Vaughn Scribner, Ph.D.    Assistant Professor, University of Central Arkansas  

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Inn Civility: Urban Taverns and the Negotiation of Early American Civil Society 

(under contract with NYU Press)


Urban taverns were the most popular, numerous, diversifying, and accessible public spaces in colonial America. From genteel City Taverns to seedy “disorderly houses,” taverns were wholly engrained in the diverse web of colonial urbanity. Inn Civility uses the urban tavern space to investigate elitist colonists’ frustrated efforts at cultivating a civil society from the early-eighteenth century to the end of the American Revolution. Although colonial gentlemen styled themselves arbiters of civility and order, the confusing reality of urban society often outstripped gentlemen’s civil pipedreams. The American Revolution and its immediate aftermath only further complicated mid-century ideas of civil society. Many of America’s founders had to rethink their own notions of civility and order in their deliberations on republicanism, while ordinary colonists found new voices in these negotiations. Ultimately, Inn Civility demonstrates, elitist colonists’ futile efforts at realizing a civil society are imperative for understanding America’s controversial beginnings, for within urban taverns and coffeehouses colonists began to violently hash out the initial precepts of America’s two-party system and, in turn, reflect upon how an American republic might look and operate. In many ways, American Republicanism originated around a punch bowl.