My summer research agenda for 2012 was a bit different from the last two years I’ve written about here (2010) and here (2011). I sent off the Jackson manuscript to LSU Press right after the semester ended in May, so there wasn’t anything to do in that regard. (I did start working on a skeleton index to pass the time and ease the manuscript’s absence. *sniff*)
My research tasks this summer both centered on slavery. First, I worked on an article on the 1828 presidential election, tentatively entitled “Slavery, Kinship, and Andrew Jackson’s Presidential Campaign of 1828.” The title is self-explanatory, and you can read a much shorter version of the article here. My research entailed spending a lot of time looking at newspapers from 1827 and 1828.
My second project was starting on a paper that I’m presenting at the BrANCH conference in October. The paper is entitled, “The Evolution of the Enslaved Community at Andrew Jackson’s Plantations, 1790s-1840s.” Here’s the proposal I wrote:
Historians have been remiss in examining the enslaved people who labored for Andrew Jackson. Most of the scholarship on the enslaved community has focused on The Hermitage and has been undertaken by archaeologists, who have provided important but untapped context for understanding their experiences.
This paper will examine the evolution of Jackson’s enslaved community, emphasizing the change that its members experienced as Jackson went from a land-speculating man-on-the-make to a traditional southern planter. Early in Jackson’s Tennessee residency, the people whom he enslaved were subject to severe violence. Later, Jackson displayed a more paternalistic manner, which speaks to his awareness of his public image and need to preserve stability among the enslaved population as he faced significant financial debt.
This paper will clarify the historiographical debate between Robert Remini and Matthew Warshauer over why and when Jackson altered his treatment of his slaves. It will also explain how the defiant actions of one of Jackson’s slaves were instrumental in bringing about this change, speaking to John Blassingame’s argument that slaves were transformative agents and not simply victims of the peculiar institution.
With this presentation, I’ll be setting forth my preliminary thoughts about a bigger project I want to undertake: a study of Jackson’s slave communities from an historical perspective. Most of my time on this project was spent updating and expanding a database I have compiled on Jackson’s slaves.
I also wrote two book proposals, which are still in the discussion stage with publishers. These didn’t require archival research, but I spent time refreshing my memory on Jacksonian political history and historiography.