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"Let a Common Interest Bind Us Together"

Associations, Partisanship, and Culture in Philadelphia, 1775–1840
Albrecht Koschnik

BUY Cloth · 384 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813926483 · $49.50 · Jul 2007

After examining American society in 1831-32, Alexis de Tocqueville concluded, "In no country in the world has the principle of association been more successfully used or applied to a greater multitude of objects than in America." What he failed to note, however, was just how much experimentation and conflict, including partisan conflict, had gone into the evolution of these institutions. In "Let a Common Interest Bind Us Together": Associations, Partisanship, and Culture in Philadelphia, 1775-1840, Albrecht Koschnik examines voluntary associations in Philadelphia from the Revolution into the 1830s, revealing how--in the absence of mass political parties or a party system--these associations served as incubators and organizational infrastructure for the development of intense partisanship in the early republic. In this regard they also played a central role in the creation of a political public sphere, accompanied by competing visions of what the public sphere ought to comprise.

Despite the central role voluntary associations played in the emergence of a popular political culture in the early republic, they have not figured prominently in the literature on partisan politics and public life. Koschnik looks specifically at how Philadelphia Federalists and Republicans used fraternal societies and militia companies to mobilize partisans, and he charts the transformation of voluntary action from a common partisan tool into a Federalist domain of interlocking cultural, occupational, and historical institutions after the War of 1812. In the long run, Federalists--a political minority of less and less significance--shaped and dominated the associational life of Philadelphia.

"Let a Common Interest Bind Us Together" lays the groundwork for a new understanding of the political and cultural history of the early American republic.


"‘Let a Common Interest Bind Us Together’ is an extremely important work in the political history of the early republic, and it will prove to be of considerably wider consequence. Offering the first major study of the post-revolutionary construction of 'civil society' in an important American city, this book will be the benchmark study for reconsidering the rise of American political parties in their cultural and social context. The result will require a wholesale reevaluation of Tocquevillian nostrums about state and society.

John L. Brooke, Ohio State University

About the Author(s): 

Albrecht Koschnik is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Florida State University.

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