In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes: The Making of American Nationalism, 1776-1820 / Edition 1

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David Waldstreicher's In the Midst of Perpetual Fetes probes the practices of nationalism in a country made up of inherent and evolving divisions. His question is simple: How did national celebrations work as political strategy and as unifying event? Pursuing this inquiry, Waldstreicher offers a series of rich explorations into the dynamics of festivities that celebrated - or mourned - events and characters in the early republic. Using an innovative methodology and a sophisticated theoretical framework, Waldstreicher uncovers the processes that generated a profusion of patriotic sentiment. While celebrations like those for the Constitution, the Fourth of July, Washington's birthday, Jefferson's inauguration, and the end of the slave trade enabled nonvoters to participate intimately in the political process, they also provided ways to keep women and blacks in prescribed, noncitizen roles, even as members of both groups began to use celebrations for their own ends. Through a careful analysis of printed materials - newspapers, broadsides, toasts, orations, and ballads, - in relation to nationalist practices, Waldstreicher traces the emergence of an American political culture formed around a desired unity of purpose.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A highly original work of political history.

William and Mary Quarterly

A very readable, extremely competent, thought provoking book.

American Studies

Waldstreicher combines cultural theory with fresh research, graceful writing, and a defined subject matter.

American Studies

A book that demands the attention of specialists in the early American republic, and of social and cultural historians.

Journal of Social History

[I]t sets the agenda and the standard for future work on American nationalism and political culture.

Journal of American History

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Product Details

Meet the Author

David Waldstreicher is professor of history at Temple University.

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Table of Contents


List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Practices of Nationalism

PART ONE: Revolution, Nation, State
1. The Revolutionary Politics of Celebration
Ancient Rites
Festivity and the Origins of American Politics
Celebrating the American Future
2. The Constitution of Federal Feeling
The Crisis of Virtue and the Virtues of "Crisis"
Celebrating Natural Aristocracy: From Virtue to Sensibility
Inventing Federalist America
3. National Characters
George Washington's Sentimental Journeys
"I Live Here in the Midst of Perpetual Fetes"
National Character: Ideology, Theology, Practice

PART TWO: Elections, Sections, and Races
4. The Celebration of Politics
1800: A Different Kind of Revolution
Nationalism as Partisan Antipartisanship
Celebratory Politics as the Early Republic's Public Sphere
5. Regionalism, Nationalism, and the Geopolitics of Celebration
New England as America
America Going South
West Meets East
6. Mixed Feelings: Race and Nation
Nothing But Union
"Declaration of Independence! Where art thou now?"
"The Africans and their descendants, will celebrate . . ."
Epilogue: "You May Celebrate, I Must Mourn"

1. The Repeal
2. Epitaph
3. The Continental Almanac
4. Federal Pillars, March 1788
5. Federal Pillars, August 1788
6. Reception of Washington at Trenton
7. Proclamation for a Federal Thanksgiving
8. Abraham Bishop
9. The Jeffersoniad
10. Black Cockade Funeral
11. Toasts, for Fourth July 1804
12. Governor Hancock's Ball
13. A Peep into the Antifederal Club
14. Hunters of Kentucky
15. The Battle of Plattsburg
16. Bobalition Broadside, 1816
17. Bobalition Broadside, 1822
18. Reply to Bobalition Broadside, 1819

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2003


    While the author obviously spent (too much?) time in the archives, when it came to sitting down and writing the book he could not resist engaging in what is now literally an all-too-common academic exercise: making what should have been a straightforward cultural tale into a jargon-laden, convoluted tome that lacks clarity. Instead of tortured sentence construction and the employment of a host of academic buzzwords, Waldstreicher should have just said what he had to say! He didn't (not uncommon in his profession) and thus this book, consequently inaccessible, is anything but lucid.

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