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POLSC301: American Political Thought

Unit 4: Individualism and Democracy   This unit of the course focuses on the philosophical concept of the relationship between the individual and the democratic state.  In the early to mid-1800s, a selection of theorists began to question whether the individual could tolerate the conformity required of a democratic system of governance.  In this unit, you will study the writings of these authors and investigate their arguments for the preservation of the individual in a democratic state.  You may notice that these theoretical approaches have had a substantial impact upon the issues of slavery and civil rights (to be explored in subsequent units).

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 16 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.1: .5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.1.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.1.3: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.2: 1 hour

☐    Subunit 4.3: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.4: 1.5 hour

☐    Subunit 4.5: 9 hours

☐    Subunit 4.5.1: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.5.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.5.3: 3 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the key features of Jacksonian Democracy.
  • Analyze the political philosophy of Andrew Jackson.
  • Assess Andrew Jackson’s impact and legacy on antebellum political thought.
  • Discuss the major figures and defining political philosophies of the Transcendentalists.
  • Describe the key features of the Utopian Socialist movement.
  • Connect the observations of De Tocqueville to the concepts of equality, individuality, and civic engagement in American political discourse.

4.1 Jacksonian Democracy   4.1.1 The Rise of Democratic Politics and a New Party System   - Reading: Miller Center: University of Virginia: “American President: A Reference Resource” Link: Miller Center: University of Virginia: “American President: A Reference Resource” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire webpage to get a sense of the shift in the American political landscape in the 1820s and 1830s toward more “democratic” politics and the hugely influential role that Andrew Jackson played in this phenomenon.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.2 The Presidency of Andrew Jackson   - Reading: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “The Age of Jackson” Link: Sage American History: Henry J. Sage’s “The Age of Jackson” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the above article on the presidency of Andrew Jackson, whose tenure in office helped to usher in a newly democratic age marked by increased voter turnout.  Jackson, for better or worse, turned the presidency into a vastly more powerful office than previous administrations.  However, these years would also be marked by significant sectional differences and an increasingly hostile debate over federal vs. state power.  
           
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.3 Jackson’s Impact & Legacy   - Reading: University of Virginia: The Miller Center’s “Jackson Vetoes Bank Bill—July 10, 1832” Link: University of Virginia: The Miller Center’s “Jackson Vetoes Bank Bill—July 10, 1832” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the historic background on Jackson’s bank veto and then click on the hyperlink at the end of the introduction to read the actual text of the veto. 
 
Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above. 

  • Reading: PBS’s version of “Andrew Jackson’s Second Annual Message” Link: PBS’s version of “Andrew Jackson’s Second Annual Message” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read the excerpt from Jackson’s Second Annual Message to Congress.
     
    Terms of use: This resource is available in the public domain.

4.2 Emerson and Self-Reliance   - Reading: Emerson Central’s version of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” Link: Emerson Central’s version of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” (PDF)
 
Also available in:
Kindle ($0.99)
ePub format on Google Books
 
Instructions: Please read the text of Emerson’s 1840 essay, “Self-Reliance.”  Emerson, an essayist, lecturer, and poet, was a key figure in the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-nineteenth century.  Among the transcendentalists’ core beliefs was the belief in an ideal spirituality that “transcends” the physical and empirical and is realized only through the individual’s intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. Followers of this movement championed individualism and were prescient critics of the countervailing pressures of society.  Note that this reading will cover the material you need to know for subunits 4.2.1–4.2.2.
 
Terms of use: This resource is available in the public domain. 

4.2.1 Religion and Ethics in Society   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 4.2 Consider Emerson’s criticism of religion, which he believed stifled the “soul.”

4.2.2 Individualism and the Value of Nonconformity   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 4.2 Focus on the section of Emerson’s essay where he calls on individuals to value their own thoughts, opinions, and experiences above those presented to them by other individuals, society, and religion.

4.3 Thoreau and Government Resistance   - Reading: Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” (1849) Link: Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” (1849) (PDF)
 
Also available in:
ePub format on Google Books

[Kindle](http://www.amazon.com/Civil-Disobedience-ebook/dp/B000JQUS48/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1289497020&sr=1-1)  
    
 Instructions: Please read the introduction and all three parts of
Thoreau’s essay, “Civil Disobedience.”  As a leading
transcendentalist (and friend of Emerson), Thoreau’s philosophy of
individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an
unjust state influenced the political thoughts and actions of such
later figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Note
that this reading will cover the material you need to know for
subunits 4.3.1–4.3.2.  
    
 Terms of use: The material above is available for viewing in the
Public Domain.

