Guarantors of Liberty and the Republic: The American Citizen As Soldier and the Military Ethos of Republicanism, 1775-1861
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Hay, Robert P.
Military service was the agency through which American soldiers in the Revolution through the beginning of the Civil War 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-an ideology which was derivative and representative of the larger corpus of American republicanism-illustrates this inseparable connection between bearing arms on behalf of the republic and holding citizenship in that republic. Despite the undeniable existence of customs, organizations, and behaviors that were uniquely military, the land forces of the United States were the products of the society they represented and defended and they cannot be examined apart from that society. Because the United States had been created in an act of war, an understanding of the post-colonial American military tradition brings into clearer relief the broader values of American society and culture. The American military establishment during the years from 1775 to 1861 was an awkward amalgam of the militia, a small regular army, and wartime volunteers. This mixture, although complex and often cumbrous, resulted from the beliefs and needs of the American citizenry. Classical, Commonwealth, and American republican tradition equated citizenship with soldering, hence the Republic's greater reliance on and preference for the militia and volunteers. Large standing armies were at the time perceived to be not just a threat to liberty, but a poor commentary on the virtue and patriotism of the nation. The existence of professional soldiers reflected poorly upon the people and many contemporaries thought their existence to be symptomatic of popular corruption and incipient degeneracy. Recent Revolutionary experience, however, had taught Americans that a regular army was valuable and that restricting and securing its loyalty to the nation and its people could reconcile it existence with republican society and government. What followed was a military establishment palatable to a larger political culture, one that was responsive to its ideology. Patterns of thought and behavior within the ethos were not, therefore, exclusive military traits, but were characteristic of the larger patterns within American political culture...