History of the U.S. Under the Constitution – 1789-1809

Free online books about the history of the U.S. under the Constitution until 1809. Includes the Federalist System of Government, Expansion of Slavery in the US, Barbary Pirates and Jefferson, Lewis and Clark Exploration, Trial of Aaron Burr, Washington and his Slaves, Early American Republic, John Adams Administration, and the Whiskey Rebellion.

Hint: When a book you want to borrow at Internet Archive is already checked out, go to the Internet Archive’s ‘Search’ box, check “Search Metadata”, and search for the book’s title. Sometimes they have two or more copies.

Century Past Library


U.S. History – 1789-1809

U.S. Politics & Government 1783-1865 Collection

About 60 free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “United States – Politics & Government – 1783-1865”. Be patient as the page loads.

U.S. Social Life & Customs 1783-1865 Collection

About 30 free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “United States – Social Life & Customs – 1783-1865”. Be patient as the page loads.

History of the United States of America (1801-1817) volume 1

– Volume 2   – Volume 3   – Volume 4   – Volume 5

– Volume 6   – Volume 7   – Volume 8   – Volume 9

Adams, Henry
NY Scribner’s Sons 1889-90        Dewey Dec.    973.4

This work traces the formative period of American nationality from the rise of Thomas Jefferson’s Republican party through the War of 1812. “Jefferson’s optimistic laissez-faire principles – designed to prevent American government from becoming a militaristic European ‘tyranny’ – clash with the realities of European war and American security.” -Publisher.
Henry Adams is generally considered one of America’s greatest 19th century historians.
Titles of volumes are:

Volume 1 – 1st Administration of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1805): Vol 1
Volume 2 – 1st Administration of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1805): Vol 2
Volume 3 – 2nd Administration of Thomas Jefferson (1805-1809): Vol 1
Volume 4 – 2nd Administration of Thomas Jefferson (1805-1809): Vol 2
Volume 5 – 1st Administration of James Madison (1809-1813): Vol 1
Volume 6 – 1st Administration of James Madison (1809-1813): Vol 2
Volume 7 – 2nd Administration of James Madison (1813-1817): Vol 1
Volume 8 – 2nd Administration of James Madison (1813-1817): Vol 2
Volume 9 – 2nd Administration of James Madison (1813-1817): Vol 3

Undaunted Courage: The Pioneering First Mission to Explore America’s Wild Frontier

Ambrose, Stephen E.
Pocket 2003        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“On 5 July 1803, Captain Meriwether Lewis set out on an epic voyage across the untamed Great Plains and into the Rockies. His brief from the president, Thomas Jefferson, was to explore the land stretching west of the Mississippi, recently purchased from Napoleon. It was completely uncharted territory; a wild, vast land ruled by the Indians, never before experienced by a white man. This book is the definitive account of this momentous journey, presenting the American West as Lewis saw it – savage, awesome and pristinely beautiful.” from book cover.

To Begin the World Anew: The Genius and Ambiguities of the American Founders

Bailyn, Bernard
Knopf 2003        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“With these character sketches of key figures of the American Revolution and illuminating probes of its circumstances, Bernard Bailyn reveals the ambiguities, complexities, and uncertainties of the founding generation as well as their achievements. Using visual documentation—portraits, architecture, allegorical engravings—as well as written sources, Bailyn, one of our most esteemed historians, paints a complex picture of that distant but still remarkably relevant world… Bailyn shows, too, why it is that the Federalist papers—polemical documents thrown together frantically, helter-skelter, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in a fierce political battle two hundred years ago—have attained canonical status, not only as a penetrating analysis of the American Constitution but as a timeless commentary on the nature of politics and constitutionalism”. -Publisher

Please visit our large collection of books on the history of Native Americans in North America at Native American History

The Federalist System 1789-1801 (American Nation, Vol. 11)

Bassett, John Spencer
1906        Dewey Dec.    973.4

An excellent presentation of the problems of the nation in its early days, including the establishment of a party system, a stable financial system, and an international policy. Maps and bibliography. – Standard Catalog 1929

