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“The Dupes of Hope Forever:” The Loco-Foco or Equal Rights Movement, 1820s-1870s

Comegna, Anthony (2016) “The Dupes of Hope Forever:” The Loco-Foco or Equal Rights Movement, 1820s-1870s. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation illustrates the impact of the Loco-Foco movement (1820s-1870s), most notably its role in the development of “Manifest Destiny,” the Free Soil Party, and the Republican Party. While historians have assumed that the Loco-Foco movement ended with the existence of the original third party in New York (1836-7), I pursue their philosophy and activism throughout the time and space of the late antebellum period. Loco-Focoism can be characterized as radical classical liberalism, including commitments to natural and equal rights, individualism, private property, laissez-faire, democratic republicanism, and, often, antislavery. Self-avowed and influential Loco-Focos included Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walt Whitman, and countless other important figures in antebellum thought, culture, and politics ranging across the continent from New England and the northern border to the Pacific frontier zone and even the increasingly proslavery, anti-locofoco South. This study compiles the largest collection of primary sources related to the movement of any treatment to date, including dozens of newspapers, published books, poems, and pamphlets, public speeches, paintings, and private correspondence collections. This is the first and only history of the Loco-Foco Movement as such, and its conclusions offer sharp challenges to prevailing interpretations of the development of democratic-republican government, liberalism, and corporate-capitalism in the United States. While their ideology offered radical alternative models for American political and intellectual life, their efforts at practical politicking created much of the modern democratic, corporate-capitalist nation-state familiar to present-day readers.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Comegna, Anthonyacc55@pitt.eduACC55
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHall,
Committee CoChairThum,
Committee MemberDrescher,
Committee MemberRediker,
Committee MemberTroesken,
Date: 1 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 February 2016
Approval Date: 1 June 2016
Submission Date: 14 March 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 343
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: American history, locofocoism, classical liberalism, radicalism, republicanism, Young America, Civil War, slavery, abolition, Republican Party, Free Soil Party, Mexican-American War
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2016 15:24
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2019 18:26


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