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John Stuart and the Struggle for Empire on the Southern Frontier ByJ. Russell Snapp Louisiana State University Press, 1996 238 pp. Cloth, $42.50 Reviewed by Robert M. Weir, professor of history at the University of South Carolina and the author of ColonialSouth Carolina: A History. J. Russell Snapp's volume joins a rapidly lengthening list of new studies of the southern frontier in the eighteenth century—all intent on enlarging our understanding ofNative Americans, Indian-white relations, and/or the American Revolution in the region. Insofar as it shares these aims, Snapp's volume is not unique, but to my knowledge no other recent author has offered such a direct challenge to a work that has long been considered standard in the field. In 1944John Mden'sfohn Stuart and the Southern ColonialFrontier: A Study ofIndian Relations, War, Trade, and Land Problems in the Southern Wilderness, iyj^—iyyj covered much of the same ground over a shorter chronological period and concluded that Stuart's outstanding traits as superintendent of Indian Affairs of the Southern District of North America were "fidelity and prudence." In summary, Alden observed, "his conduct of Indian affairs in the South before the American Revolution must be regarded as a bright spot in the uneven record ofBritish administration of the American colonies in the later eighteenth century." Snapp's volume, on the other hand, takes the story into the early nineteenth century. "Thanks to officials like Stuart," he argues, "no middle ground apparently existed between acceptance ofthoroughgoing British rule and complete American independence " because his program revealed "a fateful obliviousness to the political and social perspectives of still-powerful creóle colonists." Snapp develops this argument in interesting ways. During the first part of the eighteenth century, he contends, veteran merchant-traders gained considerable influence with the Indians of the Southeast and used this influence to maintain order and stability in the region. After mid-century, however, new men arrived, bent on land acquisition and/or trade with the Native Americans, and their proliferation threatened the established arrangements. John Stuart, appointed Indian superintendent for the Southern District in 1762, responded by attempting to in74 Reviews still centralized "order and regularity." But his efforts appeared to be coupled with favoritism toward his fellow Scotsmen, and they restricted the autonomy of the old traders and the provincial figures with whom they were linked. Stuart therefore inspired hostility toward himself, his Scottish brethren, and other "outsiders " who seemed to be favored by imperial authorities. Receiving less consistent support from his British superiors than from Native American leaders, who feared American encroachment, Stuart found that his ability to implement plans for centralized control ofIndian affairs reached its peak only after the Revolution had begun. But his use ofinfluence to mobilize the Indians against the American rebels alienated potential Loyalists and inflamed inveterate Whigs. The results manifested themselves in alignments that persisted well into the nineteenth century . From Florida, Spanish authorities and Scottish merchants supported the southeastern Indians in the hope oflimiting the expansion of the United States; Americans, with the help of state governments, and later the United States itself underAndrewJackson, successfully sought the removal ofthe Native Americans, in one way or another. Furthermore, memories ofoutside interference with local control of Indian affairs helped to make southerners hypersensitive on the subject of any outside meddling. This argument has much to commend it. That elites resented meddlingin their governing oflocal affairs was clearly the case in many areas. Furthermore, Indian relations were obviously very important to the security ofthe southern colonies. Some southerners were manifestly expansionist, which brought them into conflict with Stuart, who sought to protect Native Americans and their territorial claims. Thus the general parameters ofthe local situation make the author's argument plausible; the difficulties arise with some of the details. For example, if his view is correct, established Indian traders and territorial expansionists in the southern colonies should have been early and ardent Revolutionaries as a result oftheir conflicts with Stuart. A few indeed were; but some ofthe most important figures were late and reluctant rebels, while several individuals with whom Stuart clashed were Loyalists. Moreover, the most important institutional voice of the elites whose activities Stuart presumably...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 74-76
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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