Massachusetts and the New Nation
Conrad E. Wright
This collection of essays studies the role of a single state in the transformation of American life following the Revolutionary War. As the citizens of the state worked to establish their new Commonwealth and determine its relationship to a federal government also in its infancy, they were forced to confront challenging problems both within Massachusetts and outside it. Religious differences fractured the Standing Order, separating Unitarians and Congregationalists from each other at the same time that pressures from Episcopalians, Baptists, and others urged an end to the religious establishment. Poverty posed problems for Massachusetts at large, and particularly for Boston, at the same time that public officeholders struggled to create new governmental institutions both for the Commonwealth and for its capital. Massachusetts merchants had to develop new, independent patterns of trade in response to American withdrawal from the British Empire. Diplomats had to find a place for the Commonwealth in the world order. And federal officeholders from Massachusetts needed to address the most divisive of domestic issues, slavery. The essays in this collection reveal how Massachusetts coped with these unexpected problems of independence.