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Civic GiftsVoluntarism and the Making of the American Nation-State$
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Elisabeth S. Clemens

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226559360

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226670973.001.0001

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Civil War, Civic Expansion The “Divine Method” of Patriotism

Civil War, Civic Expansion The “Divine Method” of Patriotism

(p.49) 2 Civil War, Civic Expansion The “Divine Method” of Patriotism
Civic Gifts

Elisabeth S. Clemens

University of Chicago Press

Voluntary associations have long been recognized as central to the distinctive trajectory of American political development. But, during the early Republic, voluntary associations were targets of frequent criticism and were understood as threats to political liberty and freedom of conscience. Charity and benevolence were feared as threats to the self-sufficiency required of liberal models of citizenship and the democratic dignity of adult white men. This chapter reconstructs these controversies, arguing that the contradictions between association and liberty were relaxed as membership came to be understood as an exercise of individual choice. This resolution facilitated the growth of a complex of large, nationally-expansive voluntary associations known as “the Benevolent Empire.”

Keywords:   association, dependence, freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, Benevolent Empire, corporate form

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