State-Building and Nationalism In Nineteenth-Century USA

Susan-Mary Grant

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Nationalism

Published in print March 2013 | ISBN: 9780199209194
Published online May 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

State-Building and Nationalism In Nineteenth-Century USA

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  • History
  • United States History
  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)



The distinction between American state-building and the construction of American nationalism is more complex than it first appears. This paper explores the changing nature of national sentiment that initially cohered around the Constitution and then, undermined by the sectional challenge from the Southern states, began to coalesce around the concept of an activist central state defined by a northern variant of American nationalism. This found political expression in the emergence of the Republican Party in the 1850s and emotional resonance in a revivification of the Declaration of Independence as a powerful nationalist symbol for a nation of immigrants. The passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution following the victory of Union forces in the Civil War (1861–1865), defined American citizenship for the first time, but the ethnic reality behind the nation’s civic ideal constrained the extent to which American nationalism in the later nineteenth-century moved beyond its antebellum parameters.

Keywords: United States; state-building; constitution; Declaration of Independence; union; sectionalism; Southern nationalism; Northern nationalism; secession; Civil War

Article.  9160 words. 

Subjects: History ; United States History ; Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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