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Roger Ekirch, American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of Revolution
Event: Roger Ekirch, American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of Revolution
When: Tuesday, July 11, 7:00pm
Where: The Odyssey Bookshop
Roger Ekirch’s American Sanctuary begins in 1797 with the bloodiest mutiny ever suffered by the Royal Navy—the British frigate, HMS Hermione, 4,000 miles from England’s shores, off the western coast of Puerto Rico. The mutiny struck at the very heart of military authority and at Britain’s hierarchical social order. Revolution was in the air; America had won its war of Independence; the French Revolution was still unfolding; and a ferocious rebellion loomed in Ireland, with countless dissidents already arrested. Most of the Hermione mutineers had scattered throughout the North Atlantic, and one of them, Jonathan Robbins, had made his way to American shores, and the British were asking for his extradition. Robbins let it be known that he was an American citizen from Danbury Connecticut and that he had been an impressed sailor by the British.
John Adams, the Federalist successor to Washington as president, in one of the most catastrophic blunders of his administration, sanctioned Robbins’s extradition according to the terms of the Jay Treaty of 1794. Adams’ miscalculation ignited a political firestorm, only to be fanned by news of Robbins’s execution without his constitutional rights of due process and trial by jury. Thomas Jefferson, then Vice President and leader of the emergent Republican Party, said, “No one circumstance since the establishment of our government has affected the popular mind more.”
Ekirch brilliantly lays out in full detail the story of how the Robbins affair and the Presidential campaign of 1800 inflamed the new nation and set in motion a constitutional crisis, resulting in Adams’s defeat and Jefferson’s election as the third President of the United States. Ekirch writes that the aftershocks of Robbins’s martyrdom helped to shape the infant republic’s identity in the way Americans envisioned themselves. The crisis led directly to the country’s historic decision to grant political asylum to refugees from foreign governments, a major achievement in fulfilling the resonant promise of American independence, voiced by Tom Paine, to provide “an asylum for mankind.”
A. Roger Ekirch was born in Washington DC, and raised in Alexandria, Virginia, and Delmar, New York. He is the author of Poor Carolina, Bound for America, Birthright, and At Day's Close. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Huffington Post. He holds degrees from Dartmouth College and John Hopkins University, and is a recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia, and is a professor of history at Virginia Tech.
Tuesday, July 11, 2017 - 7:00pm
The Odyssey Bookshop
9 College Street
South Hadley, MA 01075
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - February 21st, 2017