Aristocracy in America: From the Sketch-Book of a German Nobleman

In Jacksonian America, as Grund exposes, the wealthy inhabitants of northern cities and the plantation South may have been willing to accept their poorer neighbors as political and legal peers, but rarely as social equals. In this important work, he thus sheds light on the nature of the struggle between “aristocracy” and “democracy” that loomed so large in early republican Americans’ minds.

Francis J. Grund, a German emigrant, was one of the most influential journalists in America in the three decades preceding the Civil War. He also wrote several books, including this fictional, satiric travel memoir in response to Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous Democracy in America. Armin Mattes provides a thorough account of Grund’s dynamic engagement in American political and social life and brings to light many of Grund’s reflections previously published only in German. Mattes shows how Grund’s work can expand our understanding of the emerging democratic political culture and society in the antebellum United States.

“Mattes has done historians a real service by contextualizing and annotating a primary source that, among its many discernments, finds inequality in America, not in the political and economic spheres, but in a pseudo-aristocratic social elitism.”

—Kevin Butterfield, Director of the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage at University of Oklahoma and author of The Making of Tocqueville’s America

Armin Mattes (Editor and Translator)

University of Missouri Press, June 2018


Armin Mattes earned his Ph.D. in History at the University of Virginia, working with Peter Onuf on the origins of American democracy and nationhood. Dr. Mattes then spent the 2012-2013 academic year as the Gilder Lehrman Research Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, where he completed his first book, Citizens of a Common Intellectual Homeland: the Transatlantic Context of the Origins of American Democracy and Nationhood, 1775-1840, which was published by University of Virginia Press in 2015. His newly translated and annotated edition of Francis J. Grund’s Aristocracy in America was published in Spring 2018 on the Kinder Institute’s Studies in Constitutional Democracy monograph series with University of Missouri Press, and he is also currently at work on a book project that explores the transformation of the meaning and practice of political patronage in America from 1750 to 1850. Dr. Mattes has taught at the University of Virginia and Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen (Germany), and he served as a Kinder Institute Research Fellow in History from 2014-2017.