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The Webster-Hayne Debate

Defining Nationhood in the Early American Republic

Christopher Childers

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A crucial senatorial debate on the question of the states’ relationship to the federal government.

Two generations after the founding, Americans still disagreed on the nature of the Union. Was it a confederation of sovereign states or a nation headed by a central government? To South Carolina Senator Robert Y. Hayne and others of his mindset, only the vigilant protection of states’ rights could hold off an attack on the southern way of life, which was undergirded by slavery. Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, on the other hand, believed that the political and economic ascendancy of New…

A crucial senatorial debate on the question of the states’ relationship to the federal government.

Two generations after the founding, Americans still disagreed on the nature of the Union. Was it a confederation of sovereign states or a nation headed by a central government? To South Carolina Senator Robert Y. Hayne and others of his mindset, only the vigilant protection of states’ rights could hold off an attack on the southern way of life, which was undergirded by slavery. Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, on the other hand, believed that the political and economic ascendancy of New England—and the nation—required a strong, activist national government.

In The Webster-Hayne Debate, Christopher Childers focuses on the sharp dispute that engaged Webster and Hayne in January 1830. During Senate discussion of western land policy, Childers explains, the senators’ exchanges grew first earnest and then heated, finally landing on the question of union—its nature and its value in a federal republic. Childers argues that both Webster and Hayne, and the factions they represented, saw the West as key to the success of their political plans and sought to cultivate western support for their ideas.

A short, accessible account of the conflict and the related issues it addressed, The Webster-Hayne Debate captures an important moment in the early republic. Ideal for use in college classrooms or for readers interested in American history, this book examines a pivotal moment and a critical problem in the history of US politics. It also shows how Americans grappled with the issues of nationalism, sectionalism, and the meaning of union itself—issues that still resonate today.

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The Webster-Hayne Debate

Christopher Childers

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Reviews

Reviews

In The Webster-Hayne Debate, Christopher Childers examines the context of the debate between Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and his Senate colleague Robert S. Hayne of South Carolina in January 1830... Readers will finish the book with a clear idea of the reason Webster's "Reply" became so influential in its own day. They will also better understand the debate's political context.

The Webster-Hayne Debate: Defining Nationhood in the Early American Republic is an excellent fit for the undergraduate classroom and will surely spark conversation about the relationship between the states and the Union... this work serves as an introduction to this pivotal moment and to the politics of early antebellum America.

A well-argued and original book that carefully examines the famous Webster-Hayne debate. Childers makes an important historical argument. This will be a central book for years to come in the historiography of the early republic and the coming of the Civil War.

Even more than a clear-eyed analysis of the spellbinding Senate debate over nullification and disunion, this book is a beautiful synthesis of the forces and personalities that commanded early American politics. Christopher Childers adroitly examines issues of western land sales, localism and nationalism, and the very character of the two-party system, marking a key moment in US history when political insiders trembled and North and South faced their respective demons.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
184
ISBN
9781421426143
Illustration Description
10 halftones
Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue. We the States or We the People?
1. New England’s March toward Nationalism
2. The South’s March toward Sectionalism
3. The West Asserts Its Power
4. The Great Debate
5

Preface
Acknowledgments
Prologue. We the States or We the People?
1. New England’s March toward Nationalism
2. The South’s March toward Sectionalism
3. The West Asserts Its Power
4. The Great Debate
5. Nullification and Nationhood
Epilogue. The Webster-Hayne Debate in Historical Memory
Notes
Essay on Sources
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Christopher Childers

Christopher Childers is an assistant professor of history at Pittsburg State University. He is the author of The Failure of Popular Sovereignty: Slavery, Manifest Destiny, and the Radicalization of Southern Politics and the coauthor of The American South: A History.