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Title: Political culture and popular consciousness in the 1790s : the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and Virginia
Author: Collinson, S.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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This study examines the turbulent American polity of the 1790s. Specifically, it analyses the electoral competition of the Federalist and Republican parties which dominated that polity between the inauguration of George Washington as president in 1789 and of Thomas Jefferson as president in 1801. Its chief concern is emphatically the Republican party and the politicisation and mobilisation strategies thereof. Over the course of its four chapters, each extensively subdivided to explore particular aspects and themes, it will argue that the key to the Republican party's success lay in the domain of language. By aggressively revivifying the conventional language of the American Revolution, and thereby mobilising its underlying ideological structures, the Republicans were able to construct a standardised, normative language of political action with transcended local variations in political culture and provided the foundations for a formidable, nationally-conscious electoral alliance. This language, thoroughly partisan by the late 1790s, could not be adequately met by an increasing anathematised Federalist administration. Indeed, a central element of that language was the stigmatisation of the incumbent administration as Anglophile, aristocratic, and monarchic. Two states, Pennsylvania and Virginia, conventionally regarded as evincing quite distinct political cultures during the eighteenth century, provide the evidential basis for the study's contention that a Republican-sponsored political language served to standardise political cognitions and (electoral) behaviour. In brief, the chapters will examine the structure and historical sources of Republican language, and the manner in which signification itself became an arena for political conflict (Chapter One); the central role of state legislatures as sources of local political cues in early national America, and their early absorption into the partisan conflict (Chapter Two); the pivotal role played by international relations, particularly as they concerned France and Great Britain, in sharpening partisan and rhetorical differences (Chapter Three); and, finally, the function of non-linguistic communicative forms in the Republican symbolic repertoire; certain groups, it will be argued, were to be excluded from an already potentially dangerous egalitarian discourse, whatever the symbolic form its articulation took (Chapter Four). Each chapter, while exploring diverse aspects of the political landscape on which Federalists and Republicans waged electoral war in the 1790s, will seek to maintain the central place of language in its topography.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available