Cooper, Aristocracy, and Capitalism

Allan M. Axelrad (California State University at Fullerton)

Presented at the Cooper Panel of the 1996 Conference of the American Literature Association in San Diego.

Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper Society Miscellaneous Papers No. 7, August 1996.

Copyright © 1996, James Fenimore Cooper Society.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

At the height of antirent strife in eastern New York in the 1840s, tenants disguised as Indians violently resisted rent collection. Their costumes evoked the Boston Tea Party, republican patriotism, and defiance of aristocracy. These Indians along with many of their contemporaries and subsequent historians saw their rebellion against landlords and leases as a repudiation of the last stronghold of aristocratic entitlement in the northern states.

James Fenimore Cooper’s 1846 novel, The Redskins, is about antirenters disguised as Indians, republicanism, and aristocratic ideas in America. The Dictionary of American Regional English took a sentence from the novel for its first example of the Americanism aristocratic. The sentence begins by establishing that a landlord’s home called “Ravensnest” was thought “aristocratic” meaning “Stylish, culturally superior” a standard usage then and now. The sentence continues, however, by calling attention to the “expansive signification” of the “word ‘aristocratic’” with “its meaning depending on the particular habits and opinions of the person who happens to use it.” ¹ The full sentence actually muddies the meaning and also appears to contain a complaint. If the “meaning” depends on the user, there is license for abuse.

In point of fact, Cooper complained repeatedly about the “expansive signification” of the words aristocratic, aristocrat, and aristocracy, and repeatedly aired his opinions about their proper signification. Cooper’s contemporaries were deaf to what he had to say. Most scholars have been deaf as well. Yet almost every body Cooper, other New Yorkers, later scholars thought the anti rent wars had to do with aristocracy. Most placed aristocrats on the landlords’ side. But Cooper placed them on the tenants’ side. Despite vast differences, all agreed that to be aristocratic was elitist and undemocratic, and even, some felt, unAmerican.

This is not surprising since the American Revolution had been fought against an aristocratic regime. Before the Revolution (though mostly from a transatlantic distance), aristocracy had to do with class prerogatives ranging from the establishment of taste to economic and political power that became problematic afterward. But changes in status, the arbitration of taste, and political and economic power also took place within a context of a burgeoning commercialism that rapidly transformed the new republic into a vast capitalist civilization. New forms of power and prestige brought new challenges to republicanism and renewed charges of aristocracy, as Cooper and his contemporaries continued to use the term aristocracy to denounce unrepublican behavior. The confusion over signification resulted from contexts that ranged from the old European caste system to nineteenth-century capitalism.

When the Coopers returned from abroad in 1833, in Lewis Leary’s words, “they must have seemed aloof and aristocratic, their attitude insinuating criticism of American ways. Everything about them was strange, their clothes, the furniture they imported, their foreign servants, and the manners of the children ‘Even the cat was French.’” ² Though a bit of a caricature, this is a common construction of what they seemed like on their return: they had “aristocratic” airs. This image was fixed in the popular mind in thinly disguised fiction in Home As Found in 1838. Cooper might have been a literary hero, but he also was a Democrat; in the highly charged political atmosphere of the day, even the author of The Last of the Mohicans was considered fair game for Whig sharpshooters. Cooper’s “aristocratic airs” are “monstrous,” The New-Yorker reported in 1839, adding that they “would be ludicrous” if not so “peevish and malignant.” ³ Libel suits abounded. In the spirit of this acrimony, the epithet aristocrat was hurled back and forth.

Cooper’s adversarial relationship with the press and public was partly the outcome of partisan politics. Adopting their opponents’ strategy, the Whigs now sought to discredit Democrats by making them appear aristocratic. But much that he wrote on returning from Europe fed into their political strategy. Many Americans, proud of their egalitarian society, were offended by Cooper’s patrician pronouncements. “The class” at the top of the social hierarchy, he explained, “is the natural repository of the manners” and “tastes” and “principles of a country.” As a member of that class, he undertook his obligation to elevate less-well-bred Americans. The enrichment he offered was not received with gratitude. His unappreciative contemporaries instead thought him aristocratic.

Modern scholars have generally agreed, though a few found that although he was an aristocrat and/or favored aristocracy at times he also seemed opposed to both, and a few others found his opposition unequivocal. In their usage, all are correct. Thus the problem of “expansive signification” would appear to have followed Cooper from his time to ours. Whatever else the terms might mean for others, Cooper was quite clear about what they meant to him.

