Duel Over Dinner: President Washington’s Clash with Governor John Hancock Over State Sovereignty

WED, JAN 21, 2015 (59:17)

Historian Timothy Breen explores one of the first disagreements over the power relationship between federal and state governments. In 1789 George Washington returned to Massachusetts for the first time since 1776, as part of his tour of all the states that had adopted the Constitution and elected him President of the United States. Most places welcomed Washington with pomp and ceremony, including Boston which organized a grand parade. Yet Washington found himself at odds with his old colleague John Hancock, oft-elected governor of Massachusetts. Who was the higher authority, the governor of a state or the chief executive of this new federal union? What did the arrangement those two statesmen worked out mean for the conflicts over states' rights that persist till today?

+ BIO: T.H. Breen

T.H. Breen is an Early American historian interested in the history of political thought, material culture, and cultural anthropology. A Guggenheim fellow, he has held appointments at the Institute for Advanced Study and the National Humanities Center as well as the Pitt Professorship of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University and the Harmsworth Professorship at Oxford University. He has won several awards for distinguished teaching, including one from the Northwestern Alumni Society. He is the founding director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies and is currently a visiting professor in the Humanities Division at California Institute for Technology (2012-2013).

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Cambridge Forum
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The Health of American Democracy