The federal principle in American law and politics, 1790-1833

Lenner, Andrew, Department of History, University of Virginia
Mccurdy, Charles, Department of History, University of Virginia
Holt, Michael, Department of History, University of Virginia
Onuf, Peter, Department of History, University of Virginia

Politics and party conflict in the early republic have rightly been regarded as both intense and tumultuous. Over the past thirty years, a mountain of literature has been produced to show that the battles which engulfed Federalists and Republicans, Democrats and Whigs, involved profound ideological conflicts over the nature of republicanism. While many of these studies have contributed to our understanding of the history of the early republic, they have not accurately taken into account the clash of constitutional ideas--ideas about the nature and structure of the Union--that divided Americans during the period.

The Federal Principle in American Politics, 1790- 1833 will present a history of early American politics that takes into account principled differences over federalism, the inherent powers of the Constitution and the law of nations. It will demonstrate the importance of debates over federal-state relations in the sphere of both domestic and foreign policy while linking them to partisan conflict as well as divergent understandings of republicanism. The study will include, but is certainly not limited to, a description of the party battles of the 1790s, the practices of Virginia's three Republican Presidents, the political and constitutional thought of National and Old Republicans, and the nature of the Jacksonian movement.

For many scholars, older constitutional histories, with their focus on narrow legal doctrines or particular phrases in the Constitution, have rightly been relegated to the dustbin of history. Like Jack Greene's Center and Peripheries, this study will place constitutional debate in the broadest possible context. It will demonstrate that constitutional thought was inextricably linked to one's conception of republicanism. For many Americans, only when political power was confined to its proper orbit could a government rightly be called "republican."

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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