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The War on WordsSlavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature$
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Michael T. Gilmore

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226294131

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226294155.001.0001

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Hawthorne and the Resilience of Dissent

Hawthorne and the Resilience of Dissent

(p.87) Hawthorne and the Resilience of Dissent
The War on Words

Michael T. Gilmore

University of Chicago Press

Hawthorne was an inactivist who fetishized deferral. His campaign biography of Franklin Pierce is said to provide a retroactive template for his fiction. The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance—Hawthorne's three “American” novels gave fictional form to the age's ethical and legislative impasse, the Compromise of 1850. This chapter carries this consensus by foregrounding Hawthorne's connection to the dissenting ferment that he, like his friend Pierce, saw as a menace to sectional peace. The novelist was out of the country during much of the 1850s, first as Pierce's consul in Liverpool and then as a resident in Italy; but during his creative heyday, from 1850 to 1852, he was acutely conscious of the mounting pressures on free speech. Indeed, his book on Pierce placed him at the center of those pressures. He hoped the prohibitions would prevail and stifle the seditious ferment of anti-slavery oratory.

Keywords:   Hawthorne, Franklin Pierce, Resilience of Dissent, anti-slavery oratory, The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance

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