Anti-Statism in U.S. History

Why have some perceived the State as a threat? How has anti-statist thought changed over time? Introduction The United States came into being through a colonial revolt against the British monarchy and, ever since, Americans have remained uneasy about the power of the State, or centralized, national government. From the eighteenth century on, American intellectual[…]

Subject to Citizen, Kingdom to Nation: Changing Notions of Identity in the Age of the French Revolution

What did it mean to become a citizen of the new nation? Introduction In 1789 the people of France began a revolution that would bring profound changes to their country’s political and social order. These changes came especially fast during the first six years: The Revolution started with the establishment of the National Assembly and[…]

The Free Soil Party, 1848-1854

More successful than most third parties, it had two senators and fourteen representatives sent to the thirty-first Congress. Introduction The Free Soil Party was a short-lived political party in the United States which was active in the 1848 and 1852 presidential elections, and in some state elections. It formed as a breakaway faction of the[…]

A History of Political Parties in the United States

The need to win popular support in a republic led to the American emergence of voter-based political parties in the 1790s. Introduction Political parties in the United States are dominated by two major parties. Since the 1850s, they have been the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. This two-party system is based on laws, party[…]

The Know Nothing Party: Nativist Paranoia in the Mid-19th Century

When a party member was asked about its activities, he was supposed to reply, “I know nothing.” Introduction The Know Nothing movement was a nativist American political movement of the 1850s. It grew up as a popular reaction to fears that major cities were being overwhelmed by Irish Catholic immigrants whom they regarded as hostile[…]

The Remarkable Success of Midwestern Front Porch Campaigns from Garfield to Harding

By 1840, William Henry Harrison became the first presidential candidate to tour and give speeches to adoring throngs. By Jeffrey Normand Bourdon The ways that presidential candidates have reached out to voters over the course of US History have changed partly because the franchise has been opened to more people so more voter participation in[…]

Voices, Votes, Victory: Presidential Campaign Songs since George Washington

Lyrics ranged from broad satire to sincere political expression, demonstrating just how effective a messenger music can be. Early Rally Songs “Washington’s March” America’s earliest presidential elections were simple contests in which the candidate who garnered the most votes won. With impassioned partisan races yet to emerge, political songs were expressions of patriotism. “The Favorite[…]

Counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s: Politics in a Fractured Society

As people lost hope of reuniting as a society with common interests and goals, many focused on issues of significance to the subgroups to which they belonged. Hippies and the Counterculture In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many young people came to embrace a new wave of cultural dissent. The counterculture offered an alternative[…]

The Pre-Revolutionary Period and the Roots of the American Political Tradition

It was not new ideas but old ones that led the colonists to revolt and form a new nation. Political Thought in the American Colonies American political ideas regarding liberty and self-government did not suddenly emerge full-blown at the moment the colonists declared their independence from Britain. The varied strands of what became the American[…]

Roosevelt’s Smashing of Landon in the 1936 Presidential Election

Roosevelt won the greatest electoral landslide since the beginning of the two-party system in the 1850s. Introduction The 1936 United States presidential election was the 38th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 3, 1936. In the midst of the Great Depression, incumbent Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican Governor Alf Landon of Kansas.[…]

Tyranny, Democracy, and the Polity: Aristotle’s Politics

Aristotle argued that there were six general ways in which societies could be organized under political rule. The Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that questions of the state, how it should be organized, and how it should pursue its ends, were fundamental to the achievement of happiness. His text Politics is an exploration of different types of state[…]

Ambitus: Law and Political Corruption in Ancient Rome

The trials for ambitus were numerous in the time of the republic. Introduction In ancient Roman law, ambitus was a crime of political corruption, mainly a candidate’s attempt to influence the outcome (or direction) of an election through bribery or other forms of soft power. The Latin word ambitus is the origin of the English[…]

Electing Members of Congress in the Early Republic

Procedures for electing members of Congress in the early republic greatly differed from the single-district system that is in use today. By Philip LampiHistorian Until 1825, the U.S. government did not require that local election officials formally report the results of their contests to any state or federal officials. Without official sources of election returns,[…]

Political Parties in the Early American Republic

This was a period of great experimentation and change in the development of political parties. The framers of the federal Constitution had not anticipated the development of permanent political parties. Parties were considered “factions,” dangerous and illegitimate alliances that pursued their own self-interest at the expense of the common good. National leaders were expected to[…]

