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Parades and the Politics of the Street

Festive Culture in the Early American Republic

By Simon P. Newman

Publication Year: 1999

Simon P. Newman vividly evokes the celebrations of America's first national holidays in the years between the ratification of the Constitution and the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson. He demonstrates how, by taking part in the festive culture of the streets, ordinary American men and women were able to play a significant role in forging the political culture of the young nation. The creation of many of the patriotic holidays we still celebrate coincided with the emergence of the first two-party system. With the political songs they sang, the liberty poles they raised, and the partisan badges they wore, Americans of many walks of life helped shape a new national politics destined to replace the regional practices of the colonial era.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Early American Studies


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pp. vii-9

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

HISTORIANS HAVE WRITTEN A GREAT DEAL about the political history of the revolutionary and early national periods of United States history. For two centuries the political beliefs and partisan conflicts of Americans in the late eighteenth century have fascinated us, and scholars have explored this field in far greater depth, perhaps, than have those working in any other era in the political history of the United States....

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Introduction: The Significance of Popular Political Culture

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pp. 1-10

AT DAWN ON THE COLD AND WINTRY MORNING of Thursday, the twenty-fourth of January, 1793, the people of Boston were awakened by the thunderous roar of an artillery salute fired by a local militia company to signal the beginning of a day of public festivity and rejoicing. On this joyful day there were no classes for the city's school children, and under the direction...

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1. Resistance, Revolution, and Nationhood: The Origins of a National Popular Political Culture

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pp. 11-43

PEOPLE FROM THREE CONTINENTS CREATED the new societies of mainland British North America, bringing a wide array of beliefs and traditions to the communities that spanned out from Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware and Hudson River Valleys, and the rugged coastlines of New England. Yet while ethnic and racial diversity were defining characteristics of this world,...

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2. The Partisan Politics of Popular Leadership

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pp. 44-82

GEORGE WASHINGTON WAS OF PARAMOUNT importance in the political culture of late eighteenth-century America. His enormous popularity meant that the Virginia planter enjoyed considerable political power, that he occupied a central position in early national political rites and symbols, and that he had a profound impact on popular perceptions of the ways in which partisan leaders should conduct themselves in and out...

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3. The Popular Politics of Independence Day

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pp. 83-119

BY THE DAWN OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY the annual commcmoration of George Washington's birthday had become a leading celebration in the early national festive calendar, but it was the Fourth of July that had developed into the nation's principal commemorative festival.1 The size, number, and popularity of annual celebrations of the anniversary of independence all soared during the decade following...

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4. Celebrating the French Revolution

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pp. 120-151

DURING THE LATTER HALF OF WASHINGTON'S presidency, celebrations of the French Revolution engulfed the festive calendar of the early American republic, overwhelming the annual rites commemorating the anniversaries of Independence Day and the president's birthday. (See Map 3.) These French Revolutionary feasts, festivals, and parades were, however, peculiarly...

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5. Songs, Signs, and Symbols: The Everyday Discourse of Popular Politics

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pp. 152-185

FOR MANY EARLY NATIONAL AMERICANS the periodic battles between and within various rites, festivals, and parades were enhanced by a diverse and colorful array of emblems, songs, and symbols. Not only did they give life and color to organized celebrations, they allowed ordinary Americans to participate in the politics of the street on a day-to-day basis. The French...

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6. Conclusion: The Regularization of Popular Political Culture

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pp. 186-192

A NEW NATIONAL POPULAR POLITICAL culture emerged in the United States during the waning years of the eighteenth century. Although the popular politics of the early republic drew on colonial and revolutionary era precedents, what developed between 1789 and 1801 was new in several important ways. With remarkable rapidity, ordinary Americans developed...


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pp. 193


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pp. 195-244


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pp. 245-264


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pp. 265-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200478
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812217247

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 1999

Series Title: Early American Studies