Volume 21

Representing the Nation: Gouverneur Morris's Nationalist Constitutionalism

by Jonathan Gienapp

Few truisms have proved as enduring as the belief that there was little nationalism at the time of the American Founding. As one standard account goes, most citizens of the new American union thought in terms of their home states. These were their individual nations and the ultimate basis of their loyalties and identities. The union mattered, but to many, if not most, it was understood as a composite of unit states, each of which had their own history, laws, customs, manners, and sources of affection, none of which the Revolution had undone.Early constitutionalism seemingly reflected these habits of mind; the individual states claimed most meaningful governmental power during the decades following in-dependence, and the union’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, recognized this state-centric order.


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