4.3.1 The Importance of Individual Conscience   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 4.3. Consider how Thoreau espouses the need to prioritize one’s conscience over the dictates of laws.

4.3.2 The Controlling Nature of Governments   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath subunit 4.3. What are Thoreau’s major criticisms of government?

4.4 Owen and Utopian Socialism   - Reading: Yale University: Avalon Project’s version of Robert Owen’s “A New View of Society” Link: Yale University: Avalon Project’s version of Robert Owen’s “A New View of Society” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the preface and the 1-4 essays of Owen’s treatise, which proposes that society could be remolded into one of charity and virtue, by teaching new generations to act so that they increase the happiness of the whole.
 
Note on the Text: Robert Owen was an English social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism, a movement which was highly influential to transcendentalists. Followers of this tenet believed that social ownership of the means of production could be achieved by voluntary and peaceful surrender of their holdings by propertied groups. As a result, hundreds of “utopian communities” were formed in the mid-nineteenth century, including Owen’s New Harmony, Indiana community, where he sought to establish common ownership of property and abolish religion.
 
Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.5 De Tocqueville Observes the American System   4.5.1 Key Elements of American Democracy   - Reading: University of Virginia: The American Studies Program’s version of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America Link: University of Virginia: The American Studies Program’s version of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (HTML)
 
Also available in:

[Kindle](http://www.amazon.com/Democracy-America-Optimized-Kindle-ebook/dp/B00307S1MY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1288889335&sr=1-3)
($0.99)  
 [ePub format on Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=gTX-uSzS2fAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=democracy+in+america&hl=en&ei=8uPSTNjRFYa0lQf3o8jcDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false)  
    
 Instructions: Under “Table of Contents: Volume I,” please read the
sections entitled, “Government of the Democracy in the United
States,” “What are the Advantages which American Society Derives
from a Democratic Government,” “Unlimited Power of the Majority in
the United States, and its Consequences,” and “Causes that Mitigate
the Tyranny of the Majority in the United States.”  

 Note on the Text: de Tocqueville was a French political thinker and
historian.  Writing from the perspective of a detached social
scientist, Tocqueville wrote of his travels through America in the
early nineteenth century when the market revolution, Western
expansion, and Jacksonian democracy were radically transforming the
fabric of American life. He saw democracy as an equation that
balanced liberty and equality, concern for the individual as well as
the community. By the twentieth century, *Democracy in America* had
become a classic work of political science, social science, and
history.  
    
 Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.5.2 Equality and Individualism in America   - Reading: University of Virginia: The American Studies Program’s version of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America Link: University of Virginia: The American Studies Program’s version of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (PDF)
 
Also available in:

[Kindle](http://www.amazon.com/Democracy-America-Optimized-Kindle-ebook/dp/B00307S1MY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1288889335&sr=1-3)
($0.99)  
 [ePub format on Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=gTX-uSzS2fAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=democracy+in+america&hl=en&ei=8uPSTNjRFYa0lQf3o8jcDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false)  
    
 Instructions: Please read the sections entitled, “How Equality
Suggests to the Americans the Indefinite Perfectibility of Man,”
“Why Democratic Nations Show a More Ardent and Enduring Love of
Equality than of Liberty,” “Of Individualism in Democratic
Countries,” and  “That the Americans Combat the Effects of
Individualism with Free Institutions.”  
    
 Terms of use: The material above <span
id="6920_resource_content">is freely available for non-commercial
use.  The original version can be found
[here](http://xroads.virginia.edu/%7EHYPER/DETOC/toc_indx.html)</span>

4.5.3 Civic Life and Religion in America   - Reading: University of Virginia: The American Studies Program’s version of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America Link: University of Virginia: The American Studies Program’s version of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (PDF)
 
Also available in:

[Kindle](http://www.amazon.com/Democracy-America-Optimized-Kindle-ebook/dp/B00307S1MY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=digital-text&qid=1288889335&sr=1-3)
($0.99)  
 [ePub format on Google
Books](http://books.google.com/books?id=gTX-uSzS2fAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=democracy+in+america&hl=en&ei=8uPSTNjRFYa0lQf3o8jcDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false)  
    
 Instructions: Please read the sections entitled, “Of the Uses which
Americans Make of Public Associations,”  “Relation of Civil to
Political Associations,” “That the Americans Apply the Principle of
Self-Interest Rightly Understood to Religious Matters,” and “Of the
Taste for Physical Well-Being in America.”  
    
 Terms of use: <span id="6922_resource_content">Terms of use: The
material above <span id="6920_resource_content">is freely available
for non-commercial use.  The original version can be found
[here.](http://xroads.virginia.edu/%7EHYPER/DETOC/toc_indx.html)</span></span>