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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersLiving the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Politics
Overview of Living the Revolution
Resource Menu: Politics
Text 1. Government and Liberty
Text 2. Agriculture and Manufacturing
Text 3. George Washington
Text 4. State and Federal Power
Text 5. Thomas Jefferson
Text 6. National Identity
Text 7. The Politics of Foreign Affairs
» Reading Guide
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Reading Guide
7.  The Politics of Foreign Affairs:
Five Cartoons

- c. 1800  "The Providential Detection" (Jefferson labeled an infidel)
- 1804  "The Prairie Dog Sickened" (Jefferson assailed for secret negotiations)
- 1809  "Intercourse or Impartial Dealings" (Jefferson's land purchases criticized)
- 1812  "A Scene on the Frontiers" (British and Indian atrocities condemned)
- c. 1813  "Columbia Teaching John Bull a Lesson" (U.S. demands on Britain outlined)
  The Providential Detection, Politics of Foreign Affairs

America was not alone in the wilderness, of course, as it embarked on nationhood. In 1789 it was surrounded by British, Spanish, and Indian adversaries. Conflicts on the continent and the high seas led to full-scale war with Britain and a "quasi-war" with France. American troops fought Indians on the frontier, British on the Great Lakes, and north African pirates in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. bought land from France, won land from Britain, and negotiated land from Spain. And every move was controversial, spawning vociferous dissent from the populace, politicians, and the press. Yet the faith in freedom of expression was so central to the national vision that even Jefferson, who was viciously maligned by the press while president, wrote that "the only security of all is in a free press. . . . The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure."

In this collection are three examples of that "agitation" directed at Jefferson's foreign policy. The last two cartoons, from the War of 1812, direct their satire at America's European enemies instead of the presidents who direct foreign policy. Highly useful in the classroom. 8 pages (cartoons plus annotations).

Discussion questions
  ·  How are national symbols used to voice dissent as well as patriotism?
  ·  How will such dissent "keep the waters pure," as Jefferson states?
  ·  What aspects of foreign affairs attracted the most public scrutiny, as seen in these cartoons?
  ·  Is editorial cartooning more or less strident today, based on these examples? (See seven more cartoons of the era under Supplemental Sites on the Link Page.)

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  What core political issues defined themselves in the new republic?
  •  What caused the greatest optimism and anxiety among American leaders?
  •  What do the religious overtones in these political texts express?
  •  What national identity evolved in the three decades from 1789 to 1820?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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Revised: May 2003