American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier

Patrick Griffin, Author
Patrick Griffin, Author . Hill & Wang $30 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8090-9515-5
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Griffin's erudite account places ordinary settlers of America's frontier at the center of 18th-century political revolution. The British Empire's hold on the western edge of colonies like Pennsylvania was always tenuous, suggests the University of Virginia's Griffin (The People with No Name ). The frontier was beset by violence between Indians and white settlers, and the latter thought Britain appeased the Indians at their expense. These settlers' disgust with the inadequacies of imperial policy, says Griffin, fomented the American Revolution, a titanic political clash that ultimately gave ordinary frontiersmen new rights. But they gained those rights at the expense of Native Americans—whom they identified as irreconcilably other. Tensions continued after the revolution. The fragile new American government was unable to enforce order on the frontier, and settlers in the Ohio valley and other border regions believed the state had to eradicate Indians to secure a stable and safe society. (As Griffin puts it with elegant bluntness, the frontiersmen were building a commonwealth "on the bod[ies] of... dead Indian[s].") Griffin judiciously weaves analysis into riveting stories of riots and unrest, and weds attention to race and marginalized people with traditional political and military history. 8 pages of b&w illus., 3 maps. (Apr.)

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