State sovereignty and migration before reconstruction

Kate Masur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This article emphasizes northerners’ arguments for state sovereignty across a range of antebellum conflicts over migration and immigration, emphasizing the many ways free state residents discussed and defended the sovereignty of states and, in particular, the power of the states to regulate persons they considered potentially disruptive. Free state lawyers, legislators, and judges, drawing on a legal tradition dating back to early modern England, regularly argued that states were entitled to regulate the mobility and residency not only of paupers and vagrants, but also of immigrants from Europe, alleged fugitive slaves, free black people, Chinese immigrants, and even slavecatchers. These contemporaries were engaged less in an argument over abstract theories of states’ rights versus nationalism than in a struggle to govern a mobile and diverse population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-611
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of the Civil War Era
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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