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The Citizenship Revolution

The Citizenship Revolution: Politics and the Creation of the American Union, 1774-1804

Douglas Bradburn
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 432
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrn2f
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    The Citizenship Revolution
    Book Description:

    Most Americans believe that the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 marked the settlement of post-Revolutionary disputes over the meanings of rights, democracy, and sovereignty in the new nation. In The Citizenship Revolution, Douglas Bradburn undercuts this view by showing that the Union, not the Nation, was the most important product of independence.

    In 1774, everyone in British North America was a subject of King George and Parliament. In 1776 a number of newly independent "states," composed of "American citizens" began cobbling together a Union to fight their former fellow countrymen. But who was an American? What did it mean to be a "citizen" and not a "subject"? And why did it matter?

    Bradburn's stunning reinterpretation requires us to rethink the traditional chronologies and stories of the American Revolutionary experience. He places battles over the meaning of "citizenship" in law and in politics at the center of the narrative. He shows that the new political community ultimately discovered that it was not really a "Nation," but a "Union of States"-and that it was the states that set the boundaries of belonging and the very character of rights, for citizens and everyone else. To those inclined to believe that the ratification of the Constitution assured the importance of national authority and law in the lives of American people, the emphasis on the significance and power of the states as the arbiter of American rights and the character of nationhood may seem strange. But, as Bradburn argues, state control of the ultimate meaning of American citizenship represented the first stable outcome of the crisis of authority, allegiance, and identity that had exploded in the American Revolution-a political settlement delicately reached in the first years of the nineteenth century. So ended the first great phase of the American citizenship revolution: a continuing struggle to reconcile the promise of revolutionary equality with the pressing and sometimes competing demands of law, order, and the pursuit of happiness.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3031-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In 1812 the United States of America declared war against Great Britain with an alarming nonchalance. With a tiny national army and the war hawks rejecting any attempt to expand the navy on the eve of the fighting, the country exhibited a reckless and even comic disregard for nearly all the assumptions of modern war making. Inevitable taxes were postponed, and the individual state militias were expected to rise to the occasion. Throughout the war, many states continued to trade openly with the enemy, supplying thousands of tons of grain to the British armies in Europe. Some states refused to...

  5. 1 The Revolutionary Moment: NATURAL RIGHTS, THE PEOPLE, AND THE CREATION OF AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP
    (pp. 19-60)

    When the first Continental Congress began to or ganize itself in the fall of 1774, early rumors of Boston being bombarded by the British navy heightened the sense of crisis. The orators took the initiative, and Patrick Henry, the firebrand from the Virginia Piedmont, struck a radical pose:

    Government is dissolved. Fleets and Armies and the present State of Things shew that Government is dissolved. Where are your Land Marks? Your Boundaries of Colonies. We are in a State of Nature, Sir.

    As he famously proclaimed, “The Distinctions between Virginians, Pensylvanians, New Yorkers and New Englanders, are no more.” He...

  6. 2 State v. Nation: FEDERALISM AND THE PROBLEM OF NATIONHOOD
    (pp. 61-100)

    When U.S. Supreme Court justice James Wilson delivered his opinion on the fundamental and “radical” question, “Do the people of the United States form a NATION?” he answered with a resounding “Yes.” He had arrived at his question by considering the claims of Alexander Chisholm, who sued the State of Georgia for nonpayment of a contract that dated to the war. Georgia claimed the debt had been paid, and refused to acknowledge a summons to appear in federal court to resolve the matter. Wilson was not yet concerned with the merits of Chisholm’s case; rather, he was disturbed by the...

  7. 3 The Politics of Citizenship: EXPATRIATION, NATURALIZATION, AND THE RISE OF PARTY
    (pp. 101-138)

    When Gideon Henfield, a “sea-faring man” from Salem, Massachusetts, joined the crew of the privateerCitizen Genet,he was assured that the first prize would be his to command.

