Before there could be political secession, there first had to be cultural disunion. Algernon Sidney Johnston's quixotic and overlooked novel, Memoirs of a Nullifier, offers a glimpse into the project of imagining American sectionalism in the midst of the Nullification crisis. Through a narrative that includes a love story, demonic pacts, and intergalactic travel, Johnson expressed southern concern over political economy, federal overreach, and divergent national interests. This article places Memoirs within its cultural and political context and explains how its entertaining tale reveals much about America's first crisis over southern discontent. Imagining fellow citizens as culturally distinct and politically dangerous was a crucial step to eventually conceiving national dissolution. While abstract at the time, these intellectual debates would later serve as the foundation for a bloody civil war.
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Sep 1, 2017
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