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Title: Political organisation in the United States during the early 1820s
Author: Peart, D. P.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2011
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This dissertation challenges recent grand syntheses which talk unhesitatingly of ‘the rise of American Democracy’ or ‘the democratization of American life’ during the early nineteenth century, and place political parties at the forefront of this narrative. In the Introduction, newly-available data on election turnout is employed to demonstrate an inverse relationship between the strength of parties and popular participation at the polls during the early 1820s. Chapter One then examines Federalist-Republican competition, and popular resistance to that framework, in Boston, Massachusetts, in order to show that far from naturally promoting democratisation, parties can serve to sustain the dominance of a small political elite. Chapter Two turns to Illinois where the inhabitants, locked in a struggle over whether to legalise slavery in their state, rejected parties in favour of alternative political arrangements that they considered better suited to their bid to define and implement the will of the people. Chapter Three questions the common assumptions that parties, elections, and policy-making were closely linked during this period, and suggests that political historians should pay more attention to alternative forms of participation such as petitioning, instructing, and lobbying. Finally, Chapter Four uses the presidential election of 1824 as a lens through which to explore the motives of those contemporaries who did argue in favour of party development, in order to demonstrate that a commitment to democracy was the least of their priorities. Taken as a whole, this dissertation argues that the rise of political parties was by no means inevitable in the early 1820s, and that their dominance of United States politics in later decades had important costs, as well as benefits, for popular participation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available