Securing the West
Politics, Public Lands, and the Fate of the Old Republic, 1785–1850
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Over the many years it took to fi nish this book, I have run up a daunting tab of debts, most of which can never be paid. There is room here to acknowledge only a few. Both the motivation to complete the manuscript and the inspiration for its central themes of nation building and social development came from a National...
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Edmund P. Dana was a good man to know. As of 1819, he had found employment for several years as a land agent for more than 1,300 settlers headed for the northwestern frontier of the republic in hope of a new and better life. By his own account, Dana had lived for six years among the natives in the Great Lakes Region...
Prologue: “A Great Country, Populous and Mighty”
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When Benjamin Franklin, aged 42, retired from his publishing business in 1748, he expected to devote more time to scientific and philosophical studies. Having achieved both fortune and status in Philadelphia, he now considered himself a “gentleman,” a “Man of Leisure” and disinterested reflection. In his case, this included...
1. “Republican Notions—and Utopian Schemes”
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On November 15, 1782, as he pondered the prospects of westward expansion in post-Revolutionary America, James Madison had good reason to be worried. It was not just that American independence had yet to be finally confirmed in negotiations with Great Britain. A few weeks earlier, the Confederation Congress, where...
2. An Embryo of Empire
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In December 1804, the Public Lands Committee of the House of Representatives received a petition, in two sections, from “inhabitants” of Randolph and St. Clair Counties, Indiana Territory—284 signatures in all. Danel Stuky and Larence Shuk featured among the names, along with two men from the Jarvis family and three...
3. Rise of the Radical West
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In early 1822, a letter to the editor from an anonymous writer in Worthington, Ohio, arrived at the ramshackle office of the Richmond (Indiana) Weekly Intelligencer. Just to show how scarce genuine, federally minted coin had become in the West, the letter said, “[T]here is but ONE quarter of a dollar in Worthington, and...
4. “A World within Itself ”
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Thomas Hart Benton faced a prodigious rival for the sympathies of westerners— another crafty new-state politician, equally charismatic, with a vastly different economic agenda and a desire for power that burned even hotter than Benton’s. Some people referred to Henry Clay by his nickname, “Harry of the West.” He, not Benton...
5. Foot’s Resolution and the “Great Debate”
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In the small western town of Indianapolis, population roughly 1,900, the February 11, 1830, issue of the Indiana State Gazette reported, “A debate of immense interest to the people of the west, in relation to the public lands, has been going on for some time in both houses of Congress.” Under discussion in distant Washington...
6. Whose West?—Alternative Visions
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If Clay and Webster could have structured society as they wished, based on the nationalist political economy of the American System, there might have been far more westerners like Dr. Daniel Drake and more profusions of capital growth like that of Cincinnati. Drake was one of the premier physicians in the West, if not...
7. “A Lawless Rabble”
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When subscribers in Chautauqua County, New York, opened the Jamestown Journal in late April 1836, they read that a United States senator from faraway Mississippi wanted to give preference in public land sales to people who had settled illegally, characterizing them as “the finest portion of republican citizens!” Should...
Epilogue: The West Secured?
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The framers of the original federal land system thought that to secure the West meant to replicate their most cherished values on the frontier as the waves of migration advanced. They tried to cobble together some basic plans for the gradual westward expansion of republican society, institutions, and beliefs. Those enlightened...
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Essay on Sources
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The following discussion just touches on the wealth of sources relevant to subjects addressed in this book. Primary and secondary materials on land-policy development, broadly conceived, are massive in number and span several disciplines. The selected collections and titles listed below represent those I have found especially useful, along with recent works...
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Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 5 maps
Publication Year: 2014
Series Title: Reconfiguring American Political History
Series Editor Byline: Ronald P. Formisano, Paul Bourke, Donald DeBats, and Paula M. Baker, Series Founders