Contents: 1. Launching the New Government (1789-1791) 2. Hamilton’s Financial System (1789-1791) 3. Founding the Republican Party (1790-1792) 4. England and the Northwest (1789-1794) 5. Spain and the Southwest (1789-1795) 6. Neutrality and the Mission of Genet (1793) 7. The Whiskey Insurrection (1793-1795) 8. The Perplexing Problem of British Trade (1793-1796) 9. Washington as a Party President (1795-1797) 10. The Republican Court (1789-1800) 11. The State of Society (1789-1800) 12. The First Victories of Anti-Slavery (1777-1804) 13. Economic Conditions (1789-1800) 14. Political Affairs Early in Adams’s Administration (1797-1798) 15. The Quarrel with France (1796-1797) 16. War or Peace (1797-1798) 17. Alien and Sedition Acts (1797-1798) 18. Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions (1798-1800) 19. Downfall of the Federalists (1798-1801) 20. Critical Essay on Authorities

Economic Origins of Jeffersonian Democracy

Beard, Charles A.
NY: Macmillan 1915        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“Charles Austin Beard (1874 – 1948) was, with Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential American historians of the first half of the 20th century. For a while he was a history professor at Columbia University but his influence came from hundreds of monographs, textbooks and interpretive studies in both history and political science. His works included a radical re-evaluation of the founding fathers of the United States, who he believed were motivated more by economics than by philosophical principles.” -Wikipedia

Contents: The federalist-Republican antagonism and the conflict over the Constitution – The party affiliations of the members of the convention – The personnel of the first administration – The Constitution in operation – Hamilton’s system before Congress – Security holding and politics – The economic conflict as reflected in Republican literature – The Federalist analysis of the party conflict – Anti-Federalist resistance to taxation – The economics of the Jay Treaty – The political economy of John Adams – The politics of agrarianism – The great battle of 1800 – Jefferson’s economics and politics

America’s First Dynasty: The Adamses 1735-1918

Brookhiser, Richard
Free Press 2002        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“In America’s First Dynasty, Brookhiser tells the story of America’s longest and still greatest dynasty – the Adamses, the only family in our history to play a leading role in American affairs for nearly two centuries. From John, the self-made, tough-minded lawyer who rose to the highest office in the government he helped create; to John Quincy, the child prodigy who grew up amid foreign royalty, followed his father to the White House, and later reinvented himself as a champion of liberty in Congress; to politician and writer Charles Francis, the only well-balanced Adams; to Henry, brilliant scholar and journalist – the Adamses achieved longer-lasting greatness than any other American family.”–Jacket.

The Jeffersonian System, 1801-1811 (American Nation, Vol. 12)

Channing, Edward
1906        Dewey Dec.    973.4

Clear and orderly presentation of a complicated period on which a vast amount of literature has been written. – Standard Catalog 1929

Contents: 1. Organization of Jefferson’s Administration (1801-1805) 2. Republican Reformations (1801-1802) 3. The Tripolitan War (1801-1804) 4. La Louisiane (1684-1800) 5. The Louisiana Purchase (1801-1803) 6. The Administration of Louisiana (1803-1812) 7. The Exploration of the West (1803-1806) 8. Slavery and the Slave-Trade (1801-1808) 9. The Chase Impeachment (1804-1805) 10. John Randolph and the Yazoo Men (1801-1813) 11. The End of the Harvest Season (1803-1805) 12. The Burr Expedition (1805-1807) 13. Foreign Relations (1805) 14. The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair (1801-1807) 15. The Belligerents and Neutral Commerce (1801-1807) 16. The Embargo (1807-1808) 17. Jefferson’s Failure and Flight (1808-1809) 18. International Complications (1809-1810) 19. Madison and the Belligerents (1810-1811) 20. Approach of War (1809-1812) 21. Critical Essay on Authorities

