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Peace Pact and Nation: An International Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)267-303
Number of pages36
JournalPast and Present
Volume240
Issue number1
Early online date2 Jul 2018
DOIs
Accepted/In press19 Jan 2018
E-pub ahead of print2 Jul 2018
Published1 Aug 2018

Documents

  • Peace Pact and Nation_EDLING_Publishedonline2July2018_GREEN AAM

    Peace_Pact_and_Nation_EDLING_Publishedonline2July2018_GREEN_AAM.pdf, 330 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:25 Oct 2018

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

    This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in 'Past & Present' following peer review. The version of recor is available online at: https://academic.oup.com/past/article/240/1/267/5048006

King's Authors

Abstract

The origin of the United States Constitution is a perennial question in American historiography. In the last two decades a new ‘International’ interpretation has appeared that challenges an older ‘economic’ interpretation associated with Charles Beard and the so-called ‘Progressive’ tradition of historical analysis, which dominated scholarship for much of the twentieth century. The two interpretations assume different positions on what is known in American historiography as the ‘dual revolution’ thesis, i.e. the idea that the American founding was at the same time a struggle for home rule and a struggle over who should rule at home. Whereas the Progressive tradition has concentrated on the latter question, the International interpretation calls for renewed investigation of the former. The International interpretation presents the Constitution as a federal treaty that allowed thirteen newly independent and comparatively weak republics to maintain peace among themselves and to act in unison against competitors in the Atlantic marketplace and in the western borderlands of the continental interior. Whereas the Progressives identify the principal outcome of the founding to be the creation of a bourgeois state that faced inwards to make North America safe for capitalism, the Internationalists identify it as the creation of a stronger federal union that faced outward and allowed the United States to stand up to European powers and to conquer the North American continent. Yet despite the focus on the question of home rule, the Internationalist redefinition of the Constitution as a federal treaty also makes possible a fresh view on the old question of who should rule at home.

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