Between 1821 and 1829, the Greek War for Independence attracted widespread and enthusiastic support in the United States. While most were content to simply follow along with the war’s proceedings, a small but vocal group of “philhellenes” took the remarkable step of making Greece’s cause their own. American philhellenes used nationalistic appeals couched in the language of an emergent middle-class sentimentality to raise funds for the Greeks while also lobbying for deeper American involvement in the conflict. Greece’s revolution, American philhellenes argued, was not a foreign war to be avoided; it was an occasion for reaffirming the nation’s moral and political commitments. By studying the poetical justifications for American involvement with the Greek Revolution, we are afforded a glimpse of an important development in popular perceptions of U.S. foreign policy. Philhellenic poetry presents a case study in how popular reading habits blended with nationalistic rhetoric to“sentimentalize” popular perceptions of America’s place in the world. Philhellenes used the nation’s expanding market for print material to forward normative claims about the nation’s responsibility toward the Greek revolutionaries, bringing into sharp relief the permeable boundaries between popular culture and public perceptions of foreign policy.

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