American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis / Edition 1

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During the years from 1789 to 1801, the republican political institutions forged by the American Constitution were put to the test. A new nation - born in revolution, divided over the nature of republicanism, undermined by deep-seated sectional allegiances, and mired in foreign policy entanglements - faced the challenge of creating a stable, enduring national authority and union. In this engagingly written book, James Roger Sharp offers a penetrating new assessment disputing the conventional wisdom that the birth of the country was a relatively painless and unexceptional one. Instead, he tells the dramatic story of how the euphoria surrounding the inauguration of George Washington as the country's first president quickly soured. Soon, the Federalist defenders of the administration and their Republican critics regarded each other as bitter political enemies. The intense partisanship prevented the acceptance of the idea that an opposition could both oppose and be loyal to the government. As a result, the nation teetered on the brink of disintegration as fear, insurrection, and threats of secession abounded. Many even envisioned armed civil conflict as a possible outcome. Despite the polarization the nation did manage to survive its first trial. The election of Thomas Jefferson in 1801 and the nonviolent transfer of power from one political group to another ended the immediate crisis. But sectionally based politics continued to plague the nation and eventually led to the Civil War.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The hindsight of linear vision does not capture the reality of struggle and genuine peril that the American government faced from proto-party sectional rivalry during the first decade after constitutional ratification. Sharp (history, Syracuse Univ.) here attempts to correct this ``historic myopathy.'' He reminds us that only the genuine patriots' strong desire to see the republic survive kept the Civil War from exploding 60 years prematurely. Sharp offers clearly defined objectives and concise, accurate history to keep the reader's interest. The result is a fine historical treatise. Hyperbole in the introduction is adroitly flattened in the text. Strongly recommended for academic and public libraries.-- Harry Willems, Kansas Lib. System, Iola
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300065190
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/1995
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 378
  • Product dimensions: 6.07 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. I The Breakdown of Elite Consensus, 1789 to 1792
1 George Washington and the New Nation 17
2 Disappointed Expectations: The Failure of Elite Consensus 31
Pt. II The Polarization of the Elite, 1792 to 1798
3 The Election of 1792: Grappling with the Concept of Representation 53
4 The French Revolution and the Awakening of the Democratic Spirit 69
5 Threats to the Union 92
6 The Jay Treaty 113
7 The Election of 1796 138
8 The War Crisis and the Alien and Sedition Acts 163
Pt. III The Crisis of Union, 1798 to 1801
9 The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions: Making a Refuge for the Oppressed 187
10 1799: Virginia Versus the Hamiltonian Federalists and the Fears of Armed Conflict 208
11 The Election of 1800 226
12 Electoral Gridlock: the Crisis of 1801 250
Epilogue 276
Notes 289
Bibliography 337
Index 349
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