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Invisible Sovereign

Imagining Public Opinion from the Revolution to Reconstruction

Mark G. Schmeller

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How has the idea of public opinion changed since the Revolutionary War—and how has it shaped the nation?

In the early American republic, the concept of public opinion was a recent—and ambiguous—invention. While appearing to promise a new style and system of democratic and deliberative politics, the concept was also invoked to limit self-rule, cement traditional prejudices and hierarchies, forestall deliberation, and marginalize dissent. As Americans contested the meaning of this essentially contestable idea, they expanded and contracted the horizons of political possibility and renegotiated the...

How has the idea of public opinion changed since the Revolutionary War—and how has it shaped the nation?

In the early American republic, the concept of public opinion was a recent—and ambiguous—invention. While appearing to promise a new style and system of democratic and deliberative politics, the concept was also invoked to limit self-rule, cement traditional prejudices and hierarchies, forestall deliberation, and marginalize dissent. As Americans contested the meaning of this essentially contestable idea, they expanded and contracted the horizons of political possibility and renegotiated the terms of political legitimacy.

Tracing the notion of public opinion from its late eighteenth-century origins to the Gilded Age, Mark G. Schmeller’s Invisible Sovereign argues that public opinion is a central catalyst in the history of American political thought. Schmeller treats it as a contagious idea that infected a broad range of discourses and practices in powerful, occasionally ironic, and increasingly contentious ways.

Ranging across a wide variety of historical fields, Invisible Sovereign traces a shift over time from early "political-constitutional" concepts, which identified public opinion with a sovereign people and wrapped it in the language of constitutionalism, to more modern, "social-psychological" concepts, which defined public opinion as a product of social action and mass communication.

Reviews

Reviews

This is an extremely important contribution... He has written a fine book. It will be an essential point of departure for future explorations of public opinion in the American past

An impressive and edifying contribution to the history of early national and antebellum American political thought. Invisible Sovereign is eloquent, witty, deeply researched, and attuned to the significant and interesting features of the many sources it analyzes and the issues it raises.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
256
ISBN
9781421418704
Illustration Description
2 b&w illus., 3 charts
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction Public Opinion and the American Political Imagination
1. The Moral Economy of Opinion
2. Credit and the Political Economy of Opinion
3. Partisan Manufactories of Public

Acknowledgments
Introduction Public Opinion and the American Political Imagination
1. The Moral Economy of Opinion
2. Credit and the Political Economy of Opinion
3. Partisan Manufactories of Public Sentiment
4. The Importance of Having Opinions
5. The Fatal Force of Public Opinion
6. Irrepressible Conflicts, Impending Crises
Conclusion Corn-Pone Opinions
Notes
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio