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Politics at the Poles: Liberty Poles and the Popular Struggle for the New Republic

December 14, 2017 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm |

We invite CHS members and visitors to join us for a brown bag lunch talk with Shira Lurie, Doctoral Candidate at the University of Virginia.

Her brown bag talk will examine how conflicts over liberty poles provided the battleground for a struggle over what the Revolution had been fought for and what type of republic it promised. Republicans believed that the Revolution’s legacy guaranteed them the right to oppose harmful policies that encroached on their liberty. To express their opposition to the Federalists, Republicans resurrected the Revolutionary practice of raising liberty poles – wooden masts with flags or signs that denounced the government as tyrannical. From the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 until Thomas Jefferson’s election in 1800, they erected about one hundred liberty poles to protest the Washington and Adams administrations’ legislation, including the Whiskey Excise, the Direct Tax, and the Alien and Sedition Laws. By using a Revolutionary symbol, Republicans cast the Federalists as monarchists who imposed injurious laws and themselves as heirs to the Patriot cause. In contrast, Federalists denounced liberty poles as an illegitimate form of political expression because they challenged an elected government. Federalists believed that the Revolution secured representative government as the means to protect American liberty and worried that Republican opposition would undermine federal authority and drag the country back into the chaos of the 1780s. Local Federalists tore down the poles, leading to violence, acerbic press coverage, and legal action.

We will provide coffee and dessert, feel free to bring your brown bag lunch to enjoy during the talk. Please RSVP by Monday, December 11 and indicate the program name and date by calling (860) 236-5621 x238 or emailing [email protected] Free for members, free with admission for non-members.

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