Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Arkansas, 1800-1860: Remote and Restless

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Arkansas, 1800-1860: Remote and Restless

Article excerpt

Arkansas, 1800-1860: Remote and Restless. By S. Charles Bolton. Histories of Arkansas. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1998. Pp. xvi, 207. Paper, $15.00, ISBN 1-55728-519-5; cloth, $28.00, ISBN 1-5572-8518-7.)

In this volume of the Histories of Arkansas series, Charles Bolton challenges the popular misconception that frontier and antebellum Arkansas was populated primarily by misfits who created a primitive and violent society that rejected the religious and market values of Americans in the early nineteenth century. Bolton's synthesis places the history of the state and its inhabitants firmly within antebellum U.S. and southern history.

As indicated by the subtitle, Arkansas was remote geographically due to swamps and unpredictable rivers. Its most fertile lands were cut off from the main market centers that developed in Missouri and Louisiana, thus causing its population and marketable wealth to grow more slowly than in its frontier neighbors. However, the Americans who settled in Arkansas after the Louisiana Purchase exhibited the same acquisitiveness and ambition found elsewhere in the heady antebellum years. Bolton shows the similarities between Arkansans' desires and those of the rest of the nation by citing the state's Indian policies, its push for internal improvements, and the agricultural success in both subsistence and cash crops. Even the disastrous attempt to establish a state banking system demonstrated greater aspirations than is usually credited to Arkansans. Only the bank's unqualified failure retarded further efforts in Arkansas to establish credit and money systems. The Arkansans' individual ambitions and political alignments--based upon personalities during the territorial era--shifted to national political party allegiances after statehood. …

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