A significant, well-rendered study of a disturbing period in American history.

UNWORTHY REPUBLIC

THE DISPOSSESSION OF NATIVE AMERICANS AND THE ROAD TO INDIAN TERRITORY

A powerful, moving argument that the state-sponsored expulsion of the 1830s was a horrendous turning point for the Indigenous peoples in the United States.

The systematic expulsion of Native Americans—Saunt (American History/Univ. of Georgia; West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, 2014, etc.) uses “deportation,” “expulsion,” and “extermination” as more accurate terms than “removal”—would not have happened without a law passed by Congress and approved by the executive branch, which occurred at the end of May 1830. The largely Southern-backed measure eagerly endorsed by President Andrew Jackson, who had made the “voluntary” movement of Native peoples west of the Mississippi a defining point of his candidacy, began implementation with money to remove the largely prosperous farming Choctaw of the South westward. These were the first peoples to be expelled under the 1830 law, which allowed their land to be appropriated by whites. It was an expensive and chaotic operation, not to mention horrendously inhumane, as those forced off their land endured miserable conditions, as observed and documented by Alexis de Tocqueville in late 1831. Other expelled peoples included the Senecas of Ohio and the Sauk and Meskwaki on the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, and Saunt poignantly chronicles the movements of the dispossessed. When cholera broke out, it decimated these Indigenous communities on the move. The author incisively examines the various fictions propagated at the time to assuage the national conscience about the dispossession—e.g., that Native peoples were a desperate people dying out (many were quite prosperous) and that they were leaving their homes voluntarily. Moreover, the lands west of the Mississippi were not known or mapped, and the conditions were barren and uninhabitable. Saunt estimates the enormous wealth lost by the Indigenous families, the millions expended by the government, and the hideous wealth in land and resources gained by the speculators, colonizers, and cotton barons. The author also notes how these systematic mass deportations “became something of a model for colonial empires around the world.”

A significant, well-rendered study of a disturbing period in American history.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-60984-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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