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CoastLine is a variety news show, which airs Wednesdays from 12pm - 1pm on WHQR.Every week, we’ll look into issues that matter in the Cape Fear Region. Host Rachel Lewis Hilburn will interview expert guests and invite you to join the conversation.

CoastLine: Violence in American democracy and its long-term relative impotence

Attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer
Public Domain, from Metropolitan Museum of Art
George Washington Leads Troops to Crush the Whiskey Rebellion. Artist Unknown

America was born out of violence in a battle against taxation without representation.  After winning a bloody eight-year war against Great Britain, Americans created the first modern constitutional democracy.   Ratified in 1788, the United States Constitution set up a system that relied on self-government through democratic elections – theoretically, anyway, rendering violence unnecessary.  But getting there included repeated violence, even terrorism, and that ideal has not held up – as we see from Shay’s Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Civil War, even Wilmington’s own 1898 coup d’etat.   Most recently, we witnessed the insurrection of January 6, 2021 – in an attempt to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

What is the role of violence in democracy?  What are the means for ousting a government that becomes corrupt or oppressive?  Which forms of protest actually create change? 


David Houpt, Assistant Professor, History Department, University of North Carolina Wilmington


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