Meanings and manners were a bit confused in America, Cooper realized. “In this part of the world,” he thus complained, “it is thought aristocratic not to frequent taverns, and lounge at corners, squirting tobacco juice.” One Cooper character reports that it was thought “aristocratic” for one “to pretend not to blow one’s nose with his fingers.” “Wa-a-l,” another character confesses, “I hear a great deal about aristocrats, and I read a great deal about aristocrats, in this country, and I know that most folks look upon them as hateful, but I’m by no means sartain I know what an aristocrat is” (R, 164, 146).

In his 1843 novel, Autobiography Of a Pocket-Handkerchief, Cooper poked fun at the misuse of the word, for it is the story of “an exceedingly aristocratic pocket-handkerchief” whose “mesmeritic powers” that is “handkerchiefly speaking” enable observation even when stuffed in a drawer. ¹⁰ The pocket-handkerchief states the problem: being thought “aristocratic” in the United States “ranks as an eighth deadly sin, though no one seems to know precisely what it means.” To be so “stigmatized” is to be “tainted” with a “crime” that no “governor would dare to pardon” (PH, 49). Though “nothing is considered so disreputable in America as to be ‘aristocratic,’ a word of very extensive signification, as it embraces the tastes, the opinions, the habits, the virtues, and sometimes the religion of the offending party,” the handkerchief notes, “on the other hand, nothing is so certain to attract attention as nobility” (PH, 200). Americans were repelled by and drawn to aristocracy. Such is the case of “nouveaux riches“ like Eudosia Halfacre, who wishes to “pass for aristocratic” and thus pays one-hundred dollars to buy “the highest-priced handkerchief, by twenty dollars, that ever crossed the Atlantic” (PH, 51, 128, 120). By contrast, Anne and Maria, “the daughters of a gentleman of very large estate” who “belonged to the true élite of the country,” turned down the opportunity to buy it: “They don’t believe that a night-cap is intended for a bed-quilt” (PH, 117, 120).

The old elite had taste, Cooper maintained, but they were not aristocrats. They were rural gentry. The distinction between a landed and a business elite was crucial to Cooper. In his formulation, commercial wealth combined with political power not title or family name was the key to aristocracy. ¹¹ Cooper was quick to take issue with “perversions of significations” of “American language” (AD, 110), ¹² like conflating gentry and aristocracy. “To call a man who has the habits and opinions of a gentleman, aristocrat,” he declared, “is an abuse of terms” (AD, 88). Gentry are not aristocrats, he endlessly explained. They lack political power. “Aristocracy means exclusive political privileges in the hands of a few,” he insisted, “and it means nothing else.” ¹³ Since aristocrats “wield political power” (R, 472), the form and character of the government was quite critical.

In The Politics Aristotle named three “correct” forms of government: “aristocracy,” “kingship,” and “polity.” Moreover, each had a degenerative form: “oligarchy from aristocracy,” “tyranny from kingship,” and “democracy from polity.” ¹⁴ Cooper also named three forms of government: “aristocracy, monarchy, or democracy” (PH, 202). But where Aristotle claimed three “correct” and three degenerative forms, Cooper claimed only two “correct” forms: monarchy and republic. “It is to be regretted the world does not discriminate more justly in its use of political terms,” he averred: “Governments are usually called either monarchies or republics.” ¹⁵ Most importantly, they share the same degenerative form: aristocracy. “Republicks” are either “democratical” or “aristocratical,” he wrote (AD, 11). Aristocracy is the degenerative form of monarchy as well. Thus after the Glorious Revolution England began to change “its form of government, from that of a monarchy to that of an exceedingly repressive aristocracy.” ¹⁶ Attempts by the aristocracy to oppress the colonies produced the American Revolution. ¹⁷ Likewise, the French Revolution resulted from aristocrats conspiring to overthrow the monarchy. ¹⁸ All over Europe, he thought, aristocrats were conspiring to overthrow monarchies; soon aristocracy would become the only form of government ¹⁹ .

Cooper worried about the United States. “Aristocracies are often er republicks than any thing else,” he lamented, “and they have been among the most oppressive governments the world has ever known” (AD, 19-20). In Europe commercial aristocracy gained power by subverting executive prerogative, thus he was anxious about attacks on executive rights at home from the combination of commercial interests and Congress. “As a class, and as politicians,” he declared, American businessmen “are aristocrats.” ²⁰ He was also anxious about urbanization, since aristocracy was more likely to develop in “metropolitan” than in agricultural regions (AD, 54).

