Abstract

Daniel Webster's importance to the political debates of the early nation has long been recognized; here I argue that he also vitally contributed to the way that national identity came to be construed in geographical terms. Looking specifically at Webster's most famous oration, his "Second Reply to Hayne" (1830), I study Webster's blueprint for a sectional identity centered in New England. Though the construction of local identities has been lauded as a key form of resistance to national and global hegemonizing forces, Webster is an especially useful figure to explore the ways in which locality may serve both conservative and radical purposes. Webster not only represents New England as a synecdoche for the nation; he takes this to the logical extreme by drawing a line starkly between North and South. To this extent, Webster's most literary of legacies is his ability to re-draw the boundaries of section and nation and his recognition that the nation is much more flexible a construct than any simple map would suggest. Moving beyond the boundaries of the early republic, the "Second Reply" serves as a springboard to examine the ways that the representations of the increasingly calcified sectional tensions of the 1820s and early 1830s had profound geographical and political implications that reverberated throughout the continent and across the Atlantic world. The article as a whole articulates an understanding of an early American geographical imagination that was supple enough to simultaneously address local, national and transnational contexts

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-0620
Print ISSN
0275-1275
Pages
pp. 201-223
Launched on MUSE
2010-04-28
Open Access
No
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