Federation of Liberty: International Society and Hierarchy Among United States

The Pardee School Project on the Political Economy of Security Fall 2018 Speaker Series hosts Paul Musgrave from the University of Massachusetts Amherst for a discussion entitled "Federation of Liberty: International Society and Hierarchy Among United States."

Presentation Abstract: Why did the United States convert its domestic political system from a loose confederation to a more nationalized polity? Traditional answers have proceeded from one of two broad research areas. The dominant source of answers to this puzzle derive from studies of American history and American political development.

These treat the origins of the 1787 Constitution as incorporating principally domestic factors, including the protection of property, the establishment of judicial systems, and the creation of a more stable government. A less dominant tradition has argued instead that international factors should take priority. These answers tend to view the origins of the Constitution as deriving from factors familiar to scholars of international relations, such as the creation of a security community among the various components of the federal union, the role of security threats in catalyzing union, and a desire to participate in a governmental structure more capable of acting in international society. I argue that these traditions reflect an artificial division that has hindered a comprehensive understanding of the political shifts during the 1780s. The surprising emergence of a stronger federal government through an irregular replacement of an existing intergovernmental organization (the United States under the Articles of Confederation) should challenge the distinction between "domestic" and "international" logics of organization. I draw on a new typology of governance hierarchies adduced by McConaughey, Musgrave, and Nexon (2018) to understand this transition. Doing so produces new insights into the double movement of the post-1789 United States, including the tradeoffs imposed by a greater acceptance of the federal government as a legitimately autonomous actor. I claim that this organization cannot be accounted for either by "domestic" or "international" logics but requires the operation of both along different dimensions of hierarchical relations simultaneously.

Further, the establishment of the federal American states-union did not reflect a working out of a broadly accepted republican ideology. The antebellum United States was characterized by strong impulses toward expansion into areas where concerns about anarchic competition did not exist, as they had among the original territories of the American states-union. The federal logic of the United States greatly complicated attempts at preserving the equipoise of the original union and generated recurrent tensions over expansion and its consequences that forced a reckoning over whether a federation established on the basis of state equality could long endure.

12:00 pm on Friday, September 28, 2018
2:00 pm on Friday, September 28, 2018
154 Bay State Road, Eilts Room