Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226924007 Published March 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226924014 Published March 2013

The Republic Afloat

Law, Honor, and Citizenship in Maritime America

Matthew Taylor Raffety

Matthew Taylor Raffety

288 pages | 10 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2013
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226924007 Published March 2013
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226924014 Published March 2013
In the years before the Civil War, many Americans saw the sea as a world apart, an often violent and insular culture governed by its own definitions of honor and ruled by its own authorities. The truth, however, is that legal cases that originated at sea had a tendency to come ashore and force the national government to address questions about personal honor, dignity, the rights of labor, and the meaning and privileges of citizenship, often for the first time. By examining how and why merchant seamen and their officers came into contact with the law, Matthew Taylor Raffety exposes the complex relationship between brutal crimes committed at sea and the development of a legal consciousness within both the judiciary and among seafarers in this period.


The Republic Afloat tracks how seamen conceived of themselves as individuals and how they defined their place within the United States. Of interest to historians of labor, law, maritime culture, and national identity in the early republic, Raffety’s work reveals much about the ways that merchant seamen sought to articulate the ideals of freedom and citizenship before the courts of the land—and how they helped to shape the laws of the young republic.

Law Library Journal
"Raffety has written an authoritative study that makes a noteworthy contribution to a previously understudied field. Extensive and detailed endnotes shed light on the diverse body of manuscripts and other primary source material consulted, illustrating the groundbreaking nature of his research."
Northern Mariner
“The argument here is an important one. Raffety makes a compelling case for the emergence of a truly national identity developing among maritime labourers in the years prior to the Civil War. . . . This work provides a significant contribution to a growing body of literature on the role of seamen in the early republic. Countless sailors were quick to seize on the idea of citizenship and look to the government to advance their interests, and their story forms a crucial part of labour history in the early republic.”
John Arthos, author of Speaking Hermeneutically: Understanding in the Conduct of a Life
“In this insightful revisionist history Matthew Taylor Raffety explores how American sailors’ legal standing changed in significant but subtle ways between 1789 and 1861. Sailors spent more time in court than most Americans, but no other historian has revealed how activist judges pushed for protective labor legislation during the antebellum era, or how changing conceptions of mastery, service, citizenship and masculinity affected American admiralty law. Raffety presents Jack Tar in a new light, one not to be ignored.”
Danny Vickers, author of Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail
The Republic Afloat is the first work to investigate in any depth the relationship between American mariners and the law. A subtle and rewarding book.”
W. Jeffrey Bolster, author of Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail and The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail
“In this insightful revisionist history Matthew Taylor Raffety explores how American sailors’ legal standing changed in significant but subtle ways between 1789 and 1861. Sailors spent more time in court than most Americans, but no other historian has revealed how activist judges pushed for protective labor legislation during the antebellum era, or how changing conceptions of mastery, service, citizenship and masculinity affected American admiralty law. Raffety presents Jack Tar in a new light, one not to be ignored.”
Marcus Rediker, author of The Amistad Rebellion: An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom
"Matthew Raffety carries a bright lantern from the dark hold of a deep-sea sailing ship to the federal court room and back again, casting fresh light on several of the biggest issues of American history."
Contents
Introduction: The Lorena, 1849

Part I Law

1 Learning the Ropes: The Legal Structure of Labor at Sea
2 The Education of Samuel Betts: Developing a National Maritime Law
3 Discipline but Not Punish: The Law and Labor Control at Sea
4 “All Is Violence”: Mutiny and Revolt as Labor Negotiation

Part II Honor

5 Forecastle Law: Personal Honor and the Defense of Custom at Sea
6 “Good Officers Make Good Men”: The Changing Meanings of Honor on the Quarterdeck

Part III Citizen

7 Our Man in Liverpool: The Consular Service and American Citizenship
8 “Equality Seemed to Be the Order of the Day”: Seaman, Citizenship, and National Identity
9 “We Are Eminently a Maritime People”: Seafarers and the American Character

Conclusion: Jack Tar, American
Notes
Index
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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