Chords of Sympathy: The Development of National Political Attachments in the 19th Century

Pears, Emily, Government - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ceaser, James, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Milkis, Sidney, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Jenkins, Jeffery, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Balogh, Brian, Department of History, University of Virginia

This dissertation begins with the question of when and how citizens’ loyalties transitioned from the state governments to the national government in the 19th century. American historians and political scientists have identified the Civil War as the singular force that ultimately united disparate American states into a nation. Yet state governments remained important sources of loyalty, attachment and patriotism well past Reconstruction. While we know that the average American in the Early Republic identified more strongly with their state governments than with their national government, and that the average citizen by the Progressive era was more attached to the nation, we know little about how and when that transition actually occurred. While the Civil War is often credited with having completed a process of unification, my dissertation empirically evaluates the relative importance of local, state and national governments to American daily life during the 19th century to show that state governments remained the central features of Americans’ lives well past Reconstruction and in areas outside of the deep south.Throughout the dissertation I argue that across the United States state legislatures continued to hold public sway well past the Civil War period. While the national state grew significantly during the course of the 19th century, administrative functions at the state and local level remained the most visible to American citizens, allowing and encouraging them to maintain strong attachments to their state governments. Relatively inconspicuous federal government activity failed to translate into a nationalization of political identity. Alternatively, party building in the 1830’s and 1840’s created an organizational structure that allowed individuals to connect their local activities to national political causes. Once a common culture and structural means of political participation at the national level were in place, federal policy both as an object of participation and as a source of utilitarian reasoning could begin to take effect. During this volatile time political culture, participation and administrative policy each maintained different balances between local, state and national focus. While each of these ratios slowly shifted to favor nationalization, it was not until the progressive era that rhetorical efforts to construct national attachment reflected nationalized administrative and party systems. These unique developmental patterns resulted in diverging layers of statism and nationalism that contribute to interstate and intrastate conflicts in political identity.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
American Political Thought, attachments, patriotism, American Political Development
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: