For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence

By Alexander Tsesis | Go to book overview

5
COMPROMISING FOR THE SAKE
OF EXPANSION

THE DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY DOMINATED POLITICS DURING the first quarter of the nineteenth century, with Thomas Jefferson as its leader for much of that period. This era of seeming political tranquility was punctured by debates about whether slavery should extend west to the Missouri Territory. The Declaration of Independence figured prominently in congressional deliberations, forever altering understanding of the document’s central message and the country’s self-image.

Beginning with the first decade of the nineteenth century, Federalist political strategy deemphasized the Declaration of Independence in order to downplay Jefferson’s intellectual contribution to the Revolution. This was as much a swipe at Jefferson as it was a deliberate, but unsuccessful, attempt to draw support away from his Republican Party. In 1809, an author wrote that “no extraordinary ability was necessary” to enumerate accusations against King George III “and as to the principle, it is evidently taken from Locke, without the candour of an acknowledgment.” The acrimony was not about the significance of the Declaration’s central principles of self-governance and liberal equality, but about the status of

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For Liberty and Equality: The Life and Times of the Declaration of Independence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Becoming Independent 6
  • 3 - The Nation’s Infancy 24
  • 4 - Youthful Republic 40
  • 5 - Compromising for the Sake of Expansion 57
  • 6 - Jacksonian Era Democracy 75
  • 7 - Subordination 100
  • 8 - The Unraveling Bonds of Union 129
  • 9 - Sectional Cataclysm 148
  • 10 - Reconstruction 179
  • 11 - Racial Tensions 202
  • 12 - Advancing Women’s Causes 215
  • 13 - The Changing Face of Labor 227
  • 14 - International Impact and Domestic Advance 241
  • 15 - The Declaration in a New Deal State 264
  • 16 - Independence Principles in the Civil Rights Era 283
  • 17 - Epilogue 312
  • Acknowledgments 319
  • Appendix - The Declaration of Independence 321
  • Notes 327
  • Index 377
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