Interior States: Institutional Consciousness and the Inner Life of Democracy in the Antebellum United States

Interior States: Institutional Consciousness and the Inner Life of Democracy in the Antebellum United States



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822342441
Publisher: Duke University Press Books
Publication date: 11/11/2008
Series: New Americanists Series
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Christopher Castiglia is Professor of English at the Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Bound and Determined: Captivity, Culture-Crossing, and White Womanhood from Mary Rowlandson to Patty Hearst and a co-editor of Walt Whitman’s temperance novel Franklin Evans; or, the Inebriate, also published by Duke University Press.

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By Christopher Castiglia


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ISBN: 978-0-8223-4267-0

Chapter One


Responding in Federalist 27 to anti-federalists such as William Findley, who cautioned that the new system of centralized governance was "not merely (as it ought to be) a Confederation of States, but a Government of Individuals," Alexander Hamilton unexpectedly turned his attention to the interior lives of citizens:

Man is very much a creature of habit. A thing that rarely strikes his senses will generally have but a transient influence upon his mind. A government continually at a distance and out of sight, can hardly be expected to interest the sensations of the people. The inference is, that the authority of the union, and the affections of the citizens towards it, will be strengthened, rather than weakened, by its extension to what are called matters of internal concern; and that it will have less occasion to recur to force, in proportion to the familiarity and comprehensiveness of its agency.

The "more the operations of the national authority are intermingled in the ordinary exercise of government," Hamilton continued, "the more citizens are accustomed to meet with it in the common occurrences of their political life; the more it is familiarized to their sight, and to their feelings, the further it enters into those objects, which touch the most sensible chords, and put in motion the most active strings of the human heart; the greater will be the probability, that it will conciliate the respect and attachment of the community." Hamilton understood that turning people into citizens required reaching them where they live, which was not yet in a nation but in churches, families, and communities where the affective bonds of loyalty and affection already existed. Those familiar locations of feelings held structures of hierarchy that, if reoriented toward federal affiliation, would render coercive power obsolete. Hamilton saw that education in social feelings precedes the law, rendering its dictates palatable to citizens who might otherwise see little profit in consenting to its restrictions or in answering to its interpellative naming.

In turning the social feelings into "matters of internal concern," Hamilton makes clear that at the close of the eighteenth century, citizenship was becoming an interior state in which individuals were being encouraged to recognize the interests and disciplines of the state as originating not in coercive legalisms or competitive capitalism, but in their "deep" selves. That Hamilton's phrase "internal concern" can signify the interior of both the nation-state and the citizen's body suggests how interconnected the two were becoming in the federal imaginary. The nation-state's future as an imagined community required, as Hamilton recognized, a federalization of affect: the creation of metaphors of "innerness" to serve as sites of correspondence between individual bodies (character, personality, even biology) and state interest. Although purportedly immutable (beyond the possibility of collective, public redefinition and change) and instinctual (beyond the reach of volitional self-control), federalized affect resulted from collective discourses learned, as Hamilton suggests, through rituals rehearsed to teach citizens that affect determines social order in ways that preexist "the social" itself. This belief that civic life arises from a self-contained depth, and not the other way around, had the effect of limiting citizens' public participation within prescribed forms of "private" life while promising, through the management of their interior states, a phantom social volition.

