Cover: Democracy by Petition: Popular Politics in Transformation, 1790–1870, from Harvard University PressCover: Democracy by Petition in HARDCOVER

Democracy by Petition

Popular Politics in Transformation, 1790–1870

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$51.00 • £44.95 • €46.95

ISBN 9780674247499

Publication Date: 05/04/2021


648 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

11 photos, 15 illus., 20 tables


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  • Preface
  • Introduction
    • 1. Signature Moments, 1846–1849
      • Vignettes from the peak of North American petitioning—the Innu tribe of northeastern Canada; the first American woman suffrage petition from the women of Jefferson County, New York; Aaron Constant and the free Blacks of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; the Irish canal workers of Indiana; Harriet Scott’s freedom suit petition in St. Louis; Padre José Martínez, statehood, and slavery in New Mexico; mass Catholic petitions in the Mexican La Reforma.
    • 2. Eruptions and Democracies
      • Documents the continental explosion and transformation of petitioning and argues that democratization—and democracy itself—must include a regular technology of claim and response. Centers the democracy of agendas as a pivotal characteristic of political equality.
  • Stirrings
    • 3. Petitions, Prayers, and Their Venues
      • The history of petitioning, the transformation of political culture in print, religion and equality, and the significance of burgeoning venues—legislatures, bureaus, councils, synods, offices—to petitioning. The disruptions and democratic petitioning moments of the American Revolution.
    • 4. Petitioning in the Settler Republic: Space, Capital, Soldiers
      • Describes the older, colonial model of petitioning that smoothed the development of settler societies and industrial capitalism in North America. This older model would be gradually superseded by the more democratic modes of the mid-nineteenth century.
    • 5. First Nations, First Wave Petitioners
      • How Native North Americans—from Saint Lawrence communities to the Seneca in New York to John Ross and the Cherokee to Mexican pueblos—harnessed and transformed petitioning in response to dispossession. Describes the advance of women’s role in petitioning, the targeting of administrative venues, and the marriage of legal and political strategy.
    • 6. Slavery, Skin, and Black Strategy
      • The emergence of organized Black petitioning in the British West Indies and the United States, the debate over sectional expansion, and the stirrings of a broader campaign against slavery. Petitioning and slavery in independent Mexico and Texas.
  • Awakenings
    • 7. Patriotes and Rebels: Petitioning and Parliamentary Sovereignty in French Canada
      • In arguably the largest petitioning campaign of the Atlantic world of its time, French Canadians depose a colonial governor, preserve provincial separation, protect parliamentary autonomy, and influence the English Chartist movement.
    • 8. Producers, Electors, City Democrats
      • The importance of petitioning in suffrage extensions, in the emergence and transformation of labor organization, and in urban democracy movements in the United States and Canada.
    • 9. The Coalescence of Opposition: From the Bank War to Canadian Reform
      • The role of petitioning in the emergence of opposition parties, with the Bank War campaign of 1832—1834 shaping the emergence of the Whig Party in the United States, while petitioning fuels Durhamite opposition to Tory oligarchy in Upper Canada.
    • 10. Abolition and the Transformation of U.S. Politics
      • The transformation of collective petition campaigns led by women, whose canvassing vastly surpassed men’s and whose defiance of the gag rule transformed gender roles in American politics and reshaped the slavery debate. Describes the historical peak of U.S. petitioning, the explosion of mass Black petitioning, and the petition-induced emergence of antislavery organizations.
  • Democracies and Closures
    • 11. Women Contesting Collectively: Work, War, Iglesia, and the Ballot
      • The flourishing of women’s petitioning in the northern United States and Mexico. Labor campaigns and the Lowell textile workers, American women’s role in the anti–Mexican-American War campaign, the corresponding surge of women’s petitioning in Mexico, and the emergence of the woman suffrage movement.
    • 12. The Eclipse of Lordship: Petitioning and Land Tenure in the United States and Canada
      • The central role of tenant farmer memorials in the demise of manorial tenure in New York State and Lower Canada. Shows how petitioning, more than elections and legal change, effected the demise of North American feudalism.
    • 13. Native Continuance, Native Governance
      • Native resistance, as the Seneca successfully win back reservation lands in New York, the Ojibwe preserve villages in Michigan, and the Innu and allies successfully petition for reserves in Canada.
    • 14. The Closure of Petition Democracy in the U.S. South, 1839–1860
      • The stark decline in the number and topical variety of southern U.S. petitions, even as other hallmarks of democracy (a professional middle class, newspaper subscriptions, and presidential voting turnout) remain stable or flourish. The absence of women’s collective petitioning and the narrowness of southern economic petitioning.
    • 15. Freedom and the Petitioner’s Democracy
      • Begins with the radical petition of Savannah freedmen for the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Describes the centrality of mass petitioning—with Black Americans and women at the fore—in the campaign for emancipation and for the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. Ends with Sojourner Truth and her petitioning campaign for Black land reparations.
  • Afterword: Agendas, Organization, and the Democracy of Petitions
  • Archives and Manuscript Collections Consulted
  • Abbreviations
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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