Our federal sun: Planetary politics before the civil war

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Old Regime political cultures made use of extraordinary anthropomorphic readings of the sun, which by the late seventeenth century had won over the earth in contemporar-ies’ minds as the center of the solar system. In such understandings the sun constituted the center of a planetary “system,” which attracted, repelled, and presumably controlled lesser bodies. Accordingly, by striving for the celestial harmony that the British imperial constitution never achieved, the Federal Constitution spawned a mode of analyzing political power, particularly federalism, as interaction among heavenly bodies. In the decades following the creation of the republic politicians and commentators continued to interpret the relationship between the American states and the national government in terms of interaction among bodies orbiting around and gravitating toward each other. This article unveils the great effect to which many contemporaries took the solar system to tackle the most acute questions of the budding American political tradition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-215
Number of pages27
JournalAmerican Political Thought
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by The Jack Miller Center. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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