In fracturing the imperial bond and rejecting the sovereignty of the King in Parliament, the patriots of 1776, and after 1783 Americans, embarked upon a remarkable conversation concerning the form of the state, the nature of governance, and the character of republican citizenship. Central to this process, but lacking in sustained focus, was the contentious issue of the role of coercion requisite to sustain the revolutionary process and respect the virtuous character of a free people. This article argues that the experience of building a state, with particular focus on the Commonwealth of Virginia, ensured that the framers eventually became reconciled to the paradoxes of coercion in securing the safety of the new nation.

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