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Citizen Daniel (1775-1835) and the Call of America

Jenkins, J. Brian

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ISBN 10: 0966701801 / ISBN 13: 9780966701807
Published by Aardvark Editorial Services
Used Condition: Fine Hardcover
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0966701801 Hardcover book in the dust jacket. Excellent condition; no markings. The binding and pages are tight and clean. Bookseller Inventory # 54.T34

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Citizen Daniel (1775-1835) and the Call of ...

Publisher: Aardvark Editorial Services

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Fine

About this title


This extraordinary volume centers primarily on the travels in America of a shopkeeper, Daniel Constable, of Horley, England. His first journey began in 1806, when he left home with his brother William and their dog, Frank, and sailed into New York Harbor after an eventful 60-day crossing. Daniel wanted to see firsthand the country he considered the ultimate fulfillment of a political ideal. William, a talented artist and engineer who later became a photographer of note in Brighton, sketched much of what they saw in the ensuing two years.

These stalwart sightseers shared a friendship with Thomas Paine, walked to Niagara along the Passaic, Hudson, and Genessee rivers--Williams are among the earliest extant pictures of the Falls--and unwittingly participated in the Aaron Burr conspiracy. They traveled (usually on foot, often on rivers, always with Frank) more than 7,000 miles, through 14 of the 17 states in existence--from New England to New Orleans as well as through territories and wilderness. They give remarkably detailed accounts about every aspect of American life--whom they met, where they stayed, what was being sold in market at what price, how people worked, worshiped, and dressed, and countless contemporary events. Correspondence from friends and family, which they saved, kept them apprised of news at home.

"Unlike most European visitors, they went on the cheap and counted every penny. . . . They wrote not for publication but for their own satisfaction [and] their account is unpredictable and unpremeditated. They tell it as it happened, with an artless candor that is happily as free from prejudice as it is from starry-eyed idealism."

They returned home in 1808 and too little is known of them until 1819, when their sister Mildred and her husband, John Purse, emigrated to America, settling first in Indiana. Mildred wrote frequently about the difficulties of frontier life, for which she was totally unprepared, and her correspondence is particularly poignant.

Daniel returned to the States in 1820. Alone, he traveled far and wrote often, carefully describing the exciting progress he saw. He managed to relocate the Purses to Pittsford, New York, eventually settling there himself, and in 1830 made the decision to seek American citizenship. His writings show how he came think and act as he did in the revolutionary ferment of his time and why he admired the United States as "the best country for the millions."

The interest these family members had in the details of life, as well as their underlying caring and affection for one another, is compelling, more so because their communications spanned such great distances and at a time when travel demanded fortitude, patience, and sheer physical effort--not to mention knowledge of things about which most of us now know so little.

Brian Jenkins has masterfully compiled this material, some of which chanced to come his way, much of which took years to accumulate. He deals first with Horley and the Constable family and then specifically with Daniel as a young man making his way in London and Brighton. The appeal of this volume is enhanced by the author's absorbing narrative, which provides the historical context necessary for a full appreciation.

"Extravagant claims should not be made, but it is indeed rare that accounts like these survive time and distance. I have tried to present them as they stand in the hope that they will appeal not only to descendants of the authors, but also to students of the period and, indeed, to any reader with a wish to be put in mind of things as they were nearly two centuries ago. Because the Constables of Horley chose to record what they did they are no longer historically anonymous, nor are the many people whom they encountered during their travels and trials in the early republic." --J. Brian Jenkins

About the Author:

J. Brian Jenkins was born in Cardiff, Wales. His early schooling there was expanded by the British Army and Cambridge University, where he studied history, rowed, and did postgraduate work in education. He became a civil servant before deciding on a teaching career, which eventually took him to Blundell's School as Head of Department and Director of Studies. Now in semi-retirement, he spends his time writing, lecturing, walking the nearby moors and cliff paths, playing the organ at the village church, and maintaining the garden, fabric, and wine cellar of the old Devon rectory, where he lives with his wife, Catherine. They have three sons and one granddaughter and have just celebrated forty years of marriage.

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