Date of Degree

6-2023

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

History

Advisor

David Waldstreicher

Committee Members

James Oakes

Benjamin Carp

Subject Categories

African American Studies | Legal | Migration Studies | Political History | United States History

Keywords

Naturalization, Early Republic, Migration Policy, Political Partisanship

Abstract

Determined to be American: Regulating Migration and Citizenship in the Early American Republic, 1783–1815 argues that international and domestic circumstances led to fierce debates about migration regulations that partitioned the populace of the early Republic into parties which battled over the United States’ racial, socioeconomic and ideological composition. The newly independent nation’s precarious international position led to arguments about migration that proved inextricably tied to differing visions for the course of national economic development, the relationship between the United States and the rest of the world, and the connection between the coerced migration of enslaved Africans and the voluntary migration of free individuals. Situated at the edge of an Atlantic Basin dominated by the empires of western Europe, the United States was forced to consider its position at the margin of the European imperial sphere as it attempted to define itself. Perhaps no task was more important than deciding who would reside in the new nation, how they would be incorporated within the national body politic, and who would be excluded and on what basis. Domestically, migration offered both potential economic opportunities to the United States while also presenting a potential threat to the stability of the nation. Meanwhile, the complex connection between racial identity, the coerced migration of enslaved peoples and the voluntary migration of free individuals resulted in differing visions for the course of national economic and social development. Internationally, debates over migration pulled the United States into the turmoil of the Atlantic Basin during the Age of Revolution such as the conflagrations in France and Haiti. The emigres and refugees fleeing France and Haiti presented the politicians and the American public with a panoply of political leanings, economic circumstances, and ideologies. As the situation around the Atlantic Basin continued to shift, what constituted the “right” or “wrong” migrant for the new nation was constantly reevaluated. The continuous reassessment of migration regulations was both a wedge for and consequence of the division of the populace of the early Republic into parties and the escalation of these newfound differences.

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