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5 Am. Pol. Thought 1 (2016)

handle is hein.journals/ampolth5 and id is 1 raw text is: 










Political Fragmentation in

Early Maryland and the

Imperial Origins of North

American Liberalism

KEVIN  S. VANZANT



ABSTRACT
This essay locates the origins of American liberalism in the local politics of the early
English empire. Maryland and its political discord in the seventeenth century provide a
compelling case study of how imperial matters could affect politics on the local level.
Settlers and colonial leaders in Maryland argued over how aristocratic or democratic
the colony should be and placed those political preferences within the larger context of
imperial success. This allowed English colonists to think about political power as a
rightful benefit of their voluntary migration, which ushered into American politics a
newly ambiguous and, at times, liberal treatment of self-interest. This article challenges
the idea that the political thought in the colonies during this period was largely mimetic
and reveals a distinct and polarized political discourse in North America as settlers
mobilized the circumstances of colonization to challenge English norms.



In a promotional  tract for Maryland, published in 1666 and entitled A Char-
acter of the Province  of  Mary-land,  the colony  was  declared  to be the
Miracle of the Age. The author of the text, George Alsop, defended such high
praise by pointing out that, in a world full of so much religious and political
tumult, Maryland  provided  an exemplar  of societal stability. He followed this
pronouncement   by outlining the presence of two divisive political cultures that
made  Maryland's   politics, in actuality, the setting for some of the sharpest
political discord in all of the English empire (Alsop 1666, 16). But it was in


Kevin S. Vanzant is the Mellon Partners for Humanities Education Postdoctoral Fellow at Tennessee State
University, 3500 John A. Merritt Boulevard, Nashville, TN 37209 (kvanzant@tnstate.edu) and a visiting
scholar in the History Department at Vanderbilt University.
   The author would like to thank Daniel H. Usner Jr. and Catherine Molineux for their encouragement
and insightful criticism, as well as the anonymous reviewers of APT for their many helpful comments.


American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, vol. 5 (Winter 2016).
2161-1580/2016/0501-0001$10.00. © 2016 by The Jack Miller Center. All rights reserved.

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