Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Sentimental Democracy

Sentimental Democracy

The Evolution of America's Romantic Self-Image

Andrew Burstein

Hill and Wang


Trade Paperback

The provocative interpretation of American political rhetoric

Americans like to use words of sentiment and sympathy, passion and power, to explain their democracy. In a provocative new work, Andrew Burstein examines the metaphorically rich language which Americans developed to express their guiding principle: that the New World would improve upon the Old. In journals, letters, speeches, and books, an impassioned rhetoric of "feeling" set the tone for American patriotism.

Burstein shows how the eighteenth century "culture of sensibility" encouraged optimism about a global society: the new nation would succeed. Americans believed, as much by sublime feeling as by intellectual achievement or political liberty. As they grew more self-confident, this pacific ideal acquired teeth: noble Washington and humane Jefferson yielded to boisterous Jackson, and the language of gentle feeling to the force of Manifest Destiny. Yet Americans never stopped celebrating what they believed was their innate impulse to do good.


Praise for Sentimental Democracy

“Stimulating, well researched, and relevant to today's debates about the nature of the American character and the role of the United Sates in world affairs.” —Library Journal

“Fully documented and carefully written, Burstein's book puts up a convincing case for his main thesis: the American character has to be forged, then reshaped over time, in a process of individual, regional and national self-scrutiny.” —The Roanoke Times

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Andrew Burstein

Andrew Burstein is the author of The Inner Jefferson: Portrait of a Grieving Optimist. He teaches at the University of Northern Iowa.

Andrew Burstein

From the Publisher

Hill and Wang

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