Thomas Jefferson’s electoral victory over John Adams—and the larger victory of the Republicans over the Federalists—was but one of many changes in the early republic. The wealthy and the powerful, middling and poor Whites, Native Americans, free and enslaved African Americans, influential and poor women: all demanded a voice in the new nation that Thomas Paine called an “asylum” for liberty. They would all, in their own way, lay claim to the ideals of freedom and equality heralded, if not fully realized, by the Revolution. These sources show these competing claims to freedom and reveal the competing visions for the new nation.
Genius of the Ladies
Despite the restrictions imposed on their American citizenship, white women worked to expand their rights to education in the new nation using literature and the arts. The first journal for women in the United States, The Lady’s Magazine, and repository of entertaining knowledge, introduced their initial volume with an engraving celebrating the transatlantic exchange between women’s rights advocates. In the engraving, English writer Mary Wollstonecraft presents her work, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman,” to Liberty who has the tools of the arts at her feet.
America guided by wisdom
This print reflects the sense of triumph many white Americans felt following the War of 1812. Drawing from the visual language of Jeffersonian Republicans, we see America—represented as a woman in classical dress—surrounded by gods of wisdom, commerce, and agriculture on one side and a statue of George Washington emblazoned with the recent war’s victories on the other. The romantic sense of the United States as the heir to the ancient Roman republic, pride in military victory, and the glorification of domestic production contributed to the idea the young nation was about to enter an “era of good feelings.”