Ambiguous Bonds of Union: American Political Economy and the Geopolitical Origins of Interregional Cooperation and Conflict, 1783-1821

Öhman, Martin Christoffer, Department of History, University of Virginia
Onuf, Peter, Department of History, University of Virginia
Griffin, Patrick
Edelson, Max, Department of History, University of Virginia
Owen, John, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

In the decades following the 1783 Peace of Paris, American political leaders and thinkers struggled to secure the independence of the new republic. While committed to interstate cooperation and union, different groups offered radically different prescriptions for what kind of political and economic bonds would produce stable growth and best protect against the threats of foreign subjugation and internal fragmentation. This dissertation examines how regional elites-in a period of persistent Western hemispheric instability-conceived of, articulated, tried to address, and struggled over the problem of how to advance the republic's position in the Atlantic world while at the same time ensuring an equal distribution of benefits and burdens to its different areas and economic sectors. New England shippers and re-export merchants, New York City dry goods traders, Mid-Atlantic and Upper South wheat producers, Delaware Valley millers and iron makers, Chesapeake tobacco cultivators, lowcountry rice barons, upcountry cotton planters and farmers, urban artisans along the eastern seaboard, and frontier settlers in the Mississippi and Ohio river valleys were differently situated in the Atlantic trading system. Consequently, they voiced different concerns, offered divergent outlooks, and proposed conflicting policies when faced with changes in international trade routes, price fluctuations, and power relations. Political divisions in the early republic, I argue, were primarily the product of divergent geopolitical and economic assessments. Only by examining how policy choices affected-and were projected to affect-the dominant productive activities, market relations, and geopolitical position of different parts of the American union can we understand the dynamics of the first party system, the push for territorial expansion, the divisions over commercial restrictions and the War of 1812, and the emerging conflict over slavery's expansion.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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