American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, And National Identity In The Age Of Revolution

Hardcover | February 21, 2017

byA. Roger Ekirch

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From “one of the most wide-ranging and imaginative historians in America today; there is no one else quite like him in the profes­sion” (Gordon S. Wood)—a dazzling and original work of history.
A. Roger Ekirch’s American Sanctuary begins in 1797 with the bloodiest mutiny ever suffered by the Royal Navy—on the British frigate HMS Hermione, four thousand miles from England’s shores, off the western coast of Puerto Rico. In the midst of the most storied epoch in British seafaring history, 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; 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 impressed into service 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. Convicted of murder and piracy by a court-martial in Jamaica, Robbins was sentenced by the British to death, hauled up on the fore yardarm of the frigate Acasta, blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back, and hanged.
Adams’s 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.” Congressional Republicans tried to censure Adams, and the Federalist majority, in a bitter blow to the president, were unable to muster a vote of confidence condoning Robbins’s surrender.
American Sanctuary 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. We see how the Hermione 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, as voiced by Tom Paine, to provide “an asylum for mankind.” 
(With black-and-white illustrations throughout)

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From “one of the most wide-ranging and imaginative historians in America today; there is no one else quite like him in the profes­sion” (Gordon S. Wood)—a dazzling and original work of history.  A. Roger Ekirch’s American Sanctuary begins in 1797 with the bloodiest mutiny ever suffered by the Royal Navy—on the British frigate HMS Hermi...

A. ROGER EKIRCH was born in Washington, DC, and raised in Alexandria, Virginia. 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, an...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:320 pages, 9.25 × 6.25 × 0.88 inPublished:February 21, 2017Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307379906

ISBN - 13:9780307379900

Customer Reviews of American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, And National Identity In The Age Of Revolution


Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface xi
Prologue xv
1 Men-of-War 3
2 Hand ’Em Up 25
3 Dragnet 45
PART TWO Martyrdom
4 Receive the Fugitive 69
5 United States v. Nathan Robbins 90
6 Martyr to Liberty 111
PART THREE National Identity
7 Seignor Galatini and His Gang 143
8 Revolution of 1800 168
9 Jonathan’s Ghost 201
Epilogue 223
Coda 233
Acknowledgments 237
Abbreviations Used in Notes 241
Notes 245
Index 281

Editorial Reviews

Celebration for A. Roger Ekirch AMERICAN SANCTUARY “Delves into the far-reaching ramifications of a violent 18th-century mutiny on the HMS Hermione, a British frigate . . . Ekirch builds a strong case that the politics informing the controversy were instrumental in the historical refusals of the U.S. to extradite aliens charged solely with political crimes. Ekirch, a meticulous historian who writes with flair, brings the political theatre of the 1800 election into full view . . . Persuasive . . . A complex and instructive tale.” —Publishers Weekly   “Ekirch does an admirable job bringing to light this unfamiliar history, using it as a vehicle to describe the early state of American politics in postrevolutionary times . . . Readers will be treated to a concise, unique moment in the nation’s past that would have aftershocks for years to come.” —Keith Klang, Library Journal “Ekirch covers the murderous 1797 mutiny aboard HMS Hermione in all its drunken excess, tracks the worldwide hunt and capture of some of the perpetrators, and then offers a masterful dissection of the political consequences of the Robbins affair . . . The Robbins controversy featured arguments about alien rights, asylum, national identity, and the meaning and scope of American citizenship, all of which persist and all of which Ekirch handles with remarkable dexterity.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)   “A dramatic narrative linking the stories of a fierce, bloody mutiny on a British war vessel in 1797 to a legal battle over extradition that rocked John Adams’ administration, shaped the nation’s developing party system, and contributed to Adams’ defeat in the bitter Presidential struggle of 1800 and to the election of Thomas Jefferson.” —Bernard Bailyn, author of The Barbarous Years   “Roger Ekirch has done it again—another enthralling narrative that grows more important as the reader reflects upon its meaning.” —David Hackett Fischer, author of Washington’s Crossing   “Although Roger Ekirch brings to this fascinating account of mutiny, martyrdom, and politics in the early American Republic the imagination and flair of a seasoned novelist, he is actually a superb historian; and the story he tells about America as the asylum for the oppressed of the world two centuries ago is not only true but timely.” —Gordon S. Wood, author of Empire of Liberty   “One of the most important—and enjoyable—books I have read in many years . . . An extraordinary journey. Ekirch's gripping narrative brings a largely forgotten episode to life, illuminating its immediate impact on party politics in a polarized, revolutionary age and on the new nation's enduring identity as an asylum of liberty. Ekirch's brilliant reconstruction is a triumph of historical research and analysis.” —Peter S. Onuf, Professor of History at the University of Virginia   “Fascinating. Ekirch is a marvelous storyteller. Beautifully written and engrossing, a book that should be of interest, to the historian, and to the general public. An important addition to our understanding of early American history.” —James Roger Sharp, author of American Politics in the Early Republic   “Packed with drama. Ekirch tells this story with rich and powerful prose, demonstrating how this saga of the mutiny on the Hermione helped Americans develop their national identity during the early republic.” —Paul A. Gilje, author of Liberty on the Waterfront