Contesting the Character of the Political Economy in the Early Republic

The House and Senate in the 1790s: Petitioning, Lobbying, and Institutional Development 178-232 (Kenneth R. Bowling & Donald R. Kennon, eds., 2002). Reprinted with permission by Ohio University Press.

55 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2016

Date Written: 2002

Abstract

The U.S. Constitution left it notoriously ambiguous whether individuals could sue sovereign states for breach of contract in federal court. Within a few years, the issue had produced a constitutional crisis, famously acted out in the Supreme Court’s determination that states were subject to suit, Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793), and the political reversal of that permission, the Eleventh Amendment. The essay reconstructs the context that gave rise to the suit, its determination, and its political reversal. Colonial Americans had created a constitutional order that located legislative authority over the economy as the essential channel to self-determination, popular sovereignty, and calibrated justice over shared resources. But both political economic practices and conceptions about sovereignty were changing. The Supreme Court’s jurisdictional assertion was part of the movement towards an order that elevated judicial authority, locating it as the critical instrumentality in a liberal state where rights were supposed to exist independent of social and economic circumstance. The strategies adopted by the Chisholm claimant to define the obligations of contract and obtain a remedy showcase that transition. From Robert Farquhar’s 1784 death at sea on his way to obtain relief to the state of Georgia’s 1889 claim to reimbursement from the United States in the U.S. Court of Claims, the effort spanned more than a century. It took both individual and state claimants from executive officials and legislative committees to the increasingly ascendant courts.

Keywords: sovereign immunity, Chisholm v. Georgia, political economy, Eleventh Amendment, legislative adjudication, claims committee, petition, capitalism

JEL Classification: O1, P1, P5, P10, P16, Z00

Suggested Citation

Desan, Christine A., Contesting the Character of the Political Economy in the Early Republic (2002). The House and Senate in the 1790s: Petitioning, Lobbying, and Institutional Development 178-232 (Kenneth R. Bowling & Donald R. Kennon, eds., 2002). Reprinted with permission by Ohio University Press., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2256950

Christine A. Desan (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
77
Abstract Views
440
rank
420,420
PlumX Metrics