The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders, and American Expansion (The Lamar Series in Western History)

The Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders, and American Expansion (The Lamar Series in Western History)

Jay Gitlin

Language: English

Pages: 290

ISBN: 0300168039

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Histories tend to emphasize conquest by Anglo-Americans as the driving force behind the development of the American West. In this fresh interpretation, Jay Gitlin argues that the activities of the French are crucial to understanding the phenomenon of westward expansion.

The Seven Years War brought an end to the French colonial enterprise in North America, but the French in towns such as New Orleans, St. Louis, and Detroit survived the transition to American rule. French traders from Mid-America such as the Chouteaus and Robidouxs of St. Louis then became agents of change in the West, perfecting a strategy of “middle grounding” by pursuing alliances within Indian and Mexican communities in advance of American settlement and re-investing fur trade profits in land, town sites, banks, and transportation. The Bourgeois Frontier provides the missing French connection between the urban Midwest and western expansion.

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reads: “Je vous exhorte mon cher colonel, ainçi que tous nos amis & concitoyens, de tenir ferme—soyez assuré que la conteste est veritablement entre nous, les natifs du pays, & les Etrangers qui voudroient deja insolémment nous ravir nos droits & nos privileges naturels.” 33. “Memoire of Bernard Marigny Resident of Louisiana addressed to His Fellow-Citizens,” (Paris, 1822), trans. Olivia Blanchard, in New Orleans Municipal Papers, Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, Tulane University, 20-21. 34.

University of Oklahoma Press, 1977), 2. 163. Blackhawk, Violence over the Land, 186-188. 164. Resendez, Changing National Identities, 116; see also Hyslop, Bound for Santa Fe, 382-386. 165. Resendez, Changing National Identities, 265-266. 166. See Lynn Bridgers, Death’s Deceiver: The Life of Joseph P. Machebeuf (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1997), 138; E. A. Mares, ed., Padre Martinez: New Perspectives from Taos (Taos, N.Mex.: Millicent Rogers Museum, 1988); and David J.

the pays d’en haut—had from its earliest years existed both within and beyond constantly shifting imperial policy directives and agendas emanating from France and the colonial centers of Canada and Louisiana. As historian Colin Calloway puts it, “The collapse of the French empire in North America ... did not mean the end of French presence and influence. Long after the Peace of Paris removed the French nation from North America, French, French Creole, and French-Indian populations, social

and support their efforts.” The positive side of this was balanced by the absence of effective authority and a strong sense of racial divide and animosity.64 Vincennes, once securely a part of the Creole Corridor, was by 1786 increasingly engulfed by this other frontier. As Americans moved in, murders, robberies, race hatred, and alcoholism increased dramatically. Local Indians began to retaliate, and local French magistrates found themselves increasingly unable to control the situation. Their

progress report to Pierre Chouteau Jr.: Once a fortnight he [Charles], Berthold, and Cabanné pass the day with us, and I see them all occasionally at other times. These frequent opportunities are always made available to urge upon their attention the value of education. Crooks then proceeds to comment quite gently: Charles’ progress is certainly fair in all he undertakes, if it be not brilliant; and in music he will probably be quite successful—his deportment is I believe free from reproach,

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