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This article reconstructs a set of widely disseminated nineteenth-century ideas about the relationship between diversity and democracy and details how these informed state-building and political action. An emerging argument in nineteenth-century discourse held that representative governments in diverse societies would degenerate into anarchy without “amalgamation,” extermination, expulsion, or enslavement: Only in societies where there was sympathy across the entire community, constantly renewed through intercourse among social equals, could free institutions be sustained. This argument gave support for state-builders to regulate diversity either through an imperial politics of “moving people” or by interposing the state in intimate encounters of sexual and social intercourse. The intimate and imperial dimensions of state-building were thereby conceptually linked. This account helps explain important features of nineteenth-century politics, including the frequent criticism of abolitionists that by supporting racial civic or political equality they were encouraging “racial amalgamation.” In responding to this charge, American antislavery discourse contributed to a distinction between political and social equality that would fundamentally shape state-building after the Civil War. The article shows scholars of American political development how our accounts might be revised by situating debates and developments within a transnational perspective.
I offer a new perspective on the history of American democratization, tracing the evolution of conflict over black suffrage from the disenfranchisements of the early Republic to efforts to secure equal voting rights in the pre-Civil War era. I draw on case studies and new data on state politics to substantially expand our descriptive understanding of the ideological connotations of African American political rights. In contrast to existing literature, this study identifies a transformation in how positions on black suffrage polarized along party lines. It also offers a new interpretation for this racial realignment, presenting evidence that legislators responded less to the electoral consequences of black voting than to efforts of party leaders and social movements to frame its denial as necessary for national unity, a pragmatic accommodation to racist public opinion, or as complicity in slavery and a violation of republicanism. Integrating earlier periods of disenfranchisement and antislavery activism recasts standard party-driven accounts of Reconstruction-era enfranchisements as the culmination of a long process of biracial social movement organizing, enriching our understanding of how both electoral and programmatic concerns contribute to suffrage reforms and of the process by which conflict over citizenship has at times become a central cleavage in American politics.
The first wave of democratization in the United States - the removal of property and taxpaying qualifications for the right to vote - was accompanied by the disenfranchisement of African American men, with the political actors most supportive of the former also the most insistent upon the latter. The United States is not unique in this respect: other canonical cases of democratization also saw simultaneous expansions and restrictions of political rights, yet this pattern has never been fully detailed or explained. Through case studies of the USA, the UK, and France, Disenfranchising Democracy offers the first cross-national account of the relationship between democratization and disenfranchisement. It develops a political institutional perspective to explain their co-occurrence, focusing on the politics of coalition-building and the visions of political community coalitions advance in support of their goals. Bateman sheds new light on democratization, connecting it to the construction of citizenship and cultural identities.