The Society of the Cincinnati Prize recognizes the author of an outstanding book that advances understanding of the American Revolution and its legacy. Established in 1989 as a triennial award, the prize is now presented annually. Honorees have included leading historians as well as rising scholars in the field. The prize was created with a generous endowment gift from the family of Dr. H. Bartholomew Cox.

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2024 Society of the Cincinnati Prize Winner

The 2024 Society of the Cincinnati Prize has been awarded to Eli Merritt, M.D., M.A., for his book Disunion Among Ourselves: A Political History of the American Revolution (University of Missouri Press, 2023), which explores the politics of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution. The book reveals that the chief obstacle to achieving independence in the 1770s and 1780s was not the strength of the British military but regional pride and the forces of disunion which threatened to break apart the United States’s first government. But instead of disbanding, these founders managed to unite for the sake of liberty and self-preservation, forging bold compromises including Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Mississippi-Fisheries Compromise of 1779, and the ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 that helped the young nation to band together.

In filling this critical gap in our historical understanding of the Revolution, the book serves to remind readers that the founders overcame political challenges through a commitment to ethical constitutional democracy and compromise. Merritt’s study of the fear of disunion and civil war contributes to our knowledge of the last influences of the political rhetoric of the American Revolution. Merritt shows that the seeds of the Civil War lay in the American Revolution and that the founding fathers had good cause to fear disunion and internecine conflict.

Disunion Among Ourselves offers historic parallels with our present era of hyperpolarized political performance and serves as a touchstone for contemporary politics, reminding us that the founders overcame far tougher times than our own through commitment to ethical constitutional democracy and compromise.

Eli Merritt is a political historian at Vanderbilt University where he researches the ethics of democracy, the interface of demagogues and democracy, and the founding principles of the United States. He received his B.A. in history and M.A. in ethics at Yale University, in addition to an M.D. at Case Western Reserve University.

Watch Dr. Merritt's presentation on his book

Past Honorees


Friederike Baer, Hessians: German Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2022)


Kevin J. Weddle, The Compleat Victory: Saratoga and the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021)


T. Cole Jones, Captives of Liberty: Prisoners of War and the Politics of Vengeance in the American Revolution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020)


John Buchanan, The Road to Charleston: Nathanael Greene and the American Revolution (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019)


Eric Hinderaker, Boston’s Massacre (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017)


Benjamin L. Carp, Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010)


Matthew H. Spring, With Zeal and With Bayonets Only: The British Army on Campaign in North America, 1775-1783 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008)


Alan Taylor, The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006)


Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-1782 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001)


Saul Cornell, The Other Founders: Anti-Federalism and the Dissenting Tradition in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999)


Jack N. Rakove, Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution (New York: Knopf, 1996)


Stanley M. Elkins and Eric L. McKitrick, The Age of Federalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)


Peter D. G. Thomas, Tea Party to Independence: The Third Phase of the American Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991)


Bernard Bailyn, Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution (New York: Knopf, 1986)