Guarantors of liberty and the republic: The American citizen as soldier and the military ethos of republicanism, 1775-1861

Ricardo Adolfo Herrera, Marquette University


Military service was the agency through which American soldiers demonstrated and defined their beliefs about the nature of American republicanism and how they, as citizens and soldiers, were participants in the republican experiment. The military ethos of republicanism was derivative and representative of the larger corpus of American republicanism. It illustrates the inseparable connection between bearing arms on behalf of the republic and citizenship. American soldier's military and civic identities were inseparable, indeed they were inextricably bound together and each helped give form and substance to the other. The ethos was both a guide and a goal to the citizen-soldier's conduct. Five broad and interrelated threads of thought constituted the ethos: Virtue; Legitimacy; Self-governance; Glory, Honor, and Fame; and God's Will and the National Mission. These beliefs imparted a pronounced ideological aspect to military service and framed it as a vital part of the republican experiment. Republicanism is defined in its broadest possible sense: what it meant to be an American citizen, a member of the American republic. Soldiers are considered in the broadest possible connotation of the word. Officers and enlisted men of the regular army, the standing, or enrolled, militia, the volunteer militia, and wartime volunteers are considered as a whole. Union and Confederate soldiers are also part of the picture. This decision is predicated on the belief that neither service or regional distinctions greatly affected soldiers' acceptance of the military ethos of republicanism. The order, conceptualization, and categorization in this study have been imposed by the historian in order to facilitate understanding. The longevity and continuity of the military ethos of republicanism attest to its vigor and to the centrality of republican ideology in American military life. Soldiers referred to and drew upon an intellectual heritage that was shared by citizens and soldiers for nearly a century. Far from producing soldiers of complacency and little reflection, the ethos regularly reminded officers and men of the nation's past and its future, and of the standards which they had to maintain and uphold if they were to keep faith with the military requirements of republican citizenship.

Recommended Citation

Herrera, Ricardo Adolfo, "Guarantors of liberty and the republic: The American citizen as soldier and the military ethos of republicanism, 1775-1861" (1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9901729.