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Title: These United States: A History of the Fracturing of America
Authors: Glass, Maeve Herbert
Advisors: Hartog, Hendrik
Contributors: History Department
Subjects: American history
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: According to a dominant view of America’s Constitution, the Republic’s first century witnessed a transformation from a fragmented land of sovereign states to a unified nation of the people. This dissertation builds on emerging scholarship to offer a different account of this transformation and with it, a new conceptual framework for studying the origins and unraveling of the bonds of union along the Atlantic seaboard. Focusing on the nation-builders and reformers of the Massachusetts Bay, this dissertation charts a shift from a predominant language of an America of united sentiments, born of an old maritime Atlantic world, to a modern discourse premised on the rights and duties of co-equal states. Generations before the Constitution appeared in 1787, merchants of the Massachusetts Bay whose freighting ships navigated the coastline of intensely local ports in search of cargo constructed a spoken geography of America, derived from the daily work of carrying the produce of the plantations to the markets of the Atlantic. Though this coastal trading network of merchants that gave rise to this conception of America has long since disappeared from the scholarly map, it supplied one of the foundations upon which Whig revolutionaries in Boston began to construct a political union. Although the language of America and its citizens sustained and weathered the storms of revolution, beginning in the early 1800s, a confluence of factors began to erode the older networks of customary union upon which it was based, as a vast, kaleidoscopic continent of robust state jurisdictions emerged, raising new questions for the terms of partnership. As the leading elites of the Massachusetts Bay began to experiment with theories of a state’s sovereign duty of protection, a new generation of commercial lawyers developed arguments premised not on the equitable interests of America, but on the constitutional rights of state citizens. By the 1830s, the Bay’s leading opponents of slavery who confronted a seemingly impenetrable partnership along the American coast borrowed from this emerging doctrine to strike aim at the corridor of union itself, laying the foundation for a political movement that rose to national power on the promise that in an America of bordered slavery, all states were created equal.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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