Uniform TitleOne nation: cosmopolitanism and the making of American identity from Madison to Lincoln
NameKeck, Aaron Michael (author), Schochet, Gordon (chair), Bronner, Stephen (internal member), Tichenor, Daniel (internal member), Schultz, David (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
DescriptionMy dissertation traces the belief that Americans are united in solidarity primarily in cosmopolitan terms--that is, by virtue of their shared humanity. Though scholars rarely identify "shared humanity" as a source of American solidarity, I find that many seminal figures in U.S. history appealed for solidarity on precisely these grounds.
The question of solidarity--the feeling of mutual affinity between members of a community, long recognized as essential to a free society--has always been central to American political discourse. Solidarity seems to require homogeneity, a "shared characteristic" from which it can spring; but because Americans have always been conscious of their diversity, the source of that homogeneity has always been an open question. Recent flaps over "multiculturalism" and immigration are only the newest iterations of a centuries-old debate. Casting the conflict in terms of a question of scope, I identify six competing "circles" of solidarity, ranging from sub-national attachments, which bind us to some but not all Americans, to wide transnational affinities, which bind us to Americans and non-Americans alike. Cosmopolitanism, the widest circle of all, has long been neglected; but it would have had strong appeal to those who believed, as many did, that Americans were united by little else.
In the second half of the dissertation, I turn my attention to four of the most "supremely American" antebellum political thinkers: James Madison, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Abraham Lincoln. Often characterized as a mere pluralist, Madison in fact was a committed republican who recognized the need for solidarity, but also took seriously the common belief that Americans had only their humanity in common. Madison thus worked to develop sustainable republican institutions for an extremely wide "sphere" of society, repeatedly arguing throughout the Constitutional debates that republicanism grew stronger as the scope of solidarity grew wider. Picking up this thread, Emerson and Whitman developed a cosmopolitan "story of peoplehood," culminating in Whitman's original Leaves of Grass, that grounded American unity in an all-encompassing human "Over-Soul." Lincoln, simultaneously, concluded that the cosmopolitan moment implicit in the Declaration of Independence was the proper source of "national" solidarity.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 299-320).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.