Title: Mortal Eloquence: Violence, Slavery, and Anti-Jacobinism in the Early American Republic
Name: Rachel Hope Cleves
Assistant Professor of History
Northern Illinois University
rcleves@niu.edu
Year: 2004
Type: Dissertation Fellowship
Summary: I used my Harry Frank Guggenheim fellowship to complete research on my dissertation, "Mortal Eloquence: Violence, Slavery, and Anti-Jacobinism in the Early American Republic" (UC Berkeley, 2005). The dissertation has now been revised and will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2009, under the title Characters of Blood: Violence, Slavery, and Anti-Jacobinism in the Early American Republic.

The book explores the American reaction to the violence of the French Revolution. Challenging the conventional wisdom that elites used critiques of the French Revolution to cynically disguise their efforts to preserve social power, Characters of Blood argues that the French Revolution catalyzed conservatives' deep fears of violent disorder in the United States. Conservative religious and political leaders, who shared a belief in the innate depravity of human beings, reacted with horror to the bloodshed of the Reign of Terror, the civil war in the Vendee, and the French Republic's foreign wars. They reacted with an outpouring of violent language, in sermons, newspapers, political orations, and literature, that defined a new gothic genre of American anti-Jacobinism. During the 1790s and early 1800s American anti-Jacobinism extended from attacks on political democracy and religious infidelity, to critiques of the violence of slavery and war. Ultimately, American anti-Jacobinism provided the milieu in which the abolitionists of the antebellum generation were born and shaped. Critiques of the violence of the French Revolution fed into and inflected critiques of the violence of slavery, up through the Civil War. However, the bipolar power of violent language both to anathematize violence and inspire violent fantasies also helped to spark the drive to total war that made the Civil War so devastating.