Lewis and Clark: Historic Places Associated with Their Transcontinental Exploration (1804-1806)

Ferris, Robert G., ed.
U.S. Dept. of Interior, National Park Service 1975        Dewey Dec.    973.91

This is a volume in the series, “The National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings”. “Lewis and Clark were heralds of national destiny. Numerous organizations and individuals have expended commendable efforts in marking the expedition’s route and preserving associated sites. I recommend this book to all those who wish to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail and learn more about one of the most fascinating expeditions in our history.” – Secretary of the Interior

Part I: Lewis and Clark: Historical Background (250 pages). Part II: Lewis and Clark: Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings. Approximately 40 sites are profiled, often including photos.

Selected Podcasts and videos about U.S. History until 1800

Signers of the Constitution: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Constitution

Ferris, Robert G., ed.
U.S. Dept. of Interior, National Park Service 1976        Dewey Dec.    973

This is a volume in the series, “The National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings”. Part I: Signers of the Constitution: Historical Background. Part II: Signers of the Constitution: Biographical Sketches. Part III: Signers of the Constitution: Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings. Part III has profiles for approximately 30 buildings and sites identified with the signers. There appears to be a photo or other illustration included for almost every site.

Washington and his Colleagues: A Chronicle of the Rise and Fall of Federalism

Ford, Henry Jones
New Haven: Yale University Press 1918        Dewey Dec.    973.4

Contents: An imitation court – Great decisions – The master builder – Alarums and excursions – Tribute to the Algerines – French designs on America – A settlement with England – Party violence – The personal rule of John Adams

The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels who Challenged America’s Newfound Sovereignty

Hogeland, William
Scribner 2006        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“A tale of violence, alcohol, and taxes, this story pits President George Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton against angry, armed settlers across the Appalachians. Unearthing a pungent segment of early American history, journalist and popular historian Hogeland brings to life the rebellion that decisively contributed to the establishment of federal authority. In 1791, frontier gangs with blackened faces began to attack federal officials, beating and torturing the collectors who plagued them with the first federal tax ever laid on an American product–whiskey. In only a few years, those attacks snowballed into an organized regional movement dedicated to resisting the fledgling government’s power and threatening secession, even civil war”. -Publisher

Contents: Over the Mountains — The Curse of Pulp — Spirits Distilled Within the United States — Herman Husband — The Neville Connection — Tom the Tinker — The Hills Give Light to the Vales — A New Sodom — Talking — The General Goes West — That So-Called Whiskey Rebellion.

Mr. Jefferson’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slavery, and the Louisiana Purchase

Kennedy, Roger G.
Oxford Univ. 2003        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“Thomas Jefferson advocated a Republic of small farmers – free and independent yeomen. Yet as President he presided over a massive expansion of the slaveholding plantation system – particularly with the Louisiana Purchase – squeezing the yeomanry to the fringes and to less desirable farmland. Now Roger G. Kennedy conducts an eye-opening examination of that gap between Jefferson’s stated aspirations and what actually happened.” Book cover.

Democratic-Republican Societies, 1790-1800

Link, Eugene P.
NY: Columbia University 1942        Dewey Dec.    973.4

Contents: The Appearance of Popular Societies – Popular Societies as Social Forces – The Democratic Spirit of ’76 Awakens – The Analysis of Membership – The Social Philosophy of the Democratic Clubs – The Program and Activities of the Clubs – Schools of Political Knowledge – The Attack upon Democracy – The Achievements and Influence of the Societies

Books on Canadian history at History of Canada

The Federalist Era, 1789-1801

Miller, John Chester
Harper & Row 1963        Dewey Dec.    973.4

A chronicle of the administrations of George Washington and John Adams, concentrating on the politics and diplomacy. “A lively, intelligent, strikingly informed account of the political faction that came to be called Federalist, and came to behave something like a political party.” -NY Times Book Rev.

