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Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South$
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William A. Link, David Brown, Brian Ward, and Martyn Bone

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780813044132

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813044132.001.0001

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Citizenship, Democracy, and the Structure of Politics in the Old South

Citizenship, Democracy, and the Structure of Politics in the Old South

John Calhoun’s Conundrum

(p.84) 4 Citizenship, Democracy, and the Structure of Politics in the Old South
Creating Citizenship in the Nineteenth-Century South

David Brown

University Press of Florida

It is an opportune moment to reconsider this dominant interpretation. The metanarrative of consensual democracy has been chipped away, in many respects, state by state. This essay builds on these insights in surveying citizenship in the antebellum South from the perspective of ordinary southerners. It provides a new assessment of southern antebellum state constitutions in which the focus concerns the legal structures of democracy, rather than democratic processes, and the extent to which political power was formally transferred to other groups. In the antebellum South, the proslavery argument loudly proclaimed the equality of white men, secured on the bedrock of universal suffrage. The notion of political democracy bridging class differences was projected forcefully by southerners in the 1850s. This model of democratic citizenship subsequently became the dominant historiographical interpretation. Structural changes in the Jacksonian period, facilitated by the writing of new state constitutions, nurtured the transition from republican to democratic politics. This compromise resulted in a redistribution of political power.

Keywords:   antebellum South, citizenship, yeoman

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