Date of Graduation
Starting with Ethan Allenâ€™s 1778 captivity narrative, the Revolutionary War veteran narrative became a small, but popular, subgenre of early American life writing. In this project, I argue that the genre encouraged a myth of the republican citizen-soldier in the early United States that supported the delegation of popular sovereignty toward the institutional management of a strong central government. As a synecdoche for a continental body politic, the Revolutionary veteran appeared as both the source of sovereignty as a citizen and an agent of this authority as a soldier. The genre has typically been understood as one that appeals for recognition of the individual veteranâ€™s experience before a contemporary audience and adds the perspective of the ordinary soldier to the history of the Revolutionary War. Through close reading of prominent examples of commercially published veteran narratives, I assert that the genre has in fact played a more conservative role by modeling a liberal individual subjectivity based in loyalty to a national government. By placing these narratives in historical context with each other, and with other accounts of revolutionary political violence, such as the populist protest movements in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania following the war, this study demonstrates how these texts reaffirmed nationalist discourse, even as their writers often voiced criticism of the shape the nation has taken following the Revolution. In place of the democratic potential of collective association and action, the veteran narrative posits affiliation with a history of revolutionary violence that is proffered as the foundation of the individual rights of all American citizens.
Greene, James M., ""None but the Bravest of Men": Violence and Popular Sovereignty in Revolutionary War Veteran Narratives." (2013). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 8954.