5 to 6:30 pm
Towner Fellows Lounge
“The Book of Morgan: Anti-Masonry, Public Opinion, and American Political Thought”
The 1826 kidnapping and probable murder of William Morgan, a New York laborer who intended to publish a book revealing the secrets of Freemasonry, ignited a brief yet intense firestorm of popular outrage, courtroom drama, and political organization.
While historians have long acknowledged the pivotal role that the Anti-Masonic movement played in the development of the American party system, the character of Anti-Masonic ideology and its contribution to American political thought remains open to dispute. Is it best understood as a fusion of republicanism and evangelicalism that laid the groundwork for the Whig Party? An early expression of populism, a case study of the “paranoid style” and “mass extremism” in American political culture? Or – as this paper will contend – a product of the growing salience of “public opinion” in American political culture?
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