Governed by a spirit of opposition : the origins of American political practice in colonial Philadelphia /
by Jessica Choppin Roney.
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.
xiii, 252 p. ; 24 cm.
1421415275 (hardcover : acid-free paper), 1421415283 (electronic), 9781421415277 (hardcover : acid-free paper), 9781421415284 (electronic)
More Details
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.
1421415275 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
1421415283 (electronic)
9781421415277 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
9781421415284 (electronic)
contents note
"Named Before Thou Wert Born" : A City Imagined, 1682-1700 -- Intoxicated With Power : The Rise and Limits of the Philadelphia Corporation -- Intended for a General Benefit : The Rise of a New Civic Technology -- Amidst "Rancour and Party hatred" : A Changing Civic Landscape -- Lending in Plain Sight : Covert Banks -- Private Men Interfering with Matters of Government : Taking Over From the State -- Mars Ascendant : A Revolution in Arms -- Epilogue.
"During the colonial era, ordinary Philadelphians played an unusually active role in political life. Because the city lacked a strong central government, private individuals working in civic associations of their own making shouldered broad responsibility for education, poverty relief, church governance, fire protection, and even taxation and military defense. These organizations dramatically expanded the opportunities for white men--rich and poor alike--to shape policies that immediately affected their communities and their own lives. In Governed by a Spirit of Opposition, Jessica Choppin Roney explains how allowing people from all walks of life to participate in political activities amplified citizen access and democratic governance. Merchants, shopkeepers, carpenters, brewers, shoemakers, and silversmiths served as churchwardens, street commissioners, constables, and Overseers of the Poor. They volunteered to fight fires, organized relief for the needy, contributed money toward the care of the sick, took up arms in defense of the community, raised capital for local lending, and even interjected themselves in Indian diplomacy. Ultimately, Roney suggests, popular participation in charity, schools, the militia, and informal banks empowered people in this critically important colonial city to overthrow the existing government in 1776 and re-envision the parameters of democratic participation. Governed by a Spirit of Opposition argues that the American Revolution did not occasion the birth of commonplace political activity or of an American culture of voluntary association. Rather, the Revolution built upon a long history of civic engagement and a complicated relationship between the practice of majority-rule and exclusionary policy-making on the part of appointed and self-selected constituencies"--
"To what extent did the American Revolution involve ordinary people? Historians as notable as Carl Becker and Edmund Morgan famously have asked this question or versions of it, but here Roney approaches it afresh by examining local governance and civic associations in Philadelphia, the largest colonial American city. How did popular participation in charity, schools, the militia, and informal banks prepare people to adopt radical ideas and take to the streets protesting against tyranny in the 1760s and 70s? Roney's GOVERNED BY A SPIRIT OF OPPOSITION will both be an important addition to the current literature on public life in early America, and also to the wider literature on urban governance in the British Atlantic in the eighteenth century. She sheds light on the powerful roles played by men acting in the political and constitutional circumstances of early Philadelphia leading up to the Revolution"--
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Includes bibliographical references and index.

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