    The vessel had been armed in Charleston, with the enthusiastic support of Governor William Moultrie and with funds provided by the first ambassador from the new French Republic, Edmond Charles Genet—“Citizen Genet” himself—in April of 1793. With six guns and fifty hands, most of them American citizens, the privateer set out to strike a blow in the great new war of the French Revolution, or in the terms of...

  8. 4 “True Americans”: THE FEDERALIST IDEAL AND THE LEGISLATION OF NATIONAL CITIZENSHIP
    (pp. 139-167)

    On May 7, 1798, President John Adams stood in full military regalia on the steps of the Executive Residence in Philadelphia. Despite his lack of military experience, he struck a martial pose on this day—one he had designated as a day of “national fasting”—to receive the compliments of the patriotic youth of Philadelphia. Upset with the recent evidence of French contempt toward American ministers, nearly twelve hundred “Young Citizens” had marched through the streets to present their petition praising the Adams administration and pledging their lives and honor in support of “Liberty and Independence.” Cheered on by martial...

  9. 5 States’ Rights & the Rights of Man: THE OPPOSITION TO THE ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS
    (pp. 168-205)

    In the middle of August 1798, in Fayette County, Kentucky, thousands of people massed in the small town of Lexington to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts. Unable to fit inside any public building, the crowd sprawled across the square at the center of town to listen to the local leadership of the Republican Party, led by the distinguished Colonel George Nicholas. Like most of the leading figures in Kentucky, Nicholas was a transplant from Virginia. He had served in the Virginia House of Delegates during the Revolution, as a delegate to the Virginia ratifying convention for the U.S. Constitution,...

  10. 6 “Hordes of Foreigners”: THE IMMIGRANT MOMENT AND THE POTENTIAL OF THE HYPHENATED CITIZEN
    (pp. 206-234)

    On February 9, 1799, newspaper editor William Duane visited St. Mary’s Catholic Church in midtown Philadelphia to collect signatures. Born of Irish parents in New York before the Revolution, Duane and three recent arrivals from Ireland—Dr. James Reynolds, Robert Moore, and Samuel Cuming—were preparing “a memorial for the repeal of the Alien Bill,” and they specifically sought support from those “natives of Ireland” who worshipped at St. Mary’s. They spread out their petition in the church graveyard after Mass, and as numerous celebrants congregated to sign the memorial, other Catholics—some Irish—approached using abusive language and threats....

  11. 7 White Citizen, Black Denizen: THE RACIAL RANKS OF AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP
    (pp. 235-271)

    On June 22, 1807, the longest day of the year, an incident three leagues west of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay nearly precipitated a war between Britain and the United States. The HMSLeopardattacked the unprepared U.S. frigateChesapeake,the captain of theChesapeakehaving refused to allow the British to search his ship for deserters from the Royal Navy. After a warning shot, theLeopardsystematically disabled theChesapeakein less than twenty minutes—before the Americans could even load and run out their guns. Once theChesapeakehad struck her colors, the British seized four sailors,...

  12. 8 The Aristotelian Moment: ENDING THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
    (pp. 272-296)

    At the conclusion of the first part ofThe Rights of Man,Thomas Paine describes the late eighteenth century as “an age of revolutions in which everything may be looked for.”¹ Paine expressed a sentiment that reached far beyond the immediate boundaries of France to a moment of change throughout the Atlantic World. His comment still applied to the United States and many other countries in the 1790s—it was an age of possibilities. But all ages come to an end eventually, and as the eighteenth century turned into the nineteenth, many of the possibilities of transformation for American national...

  13. Conclusion: THE FALL OF UNION, AND THE RISE OF NATION
    (pp. 297-308)

    If the country had remained static—with the same jurisdictional limits, population, and distribution of wealth that existed in 1800—we could construct theoretical scenarios in which the Federalists come again to national power and overthrow the Republican ascendancy, thus continuing a type of national politics that still fought over the final settlement of the Revolution in the institutions of the national government. John Adams thought that the splintering of the Republican coalition that brought Jefferson to power would effect such a transformation and that the country would seesaw back and forth eternally between the Federalists and Republicans. But most...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 309-370)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 371-402)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 403-416)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 417-417)