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The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolutionby Alan Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
In 1761, at a boarding school in New England, a young Mohawk Indian named Joseph Brant first met Samuel Kirkland, the son of a colonial clergyman. They began a long and intense relationship that would redefine North America. For nearly fifty years, their lives intertwined, at first as close friends but later as bitter foes. Kirkland served American expansion as a missionary and agent, promoting Indian conversion and dispossession. Brant pursued an alternative future for the continent by defending an Indian borderland nestled between the British in Canada and the Americans, rather than divided by them.
By telling their dramatic story, Alan Taylor illuminates the dual borders that consolidated the new American nation after the Revolution. By constricting Indians within reservation lines, the Americans sought to control their northern boundary with the British Empire, which lingered in Canada. The border became firm as thousands of settlers established farms, held as private property, all around the new reservations. This struggle also pitted the federal government against the leaders of New York, competing to control the lands and the Indians of the border country. They contended for the highest of stakes because the transformation of Indian land constructed the wealth and the power of states, nations, and empires in North America.
In addition to land, the frontier contest pivoted on murders, which repeatedly tested who had legal jurisdiction: Indians or newcomers. To assert power, the contending regimes sought to try and execute Indians or settlers who killed one another. To defend native autonomy, however, the Indians asserted an alternative by “covering the graves” of victims with presents to console their kin. When the gallows replaced covered graves, the Indians lost their middle position as free peoples.
Taylor breaks with the stereotype of Indians as defiant but doomed traditionalists, as noble but futile defenders of ancient ways. In fact, the borderland Indians demonstrated remarkable adaptability and creativity in coping with the contending powers and with the growing numbers of invading settlers. Led by Joseph Brant, the natives tried to manage, rather than entirely to block, the process of settlement. Taylor shows that they did so in ways meant to preserve Indian autonomy and prosperity. Rather than sell lands for a song to governments, the Indians sought greater control and revenue by leasing lands directly to settler tenants. But neither the British nor the American leaders could accept Indians as landlords, as competitors in the construction of power from land in North America. Once a “middle ground,” the borderland became a divided ground, partitioned between the British Empire and the American republic.
The changing relationship of Joseph Brant, a young Mohawk, and Samuel Kirkland, the son of a colonial clergyman, from their first meeting at a New England boarding school, is set against the role of the Native American peoples in North America during the American Revolution and the shaping of the postwar borderland between the United States and British Canada. 20,000 first printing.
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of William Cooper's Town comes a dramatic and illuminating portrait of white and Native American relations in the aftermath of the American Revolution.
The Divided Ground tells the story of two friends, a Mohawk Indian and the son of a colonial clergyman, whose relationship helped redefine North America. As one served American expansion by promoting Indian dispossession and religious conversion, and the other struggled to defend and strengthen Indian territories, the two friends became bitter enemies. Their battle over control of the Indian borderland, that divided ground between the British Empire and the nascent United States, would come to define nationhood in North America. Taylor tells a fascinating story of the far-reaching effects of the American Revolution and the struggle of American Indians to preserve a land of their own.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Alan Taylor received his B.A. from Colby College and his Ph.D. from Brandeis University. He has taught at Colby College, the College of William & Mary, Boston University, and the University of California at Davis, where he is Professor of History. He is the author of Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820 (1990); William Cooper's Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic (1996), and American Colonies: The Settlement of North America (The Penguin History of the United States, Vol. 1, 2001).
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Table of Contents
Revolution — Property — Patrons — War — Lines — Peace — State - Leases — Confrontation — Fathers — Chiefs — Crisis — Limits — Bounds — Blocks — Ends.
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History and Social Science » Ethnic Studies » Racism and Ethnic Conflict