Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Carr, Kay

Second Advisor

Stacy, Jason


This dissertation challenges the theories of new political historians, who argue that nineteenth-century American politics was little influenced by ideology. Instead, by treating the public careers of self-identified conservatives in Abraham Lincoln's cabinet--Edward Bates, Montgomery Blair, Salmon P. Chase, and Gideon Welles--as exemplars of nineteenth-century political thought, this study examines the formation of American conservatism in the Civil War era from an anthropological perspective, treating it as a tribal identification shared by American lawmakers. Nineteenth-century conservatives identified themselves according to their subscription to certain common principles of governance, the ideals of which were first expressed in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Applying these principles to the nineteenth century, American conservatives thus greatly influenced public policy initiatives from civil service reform to anti-slavery reform and from public finance to presidential war powers. Although the conservative ideals espoused by these politicians--exemplified in their management of issues during the Civil War--had receded to a minority opinion among lawmakers by 1865, they were ultimately resurrected during the later years of Reconstruction, and helped to shape future political discourses surrounding public policy in the Gilded Age.




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