Macaulay in America
According to Brissot, both the English revolution and Macaulay’s History were a significant influence on the American Revolution:
The Americans lit their reason with the torch of those men, who were enlightened in a century when nobody was. It is enough to be convinced of it to read the excellent history of Miss Macaulay, and to compare what this excellent woman says about the sevellers(sic) whose principles she set out so well, to all the public writings of Americans during the troubles.
Macaulay, encouraged by the warm friendship of her correpondents, and the success of her history in America decided to travel to that country, for the purpose of writing about the American Revolution. During that time she was hoping to gather material for her book, but also to find support for the publishing of it. In that, Brissot tells us, she was disappointed:
She was admired everywhere she went, but no one paid a subscription for her History. Deceived in her speculation, and in the support she had excepted, she came back discgusted by the Americans. Her anger was unfounded. At peace, empoverished Americans only thought of rebuilding their farms and cultivating their lands. They only read newspaper, which, despite their cheapness, they could ill afford. Few books, aside from the Bible, were being sold in America, and if you look at the list of subcribers for Gordon’s History of America, you will be surprised to find that three quarters were English.
Macaulay died shortly after her trip. One might be tempted that she would have received more support had she been a man – she could, like Paine, have become the cossetted darling of the Americans. However, Paine went to America before the war, before the Americans became strapped for cash. Brissot experienced something similar to Macaulay – when he travelled to America to find a place to settle with his family, he tried to enlish patrons, people who would help him establish himself there as a writer. He too came back disappointed.
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This is where I live blog about my new book project, an intellectual biography of three French Revolutionary women philosophers.