Moral Visions and Material Ambitions

Moral Visions and Material Ambitions : Philadelphia Struggles to Define the Republic, 1776-1836

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No single vision for the future of America existed after the Revolution. In light of social and economic changes, America's scope shifted from community-mindedness, the very heart of the republican ideal, to economic individualism. In Moral Visions and Material Ambitions, A. Kristen Foster describes how eager young entrepreneurs in Philadelphia manipulated America's moral vision of a classical republic to facilitate their own material ambitions, fostered by the free market economy that arose between 1776 and 1836. As market developments changed economic relationships in the city, men and women used the Revolution's republican language to help explain what was happening to them, and in the process they helped redefine class structure in Philadelphia. This study explores the ways Philadelphians used the Revolution and its powerful language of liberty and equality to impose meaning on their lives, as an expanding market irreversibly changed social and economic relationships in their city, and eventually the rest of the country.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 216 pages
  • 149.86 x 223.52 x 17.78mm | 340.19g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739135325
  • 9780739135327

Review quote

After more than three decades of heated debate, the question of whether the political culture of the early republic was essentially republican or liberal remains unresolved. Moral Visions and Material Ambitions cuts through this impasse with a freshand compelling argument: as the nation's economy became increasingly capitalist and market-driven in the half-century following the American Revolution, the rising middle class took advantage of new economic opportunities and justified their actions by creating a republican vision of liberalism capitalism, a vision that would come to dominate political discourse for the remainder of the century. Moral Visions and Material Ambitions thus opens a unique window onto the intellectual life of ordinarypeople and reveals the critical role they played in defining the nature of American society. This is an important book with a provocative thesis, making it a book that will be required reading for everyone concerned with the history of the early republic. -- Ronald Schultz, University of Wyoming Recommended. CHOICE Moral Visions and Material Ambitions is a terrific book. Kristin Foster brings vividly to life the laborers, skilled craftsmen, free blacks, and men and women of the 'middling sort' in post-Revolutionary Philadelphia as they invoked republican ideology to suit their varied purposes. Examining a series of events ranging from the war of independence and a bitterly fought court battle to exuberant parades and public ceremonials, Foster deepens our understanding of the Revolution's complex ideological legacy. -- Paul S. Boyer, editor-in-chief, The Oxford Companion to United States History After more than three decades of heated debate, the question of whether the political culture of the early republic was essentially republican or liberal remains unresolved. Moral Visions and Material Ambitions cuts through this impasse with a fresh and compelling argument: as the nation's economy became increasingly capitalist and market-driven in the half-century following the American Revolution, the rising middle class took advantage of new economic opportunities and justified their actions by creating a republican vision of liberalism capitalism, a vision that would come to dominate political discourse for the remainder of the century. Moral Visions and Material Ambitions thus opens a unique window onto the intellectual life of ordinary people and reveals the critical role they played in defining the nature of American society. This is an important book with a provocative thesis, making it a book that will be required reading for everyone concerned with the history of the early republic. -- Ronald Schultz, University of Wyomingshow more

About Kristen A. Foster

A. Kristen Foster is assistant professor of history at Marquette University in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Dr. Foster is a graduate of Williams College and earned her doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She has been a Mellon Fellow at the Library Company of Philadelphia. Her dissertation, upon which this book is based, was a finalist for the Pauline Maier Price in American History.show more

Table of contents

Chapter 1 The Revolutionary War and the Development of Republican Ideologies in Philadelphia Chapter 2 Tension in the Artisan Shop: The Deterioration of a Most Republican Relationship Chapter 3 From Journeymen to Workingmen: Philadelphia Forges an "Iron Chain of Bondage" Chapter 4 All Things in Moderation: Philadelphia's Middling Sort Builds a Hybrid Republican Culture and Its Own Class Identity Chapter 5 On the Margins of Republican Citizenship: Moderate Beginningsshow more