About the Research

I am interested in many questions regarding early American petitions, such as why they flourished when they were so often ignored, whether they represented a distinct literary and rhetorical form, whether (and under what historical conditions) they were precursors to wider political mobilization, how they were used strategically by political organizers, and others.

My running hypothesis (which stands as little more than a vague conjecture right now) is that petitions had as much to do with the evolution of republican (representative) government in the West as did elections.

One reason that the democratic republic of the antebellum U.S. makes for a good case study in this respect is that scholars can study the use, meaning and influence of petitions before and after the extension of suffrage to lower social classes and before and after the rise of the mass parties of the Jacksonian period.