Despite Hamilton's confidence, however, participation in the federalization of affect appears to have been less than universal. The literature of the early republic registers citizens' resentment at their loss of control over powers to associate, much less to feel, as they saw fit. As several critics have noted, early national literature is saturated with a profound melancholy that marks the impassable boundary between sanctioned forms of "private life" and the divergent affects and attachments that animate citizens' progressive imaginations. Melancholy marks the border not only between public and private spheres but, more urgently, between a "public" that is increasingly inaccessible to a privatized citizenry and a realm of interactive sociability that is marked as much by disorder and dissent as by the managed "character" of sanctioned citizenship. The latter, characterized within the federalized public as the trivial and self-indulgent "fantasies" of the disenfranchised, moved increasingly into the never entirely subterranean space of the human interior, where it became archived as the losses manifested through melancholy. While melancholy seems to preserve a material loss, it is important to note that, rather than archiving an ideal sociality that existed in historical time, melancholy more often preserves the power of social imagining itself, the inventive potential that makes social alternatives not merely imaginable but attainable. Read in this way, melancholy is not an involuntary reaction to irretrievable loss, but a productive act of democratic imagination through which citizens safeguard their social aspirations by situating them in history (what is lost must once have existed) and in human interiority (melancholy disguises social visions as involuntary convulsions of emotion). While seeming to concede to calls for citizens to understand the social as affective, then, melancholy reveals the tense but constitutive relationship of history and interiority, of the social investments in interior states, and of a consequent "loss" (which is also an aspiration) that is necessarily both deeply personal and inexorably collective. The literary works discussed here-Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette, Washington Irving's "Rip Wan Winkle," and Caroline Dall's The Romance of the Association-depict the diminished public participation brought about by citizens' education in sanctioned interiority while simultaneously showing how affective redaction allowed the unruly interiors of citizens in the making to contest federalization by preserving in their melancholy interiors the hopes for a different-and better-social world.

Federal Affect

A critical problem for the new nation, as Michael Warner has shown, arose from the contested sovereignty of law: having delegitimized British rule, denying the representativeness of law (if the American people were not represented in Parliament, they had no obligation to honor British laws), the Founders could not simply declare the legal authority of a new federal constitution. At the same time, to leave unfettered the revolutionary dispersal of social agency was to legitimize a radically democratic state in which people agreed to rules only when convinced, by demonstrable outcomes, that laws were necessary. The danger faced by the Founders was the unpredictable lines of local affiliation and the unrestrained modes of social imagination they produced. To contain this danger, Warner argues, the Founders reinstated the sovereignty of law through the detachment of writing: by granting agency to the abstract trope "We, the People" that stands as a non-reciprocal substitute for local assembly, "writing became the hinge between a delegitimizing revolutionary politics and a non-revolutionary, already legal signification of the people." Republican beliefs about the disinterestedness of print further "elevated the values of generality over those of the personal. In this cognitive vocabulary the social diffusion of printed artifacts took on the investment of the disinterested virtue of the public orientation," Warner notes, "as opposed to the corrupting interests and passions of particular and local persons."

Warner's powerful analysis of print's role in redirecting local presence into the abstract and, hence, non-negotiable sovereignty of law, however, fails to account for why Hamilton, instead of arguing against "the corrupting interests and passions of particular and local persons," encouraged those "passions" in managed channels. A crucial question for the interpellative theory of legal sovereignty, in other words, is why, if local assembly was as satisfactorily participatory as Warner contends, citizens invested in the abstract simulacra of the Constitution. How did a people skeptical of the law know to "listen" for their name in its print proclamations? The answer to these questions lies in the rhetorical production of "feelings" that enabled people to believe, affectively, in their federalized name, "citizen," or to take affective belief as the grounds of acceptable naming. The shift in post-Revolutionary America was not simply from local assembly to legal print, then; it was a circulation between those entities carried out through the federalization of affect.

Such circulations were enabled largely through one of the prevailing fascinations of political and literary discourse in late-eighteenth-century America: friendship. In the movement toward constitutional law, friendship linked local speech and abstract print, making the abstract interpellations of law emotionally satisfying and hence believable to the citizens of the new nation. The role friendship played in interiorizing federal law into the affective orders of "social feelings" can be discerned in the emergence of the Constitution from its predecessor, the Articles of Confederation. While the Constitution asserts a unified national entity ("the People") established prior to the interpellation of print, the Articles located juridical power among bodies assembled in a particular space and time: "whereas the Delegates of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, did, on the 15th day of November, in the Year of Our Lord One thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy seven, and in the Second Year of Independence of America, agree to certain articles of Confederation." Through the primary authority of locally and historically situated individuals, the states take on the qualities nominally possessed by autonomous citizens, each state maintaining "its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled." Having figured the states as autonomous citizens ("in Congress assembled"), the Articles set forth their association as the affective give-and-take of friendship: "the said states hereby enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their Liberties, and their internal and general welfare." By figuring the confederation of state power through a metaphorical equivalence with the negotiations of friendship, the Articles bridged the widening gap between local assembly and abstract legality.

