Loyal Subjects: Bonds of Nation, Race and Allegiance in Nineteenth-Century America

Loyal Subjects: Bonds of Nation, Race and Allegiance in Nineteenth-Century America

Loyal Subjects: Bonds of Nation, Race and Allegiance in Nineteenth-Century America

Loyal Subjects: Bonds of Nation, Race and Allegiance in Nineteenth-Century America

Synopsis

When one nation becomes two, or when two nations become one, what does national affiliation mean or require? Elizabeth Duquette answers this question by demonstrating how loyalty was used during the U.S. Civil War to define proper allegiance to the Union. For Northerners during the war, and individuals throughout the nation after Appomattox, loyalty affected the construction of national identity, moral authority, and racial characteristics.

Loyal Subjects considers how the Civil War complicated the cultural value of emotion, especially the ideal of sympathy. Through an analysis of literary works written during and after the conflict-from Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Chiefly About War Matters" through Henry James's The Bostonians and Charles Chestnutt's "The Wife of His Youth," to the Pledge of Allegiance and W.E.B. Du Bois's John Brown, among many others-Duquette reveals that although American literary criticism has tended to dismiss the Civil War's impact, postwar literature was profoundly shaped by loyalty.

Excerpt

Tens of thousands of American children recited the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time on October 21, 1892. Planned to correspond with the dedication ceremony for the Columbian World Exposition in Chicago, the Pledge of Allegiance was one part of a pedagogical program designed by the staff at the Youth’s Companion to inculcate patriotic habits among American children. Like the fair itself, which Charles Eliot Norton likened to “a great promise, even a great pledge,” the “1892 Columbus Day Programme” was designed to honor “what the flag … stood for, the reason for loyalty,” its writer, Francis Bellamy, later explained. In addition to reciting the pledge—“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands—one Nation indivisible—with Liberty and Justice for all”—the children involved read an ode (“Columbia’s Banner”), listened to an address (“The Meaning of the Four Centuries”), and sang the “Song of Columbus Day.”

In “The Meaning of the Four Centuries,” Bellamy developed the political ideas condensed in the Pledge of Allegiance, couching them in a language appropriate to a child’s celebration of “true Americanism.” Reviewing the nation’s history,

We see hardy men with intense convictions, grappling, struggling,
often amid battle smoke, and some idea characteristic of the New
World always triumphing. We see settlements knitting together
into a nation with singleness of purpose. We note the birth of the
modern system of industry and commerce, and its striking forth

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