In 1831 in The Bravo Cooper examined an urban commercial aristocracy. Though set in eighteenth-century Venice, Cooper claimed “the Bravo” is “in spirit, the most American book I ever wrote.” ²¹ The “moral” of the tale, he explained, is that throughout history republics have been transformed into aristocracies (LC, 14). It happened to the Republic of Venice. It could happen here as well. “I had an abundant occasion to observe that the great political contest of the age was not” between “monarchy and democracy” as most think, he explained. Monarchy, “except as it is fraudulently maintained as a cover” by “aristocrats,” is “virtually extinct in christendom” (LC, 11- 12). Thus the real political contest of the nineteenth century was between aristocracy and democracy. The Bravo warned Americans of the threat of aristocracy from the dangerous combination of business interests and the legislature. ²² In The Bravo the Doge, “a tool of the aristocracy,” is chief of state in name only; like the King of England, his power was long ago usurped by a “luxurious and affluent aristocracy” (B, 367, 104). Commercial interests have transformed the Republic of Venice into an absolute aristocracy in which the people have lost their freedom.

In the era of the American Revolution, Venice was a symbol of what could happen to a free people who were not vigilant about their rights. At the heart of the republican ideology of the Founding Fathers was an intense awareness of both the preciousness and fragility of the liberty for which they fought. Cooper drew upon that ideology and the symbol of Venice to express his fear of an American business aristocracy, the effacement of the Constitution, and ensuing loss of liberty.

The Bravo presented his worst-case scenario. Yet Cooper granted that a mixed government monarchy and aristocracy or democracy and aristocracy might be tolerable if the aristocracy was mild. “States” like “Virginia” might “be termed representative democracies” from the perspective of “their white population”; nonetheless, he concluded, they are, “even now, mild aristocracies” when “their whole population” is “considered” (LC, 61). The problem, of course, was slavery. Cooper recognized an affinity between aristocracy and slavery. “So long as slavery exists in the country,” he lamented, “some portion of this aristocratic infusion will probably remain” (AD, 20-21). In his view, an “aristocracy” built upon slavery was “more” compatible with “republicanism than democracy.” Full citizenship was restricted in a republic; in a democracy it was open to all men. For that reason, slavery belonged to America’s republican past, not its democratic future. “It is opposed to the spirit of the age,” he thus concluded. ²³

In the main, however, his fears of aristocracy were generated by business activity in the North, particularly when it benefitted from legislative patronage and was controlled by corporations. From the 1780s onward Americans had heatedly debated the growing presence of corporations in their land. For many, corporations were anti- republican and aristocratic because they received special privilege and corrupted the political system. ²⁴ Their proliferation reinforced and graphically illustrated Cooper’s fear of an aristocratic subversion of American democracy, since acts of incorporation required the active complicity of legislators and businessmen. The Bravo equated “aristocracy” with “corporations,” and looked into Europe’s past to caution against a future America ruled by “a soulless corporation” (B, 146, 148). ²⁵ Sensing urgency, Cooper repeatedly warned his country men of the threat of business aristocracy. Had he belonged to a later generation he would have called this peril capitalism.

At first glance, Autobiography Of a Pocket-Handkerchief appears to make light-hearted fun of aristocrats and aristocratic pretensions. On closer inspection the work seems more somber, for it is a tale about capitalist exploitation. ²⁶ Eudosia Halfacre, the nouveaux riches American who paid one-hundred dollars for the handkerchief, calls upon trickle-down economics to rationalize such extravagance. “The luxuries of the rich,” she thinks, “give employment to the poor, and cause money to circulate.” She innocently assumes that workers receive a fair return on their labor: “Now, this handkerchief of mine, no doubt, has given employment to some poor French girl for four or five months, and, of course, food and raiment.” She confidently asserts that the seamstress “earned ... fifty of the hundred dollars” she “paid” (PH, 142). The pocket-handkerchief knows better. “Alas, poor Adrienne!” it says, thinking of the unfortunate “French girl” who labored for months on the embroidery. “Thou did’st not receive for me as many francs as this fair calculator gave thee dollars.” Here Cooper inserted a table itemizing expenses and profits associated with the production and sale of the pocket-handkerchief, thereby supporting the handkerchief’s understated conclusion that Adrienne would have been “richer” and “much happier” had she “spared” herself “so many, many hours of painful and anxious toil!” (PH, 143)

Adrienne had been born into a good family that fell onto hard times due to the subversion of the French monarchy by aristocrats. The family chateau was turned into a factory. Nearly destitute and the sole support of her aged grandmother, by day she worked for a milliner who paid her poorly, keeping her “in ignorance of her own value.” By night she embroidered the pocket-handkerchief. In both cases the products are sold at a considerable profit, but she does not receive a fair return on her labor. In assessing the cost of aristocratic “frivolities,” the pocket- handkerchief explains: “their luxuries, have two sets of victims to plunder the consumer, and the real producer, or the operative” (PH, 73).

