The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders and American Expansion

By Carroll, Justin | Journal of the Early Republic, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders and American Expansion


Carroll, Justin, Journal of the Early Republic


The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders and American Expansion. By Jay Gitlin. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010. Pp. 269. $40.00.)

Reviewed by Justin Carroll

In the introduction of The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders and American Expansion, historian Jay Gitlin writes that "It was the misfortune of the French to have their story told by one of the nineteenth century's great amateur historians" (2). Francis Parkman, in his seminal work France and England in North America (1865-1892), cast the French in terms of "racial" and "national" characteristics. To Parkman, the French were a happy-go-lucky, passionate community, capable of greatness, but who usually chose frivolity. Unlike the British in North America, their stifling relationship with absolutism and Catholicism made them uniquely unsuited for self-government. Combined with Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis," articulated in 1893, which argued that continual settlement explained American history, little room existed for French fur traders and merchants, beholden to their Indian brethren and allies, to play important and transformative roles in the development of American society and its republican political culture. The powerful legacy of Parkman and Turner have kept discussions of the French in the trans-Appalachian west in a "narrative and descriptive straitj acket" that few scholars have managed to fully transcend, despite increasing interest in the trans-Mississippian west (4).

Jay Gitlin's magisterial work uncovers a vibrant, dynamic, and multicultural Creole corridor stretching from Detroit to New Orleans: a world of towns where wealthy, educated, and worldly French mercantile families, like the Chouteaus of St. Louis, oversaw and oriented a "messy world of race and class" in the late eighteenth to the mid nineteenth centuries (10). The success of these elite French families resided in their cosmopolitanism; they understood the wants, desires, protocols, and languages of their Indian neighbors, even as they kept a wary eye on European and colonial markets and cultural developments. Operating out of frontier towns, French merchants were far from itinerant fur traders, but uniquely placed, according to Gitlin, to act as "the advance guard of American Empire" (188). In the aftermath of the Seven Years' War, the cultural and social practices that had sustained the French Empire in North America and engendered the fur trade, became, in the hands of these French merchants living under the sovereignty of Great Britain and then the United States, "a negotiable instrument . . . [used] to broker the transition to an American regime of settlement" (188). In other words, the behaviors and relationships that nurtured the French and Indian alliance of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries "facilitate [d] the dispossession of native peoples" and accorded French merchants and intermediaries a dominant vista from which to transform the American frontier (188).

In eight chapters, Gitlin traces the continuing political, social, and economic influence and diversification of elite French families within the context of an expansionist United States. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders and American Expansion
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.