Jessica Choppin Roney


Jessica Choppin Roney

Sabbatical Fellow

“Revolutionary Settlement: The Colonies of the American

Jessica Choppin Roney, Associate Professor of History at Temple University, studies early American political culture with a focus on British North America and will use her fellowship to work on her current book project, Revolutionary Settlement: The Colonies of the American. The book follows the linked diasporas of the 1780s, the Loyalist refugees of revolution moving north and west to re-settle Canada, and the newly-minted American beneficiaries of revolution moving west to re-settle the trans-Appalachian West. These two movements are not usually studied together, but both demographic surges, occurring in the two decades after the Treaty of Paris, emerged and were made possible because of the war and the peace that followed. In turn, the colonies founded out of the post-revolutionary diasporas—including some that did not endure like Franklin, Muskingem, or Cumberland, and those that did, like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Upper Canada, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio—operated in ongoing discursive tension with their respective empires, shaped by and shaping both local and imperial constitutional settlements. Revolutionary Settlement examines in tandem the colonies born or transformed by the American Revolution as part of the same historical moment, responding to similar circumstances, and struggling in these post-revolutionary decades with many of the same fundamental questions.

One of the most central of these questions was the basis of political rights. Were rights based in local precedent, tradition, or law, and therefore might they vary between parts of the empire? Or, conversely, were rights not based in history and local preference at all, but were they instead timeless, universal, and natural—indeed, “self-evident”? The question of forming new political communities after and out of the Revolution tested and re-tested the basis of citizenship and belonging. In two empires that each defined themselves as the true champions of liberty, how to incorporate disparate political communities and accommodate variation, dissent, and some degree of local self-determination? And in decades where war and invasion were constant threats, how to create an empire that despite diversity and geographic spread could operate as a strong, coherent, supple whole, rather than a mere, weak confederation? Where and how to allow for variation and where and how to insist upon uniformity? The answers to these questions affected decisions about political belonging, local determination, and sovereignty in both the American and British empires and have consequences to this day.



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