England and America/Dystopian and Utopian

  • Robert D. Grant


Flower’s Letters from Lexington was just one of a number of works produced in early nineteenth-century Britain that enlisted the contemporary language of British radicalism to frame a prospect of moral, social and economic regeneration in the rolling landscape of the trans-Alleghenian American west. It was there, for a few heady years, that a handful of British men and women sought to establish new, often Utopian, communities; and Flower’s contrast between the two countries was aimed squarely at burgeoning popular interest in the United States, particularly insofar as it could be seen as a site of bright alternatives to the projected problems of contemporary British society. If anything, British interest in the United States had grown following cessation of hostilities between the two nations in 1814. During the 1820s and 1830s, the country became something of a favourite in the flourishing genre of the travelogue, and it was soon the most common destination for British emigrants of all classes. This, in turn, brought ever greater demand for information about the country, which was fed by a host of British writers like Morris Birkbeck, William Cobbett, Charles Johnson and John Bradbury, all of whom wrote for the domestic market with advice to emigrants on where to go, how to get there and what they must do to ensure their success.


Quarterly Review Primeval Forest Popular Interest Colonial Policy Settler Society 
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  1. 2.
    James Kay, Moral and Physical Condition of the Working-classes (London, 1832) pp. 7 & 25; Anon., Working-Man’s Companion (London, 1831) pp. 200–206; Thomas Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population (London, 1798); Robert Torrens, Means of Reducing the Poor Rates (London, 1817), quoted in Nigel Everett, The Tory View of Landscape (New Haven & London, 1994) p. 169.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    A limited edition of fifty copies of the Fraser’s articles were published in London in 1834, and then in the United States in 1836, with a preface by Ralph Waldo Emerson: Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus. In Three Books (Boston, 1836). The first full English edition appeared in 1838: Sartor Resartus: The Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdröckh (London, 1838). All references in this work are to the 1838 English edition; David Morse, High Victorian Culture (New York, 1993) pp. 85–89; Carlyle, pp. 235, 297 & 239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 13.
    Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Proposal to His Majesty’s Government for Founding a Colony on the Southern Coast of Australia (London, 1831); Plan of a Company to be Established for the Purpose of Founding a Colony in Southern Australia (London, 1832); New British Province of South Australia (London, 1834 & 1835). For Wakefield and British imperialist theory, see Bernard Semmel, Rise of Free Trade Imperialism (Cambridge, 1970)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Donald Winch, Classical Political Economy and Colonies (London, 1965).Google Scholar
  5. 20.
    William Molesworth to the House of Commons, Parliamentary Debates, 16 March 1837 & 15 March 1838, quoted in Alan Shaw, Great Britain and the Colonies 1815–1865 (London, 1970) p. 86.Google Scholar

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© Robert Grant 2005

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  • Robert D. Grant

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