Introduction: Expand or Die: The Revolution's New Empire
- The William and Mary Quarterly
- Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
- Volume 74, Number 4, October 2017, 3rd series
- pp. 619-632
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- Additional Information
The William and Mary Quarterly and Journal of the Early Republic's joint issue centers on a theme, "Writing To and From the Revolution," that invites consideration of the revolution's transformative impact. On balance, this introduction argues, the issue's articles emphasize continuities over change. A focus on the fallout from a long-lasting civil war, American revolutionary leaders' efforts to raise funds via western land sales, Indian resistance, and the challenges presented by western settlers offers another perspective. The American Revolution promoted the linkage of three increasingly interdependent social processes: first, the hardening of racial distinctions to associate freedom with whiteness; second, the regularization of state formation to balance the interests of older states with the longing of new state elites for secure private property in land and slaves; and third, the escalation of westward expansion to relieve social tensions and reduce taxes in the eastern polities. The beneficiaries celebrated the results as freedom and prosperity, which they considered the republican fruits of their revolution. But that success contained contradictions that would provoke a new civil war, even bloodier and more destructive than the revolution.