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From Liberty to Liberality

The Transformation of the Pennsylvania Legislature, 1776–1820

Anthony M. Joseph

From Liberty to Liberality takes a close look at the history of the Pennsylvania legislature in the four critical decades following Independence. In 1776, the national Congress, a fledgling institution barely two years old, possessed uncertain powers and an untested legitimacy. The state legislatures seemed better positioned, since they had long been viewed as guardians of the people's liberty against the king. Yet this role, so central to the colonial period, proved awkward and problematic now that the king was gone, and the new political theory of republicanism did not provide a new role. Joseph shows how the Pennsylvania legislature managed to develop a new role and purpose for itself. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 220Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7391-2108-5 • Hardback • January 2012 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
Anthony M. Joseph is associate professor of history at Houston Baptist University.
Chapter 1: A Republic of Petitioners
Chapter 2: The Agenda and Its Critics
Chapter 3: Financing the Republic
Chapter 4: A Republic of Banks
Chapter 5: Improving the Republic
In From Liberty to Liberality, Anthony M. Joseph highlights the role of the legislature in Pennsylvania government in the early republica subject that has received little attention from historians. . . . Joseph has written a penetrating, important study of the General Assembly in the early republic that helps readers further understand how political, constitutional, and economic developments came about in the mid century.
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

Joseph gives historians a new angle to espy the dramatic changes occurring in the early 1800s. He clearly has defined a perception by which Americans came to understand and justify those changes, and consequently he gives historians another opportunity to examine the ongoing debate while adding to the mix the concept of “liberality.”

Foster Review

Anthony Joseph's superb study of the Pennsylvania legislature from 1776 to 1820 is a model work that shows how economic opportunity and relations with the national government were as important as the state's extensively studied political factionalism in shaping that body's development. The state responded to tax resistance in the 1780s by simply not taxing its inhabitants, but still provided for internal improvements and economic development through selling lands and taxing the banks and corporations it chartered. Joseph thereby helps us understand the Whiskey and Fries's Rebellions as the responses of people who resented impositions by an even more remote national government. He also successfully challenges the scholarly dichotomy between liberalism and republicanism. The radical assembly of 1776 that was concerned with preserving local and personal rights developed into a liberal bicameral body that considered its main task to be economic development, which was the best way of achieving a virtuous, as well as prosperous, commonwealth. Joseph's book traces how Pennsylvania charted a complicated path to become the nation's leading industrial state that defies the standard categories historians apply to the early republic.
William A. Pencak, professor of history and Jewish studies at Penn State University