The Sense of the City: Politics and Culture in Pre-Revolutionary New York City
Feder, Luke John
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This dissertation explores how political partisanship and local understandings of British political culture shaped New York City's reaction to the revolutionary crisis of the 1760s and 1770s. I investigate how the Livingston faction, DeLancey faction, and Sons of Liberty each attempted to define and manipulate"the sense of the city" to suit its private agenda. In the eighteenth century,"the sense of the city" and other similar phrases stood for public opinion. For this study, however, I push the term beyond public opinion and also use it to unpack how New Yorkers made and unmade the practices, rules, rituals, and symbols that existed within their local political culture. Therefore,"the sense of the city" became a contentious notion in which partisans vied with one another in order to gain as well as to sway the political hearts and minds of the general populace. I examine newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides, literature, poetry, journals, letters, and other personal papers in order to reconstruct the city's political milieu during five key episodes. First, I explore street theater and partisan politics during the Stamp Act Crisis (1765-1766). Second, I investigate the role of the legal profession and anti-lawyer propaganda during the election of 1768. Third, I examine the political tensions between Anglicans and dissenting Protestants during the election of 1769. Fourth, I scrutinize the political ascendancy of Alexander McDougall who became known as the"Wilkes of America.". Lastly, I examine consumer politics and attitudes towards nascent capitalism in the events surrounding the Townshend Revenue Acts (1767) and Tea Act (1773). My dissertation questions some of the recent trends in early American political history and presents a more nuanced understanding of political culture in pre-Revolutionary New York City.