Cody Nager

Cody Nager

MCEAS Consortium FellowPh.D. Candidate, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

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“Determined to be American: Regulating Immigration and Citizenship in the Early American Republic, 1783–1815”

     My scholarship investigates how interactions between the diverse people of vast early America and the broader Atlantic world shaped racial structures, economic development, national identity, and political stability in the United States. My dissertation argues that migration was the ideological and political wedge which divided the populace of the early Republic into parties that battled over America’s racial, socioeconomic and ideological composition. The newly independent nation’s precarious international position led to fierce debates about migration that proved inextricably tied to differing visions for 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. Americans thought selecting the “right” immigrants would bring economic success while picking the “wrong” ones would take the jobs of the hardworking public, occupy fertile western lands with unproductive population, and expand the reprehensible system of slavery. Rather than Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan or concerns over the transfer of power from slaveholding southern planters to a northeastern merchant class as the impetus for partisanship, the regulation of migration created the rift. While transnational influences on migration have been widely studied by scholars of the twentieth century, my dissertation demonstrates how the high-stakes debates of the early Republic shaped clashes over the regulation of migration that continue to this day.

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