Image - Joel Richard Paul and detail from his book cover of Indivisible

San Francisco

Indivisible: Daniel Webster and the Birth of American Nationalism

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When the United States was founded in 1776, its citizens didn’t think of themselves as “Americans.” They were New Yorkers or Virginians or Pennsylvanians. It was decades later that the seeds of American nationalism—identifying with one’s own nation and supporting its broader interests—began to take root. But what kind of nationalism should Americans embrace? The state-focused and racist nationalism of Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson? Or the belief that the U.S. Constitution made all Americans one nation, indivisible, which Daniel Webster and others espoused? 

Paul tells the fascinating story of how Webster, a young Dartmouth graduate and New Hampshire attorney, rose to political prominence by capturing the national imagination through his powerful oratory and unwavering belief in the United States. In his speeches—on the floors of the House and the Senate, in court, and as secretary of state—Webster argued that the Constitution was not a compact made by states but an expression of the will of all Americans. As the greatest orator of his age, Webster saw his speeches and writings published widely, and his stirring rhetoric convinced Americans to see themselves differently, as a nation bound together by a government of laws, not parochial interests. As these ideas took root, they influenced future leaders, among them Abraham Lincoln, who drew on them to hold the nation together during the Civil War.

MLF Organizer
George Hammond
Notes

This program has 2 types of tickets available: In-person and online-only. Please pre-register to receive a link to the live-stream event.

Safety Protocols for in-person attendance:

  • We follow best practices laid out by the CDC and state and local guidelines.
  • We strongly recommend vaccination for guests, staff, and volunteers.
  • Masks are strongly encouraged while indoors (if you do not have one and would like one, inquire at our front desk for a complimentary mask).
  • We reserve the right to require different rules for specific events as necessary.

Our LEED Gold-certified building is designed to cool with outside air, using digitally controlled moveable windows and large ceiling fans. We are deploying additional HEPA filters inside to scrub the air. This is all in addition to increased cleaning of surfaces throughout the building.

No large bags or backpacks. All bags may be subject to search.

The Commonwealth Club is a nonprofit public forum; we welcome donations made during registration to support the production of our online programming.

Copies of Indivisible are available for purchase at checkout (U.S. domestic shipping only).

A Humanities Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums

This program is part of The Commonwealth Club's Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Bernard Osher Foundation

Photo by Scott R. Kline.

All ticket sales are final and nonrefundable.

Wed, Dec 7 / 5:30 pm PST

The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Toni Rembe Rock Auditorium
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States

Speakers
Image - Joel Richard Paul

Joel Richard Paul

Professor, Constitutional and International Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law; Author, Indivisible: Daniel Webster and the Birth of American Nationalism

Image - George Hammond

In Conversation with George Hammond

Author, Conversations With Socrates

Format

5 p.m. doors open & check-in
5:30–6:30 p.m. program
(all times PDT)

COST

In-person:
$10 members
$20 nonmembers
$30 members or nonmembers with book
Online:
$5 members
$10 nonmembers
$30 members or nonmembers with book