Though “misery” and “oppression” are the worker’s usual lot (PH, 73), this tale ends otherwise. Adrienne crosses the Atlantic to be a governess, falls in love with a New York gentleman of large estate (who turns out to be a distant cousin), reunites with the pocket- handkerchief, and presumably lives happily ever after. We learn that breeding, not money, is the key to true upper-class membership. The fairy tale ending does not mask the ascendant economic forces that drive the narrative: inadequate wages, dehumanized labor, charging a market price rather than fair price, reckless speculation, and a generally unfeeling and irresponsible system that objectifies people and desensitizes businessmen to the human consequences of their activities. Moreover, we recognize that Adrienne was quite lucky to have escaped the “slavish“ labor that had seemed to be her fate. In recalling her “days of want and sorrow” when she was a “trodden on and abused hireling,” Adrienne says, “I toiled for bread like an Eastern slave“ (PH, 73, 227, my italics). Her lament links business and aristocracy (what we call capitalism) and slavery.

Fear of slavery was a marked concern in antebellum republican thought. This fear had multiple sources. Most obvious was slavery in the South, providing a constant reminder to all Americans what loss of freedom meant. But as Adrienne’s lament demonstrates, Cooper was well aware of the condition popularly known as wage slavery in the North. Wage slavery occurred in factories, or, potentially, wherever there was hired labor. Banks, corporations, monopolies were other forms of economic enterprise that were often thought to be harbingers of slavery at this time. ²⁷ Southern plantations, northern industry, banks, corporations, and monopolies were all included under the rubric aristocracy in Cooper’s lexicon, and all were linked to slavery.

Fear of slavery was central to the republican ideology of the lead ers of the American Revolution. ²⁸ Cooper was a conservative republican, ²⁹ ideologically closer to that generation than his own, who clung to an idealized vision of old New York, led by rural gentry motivated by noblesse oblige. He worried that this old order was being replaced by an urban, business aristocracy. As imaginative constructs, these worlds were polar opposites. The pastoral world of the gentry could be characterized by a warm paternalism, republican virtue, human dignity, and liberty. The urban world of the aristocracy could be characterized by corporate impersonality, business (or capitalist) greed, human degradation, and slavery.

No wonder Cooper railed against what he considered improper employment of the “term aristocracy” whose “vulgar use” had “perverted its signification” to include “gentry of democracies” (AD, 54) like himself. In postcolonial America, aristocrat was a term of opprobrium used to vilify political or economic enemies. Like most of his fellow countrymen, Cooper detested aristocrats, agreed that aristocratic behavior was unrepublican, and was vehemently opposed to aristocracy. Cooper’s aristocrats were businessmen (we would call them capitalists). One character, adopting a German accent for disguise, further explained: “dem as vat you calls dimigogues be der American arisdograts. Dey gets all der money of der pooblic, und haf all der power” (R, 154). Using oratory and the press to manipulate public opinion, they sought economic privileges for themselves. If their legislative power was unchecked, the republic would degenerate into an aristocracy.

Fear of aristocracy caused Cooper to worry about increasing commercialism and particularly the spread of monopolistic corporations. From his early writings onward he warned about “congress” granting “monopoly” causing exploitation and ultimately “tyranny.” ³⁰ The problem was capitalism, or, more accurately, corporate capitalism. “Aristocracies” he repeatedly pointed out exhibited “the irresponsible nature of corporations”; without “personal feelings” or “human impulses,” they had an insatiable appetite for economic power (AD, 59). Under aristocracy the people could be callously exploited, deprived of basic rights, and even reduced to slavery. That was the consummate signification of aristocracy for Cooper.

If the antirent wars and Cooper’s novel, The Redskins, were both about aristocracy, they were also both about capitalism. As many commentators have noted, New York’s great manorial estates obstructed economic development in agriculture, commercial enterprise, and industry. In the interests of development, corporations had applied the power of eminent domain to build turnpikes, canals, and railroads, thus providing a serviceable model for tenants seeking their right to unrestricted enterprise. In this manner, small entrepreneurs and corporations found common cause under the banner of capitalism against great estates and old wealth. But the landlords had also practiced capitalism, seeking profit from private property based on inherited privileges. With the landlords’ defeat in the antirent wars, one form of capitalism gave way to another, rearranging the social structure as well as economic and political power. ³¹ All parties in the conflict supported capitalism. In the expansive signification of American English, all supported aristocracy as well.


