Republicanism and Technology

by jennifer.gargan on October 4, 2013

This week we read parts of Civilizing the Machine by John Kasson along with an article about the impact of the printing press, specifically on Europe, immediately after its invention.  One of the topics that we discussed at length was the idea of republicanism and how technology and republicanism overlapped in early U.S. history.  One of the points that I found most interesting was that the U.S., during its early years, was desperately trying to be unlike Europe, which was filled with luxury.  The republican ideals counteracted luxury and citizens were supposed to be humble, simple, and frugal.  Many believed that the factory and technology could help reinforce these ideals.  Yet ironically, the technology that they began to use to further these ideas ended up making America enormously wealthy.  With wealth inevitably comes luxury.  I found it ironic that what early Americans feared and hated most ended up coming to America because of its industrial success, the very vehicle they thought would further their own republican ideals.

Over at the AAS we examined various sources regarding state boundaries.  We looked at a few different maps of Virginia and its surrounding states.  The first map, we examined was primarily charted by Peter Jefferson, the father of Thomas Jefferson.  We learned that he spent much of his time navigating through the mountainous areas of Virginia.  We also read sources from Thomas Jefferson, including his Notes of the State of Virginia.  Through these sources, we learned the immense difficulty early Americans had while trying to survey land and create state boundaries.  This was not something I had learned much about before and it was really interesting to learn about something we all seem to take for granted when we look at maps or cross state borders today.


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