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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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From Nothing to Start, into Being

From Nothing to Start, into Being

The Anti-Rent Wars, the Indian Question, and the Triumph of Liberalism

(p.133) 5 From Nothing to Start, into Being
Commons Democracy

Dana D. Nelson

Fordham University Press

This chapter takes up Cooper’s Littlepage trilogy, which helps us track historically the substantive, if diminishing threat that the power of commons democracy posed to the growing economic power of liberalism in the early United States. These three long-neglected novels assume a wide familiarity with the social and political as well as economic entailments of commons culture in the late colonies and early republic, and they trace the accommodations of commons culture to the expanding imperatives of market capitalism in the mid-nineteenth century. The novels importantly help us to see how the universal suffrage that seems like a democratic advance covers over the more complicated capitalist constraining and harnessing of “democracy” in this period.

Keywords:   Indian question, liberal democracy, legal formalism, liberal legalism, Rent Wars, settler colonialism, white trash

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