Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Coming to Terms with Democracy

Coming to Terms with Democracy: Federalist Intellectuals and the Shaping of an American Culture, 1800–1828

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 303
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Coming to Terms with Democracy
    Book Description:

    William Tudor, Willard Phillips, and Richard Henry Dana were not their fathers' Federalists. When these young New England intellectuals and their contemporaries attempted to carve out a place for themselves in the rapidly changing and increasingly unfriendly culture of the early nineteenth century, the key to their efforts was the founding, in 1815, of the North American Review.

    Raised as Federalists, and encouraged to believe that they had special responsibilities as "the wise and the good," they came of age within a cultural and political climate that no longer deferred to men of their education and background. But unlike their fathers, who retreated in disgust before the emerging forces of democracy, these young Federalist intellectuals tried to adapt their parents' ideology to the new political and social realities and preserve for themselves a place as the first public intellectuals in America.

    In Coming to Terms with Democracy, Marshall Foletta contends that by calling for a new American literature in their journal, the second-generation Federalists helped American readers break free from imported neo-classical standards, thus paving the way for the American Renaissance. Despite their failure to reconstitute in the cultural sphere their fathers' lost political prominence, Foletta concludes that the original contributors to the North American Review were enormously influential both in the creation of the role of the American public intellectual, and in the development of a vision for the American university that most historians place in a much later period. They have earned a prominent place in the history of American literature, magazines and journals, law and legal education, institutional reform, and the cultural history of New England.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-2169-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 1815
    (pp. 1-21)

    In January 1815 Harrison Gray Otis left Hartford, Connecticut, for Washington, D.C. Having spent several weeks in Hartford discussing with his Federalist colleagues their opposition to the present war with England, he now carried the convention report to President Madison. The president, and the nation, waited uneasily for this report. New Englanders had opposed the war at its inception in 1812, and their opposition had intensified as their trade was proscribed and their coastal towns came under attack. By 1815 public protest was vehement, and threats of secession were tossed about regularly. Within this atmosphere Otis traveled to the nation’s...

    (pp. 22-44)

    For the Federalists of Harrison Gray Otis’s generation, the events surrounding 1815 were as unexpected as they were grim. The embarrassment of Hartford and the subsequent collapse of the party were not a part of the world they expected to inherit. They had come of age in a time when the principles and position of Federalism had been securely established. In the pulpit and the schools of late eighteenth-century New England, Federalist values were canonized and sustained. The New England clergy, although somewhat divided theologically, were still united in their commitment to Federalist principles of deference and authority. New England’s...

    (pp. 45-75)

    On most any Sunday evening in 1810, the candles would burn late in the parsonage of the Brattle Street Church as its young pastor, Joseph Stevens Buckminster, indulged himself after a day in the pulpit with an evening of music and conversation. Widely recognized as one of Boston’s most brilliant thinkers and affective speakers, Buckminster would lead a discussion that ranged far beyond that day’s sermon to questions of literature, art, and science. His guests would include men of established reputation like Samuel Dexter, the eminent lawyer; William Wells, the publisher; and Chief Justice Isaac Parker. But Buckminster also invited...

    (pp. 76-100)

    When theNorth American Reviewbegan publication in 1815, there was much in it that no doubt reminded readers of theMonthly Anthology. Although its articles were published anonymously, its readers must have recognized many of the same contributors. And although theReviewchanged its format and added some new features, many of its themes should have been familiar. Its calls for the development and support of a national literature and its concern that the practical and activist bent in American society was stifling American letters had been voiced earlier in theMonthly Anthology. Long before Edward Everett of the...

    (pp. 101-134)

    During the first years of theNorth American Review’s existence, the journal advanced a vision for American literature that was indeed promising. Weaving together the old and the new, neoclassical principles and romantic theories, the journal’s young Federalist intellectuals constructed a theory of literature that offered a great deal to the American character and polity, an understanding of literature that emphasized its powers to strengthen individual morality, shape the public conscience, and form the bonds of nationhood. It was a vision that was both promising and timely. British letters were on the decline, but America’s republican society was generating those...

    (pp. 135-181)

    Not all of the young Federalist intellectuals coming of age during these years, traveling in the same social circles and contributing to theNorth American Review,rested all their hope in the power of culture. To rely solely on the influence of literature and literary criticism would deny the range and power of the faculties that animated individuals and communities. Their fathers at least had realized that social order depended on the construction and careful maintenance of institutions, even though they had been shortsighted in their management. But what institutions would ensure social stability now that the political institutions were...

    (pp. 182-208)

    In the years between 1815 and 1828, the contributors to theNorth American Reviewelaborated a vision that promised both their continued influence and the preservation of social order. In implementing the vision, they met considerable resistance. And within the vision itself there were troubling undercurrents and a continuing disagreement with the more general directions of American thought and society that, in retrospect, should not have been ignored. Yet overall, this vision represented an impressive rethinking of their fathers’ conservative ideology. Moreover, despite its flaws, it seems to have effectively reconciled these young Federalists to the changing social and political...

    (pp. 209-246)

    As Andrew Jackson rode triumphantly into the city of Washington for his inauguration, the old guard of the Federalist Party looked on in disbelief and despair. The revolution in American politics initiated by Thomas Jefferson seemed completed in the election of this Tennessee Democrat. At least Jefferson had been restrained by his “constitutional timidity,” William Sullivan would note in later years.¹ Never had the “intelligent people” of America, added Massachusetts congressman Samuel Clesson Allen, seen in such an exalted position a man of such “bad character—a man covered with crimes.”² But for the younger generation of Federalists, Jackson’s election...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 247-270)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-290)
  15. Index
    (pp. 291-303)