1. Dictionary of American Regional English, ed. Frederic C. Cassidy. 2 vols. (Cambrige: Harvard University Press, 1985), I, 85 for the source of the quote, see James Fenimore Cooper, The Redskins (1846; New York: G.P. Putnam’s, n.d.), 164. Subsequent references will be abbreviated R and cited parenthetically.

2. Lewis Leary, Soundings: Some Early American Writers (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1975), 277.

3. The New-Yorker, VI (Sat. Feb. 2, 1839), 323. The classic study of Cooper branded an aristocrat by the Whig press is The Whig Myth of James Fenimore Cooper (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1938), by Dorothy Waples.

4. Especially A Letter to His Countrymen (1834), The Monikins (1835), five European travel books (1836-38), The American Democrat (1838), and the Effingham novels, Homeward Bound and Home As Found (1838). The Effingham controversy continued into 1842, with Cooper responding to ongoing ridicule in the press with a series of letters in Brother Jonathan plus a “Lost Chapter” of Home As Found.

5. James Fenimore Cooper, The American Democrat (1838; New York: Minerva Press, 1969), 145, 143, 84. Subsequent references will be abbreviated AD and cited parenthetically.

6. For a sample over time, see Thomas R. Lounsbury, James Fenimore Cooper (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1882), 82; Vernon Louis Parrington, Main Currents of American Thought, Volume Two, 1800-1860, The Romantic Revolution in American (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1927), 215,223; Robert E. Spiller, Fenimore Cooper: Critic Of His Times (New York: Minton, Balch, 1931), ix, 212, 301, 311; Van Wyck Brooks, The World of Washington Irving (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1944), 263; Richard Chase, The American Novel And Its Tradition (Garden City: Doubleday, 1957), 54; Leslie Fiedler, Love and Death in the American Novel (New York: Criterion, 1960), 177; Nina Baym, “The Women of Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales,” American Quarterly, 23 (Dec. 1971), 700; Eric I Sundquist, Home As Found: Authority and Genealogy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), 3, 19; Richard Slotkin, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890 (New York: Athenaeum, 1985), 105; Richard L. Bushman, The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (New York: Random House, 1992), 417; Alan Taylor, William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995), 291.

7. A.N. Kaul, The American Vision: Actual and Ideal Society in Nineteenth-Century Fiction (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), 95, 100; John P. McWilliams, Jr., Political Justice in a Republic: James Fenimore Cooper’s America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 148, 228-29, 299; Daniel Marder, Exiles At Home: A Story of Literature in Nineteenth Century American (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984), 26, 28, 59.

8. Kay Seymour House, Cooper’s Americans (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1965), 9; Robert S. Levine, Conspiracy and Romance: Studies in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989,61; Donald A. Ringe, James Fenimore Cooper: Updated Edition (Boston: Twayne, 1988), 121-22.

9. Quoted in Taylor, William Cooper’s Town, 426.

10. James Fenimore Cooper, Autobiography Of a Pocket-Handkerchief (1843; Evanston: Golden Press, 1897), 201, 182. Subsequent references will be abbreviated PM and cited parenthetically. After appearing in Graham’s Magazine, the first separate edition of the novel was titled Le Mouchoir: An Autobiographical Romance (also 1843). Scholars use either title.

11. James Fenimore Cooper, Notions of the Americans: Picked up by a Travelling Bachelor, ed., Gary Williams (1828: Albany State University of New York Press, 1991), 530-32. Subsequent references will be abbreviated NA and cited parenthetically.

12. For discussion of Cooper’s abiding interest in American English, see Thomas Gustafson, Representative Words: Politics, Literature, and the American Language, 1776-1865 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 334-39; Michael P. Kramer, Imagining Language in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 18, 23, 28, 29; David Simpson, The Politics of American English, 1776-1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 149-229).

13. James Fenimore Cooper, The Ways of the Hour (1850; G.P. Putnam’s, n.d.), 117.

14. Aristotle, The Politics, trans. Carnes Lord (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 119-20.

15. James Fenimore Cooper, The Bravo, introd. Donald A. Ringe (1831; New Haven: College & University Press, 1963), 17. Subsequent references will be abbreviated B and cited parenthetically.

