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Political Community in Revolutionary Pennsylvania, 1774-1800$
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Kenneth Owen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198827979

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198827979.001.0001

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Price Fixing and the Political Community, 1778–1779

Price Fixing and the Political Community, 1778–1779

(p.51) 2 Price Fixing and the Political Community, 1778–1779
Political Community in Revolutionary Pennsylvania, 1774-1800

Kenneth Owen

Oxford University Press

In 1779, Pennsylvanians undertook a bold experiment in economic regulation—forming price-fixing committees to reverse wartime inflation. This chapter analyzes the committees’ structure and the context in which they were created. Winter 1778 saw great political turbulence: the evacuation of Philadelphia, treason trials, and an attempt to rewrite the state constitution. By 1779, defenders of the constitution were using price-fixing committees as a means of defending a Constitutionalist vision of government in which the people held the reins of power and the right to shape that government. Though the committees struggled to establish universal legitimacy, they helped legitimate a robust participatory political culture based upon popular sovereignty. This culture, though, remained turbulent, as in the Fort Wilson Incident of October 1779, in which militiamen surrounded the house of Republican politician James Wilson. This chapter investigates how Constitutionalists defended their vision of political culture even during periods of great upheaval.

Keywords:   price-fixing, price-fixing committees, treason trials, Fort Wilson Incident, economic regulation, committees, constitution, evacuation of Philadelphia, Constitutionalists, Republicans

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