American expansion, Gulf Coast, Southeast, Mississippi Territory, Native Americans, Seminole, Slavery
For many years, the colonial and early nineteenth-century Southeast and Gulf Coast inhabited the margins of America's popular and scholarly historical imagination. There were many reasons for this. Since large portions of the regions were, at various times, Spanish or French colonial possessions, the area does not neatly conform to an Anglo-centric view of the American past. The regions' heterogeneous population and culture further supported such beliefs. To many historians, the Southeast and Gulf Coast were an odd appendage to the history of North America that [End Page 282] did not become important until the territories were acquired by the United States.
Recent years have witnessed a reversal in the tendency to marginalize the early history of the Southeast and Gulf Coast. This has occurred as a generation of scholars, often trained as historians of the Atlantic world, borderlands, Native Americans, or African Americans, have questioned the traditional chronological, geographic, and human contours of colonial and nineteenth-century North American history. Armed with cutting-edge methodologies, language skills, and a willingness to borrow from various disciplines, historians such as Claudio Saunt, Jane Landers, Daniel Usner, Adam Rothman, and Peter Kastor, to name but a few, have more squarely situated the Southeast and Gulf South within the broader history of North America. America's Hundred Years' War, The Mississippi Territory and the Southwest Frontier, and Nexus of Empire continue this trend.
America's Hundred Years' War is a collection of nine essays and an introduction. According to the collection's editor, William Belko, "The chapters within this volume reassess the traditional periods provided for U.S.-Seminole relations, and, in the process, advocate a new approach to how we look at the relationship between American expansion and the adverse effects of such expansion on the Seminole people" (6). This is an ambitious goal.
"So in Fear of Both the Indians and the Americans" by Susan Richbourg Parker, the first essay in the volume, begins not in 1763, as is suggested in the collection's title or its thesis, but rather in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris. Indeed the period between 1763 and 1783 warrants virtually no attention in Parker's essay or the volume as a whole. Ideally the volume could have either begun with an essay that examined the experience of the Seminoles during the British period of Florida's history (1763-1783) or scaled back the thesis to begin in 1783. Nonetheless, Parker's essay is a good overview of the chaotic conditions that defined the Southeast in the first years of the Second Spanish period. The Seminoles, who missed the presence of their British benefactors and had little regard for the chronically weak Spanish, were forced into an increasingly defensive posture as American-led cross-border violence became the norm. James Cusick follows with "King Payne and His Policies. A Framework for Understanding the Diplomacy of the Seminoles of La Chua, 1784-1812." Cusick's essay is an excellent example of how a scholar can capture a Native perspective. In Cusick's telling, Payne was [End Page 283] a shrewd practitioner of realpolitik in an increasingly volatile period that took a stark turn for the worse in 1812. Belko's essay on the First Seminole War argues, in great detail, that the war (1817-1818) and the events that both preceded and followed are best understood in the context of Anglo-American rivalry and a corresponding American fear of British designs in the Southeast. Consequently the primary American motivation in the First Seminole War...