by Marc Grossman considers the significance of Chavez s legacy for our time. As well as serving as an indispensable guide to the 1960s, this book rejuvenates the extraordinary vitality of Chavez s life and spirit, giving his message a renewed and much-needed urgency."