The Language of Democracy: Political Rhetoric in the United States and Britain, 1790-1900

Overview

Tracing the history of political rhetoric in nineteenth-century America and Britain, Andrew W. Robertson shows how modern election campaigning was born. Robertson discusses early political cartoons and electioneering speeches as he examines the role of each nation’s press in assimilating masses of new voters into the political system.

Even a decade after the American Revolution, the authors shows, British and American political culture had much in common. On both sides of the ...

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Overview

Tracing the history of political rhetoric in nineteenth-century America and Britain, Andrew W. Robertson shows how modern election campaigning was born. Robertson discusses early political cartoons and electioneering speeches as he examines the role of each nation’s press in assimilating masses of new voters into the political system.

Even a decade after the American Revolution, the authors shows, British and American political culture had much in common. On both sides of the Atlantic, electioneering in the 1790s was confined mostly to male elites, and published speeches shared a characteristically Neoclassical rhetoric. As voting rights were expanded, however, politicians sought a more effective medium and style for communicating with less-educated audiences. Comparing changes in the modes of in the two countries, Robertson reconstructs the transformation of campaign rhetoric into forms that incorporated the oral culture of the stump speech as well as elite print culture.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the press had become the primary medium for initiating, persuading, and sustaining loyal partisan audiences. In Britain and America, millions of men participated in a democratic political culture that spoke their language, played to their prejudices, and courted their approval. Today’s readers concerned with broadening political discourse to reach a more diverse audience will find rich and intriguing parallels in Robertson’s account.

University of Virginia Press

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Editorial Reviews

International Journal of the Classical Tradition

"Like the newspaper oratory that is his chief subject, Robertson’s study is brief and comprehensive, and should prove effective in convincing specialists in American literature that there is yet remaining a whole field of alternative texts worth the harvesting.— American Literature"[C]overs a lot and covers it well.... [An] excellent book.

International Journal of the Classical Tradition

Like the newspaper oratory that is his chief subject, Robertson's study is brief and comprehensive, and should prove effective in convincing specialists in American literature that there is yet remaining a whole field of alternative texts worth the harvesting. — American Literature"[C]overs a lot and covers it well.... [An] excellent book.

International Journal of the Classical Tradition
Like the newspaper oratory that is his chief subject,
Robertson's study is brief and comprehensive, and should prove effective in convincing specialists in American literature that there is yet remaining a whole field of alternative texts worth the harvesting. — American Literature[C]overs a lot and covers it well.... [An]
excellent book.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813923444
  • Publisher: University of Virginia
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,324,115
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew W. Robertson, Associate Professor of History at the City University of New York, is the coeditor, with Jeffrey L. Pasley, of Beyond the Founders: New Approaches to the Political History of the Early American Republic.

University of Virginia Press

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Table of Contents

Introduction : causes, conjunctures, occasions, and relations 1
1 Demi-aristocratical democracy : the persistence of Anglo-American political culture, 1780-1799 20
2 Oral speech on the printed page : electioneering rhetoric in the United States, 1800-1824 36
3 Reform agitation under repressive constraints : British rhetoric, 1800-1832 54
4 Creating a national audience : Jacksonian America, 1828-1860 68
5 Parliamentary reform and repeal of constraints on expression, 1832-1855 96
6 The rhetorical civil war in the northern press : New York, 1860-1868 116
7 The personality contest between Gladstone and Disraeli, 1855-1880 129
8 The loss of public principles and public interest : gilded age rhetoric, 1872-1896 146
9 Fire and strength, sword and fire : British rhetorical battles, 1880-1896 164
10 The appeal to the eye : visual communications in the United States and Britain, 1880-1900 181
Conclusion : misunderstanding and its remedies 211
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