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Epilogue: “This little Common wealth”

Epilogue: “This little Common wealth”

(p.253) Epilogue: “This little Common wealth”
Urban Dreams, Rural Commonwealth
Paul Musselwhite
University of Chicago Press

This epilogue begins with a brief account of the contests over urban authority in Virginia and Maryland during the 1780s, including the controversy over incorporating the city of Baltimore and James Madison’s plan to restrict Virginia’s trade to port towns. These disputes vividly revived the battles over urban civic autonomy that had marked the colonial Chesapeake and reframed them within the republican framework of the new United States. The epilogue reflects on the fact that this process reinforced the perceived division between planters and merchants, giving rise to the antebellum South’s variant of agrarian republicanism and the myth of the region as a traditional precapitalist rural society. It concludes by summing up the ways in which the long history of Chesapeake urban planning reveals the complex political economic debate through which planters negotiated their place within the empire and sought to define the terms of a market that would make exploitative tobacco agriculture both stable and profitable.

Keywords:   James Madison, George Mason, agrarian republicanism, urban corporations, plantation capitalism, planter gentry, Baltimore, Chesapeake, port towns

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