National Politics and the Populist Party at the End of the Nineteenth Century

From the perspective of farmers, the legal system was being commandeered by attorneys representing railroads and trusts. Rise of the Populist Party During the 1880s, farmer’s collective organizations known as the Grange declined, as did the Greenback Party. However, the twin ideals of monetary reform and legislation beneficial to farmers were carried on by a[…]

Teddy Roosevelt’s Popularity on Both Sides of the Political Aisle

The forces that have shaped the Rough Rider’s presidential legacy in the decades since his death nearly 100 years ago. A president’s career can extend well beyond his death, as family, friends, and fans work tirelessly to maintain his legacy and image. For roughly 10 years, I have studied the legacy of the 26th president,[…]

The Oligarchic Coup in Athens, 411 BCE

The movement toward oligarchy was led by a number of prominent and wealthy Athenians. Introduction The Athenian coup of 411 BC was the result of a revolution that took place during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. The coup overthrew the democratic government of ancient Athens and replaced it with a short-lived oligarchy known[…]

Demos and Kratos: People and Power in Ancient Athens

Athenian democracy was indeed a direct democracy, but not for everybody. By Georgios Mavropalias A sequence of events allowed the birth of democracy in ancient Athens; the reforms of Solon which weakened the aristocracy and redefined citizenship, their reinstatement by Cleisthenes after the oligarchy reemerged, and the shrinkage of the power of Areopagus by Ephialtes,[…]

A History of Political Parties in the United States

The winning supporters of ratification of the Constitution were called Federalists and the opponents were called Anti-Federalists. The First Political Parties: Federalists and Anti-Federalists Overview The winning supporters of ratification of the Constitution were called Federalists, the opponents were called Anti-Federalists. The Federalist Era was a period in American history from roughly 1789-1801 when the[…]

The First Party System in the Early American Republic

By 1796 politics in every state was nearly monopolized by two parties, with party newspapers and caucuses becoming especially effective tools to mobilize voters. Introduction The First Party System is a model of American politics used in history and political science to periodize the political party system that existed in the United States between roughly[…]

The Birth and Growth of Gerrymandering in Early America

Gerrymandering, the politicians’ practice of drawing district lines to favor their party and expand their power, is nearly as old as the republic itself. Elbridge Gerry was a powerful voice in the founding of the nation, but today he’s best known for the political practice with an amphibious origin. Long and thin, the redrawn state[…]

Elbridge Gerry’s Monster Salamander that Swallows Votes

Examining the two-hundred-year-old creation of Founding Father Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. By Harlow Giles Unger As Americans prepare to vote in local and state elections on Election Day, tens of thousands–even millions–will find their votes chewed, swallowed, and discarded by a monstrous “salamander”—the two-hundred-year-old creation of Founding Father Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Gerry created the[…]

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Opponents Unified in Founding Principles

They asked voters to sort through mounds of partisan propaganda and do whatever necessary to understand the issues. By Georgiann Baldino Political insults and conspiracy theories are nothing new in American history. One election in particular set a standard for nasty charges and countercharges. In the 1858 Illinois senatorial contest, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas hurled insults and[…]

Overpromise, Lie, and Other Hairy Political Advice from Quintus Cicero in 64 BCE

His brother, Marcus (the famed orator), was running for consul, the loftiest office in the Roman Republic. If Karl Rove had lived in ancient Rome, he might have written something like Commentariolum Petitiones, a down-and-dirty electioneering guide from 64 B.C. published in English by Princeton University Press as How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide[…]

Lessons in the Decline of Democracy from the Ruined Roman Republic

A new book argues that violent rhetoric and disregard for political norms was the beginning of Rome’s end. By Jason Daley The U.S. Constitution owes a huge debt to ancient Rome. The Founding Fathers were well-versed in Greek and Roman History. Leaders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison read the historian Polybius, who laid out[…]

A Century of Protest in D.C.

From veterans to civil rights, a history of marching in Washington. By Dr. Alexander SternWriter/EditorThe Learning Agency Marching on Washington may seem an obvious recourse for a national protest movement today, but it wasn’t until more than a century after the District of Columbia’s founding in 1791 that protesters first marched on the Capitol. The[…]

Jane Addams and Lillian Wald: Imagining Social Justice from the Outside

Their relationships were profoundly instrumental to their vision of social justice that changed America. Anyone who has taken a United States history course in high school knows the story of Jane Addams and Chicago’s Hull House, the first Settlement House in America and arguably the genesis of social work in the country. More advanced textbooks[…]