Westward expansion, John Tipton, and the emergence of the American Midwest 1800-1839

Date
2005-01-01
Authors
Aley, Ginette
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R. Douglas Hurt
Andrejs Plakans
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Altmetrics
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History
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History
Abstract

This represents a social history of the process of westward expansion, the human drama that unfolded in the shaping of the American West of the early republic during the first four decades of the nineteenth century. Here, people and place were connected by a complex set of evolving relationships and contingencies which is evident in the following interplay of voices, perceptions, and accounts. They reveal at once the dynamism of the advancing agricultural frontier northwest of the Ohio River. Admittedly, however, the dominant Euro-American perspective speaks the loudest, yet references to women, Native Americans, and African Americans were made part of the analysis wherever possible.;The study's major narrator is an introspective and enterprising visionary, John Tipton, who pursued a public career that placed him at critical junctures in the developing West. It was further informed by Tipton's extensive correspondence, thus allowing it to go far beyond one man's view of his place in the world.;Tipton wrote about the life he lived. He has been the subject of no published scholarly biography and only one other dissertation. Among the overlooked stories are those relating to his politically formative years as a public official in Harrison County, Indiana. This is problematic given the importance of these years in terms of the African American past in southern Indiana, along with Tipton's public role in mediating race relations in at least one crucial moment in the young state's history. The current study addresses this omission.;Additionally, Tipton's private correspondence is examined for the first time to determine how Tipton's male cohorts understood their roles as family men in the developing West. The result challenges our long-standing views on early nineteenth-century men as emotionally distant husbands and fathers while also critiquing current historiographic interpretations of the family. Finally, the internal improvement movement, of which Tipton was a leading proponent, is elevated to the place it had among Indianans and westerners of the 1830s and their aspirations. This last point is often dismissed by scholars who focus instead on the financial disaster that Indiana's canal system became, rather than the economic deliverance that westerners believed it represented.

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