Contents: Launching of the “Great Experiment” — More perfect union in action — Hamilton takes command; the report on the public credit — Bank of the United States and the report on manufactures — Thomas Jefferson and the philosophy of agrarianism — Quarrel between Hamilton and Jefferson — Emergence of political parties — Genet and the French alliance — Crisis of 1794 — Whisky rebellion and Jay’s treaty — Western conspiracy and Washington’s farewell address — Foreign affairs and domestic politics — Federalist reaction — Election of 1800.

Reports on the Trials of Colonel Aaron Burr (Late Vice President of the United States), for Treason and for a Misdemeanor …

in preparing the means of a Military Expedition against Mexico, a territory of the King of Spain, with whom the United States were at peace, …

– Volume 2

Robertson, David K.
Philadelphia: Hopkins & Earle 1808        Dewey Dec.    973.4

[continuation of title page] … “in the circuit court of the United States, held at the city of Richmond, in the district of Virginia, in the Summer Term of the year 1807. To which is added, an appendix, containing the arguments and evidence in support and defence of the motion afterwards made by the counsel for the United States, to commit A. Burr, H. Blannerhassett and I. Smith, to be sent for trial to the State of Kentucky, for Treason or Misdemeanor, alleged to be committed there.”

Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South

Rothman, Adam
Harvard Univ. 2005        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“Slave Country tells the tragic story of the expansion of slavery in the new United States. In the wake of the American Revolution, slavery gradually disappeared from the northern states and the importation of captive Africans was prohibited. Yet, at the same time, the country’s slave population grew, new plantation crops appeared, and several new slave states joined the Union. Adam Rothman explores how slavery flourished in a new nation dedicated to the principle of equality among free men, and reveals the enormous consequences of U.S. expansion into the region that became the Deep South.” -Publisher
“Rothman challenges us to consider how and why slavery expanded into newly acquired territory in the Old Southwest. Thoughtful, provocative, and innovative, ‘Slave Country’ illuminates the rise of the Cotton Kingdom with all its tragic consequences.” author Randy Sparks.

Contents: Jefferson’s horizon — Civilizing the cotton frontier — Commerce and slavery in lower Louisiana — The wartime challenge — Fulfilling the slave country.

Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson: The Politics of Enlightenment and the American Founding

Staloff, Darren
Hill and Wang 2005        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“The contributions of men like Hamilton, Adams and Jefferson to the founding and development of America and its ideals are inconceivable outside of an Enlightenment context. If we wish to understand the relevance and legacy of these founding fathers, we must come to terms with the intellectual and cultural milieu from which they arose. We must understand the Enlightenment and its politics.” from the Introduction.

Contents: The background of the enlightenment — The features of the enlightenment — The forms of the enlightenment — The politics of enlightenment — 1: Alexander Hamilton: the enlightenment fulfilled — The enigma of Hamilton — The turning — The Hamiltonian vision: the enlightenment fulfilled — The practice of Hamiltoniamism — “Mine is an odd destiny”–the legacy of Alexander Hamilton — 2: John Adams: the enlightenment transcended — An American curmudgeon — The turning — The Adamsian vision: the enlightenment transcended — The Adamsian practice — “Monuments will never be erected to me” — the legacy of John Adams — 3: Thomas Jefferson: romantic America — The statesman as artist — The turning — The Jeffersonian vision: romantic America — The practice of Jeffersonianism — “Take care of me when dead” — the legacy of Thomas Jefferson.

Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson

Vidal, Gore
Yale Univ. 2003        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“In Inventing a Nation, Vidal transports the reader into the minds, the living rooms (and bedrooms), the convention halls, and the salons of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and other key figures who helped found the American Republic. Vidal’s splendid and percipient prose animates key moments of decision in the birthing of our nation, and we come to know these men in ways we have not until now – their opinions of each other, their worries about money, their concerns about creating a viable democracy.” Book jacket

An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America

Wiencek, Henry
Thorndike 2004        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“When George Washington wrote his will, he made the startling decision to set his slaves free; earlier he had said that holding slaves was his “only unavoidable subject of regret.” In this groundbreaking work, Henry Wiencek explores the founding father’s engagement with slavery at every stage of his life–as a Virginia planter, soldier, politician, president and statesman. Wiencek’s revelatory narrative, based on a meticulous examination of private papers, court records, and the voluminous Washington archives, documents for the first time the moral transformation culminating in Washington’s determination to emancipate his slaves. He acted too late to keep the new republic from perpetuating slavery, but his repentance was genuine. And it was perhaps related to the possibility–as the oral history of Mount Vernon’s slave descendants has long asserted–that a slave named West Ford was the son of George and a woman named Venus; Wiencek has new evidence that this could indeed have been true.” – Publisher

Henry Adams and the Making of America

Wills, Garry
Houghton Mifflin 2005        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“In this new view of the greatest historian of the nineteenth century, historian Wills showcases Henry Adams’s little-known but seminal study of the early United States and elicits from it fresh insights on the paradoxes that roil America to this day. Adams drew on his own southern fixation, extensive foreign travel, political service in Lincoln’s White House, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His chronicle established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history.” Publisher description.

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

Wood, Gordon S.
Oxford Univ. 2009        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“One of America’s most esteemed historians, Gordon S. Wood, offers a brilliant account of the early American Republic, ranging from 1789 and the beginning of the national government to the end of the War of 1812. As Wood reveals, the period was marked by tumultuous change in all aspects of American life–in politics, society, economy, and culture. The men who founded the new government had high hopes for the future, but few of their hopes and dreams worked out quite as they expected…. Named a New York Times Notable Book, Empire of Liberty offers a marvelous account of this pivotal era when America took its first unsteady steps as a new and rapidly expanding nation.” – Publisher

Contents: Rip Van Winkle’s America — Experiment in republicanism — A monarchical republic — The Federalist program — The emergence of the Jeffersonian Republican party — The French Revolution in America — John Adams and the few and the many — The crisis of 1798-1799 — The Jeffersonian revolution of 1800 — Republican society — The Jeffersonian West — Law and an independent judiciary — Chief Justice John Marshall and the origins of judicial review — Republican reforms — Between slavery and freedom — The rising glory of America — Republican religion — Republican diplomacy — The War of 1812 — A world within themselves.

The History of the Administration of John Adams, esq.; Late President of the United States

Wood, John
NY: 1802        Dewey Dec.    973.4

A fairly detailed contemporary account of the Adams administration, published only one year after it ended.

Books on European history from about 1700 to the beginning of WWI at European History 1700-1914

The Pirate Coast: Thomas Jefferson, the First Marines, and the Secret Mission of 1805

Zacks, Richard
Hyperion 2005        Dewey Dec.    973.4

“During the age of Napoleon and Lord Nelson, there was an American sideshow, a covert op sanctioned by Thomas Jefferson, to try to help stop the Barbary Pirates of North Africa who were hijacking American ships and selling the passengers into slavery. In this compelling historical narrative, author Richard Zacks follows a fanatical American, William Eaton, on his secret mission to overthrow the government of Tripoli in 1805.” -Publisher

Contents: Tripoli — Washington City — American slaves in Tripoli City — Home : New England roots — Tripoli : Decatur’s raid — Alone at sea — Yussef — The mission : Eaton unleashed — Hunting Hamet in Egypt — White Christmas in Tripoli — Reeling in Hamet — Preparing for war : fresh enemies and money, money, money — The desert — Tobias Lear : peace at any cost — An American flag on foreign soil — Malta : diseased liver and cold feet — Tripoli : fear — Tripoli Harbor : Lear to the rescue — Derne : defiance — Tripoli : Peace? Freedom? Honor? — Derne : from a kingdom to a beggary? — Tripoli : Lear pays — Wounded and restless — Homecoming — Jefferson vs. Eaton — Burr, bottle, and six feet under.


Century Past Library



Your comments and feedback are welcome!