J. Robins, A Birdseye View of the River Niagara, 1837

Endless Commons: land taking in early america, 1783-1848

(forthcoming, Jeffersonian America, University Press of Virginia)



My book shifts the history of the Early American Republic away from Atlantic seaboard city-centers to the Revolutionary borderland, the contested space created with the drawing of a border between the old British Empire and the new United States after the American Revolution. In doing so it restores United States history to the wider transnational history of eighteenth and nineteenth-century imperialism. This borderland, a place I call Cataraqui, had long been the site of imperial rivalries and Indigenous alliances. After 1783 it became a political crucible where settlers on either side of the border and their respective states engaged in a protracted dialogue, manifesting in a series of revolts, rebellions, and one revolution, which flashed out between 1835 and 1848. I argue that questions about individual rights to access natural resources and the role that the state should play in protecting those rights motivated these social upheavals. In suppressing these uprisings the United States, British Canada, and the Seneca Nation of Indians, each transformed their stated political ideologies in different yet related ways to reflect a new settler-driven culture of North American expansion.