In the Articles, furthermore, affective affiliations took precedence over the abstract categories of law, even while their suturing, through the transfer of friendship to abstract state personalities, became what Warner calls "the site where all lesser collectivities are evacuated." Having established this affective rationale, the legal apparatus no longer required its metaphorical equivalences: the primary purpose of law in the Constitution is no longer to guarantee friendship but to ensure its own jurisdiction. The language of rights and immunities, of juridical purview, therefore carried over from the Articles to the Constitution, but the affective rationale of "friendship" was removed.

There is, of course, a tension inherent in the transformation of friendship from a local affiliation with historically and spatially localized subjects into legal sovereignty and abstract affinity. In the Federalist Papers, for instance, friendship sometimes describes the peaceful coherence of secular division into national unity (as in Hamilton's papers 8 and 11) and the already proposed nation's entrance into international commerce (as in Jay's papers 4 and 5). At other times, however, friendship figures as a counter-federal force arising from the competing loyalties of still localized citizens. In Madison's paper 46, for instance, the "superintending care" of federal government is a corrective to the "ties of personal acquaintance and friendship, and of family and party attachments." In arguing for a single president over a corporate leadership, Hamilton asserts in paper 76 that a president "will have fewer personal attachments to gratify" and therefore "will be so much the less liable to be misled by the sentiments of friendship and of affection." The tension in these conceptions of friendship-which serve both as a guarantor of peaceful cooperation and the cause of rancorous discord and disunity-is veiled by the narrative sequence of the papers themselves: having channeled local affection into federal coherence, that coherence, over the course of the papers, serves to eradicate the competing claims of unruly affection and its local affiliations. The theory of constitutional interpellation notes the second step, but not the first, and by ignoring the first-the ways in which citizen-subjects were shaped to guarantee the orderly management of a federalized civil sphere-readings of early American constitutionality miss the opportunities that existed for alternative forms of social configuration and citizenship.

Although scholars have recently investigated early American sympathy and other forms of social feeling, the federalization of affect has nevertheless escaped critical attention, perhaps because it stayed federal for a relatively brief period of time. Hamilton's call for a national pedagogy of orderly affect was quickly translated into-and found its broader fulfillment in-the social "uplift" movements that flourished in the 1820s and 1830s, forerunners of the institutional reforms that subsequent chapters examine. "Legislature may enact laws, but education must originate their conception, and interpret their meaning," Jonathan Blanchard told the American Institute of Instruction in 1835. "Government may check and restrain, but duty and obedience are the result of instruction. The hopes of our country depend on the bias which the minds of our children and youth receive." Blanchard surpassed Hamilton in placing national pedagogy in the hands of civil institutions that precede law in making acceptable to citizens social orders whose goal is not the enhancement of liberty but its constraint. Those constraints, Blanchard frankly noted, become palatable through the promise ("hopes") of an abstract national association ("our country") deferred to the horizons of futurity. If that future never arrives, citizens can prepare for it, in Blanchard's program, by training themselves in proper feelings, which are presented as the fundamental human desire for social relationships such as friendship:

Desire of society is as truly a part of our nature, as the dread of anguish or the love of life. This simple original desire, finds its gratification in the exercise of those natural affections, which interest us in the welfare of our kindred, our friends, our acquaintances, and our race; and, together with these affections, it forms that complex class of emotion, which we call the social feelings; and these, again, being constantly excited by the circumstances and relations of life, grow into a permanent habit, and become the all-pervading, master-feeling of the soul. (Continues...)

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. Interiority and the Problem of Misplaced Democracy 1

1. "Matters of Internal Concern": Federal Affect and the Melancholy Citizen 17

2. Bad Associations: Sociality, Interiority, Institutionalism 60

3. Abolition's Racial Interiors and White Civic Depth 101

4. Ardent Spirits: Intemperate Sociality and the Inner Life of Capital 136

5. Anxiety, Desire, and the Nervous State 168

6. Between Consciousness and Revolution: Romanticism and Racial Interiority 216

7. "I Want My Happiness!": Alienated Affections, Queer Sociality, and the Marvelous Interiors of the American Romance 256

Epilogue. Humanism without Humans: The Possibilities of Post-Interior Democracy 294

Notes 305

References 351

Index 363

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