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Title: Gentlemen revolutionaries : power and justice in the new American Republic, 1781-1787
Author: Cutterham, Thomas G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5365 9458
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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In the aftermath of the American revolution, elites sought to defend their power and status against newly empowered popular governments and egalitarian demands. They developed new discursive and political strategies, transforming pre-revolutionary ideas about authority and legitimacy, moving from traditional forms of hierarchy based on deference and allegiance, towards a structure of power relations based on the inviolability of property and contractual rights. A new American ruling class began to constitute itself through these strategies and ideas during the 1780s, replacing structures of British imperial rule. It did so in response to threats from popular and (white male) egalitarian politics—that is, class struggle and class formation drove each other. Both, in turn, generated identities and ideologies that were central to the development of capitalist ideology in the following century. This thesis gives an account of that process from the perspective of a variety of American elites, focusing on the fragmented and contradictory nature of elite discourse and strategy as well as on the emergence of commonalities and the role of class interests. It deals with the formation and early controversy around the Society of the Cincinnati; with the development and debate over new conceptions of public education; with the elaboration of various legal and discursive mechanisms for the defence of property rights; with the interrelated roles of land claims, banking, corporations, and the rights of contract; and with the elite sense of the dual threat posed both by state legislative democracy (tyranny) and by rural insurrection (anarchy). It also assesses the role of the 1787 constitutional convention within this process, as a radical move that can be seen as both a culmination and a break from prior elite strategy.
Supervisor: Thompson, Peter; Cole, Nicholas P. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of North America ; United States of America ; early American Republic ; American revolution