Full Text

Chapter Forty-Six. The West: territory, states, and confederation

Peter S. Onuf

Subject History

Place United States of America » American West

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence, state

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405116749.2003.00049.x


The establishment of effective authority along the northern and western frontiers represented one of the leading challenges to the United States during and after the Revolution. Reports of fabulously fertile frontier lands inspired a rage for emigration, particularly in areas where land was overused and in short supply. But the rapid expansion of settlement kept the frontiers in an uproar, stretching the political capabilities of state and central governments to the limit and provoking chronic conflict with the Amerindians. Meanwhile, frontiersmen invoked revolutionary notions of popular sovereignty and self-determination as they sought increased representation in the state assemblies or recognition as new states. Separatist movements were, in turn, symptomatic of pervasive jurisdictional confusion, the leading legacy of British rule. State boundary claims in frontier areas were rarely clearly defined; the claims of large, “landed” states, generally based on vague and often mutually contradictory colonial charters, were particularly controversial. Not surprisingly, the small, “landless” states were reluctant to recognize large state claims. How, they asked, could a union of such unequal states survive? Beyond these political and constitutional issues was the question of land titles. Jurisdictional confusion led to conflict, sometimes violent, between rival groups of land speculators, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Reference Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top