Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty: The Continental Congress and the People Out of Doors

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Overview


In 1776, when the Continental Congress declared independence, formally severing relations with Great Britain, it immediately began to fashion new objects and ceremonies of state with which to proclaim the sovereignty of the infant republic.

In this marvelous social and cultural history of the Continental Congress, Benjamin H. Irvin describes this struggle to create a national identity during the American Revolution. The book examines the material artifacts, rituals, and festivities by which Congress endeavored not only to assert its political legitimacy and to bolster the war effort, but ultimately to exalt the United States and to win the allegiance of its inhabitants. Congress, for example, crafted an emblematic great seal, celebrated anniversaries of U.S. independence, and implemented august diplomatic protocols for the reception of foreign ministers. Yet as Irvin demonstrates, Congress could not impose its creations upon a passive American public. To the contrary, "the people out of doors"-broadly defined to include not only the working poor who rallied in the streets of Philadelphia, but all persons unrepresented in the Continental Congress, including women, loyalists, and Native Americans-vigorously contested Congress's trappings of nationhood.
Vividly narrating the progress of the Revolution in Philadelphia and the lived experiences of its inhabitants during the tumultuous war, Clothed in Robes of Sovereignty sharpens our understanding of the relationship between political elites and crowds of workaday protestors as it illuminates the ways in which ideologies of gender, class, and race shaped the civic identity of the Revolutionary United States.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Benjamin H. Irvin offers an innovative and comprehensive view in this kaleidoscopic yet well-organized and clearly argued book." --The Historian

"Benjamin H. Irvin has written a superb history of the Continental Congress and its place in revolutionary Philadelphia...Irvin writes with a wit and ease that distinguish his study of the Continental and Confederation Congresses from previous histories of congressional policy." --William and Mary Quarterly

"In recounting and analyzing the attempts by Congress to articulate the meanings of the Revolution through artifacts and ceremonies of state, [Irvin] deeply enriches our understanding not only of the Continental Congress and the Revolution but also more generally of late eighteenth-century political culture." --Journal of American History

"[An] informative book...Within Irvin's enjoyable book, [readers] will learn a great deal about how the leaders of a modern republic established, maintained, and fumbled the emblems of national identity." --American Historical Review

"Writing lucidly about traditions being invented in the form of adapted ceremonies with newly devised symbols-in words, in imagery, and in striking dramaturgic enactments-Benjamin Irvin makes a clear contribution to the semiotics of civic culture and the emergence of proto-national identity in the Revolutionary period. In this fine, illuminating narrative, Irvin traces the endeavors of successive Continental and Confederate Congresses to fashion and sustain legitimacy for themselves, and so to create an identity for the nascent new nation they professed to represent."-Rhys Isaac, LaTrobe University

"A new and valuable contribution to our deepening understanding of the iconic and nation-creating nature of the American Revolution."-Gordon Wood, author of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

"Benjamin Irvin deftly blends cultural and political history in an original account of the Continental Congress's fumbling, often desperate attempts to maintain its symbolic authority during the American Revolution."-T.H. Breen, author of American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People

Benjamin Irvin has written a lively and richly detailed account of struggles at the centers of power and in the streets to define a national character and conceptualize a citizenry out of the fragmented chaos of Americans war for independence. Although Congress failed to forge a unified national identity with its invented symbols and rituals, Irvin reveals, it inadvertently conferred on wide layers of Americans the vocabulary and material culture to articulate tangible alternative perspectives about membership in the fragile new nation. Cathy Matson, University of Delaware

"Benjamin H. Irvin offers an innovative and comprehensive view in this kaleidoscopic yet well-organized and clearly argued book." --The Historian

"Benjamin H. Irvin has written a superb history of the Continental Congress and its place in revolutionary Philadelphia...Irvin writes with a wit and ease that distinguish his study of the Continental and Confederation Congresses from previous histories of congressional policy." --William and Mary Quarterly

"In recounting and analyzing the attempts by Congress to articulate the meanings of the Revolution through artifacts and ceremonies of state, [Irvin] deeply enriches our understanding not only of the Continental Congress and the Revolution but also more generally of late eighteenth-century political culture." --Journal of American History

"[An] informative book...Within Irvin's enjoyable book, [readers] will learn a great deal about how the leaders of a modern republic established, maintained, and fumbled the emblems of national identity." --American Historical Review

"Writing lucidly about traditions being invented in the form of adapted ceremonies with newly devised symbols-in words, in imagery, and in striking dramaturgic enactments-Benjamin Irvin makes a clear contribution to the semiotics of civic culture and the emergence of proto-national identity in the Revolutionary period. In this fine, illuminating narrative, Irvin traces the endeavors of successive Continental and Confederate Congresses to fashion and sustain legitimacy for themselves, and so to create an identity for the nascent new nation they professed to represent."-Rhys Isaac, LaTrobe University

"A new and valuable contribution to our deepening understanding of the iconic and nation-creating nature of the American Revolution."-Gordon Wood, author of Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815

"Benjamin Irvin deftly blends cultural and political history in an original account of the Continental Congress's fumbling, often desperate attempts to maintain its symbolic authority during the American Revolution."-T.H. Breen, author of American Insurgents, American Patriots: The Revolution of the People

Benjamin Irvin has written a lively and richly detailed account of struggles at the centers of power and in the streets to define a national character and conceptualize a citizenry out of the fragmented chaos of Americans war for independence. Although Congress failed to forge a unified national identity with its invented symbols and rituals, Irvin reveals, it inadvertently conferred on wide layers of Americans the vocabulary and material culture to articulate tangible alternative perspectives about membership in the fragile new nation. Cathy Matson, University of Delaware

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199731992
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/11/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 1,169,301
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin H. Irvin is Associate Professor of History at the University of Arizona and author of Samuel Adams: Son of Liberty, Father of Revolution.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: To "stamp the Character of the People"

Part I: A "steady, manly, uniform, and persevering opposition"
1. The Republicans' New Clothes
2.The Continental Congress Unmanned

Part II: The Outcome Is in Doubt
3. "[A]n Impression upon the Mind"
4. "The Pride and Pomp of War"

Part III: E Pluribus Unum
5. "The spirits of the whigs must be kept up"
6. "[U]ncommon and Extraordinary Movements"

Part IV: "The Symbol of supreme Power & Authority"
7. "[T]he most amiable Garbs of publick Virtue"
8. Naked and Unadorned

Conclusion: "[T]he Sign of the Thirteen Starrs"
Abbreviations
Notes
Index

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