Socializing Statecra ft: Wining and Dining Congress in the Jefferson Presidency
54 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2016 Last revised: 21 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 15, 2016
Political leaders expend considerable time and effort planning, conducting, and attending social events such as cocktail parties, dinners, receptions, and rounds of golf. These encounters often bring elites together with their political allies and adversaries, and therefore offer opportune occasions for social statecraft. Despite the ubiquity and potential of these events, political scientists have paid little or no attention to social statecraft. Here, we examine a preeminent case of this art: Thomas Jefferson's use of frequent, intimate dinner parties to bring together members of Congress. Further, we present three theoretical frameworks for understanding Jefferson's strategy and goals. In addition to the familiar aims of bargaining and persuasion, we introduce a third possibility, "social knitting." We define social knitting as the art of designing social networks with qualities that are unlikely to emerge naturally, such as networks with relatively low levels of clustering, which thereby have the potential to bridge existing divides and eliminate structural holes. By analyzing patterns in Jefferson's invitations, measuring the effects of dinner invitation on future roll call votes, and exploring the qualities of the social networks that Jefferson curated, we ultimately conclude that Jefferson used these dinners to knit the Congress together rather than to bargain with or persuade members.
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