Bootleg Currency and Postrevolutionary American Property
This chapter looks to overlapping discussions of American economic health and growth to present a complex story about the circulation of currency as well as the circulation of late-eighteenth century conceptions of American personhood in the works of Charles Brockden Brown and Stephen Burroughs. These imaginative accounts of counterfeiting dramatize the intimate bonds of normative conceptions of citizenship and national currency. This chapter shows how discourses of counterfeiting distinctly frame the social and political geographies of the early American republic. Moreover, the lack of uniform paper currency in the early Republic (which produces social, political, and economic instability) mimics the lack of a uniform understanding of national citizenship in this same period to such a degree that some late eighteenth century authors respond to this dual precarity by proposing that counterfeiting a uniquely American form of self-making, both because the counterfeiting enterprise gives rise to new, albeit economically unstable, homo economici, and because these new economic bodies are themselves forging and/or imitating the dress, behaviors, and codes of propriety in order to capitalize on counterfeit currency. Thus, counterfeiting alleviates some of the anxiety about the lack of uniform national citizenship.
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