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Rival Visions

How Jefferson and His Contemporaries Defined the Early American Republic
Edited by Dustin Gish and Andrew Bibby

BUY Cloth · 344 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813944470 · $42.50 · Feb 2021
BUY Ebook · 344 pp. · ISBN 9780813944487 · $42.50 · Feb 2021

The emergence of the early American republic as a new nation on the world stage conjured rival visions in the eyes of leading statesmen at home and attentive observers abroad. Thomas Jefferson envisioned the newly independent states as a federation of republics united by common experience, mutual interest, and an adherence to principles of natural rights. His views on popular government and the American experiment in republicanism, and later the expansion of its empire of liberty, offered an influential account of the new nation. While persuasive in crucial respects, his vision of early America did not stand alone as an unrivaled model.

The contributors to Rival Visions examine how Jefferson’s contemporaries—including Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Madison, and Marshall—articulated their visions for the early American republic. Even beyond America, in this age of successive revolutions and crises, foreign statesmen began to formulate their own accounts of the new nation, its character, and its future prospects. This volume reveals how these vigorous debates and competing rival visions defined the early American republic in the formative epoch after the revolution.


Gish and Bibby should be credited not only for bringing together an interdisciplinary set of scholars to tackle big ideas at the center of the American founding, but also for producing a coherent, tight volume. It is impossible to come away from this set of essays without taking seriously Gish and Bibby's idea that 'rival visions' of the United States were truly constitutive of the nation. What is more, the book makes clear that the founders’ ‘rival visions’ continue to reverberate in scholars' compelling—and necessarily competing—interpretations.

Matthew Rainbow Hale, Goucher College

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