People of the American Frontier: The Coming of the American Revolution

People of the American Frontier: The Coming of the American Revolution

People of the American Frontier: The Coming of the American Revolution

People of the American Frontier: The Coming of the American Revolution

Synopsis

Life on the frontier in the decades before the Revolution was extremely difficult and uncertain. It was a world populated by Native Americans, merchants, fur traders, land speculators, soldiers and settlers- including women, slaves, and indentured servants. Each of these groups depended on the others in some way, and collectively they formed the patchwork that was life on the frontier. Using a wealth of material culled from primary sources, Dunn paints a vivid picture of a world caught up in the winds of change, a world poised on the edge of revolution.

Life on the frontier in the decades before the Revolution was extremely difficult and uncertain. It was a world populated by Indians, merchants, fur traders, land speculators, soldiers and settlers- including women, slaves, and indentured servants. Each of these groups depended on the others in some way, and collectively they formed the patchwork that was life on the frontier. Using a wealth of material culled from primary sources, Dunn paints a vivid picture of a world caught up in the winds of change, a world poised on the edge of revolution.

In the 15 years preceding the American Revolution, the existence of the frontier exerted a dominant influence on the colonial economy. The possibility of new territory in the West and the removal of the French army offered an enormous opportunity for economic expansion but such prospects were not without risk. Farmers worked endlessly to clear a few scant acres for production. Traders struggled to reach remote areas to bargain with local tribes. Merchants weighted the possibilities for enormous profit with huge risk. Native Americans faced increasing encroachment upon their traditional lands. Women and slaves played a greater role in opening the frontier than many sources have indicated.

Excerpt

Fifty years ago my first article on an Indian war party raiding Kentucky in the 1770s was published in the Detroit Historical Society Bulletin. At the time I wondered why there was so much data on that raid and very little on others. I assumed from the secondary sources (studies of the period that were done at a later time) that many raids had been conducted on the frontier settlements. the facts were quite different. Even during the Revolution few war parties attacked the settlers. War parties attacking settlers were comparatively rare in the previous twenty years as well. For the most part the Indians and the whites coexisted.

The notable examples of friction were about money. the basic issue was contention over fur and land. the French and colonial traders competed for the wealth imbedded in the control of the fur trade. the land jobbers schemed to seize title to Indian lands.

When the colonists gained the upper hand in the fur trade from 1760 to 1763, the French encouraged the Indians to drive out the colonists and destroy the British army forts that provided havens for the colonial traders. in 1763 the Indians slaughtered British army garrisons and colonial traders while the French watched passively or helped the Indians. the natives stole the trader’s goods, and whatever the Indians left the French confiscated.

When the land jobbers manipulated a few Indians to give land to the land companies in 1768, the British government intervened to the outrage of the powerful merchants, leading them to resist the British. in 1775 the British army paid the Indians to attack the colonial settlers. in both instances . . .

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