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The Decline of the Model Republic: Images of Mexico in U.S. Public Discourse, 1860 - 1883

Beverton, Alys Dyson; (2018) The Decline of the Model Republic: Images of Mexico in U.S. Public Discourse, 1860 - 1883. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Mexico had a fixed place in the antebellum American imagination. It was, most agreed, a failed republic whose chronic political turbulence proved the United States’ exceptional stability. The Civil War, however, shattered the notion that the United States was immune to the forces of internal dissension which had plagued Mexicans for decades. This realisation destabilised Mexico’s place in U.S. public discourse. During the 1860s, an awareness of their own fallibility caused some Americans to sympathise with their sister republic. As political factionalism persisted in the United States into the 1870s, however, a growing number of them invoked images of Mexican anarchy as portents of their own nation’s future. It was not until the early 1880s, as Americans extended their commercial reach south of the Rio Grande, that they viewed Mexico as their nation’s protégé and therefore a reflection of its resilience and strength. By tracing of images of Mexico in U.S. public discourse between 1860 and 1883, this dissertation uncovers a current of anxiety regarding what some Americans saw as a dangerous spirit of factionalism in U.S. politics during this period. Historians often view concerns about the condition of the nation’s political culture as a conservative force that fuelled opposition to the innovations of the Civil War era. This study, however, demonstrates that fears of factionalism transcended party and sectional lines. Moreover, it reveals that actors in public discourse used images of Mexico to harness these anxieties behind a range of policies - emancipation, Radical Reconstruction, and even commercial expansion were all were presented to Americans as programmes to harmonise national politics and so restore the United States to its proper standing as the exceptional New World republic. This dissertation argues that Americans could embrace some revolutionary measures, so long as they believed they could bring them lasting domestic peace.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Decline of the Model Republic: Images of Mexico in U.S. Public Discourse, 1860 - 1883
Event: University College London
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10052035
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