'Experience must be our guide': John Dickinson and the origins of American federalism, 1754--1808
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
James Roger Sharp
Federalism, Dickinson, John, Sovereignty
Arts and Humanities | History | United States History
This work explores the development of American federalism and argues that every previous national authority in the eighteenth century either had been centralized or a loose confederation of sovereign states. But as I explain in my work the new American system was neither one nor the other: it was a unique mixture of both. In my study, I show how this remarkable achievement occurred and how one framer to the Constitution, John Dickinson, helped to conceptualize it. He helped Americans think of sovereignty as a divided entity rather than a unified one. He did this by convincing them that federalism, the sharing of power between two sovereign governments, was not some new or elaborate scheme of power but that it was an actual, legitimate form of government that the colonists had been living under for nearly two hundred years in the old British empire. How Dickinson accomplished that feat forms the central question of this study.
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Harris, Matthew L., "'Experience must be our guide': John Dickinson and the origins of American federalism, 1754--1808" (2004). History - Dissertations. Paper 12.