Joanne B. Freeman
- Yale University
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.