“The Field of Blood”: The Culture of Congress in Antebellum America


ACLS Fellowship Program



Named Award

ACLS/New York Public Library Fellow named award


Between 1820 and 1860, there were over 120 violent incidents between congressmen on the floor of Congress. This project examines this pattern of violence, tracing the evolution of a distinctive culture of Congress. Rather than a Whiggish tale of political modernization, the rise of democracy brought complications. The burgeoning press created a national audience that profoundly shaped the workings of Congress, breeding a culture of publicity that compelled congressmen to defend themselves and their home states with fist-clenched diligence. Studying Congress through a cultural lens thus offers new insight into the crucial decades before the Civil War, revealing a series of cultural and institutional adaptations in an ongoing struggle to adapt the national government to a developing nation.