Celebrating The Republic: "Presidential Ceremony And Popular Sovereignty, From Washington To Monroe"

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From the glitz of inaugural balls to the pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union address, the American presidency is rife with symbolism and ceremony.In Celebrating the Republic, Sandra Moats examines how the first five presidents—with special emphasis on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe—invented the American political culture that endures today. Drawing from the chaotic political culture of the founding era, these presidents used symbolism to connect the national government to the people at large. Their efforts defined republican government for the founding generation and those to follow.

Moats details the trials and errors of our founding fathers as they tried to symbolically establish the authority of the office of the president and the federal government. An elaborate mechanism designed to “crown” Washington with a laurel wreath at his inauguration shows the struggle of early leaders to invent appropriate and inspiring signs and rituals compatible with republican ideas. We now take for granted the trappings of our government, but titles, accessibility, protocol, tours, and inaugurations were all topics of great debate and deliberate decision making in the early republic.

Celebrating the Republic elaborates on the stylistic differences between Washington and Jefferson and shows that John Adams and James Madison floundered while trying to develop their own styles. Washington, responding to the monarchical rituals instituted by the public and Congress, created a ceremonial presidency complete with tours and formal receptions. Jefferson rejected this in favor of an informal style and an emphasis on rhetoric and the written word rather than ritual. Moats points to Monroe as an example of a leader who successfully combined elements of both the formal and the informal approaches. Scholars of the early republic and the presidency, as well as casual readers interested in the founding fathers, will find much to enjoy in this entertaining study.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Intriguing and revelatory. A wonderful book. Much of Moats’s story is familiar, but her telling of it and her analytical framework bring a fresh perspective on national politics and especially the supposed ‘Era of Good Feelings.’”—Michael A. Morrison, Purdue University

“A well-written study of an important and inherently interesting topic. Very interesting ... breaks new ground.”—Simon Newman, University of Glasgow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780875804118
  • Publisher: Northern Illinois University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandra Moats is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction—“Untrodden Ground”: Presidential Ceremony and Popular Sovereignty
Chapter I—“Ceremonies, Endless Ceremonies”: The People and Congress Inaugurate a President
Chapter II—“To Preserve the Dignity and Respect”: Washington’s Republican Approach to Presidential Ceremony
Chapter III—“We Deal in Ink Only”: Jefferson’s Rhetorical Opposition to Federalist Ceremony
Chapter IV—Desperately Seeking “Good Feelings”: Monroe’s Northern Tour of 1817
Chapter V—“The Success and Stability of our Republican Institutions”: Monroe’s Southern Tour of 1819
Conclusion—Celebrations, Parties, and Antebellum Politics

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  • Posted April 19, 2010

    An engrossing exploration of the evolution of the ceremonial surrounding the US Presidency.

    In CELEBRATING THE REPUBLIC author Sandra Moats presents a highly engaging and entertaining narrative that explores the initial development of Presidential ceremony while simultaneously underscoring the continuities of American political life that remain with us to this very day.

    Moats focuses her attention most closely upon the ceremonial approaches of three of the first six Presidents of the United States: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe. While these early chief executives were all concerned to establish and enhance the inherent dignity of the Presidency, their differing styles are clearly illustrated in Moats's highly detailed and authoritative work. Beginning with Washington's preference for a more monarchic approach to the office complete with levées and official tours, turning to Jefferson's more austere republicanism that shunned aristocratic elements to such an extent that there was talk of war with the scandalized British, and concluding with Monroe's efforts to synthesize the most effective aspects of the contrasting styles of his two great predecessors, Moats presents a thorough litany of the banquets, receptions, and travels through which these men interacted with the sovereign citizens of the nation.

    Moats, however, goes far beyond mere Presidential itineraries to explore the reactions of various elements of the US populace to their Presidents' ceremonial efforts. In doing so, she reminds us that the occasionally bitter partisan and regional debates that often define American politics in our time have in fact been an integral part of the political landscape of the United States since its earliest days. If perhaps more subtly engaged in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries, nonetheless rancorous political conflict was certainly not unknown to the newspaper editors, officeholders, and political party operatives in the first decades of the nation's existence. Through her focus upon Presidential ceremony and its consequences in American public opinion, Moats reminds us that vigorous political debate and the inflamed passions that often accompany it are nothing new.

    As such, Sandra Moats has written a most excellent book that can be appreciated both as an exploration of the foundations of the Presidential ceremonial we see today and as proof that the style of our modern, party-based politics does indeed have its roots in the era of the Founding Fathers. Regardless of whether primary interest is found in Presidential protocol or politics, any American history enthusiast will thoroughly enjoy this volume.

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