Veterans’ Disability, Federalism, and Constitutional Order in the Early United States

Lecture Description

This lecture examines the lives and pension histories of Revolutionary War veterans in order to investigate the nexus between disability and the nation-state in the early U.S. republic. After the Revolutionary War, monetary pension benefits constituted the foremost accommodation of impaired veterans. However, the state and federal governments that distributed those benefits were young and unseasoned. During the Critical Period, and after ratification of the Constitution, these governments underwent rapid but often haphazard legal, political, and fiscal transformation. Soldiers and officers impaired during the War for Independence commonly experienced disability as the construct of a fledgling, cash-strapped republic. At the same time, the administration of Revolutionary War disability pensions propelled the United States toward greater constitutional stability. The enactment and implementation of federal pension laws necessitated the prior resolution of troublesome constitutional quandaries; they forced jurists and legislators to contend with and remedy certain defects inherent in their new system of laws. The federal republic contoured the lived experience of veterans’ disability, and in turn, the lived experience of veterans’ disability contoured the federal republic. In this way, disability was fundamental to the founding of the United States.

CATEGORIES

Disability Revolutionary and Early National

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