16. James Fenimore Cooper, A Letter To His Countrymen (New York: John Wiley, 1834), 65, 88. Subsequent references will be abbreviated LC and cited parenthetically.

17. James Fenimore Cooper, Homeward Bound; or, The Chase (1838; New York: G.P. Putnam’s, n.d.), 421.

18. James Fenimore Cooper, Gleanings in Europe: Switzerland, ed. Robert E. Spiller and James F. Beard (1836; State University of New York Press, 1980), 108.

19. James Fenimore Cooper to Benjamin Silliman, 10 June 1831. The Letters and Journals of James Fenimore Cooper, ed. James Franklin Beard. 6 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960-68), II, 95.

20. James Fenimore Cooper to Richard Bentley, 6 April 1835, Letters and Journals, III, 143.

21. James Fenimore Cooper to Rufus Wilmot Griswold, 27 May-June? 1844, Letters and Journals, IV, 461. Emphasis in the original.

22. For discussions of The Bravo, see Allan M. Axelrad, History and Utopia: A Study of the World View of James Fenimore Cooper (Norwood, PA: Norwood Editions, 1978), 179-90; John P. Diggins, The Lost Soul of American Politics: Virtue, Self-Interest, and the Foundations of Liberalism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), 180-91; Levine, Conspiracy and Romance, 71-103; Ringe, Intro. to The Bravo, 5-16.

23. James Fenimore Cooper, “New York,” in Spirit of the Fair (Thurs., April 7, 1864), 30.

24. Pauline Maier, “The Revolutionary Origins of the American Corporation,” William and Mary Quarterly, 50 (Jan. 1993), 52, 62, 66, 72; Rush Welter, The Mind of America, 1820-1860 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), 77-80, 89, 168-69.

25. On the Venetian corporation in The Bravo, see Levine, Conspiracy and Romance, 75-96.

26. Autobiography of a Pocket-Handkerchief has received less attention than any other Cooper novel. It is not included in any edition of his works. It is not mentioned in comprehensive studies such as Political Justice in a Republic: James Fenimore Cooper’s America by McWilliams, or Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times by Spiller, or James Fenimore Cooper: An Introduction and Interpretation by Warren S. Walker (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962). Ringe consigned it to a footnote in James Fenimore Cooper: Updated Edition, 137. Robert Emmet Long treated it in a brief phrase in James Fenimore Cooper (New York: Continuum, 1990), 26. For two exceptions see James Grossman, James Fenimore Cooper: A Biographic and Critical Study (1949; Stanford University Press, 1967), 170-75; and Marvin Meyers, The Jacksonian Persuasion: Politics and Belief (1957; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960), 82-84.

27. David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso, 1991), 66-67.

28. In the words of Bernard Bailyn: “’Slavery’ was a central concept in eighteenth=century political discourse. As the absolute political evil, it appears in every statement of political principle, in every discussion of constitutionalism or legal rights, in every exhortation to resistance” (The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967], 232).

29. For discussions of Cooper’s conservative republican ideology, see Axelrad, History and Utopia; Diggins, The Lost Soul of American Politics, 180-91; Levine, Conspiracy and Romance, 58-103; McWilliams, Political Justice in a Republic; Meyers, The Jacksonian Persuasion, 57-100.

30. James Fenimore Cooper, “(Commercial Restrictions). An Examination of the New Tariff, by One of the People” (1821), in Early Critical Essays 1820-1822, ed. James F. Beard, Jr. (Delmar, NY: Scholars Facsimiles & Reprints, 1955), 37, 38, 40. My italics. On this linkage of economic monopoly, political power, and exploitation, also see James Fenimore Cooper, Gleanings in Europe: England, ed. Donald A. Ringe, Kenneth W. Staggs, James P. Elliot, and R.D. Madison (1837; Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982), 146, 149; Cooper, American Democrat, 60.

31. Martin Breugel, “Unrest: Manorial Society and the Market in the Hudson Valley, 1780-1850,” The Journal of American History, 82 (March 1996), 1393-1424; Henry Christman, Tin Horns and Calico: A Decisive Episode in the Emergence of Democracy (New York: Henry Holt, 1945), 39, 318; Dixon Ryan Fox, The Decline of Aristocracy in the Politics of New York, 1801-1840 (1919; New York, Harper & Row, 1965), 438; Kermit L. Hall, The Magic Mirror: Law in American History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 100; Morton J. Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977), 31, 63-66, 259-61.