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Commons DemocracyReading the Politics of Participation in the Early United States$
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Dana D. Nelson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823268382

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823268382.001.0001

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Settler Self-Governance

Settler Self-Governance

Democratic Politics on the Frontier

(p.105) 4 Settler Self-Governance
Commons Democracy

Dana D. Nelson

Fordham University Press

Chapter 4 tracks commons democracy into the 1830s on the nation’s western frontier, drawing on political novels that take up the presence of such vernacular democratic practices and ideals. The frontier literature that became so popular after the 1820s largely worked to support the developing consensus narrative by consigning the equalitarian demands, practices, and beliefs of common citizens to the outlands or to the nation’s prehistory. But the sheer repetition of this plotline decades past the Whiskey Rebellion suggests that the practices Hamilton sought to curtail lived on. The novels I study in this chapter, Robert Montgomery Bird’s Nick of the Woods (1837), William Gilmore Simms’s Richard Hurdis (1838), and Caroline Kirkland’s A New Home, Who’ll Follow? (1839), explore the problem of defining and containing self-governing practices in the West, and western resistance to Federal government’s nationalizing aims.

Keywords:   frontier, frontier equalitarianism, homely democracy, middle ground, settler colonialism, squatter sovereignty

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