Northern Illinois University Press

Celebrating the Republic

Presidential Ceremony and Popular Sovereignty, from Washington to Monroe

Sandra Moats

“Intriguing and revelatory. A wonderful book. Much of Moats’s story is familiar, but her telling of it and her analytical framework bring a fresh perspective on national politics and especially the supposed ‘Era of Good Feelings.’”—Michael A. Morrison, Purdue University

“A well-written study of an important and inherently interesting topic. Very interesting ... breaks new ground.”—Simon Newman, University of Glasgow

From the glitz of inaugural balls to the pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union address, the American presidency is rife with symbolism and ceremony.In Celebrating the Republic, Sandra Moats examines how the first five presidents—with special emphasis on George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe—invented the American political culture that endures today. Drawing from the chaotic political culture of the founding era, these presidents used symbolism to connect the national government to the people at large. Their efforts defined republican government for the founding generation and those to follow.

Moats details the trials and errors of our founding fathers as they tried to symbolically establish the authority of the office of the president and the federal government. An elaborate mechanism designed to “crown” Washington with a laurel wreath at his inauguration shows the struggle of early leaders to invent appropriate and inspiring signs and rituals compatible with republican ideas. We now take for granted the trappings of our government, but titles, accessibility, protocol, tours, and inaugurations were all topics of great debate and deliberate decision making in the early republic.

Celebrating the Republic elaborates on the stylistic differences between Washington and Jefferson and shows that John Adams and James Madison floundered while trying to develop their own styles. Washington, responding to the monarchical rituals instituted by the public and Congress, created a ceremonial presidency complete with tours and formal receptions. Jefferson rejected this in favor of an informal style and an emphasis on rhetoric and the written word rather than ritual. Moats points to Monroe as an example of a leader who successfully combined elements of both the formal and the informal approaches. Scholars of the early republic and the presidency, as well as casual readers interested in the founding fathers, will find much to enjoy in this entertaining study.

(2010) 255 pp., 22 illus.
ISBN 978-0-87580-411-8
cloth $36.00

Sandra Moats is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.

Table of Contents

Introduction—“Untrodden Ground”: Presidential Ceremony and Popular Sovereignty
Chapter I—“Ceremonies, Endless Ceremonies”: The People and Congress Inaugurate a President
Chapter II—“To Preserve the Dignity and Respect”: Washington’s Republican Approach to Presidential Ceremony
Chapter III—“We Deal in Ink Only”: Jefferson’s Rhetorical Opposition to Federalist Ceremony
Chapter IV—Desperately Seeking “Good Feelings”: Monroe’s Northern Tour of 1817
Chapter V—“The Success and Stability of our Republican Institutions”: Monroe’s Southern Tour of 1819
Conclusion—Celebrations, Parties, and Antebellum Politics

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-411-8
Celebrating the Republic $36.00