War Stories and Love Stories

Conflict and Culture in the War of 1812

Authored by: Nicole Eustace

The Routledge Handbook of the War of 1812

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138017719
eBook ISBN: 9781315780269
Adobe ISBN: 9781317701989

10.4324/9781315780269.ch15

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Abstract

In October 1812, just months after the first-ever formal declaration of war in the history of the United States had thrown the nation into crisis, a printer by the name of Isaiah Thomas successfully lobbied the legislature of Massachusetts to charter the country’s first national historical association: the American Antiquarian Society. That these two events—the declaration of the nation’s first war and the creation of the country’s first national historical society—occurred together was far more than mere coincidence. In that moment of danger, Isaiah Thomas believed that preserving the nation required securing its records as much as safeguarding its people. And, although the United States Congress had created an official government library just a decade before, Thomas proposed to establish a very different kind of repository in Massachusetts, one that would concern itself as much with the records of popular culture as with formal state papers. Thomas aimed at nothing less than protecting the “literature of liberty”—and this he believed required saving the literary productions of ordinary people as much as those of statesmen. In fact, one of Thomas’s key early gifts to the society was an assortment of broadside posters that he valued as a record of the kind of texts “in vogue with the Vulgar.” 1

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