Border Life: Experience and Memory in the Revolutionary Ohio Valley

By Elizabeth A. Perkins | Go to book overview

They see none about them to whom or to whose families they [have] been accustomed to think themselves inferior.

GEORGE NICHOLAS


The Politics of Power

In the political landscape of late- eighteenth-centuryAmerica, back settlers occupied a barbarous terrain. Popular images of western anarchy and lawlessness prompted metropolitan observers to view frontier inhabitants virtually as "wild men" living "in a perfect state of war" until the arrival of gentry leaders and the formal institutions of church and state. Benjamin Rush, for example, thought first settlers nearly related to Indians in their manners, while Crèvecoeur termed them simply "carnivorous animals of a superior rank." Political theorists influenced by the Scottish Enlightenment commonly agreed that primitivism befell those western migrants who pushed beyond the restraints of civil society. Although prominent figures such as Thomas Jefferson espoused more optimistic views of westward migration, Crèvecoeur spoke for many far more skeptical observers in describing the earliest backwoods settlers as "a kind of forlorn hope, preceding by ten or twelve years" the respectable migrants who followed in their wake. 1

An evolutionary perspective has continued to characterize modern

-117-

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Border Life: Experience and Memory in the Revolutionary Ohio Valley
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Tables xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • A Note on Editorial Policy xv
  • Introduction 1
  • What They Themselves Know 7
  • 2 - Views of the Western Country 41
  • Distinctions and Partitions Amongst Us 81
  • The Politics of Power 117
  • Indian Times 151
  • APPENDIX A Item List of John D. Shane's "Historical Collections" 177
  • APPENDIX B John D. Shane's Interview with Jane Stevenson, [ca. 1841-1842] 195
  • Notes 201
  • Bibliography 225
  • Index 243
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