From Publishers Weekly
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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Griffin's history of the settlement process in the Ohio River Valley spans from 1763, when France ceded the region to Britain, to 1795, when Indian tribes ceded huge tracts of the region to the U.S. The intervening decades witnessed chronic frontier violence, and Griffin builds an inquiry into who would be sovereign over the area. Griffin highlights the lawlessness with which the nominal sovereign power contended. He details how neither Britain's Proclamation Line of 1763 nor the land-sale schemes of the world's George Washingtons succeeded in regulating its Daniel Boones, whose numbers increased remorselessly. Their welcome was the tomahawk, not the peace pipe, and these generally poor whites' appeals for protection occupy Griffin's intensive analysis of the responses they received from Virginia and Pennsylvania, similarly convulsed by the power shifts of the American Revolution. Readers drawn to a professional historian's critical appraisal of the frontier experience will discover in Griffin's book the limits of heroizing or demonizing it. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved