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Title: Territorial politics : formative identities and networks in the Mississippi Territory, 1798-1817
Author: Roberts, Hugh James
ISNI:       0000 0005 0287 4497
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2020
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This thesis considers the development of political identity in the Mississippi Territory, from its foundation in 1798 until the moment it achieved statehood in 1817. It focuses on the establishment of local networks of white settlers and local politicians, which helped to shape the political landscape of the Territory and ultimately dictated the relationship between the Territory and the Federal Government. It applies a microhistorical approach, honing in on local communities and political events, but draws connections between local issues and the national political landscape. In doing so, it challenges preconceptions about the aspirations of political networks within the Territory, the influence of the national political parties on the frontier, and the nature of citizenship and political loyalty on the fringes of the early American Republic. The first chapter sets out the unique political framework established in the Mississippi Territory, and demonstrates how the first Territorial governor of the Territory, a Federalist, utilised that framework to limit democracy and local representation in the Territory. In turn, that served as the catalyst for the development of local political networks rising in support and opposition to the Governor. Those networks aligned themselves with the national political parties in order to subvert the Governor and secure their own authority. However, the second chapter challenges the notion that Mississippi's political networks can be neatly categorised as "Federalist" and "Republican". Instead, local politicians appropriated those party labels in order to secure influence and favour from the federal government and assert their authority on the local stage. That assessment is then tested through a case study of the Burr Conspiracy, which proves how fractured Mississippi's networks were, and highlights the fragility of the Territory's loyalty to the Union. The third chapter presents two further case studies, focusing upon the establishment of two civic institutions at different moments in the Territory's history; Jefferson College and The Bank of the Mississippi. In doing so, it demonstrates how political networks evolved from partisan, self-interested groups which would sabotage bipartisan movements if they did not immediately benefit, to sophisticated networks of businessmen and merchants who worked together to set up a stable, secure and profitable bank. Finally, Chapter Four discusses land and settlement in the Mississippi Territory, exploring how migration shaped political networks, and showing how planters and federal officials clashed in their attempts to shape white settlement in the region. This culminated in regional divisions which shaped campaigns for Mississippi's statehood, which was only permissible on planters' own terms. Ultimately, this thesis demonstrates how planters and local politicians were able to exploit the absence of federal authority and oversight on the early American frontier and cultivate unique political identities which furthered their own private interests and created a uniquely Mississippian form of American identity.
Supervisor: Marsh, Ben ; Bowman, Timothy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: E151 United States (General)