Quitting the Nation

Emigrant Rights in North America

By Eric R. Schlereth

310 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 halftones, 5 maps

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7853-5
    Published: April 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7852-8
    Published: April 2024
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7854-2
    Published: April 2024

David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History

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Perceptions of the United States as a nation of immigrants are so commonplace that its history as a nation of emigrants is forgotten. However, once the United States came into existence, its citizens immediately asserted rights to emigrate for political allegiances elsewhere. Quitting the Nation recovers this unfamiliar story by braiding the histories of citizenship and the North American borderlands to explain the evolution of emigrant rights between 1750 and 1870.

Eric R. Schlereth traces the legal and political origins of emigrant rights in contests to decide who possessed them and who did not. At the same time, it follows the thousands of people that exercised emigration right citizenship by leaving the United States for settlements elsewhere in North America. Ultimately, Schlereth shows that national allegiance was often no more powerful than the freedom to cast it aside. The advent of emigrant rights had lasting implications, for it suggested that people are free to move throughout the world and to decide for themselves the nation they belong to. This claim remains urgent in the twenty-first century as limitations on personal mobility persist inside the United States and at its borders.

About the Author

Eric R. Schlereth is associate professor of history at the University of Texas at Dallas.
For more information about Eric R. Schlereth, visit the Author Page.


"Schlereth's exploration of the United States as a 'nation of emigrants' is a pathbreaking study which will both challenge and inspire scholars in a wide range of fields to rethink the nation's history."—Lucy Salyer, University of New Hampshire

"Covers a very important topic and does so well with one eye clearly on the present state of debates over immigration and citizenship. . . [and] conveys the unstable and contested nature of American citizenship in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries."—Alan Taylor, author of American Republics: A Continental History, 1783–1850