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Becoming Citizens of Convenience on the U.S.-Canadian Border with Lawrence B. A. Hatter

In 1783, the United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Paris, which confirmed American independence. As part of the treaty negotiations, American and British diplomats had to determine the new nation’s borders. They used maps like John Mitchell’s 1755 work A Map of the British and French Dominions in North America to figure out what separated the United States from what remained of British America in Canada. You can see a digital copy of the Mitchell Map here.

In our own time, the U.S. border with Mexico gets all the attention, but in the eighteenth century it was the northern border with Canada that mattered the most. But even though diplomats drew a line dividing a republican nation from a monarchical one, lines on paper mattered little to people on the ground in places like Detroit and Montreal where Americans, Canadians, and native peoples had an incentive to move goods and people freely across the new border. 

They were, as today’s guest calls them, Citizens of Convenience, people who frequently shifted their identity from American citizen to British subject and back depending on local circumstances and their own self-interest. 

Dr. Lawrence B. A. Hatter joins Jim Ambuske to discuss the politics of the northern border, taking us on a journey from the diplomatic halls of Paris and London to the trading grounds of Detroit, Ontario, and Quebec in the aftermath of the American Revolution. 

Hatter is the author of Citizens of Convenience: The Imperial Origins of American Nationhood on the U.S.-Canadian Border, published by the University of Virginia Press in 2017. He is an Associate Professor of History at Washington State University and a former Research Fellow at the Washington Library. 

About Our Guest:  

Lawrence B. A. Hatter, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of History at Washington State University. He is the author of Citizens of Convenience: The Imperial Origins of American Nationhood on the U.S.-Canadian Border. Dr. Hatter is currently beginning research on two new book projects about the global context of American Empire: Selling Independence: American Overseas Merchant Communities in the Age of Revolution and Entangling Alliances: America and the World from George Washington’s Farewell Address to the War on Terror. 

About Our Host: 

Jim Ambuske, Ph.D. leads the Center for Digital History at the Washington Library. A historian of the American Revolution, Scotland, and the British Atlantic World, Ambuske graduated from the University of Virginia in 2016. He is a former Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Virginia Law Library. At UVA Law, Ambuske co-directed the 1828 Catalogue Project and the Scottish Court of Session Project.  He is currently at work on a book about emigration from Scotland in the era of the American Revolution as well as a chapter on Scottish loyalism during the American Revolution for a volume to be published by the University of Edinburgh Press.