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Preserving the White Man's Republic

Jacksonian Democracy, Race, and the Transformation of American Conservatism
Joshua A. Lynn

BUY Cloth · 264 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942506 · $39.50 · Apr 2019
BUY Ebook · 264 pp. · ISBN 9780813942513 · $39.50 · Apr 2019

In Preserving the White Man’s Republic, Joshua Lynn reveals how the national Democratic Party rebranded majoritarian democracy and liberal individualism as conservative means for white men in the South and North to preserve their mastery on the eve of the Civil War.

Responding to fears of African American and female political agency, Democrats in the late 1840s and 1850s reinvented themselves as "conservatives" and repurposed Jacksonian Democracy as a tool for local majorities of white men to police racial and gender boundaries by democratically withholding rights. With the policy of "popular sovereignty," Democrats left slavery’s expansion to white men’s democratic decision-making. They also promised white men local democracy and individual autonomy regarding temperance, religion, and nativism. Translating white men’s household mastery into political power over all women and Americans of color, Democrats united white men nationwide and made democracy a conservative assertion of white manhood.

Democrats thereby turned traditional Jacksonian principles—grassroots democracy, liberal individualism, and anti-statism—into staples staples of conservatism. As Lynn’s book shows, this movement sent conservatism on a new, populist trajectory, one in which democracy can be called upon to legitimize inequality and hierarchy, a uniquely American conservatism that endures in our republic today.


A fine work of scholarship. Its many strengths include solid research and a rich and nuanced reading of Democrats’ ideology in a crucial period in that party’s existence.

Matthew Mason, Brigham Young University, author of Apostle of Union: A Political Biography of Edward Everett

About the Author: 

Joshua A. Lynn is Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Kentucky University.

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