Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Andrew W. Robertson

Subject Categories

Political Science


deliberative process; democracy; elections; Pennsylvania; political culture; political mobilization


Political mobilization is the connective tissue between the people and their government. Whether through petitions, voting, parades or even riots, it is the tool political actors use to engage in the deliberative process. Scholars have explored a variety of facets of the political culture of the early American republic and have noted the importance of certain forms of political mobilization such as parades and fêtes. These studies have not, however, fully explained how elections emerged as the primary means for citizens to express their will and the boundaries of political expression changed accordingly. This dissertation explains the evolution of Americans' engagement with their government by charting the trajectory of different forms of political mobilization in early national Pennsylvania. By focusing on the ways in which Americans organized and participated in the political process, this project presents a new way of thinking about democracy in the early republic and shows that, while citizens lost the ability to engage directly in the deliberative process, the rise of political parties and their emphasis on elections offered the public an effective means of securing change.