Democratic Politics on the Frontier
Chapter 4 tracks commons democracy into the 1830s on the nation’s western frontier, drawing on political novels that take up the presence of such vernacular democratic practices and ideals. The frontier literature that became so popular after the 1820s largely worked to support the developing consensus narrative by consigning the equalitarian demands, practices, and beliefs of common citizens to the outlands or to the nation’s prehistory. But the sheer repetition of this plotline decades past the Whiskey Rebellion suggests that the practices Hamilton sought to curtail lived on. The novels I study in this chapter, Robert Montgomery Bird’s Nick of the Woods (1837), William Gilmore Simms’s Richard Hurdis (1838), and Caroline Kirkland’s A New Home, Who’ll Follow? (1839), explore the problem of defining and containing self-governing practices in the West, and western resistance to Federal government’s nationalizing aims.
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