the quartet orchestrating the second american revolution 1783 1789.pdf

24 it was the political version of the decisive

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24 It was the political version of the decisive moment in a great battle, he claimed, that could go either way, depending on how western expansion was managed. “The western settlers stand as if it were upon a pivot,” he warned, “and the touch of a feather would turn them any way.” Unless there was a viable American nation-state to join, Washington worried that the western territories would drift into the orbit of lurking European powers or go off on their own to form independent states. Washington’s great fear was that North America would become a version of Europe, a collection of coexistent sovereignties rather than a coherent nation of its own. All the evidence seemed to support the conclusion that the very term United States was becoming a preposterous illusion. 25 The one group expressing unrelieved optimism about the domain was the tiny tribe of bards and poets, who almost by definition felt free to levitate out of the messy particularities of westward expansion in favor of more visionary vistas. David Humphreys saw a quasi-paradise where the skies were always bright: Then let us go where happier climes invite, To midland seas and regions of delight; With all that’s ours, together let us rise, Seek brighter plains and more indulgent skies. 26 Philip Freneau had a more practical vision, emphasizing the commercial potential of the
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underdeveloped land: No longer shall they useless prove, Nor idly through the forest rove…. For other ends the fates decree, And commerce plans new freights for thee. 27 Perhaps the most uplifting interpretation of all came from David Howell. As a Rhode Island delegate, Howell was on record as regarding the western lands as a source of revenue. But as a true believer in the semi-sacred character of republican values, his view of the west assumed a spiritual aura that Jefferson himself would later embrace in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase: The Western World opens an amazing prospect. As a national fund, in my opinion, it is equal to our debt. As a source of future population & strength, it is a guarantee of our Independence. As its Inhabitants will be mostly cultivators of the soil, republicanism looks to them as its Guardians. When the States on the eastern shore, or Atlantic shall have become populous, rich, & luxurious & ready to yield their Liberties into the hands of a tyrant —The Gods of the Mountains will save us . 28 This kind of political redemption of the east by the west could occur, of course, only if the two sections remained politically connected. The pessimistic prophets harbored serious doubts, envisioning a series of independent republics or, worse yet, autocratic states just as jealous of their sovereignty as the thirteen original states were jealous of theirs. After all, why should one expect the western territories to join a union that was on the verge of dissolution?
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