Donald R. Kennon
Donald R. Kennon retired as chief historian and vice president of the United States Capitol Historical Society in 2015. He is coeditor of the Ohio University Press series Perspectives on the History of Congress, 1789–1801 and editor of the series Perspectives on the Art and Architectural History of the United States Capitol.
“When Lincoln took office, in March 1861, the national government had no power to touch slavery in the states where it existed. Lincoln understood this, and said as much in his first inaugural address, noting: ‘I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists.’”
During the long decade from 1848 to 1861 America was like a train speeding down the track, without an engineer or brakes. The new territories acquired from Mexico had vastly increased the size of the nation, but debate over their status—and more importantly the status of slavery within them—paralyzed the nation. Southerners gained access to the territories and a draconian fugitive slave law in the Compromise of 1850, but this only exacerbated sectional tensions.
Few images of early America were more striking, and jarring, than that of slaves in the capital city of the world’s most important free republic. Black slaves served and sustained the legislators, bureaucrats, jurists, cabinet officials, military leaders, and even the presidents who lived and worked there.
In 1815 the United States was a proud and confident nation. Its second war with England had come to a successful conclusion, and Americans seemed united as never before. The collapse of the Federalist party left the Jeffersonian Republicans in control of virtually all important governmental offices. This period of harmony—what historians once called the Era of Good Feeling—was not illusory, but it was far from stable.
Establishing Congress: The Removal to Washington, D.C., and the Election of 1800 focuses on the end of the 1790s, when, in rapid succession, George Washington died, the federal government moved to Washington, D.C., and the election of 1800 put Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republican Party in charge of the federal government.
Like the ancient Roman Pantheon, the U.S. Capitol was designed by its political and aesthetic arbiters to memorialize the virtues, events, and persons most representative of the nation's ideals—an attempt to raise a particular version of the nation's founding to the level of myth. American Pantheon examines the influences upon not only those virtues and persons selected for inclusion in the American pantheon, but also those excluded.
Amid the turbulent swirl of foreign intrigue, external and internal threats to the young nation’s existence, and the domestic partisan wrangling of the 1790s, the United States Congress solidified its role as the national legislature. The ten essays in The House and Senate in the 1790s demonstrate the mechanisms by which this bicameral legislature developed its institutional identity.
At the age of thirty-six, in 1852, Lt. Montgomery Cunningham Meigs of the Army Corps of Engineers reported to Washington, D.C., for duty as a special assistant to the chief army engineer, Gen. Joseph G. Totten. It was a fateful assignment, both for the nation’s capital and for the bright, ambitious, and politically connected West Point graduate. Meigs's forty-year tenure in the nation's capital was by any account spectacularly successful.
Scholars today take for granted the existence of a “wall of separation” dividing the three branches of the federal government. Neither Separate nor Equal: Congress in the 1790s demonstrates that such lines of separation among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, however, were neither so clearly delineated nor observed in the first decade of the federal government's history.
The United States Capitol is a national cultural icon, and among the most visually recognized seats of government in the world. The past quarter century has witnessed an explosion of scholarly interest in the art and architectural history of the Capitol. The emergence of the historic preservation movement and the maturation of the discipline of art conservation have refocused attention on the Capitol as the American “temple of liberty.”
On March 4, 1789, New York City's church bells pealed, cannons fired, and flags snapped in the wind to celebrate the date set for the opening of the First Federal Congress. In many ways the establishment of Congress marked the culmination of the American Revolution as the ship of state was launched from the foundation of the legislative system outlined in Article I of the Constitution.
An Uncertain Age
The Politics of Manhood in Kenya
In twentieth-century Kenya, age and gender were powerful cultural and political forces that animated household and generational relationships. They also shaped East Africans’ contact with and influence on emergent colonial and global ideas about age and masculinity.
Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees
Gardening Alternatives to Nonnative Species
In this companion volume to the bestselling The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants, Charlotte Adelman and Bernard L. Schwartz offer another indispensible guide to replacing nonnative plants with native alternatives.
Fire Is Your Water
Sacred chants are Ada Franklin’s power and her medicine. By saying them, she can remove warts, stanch bleeding, and draw the fire from burns. At age twenty, her reputation as a faith healer defines her in her rural Pennsylvania community. But on the day in 1953 that her family’s barn is consumed by flame, her identity as a healer is upended.
A Head in Cambodia
A Jenna Murphy Mystery
When the alluring, eleventh-century Cambodian stone head of Radha, consort to Krishna, shows up at the Searles Museum, young curator Jenna Murphy doesn’t suspect that it will lead her to a murder.
Hello, This Is Your Body Talking
A Draw-It-Yourself Coloring Book
With Drawing Your Stress Away and Hello, This Is Your Body Talking, art therapist and educator Dr. Lucia Capacchione presents a new concept in adult coloring: the draw-it-yourself coloring book.