THE FIRST FRONTIER: The Indian Wars and America's Origins, 1607-1776 by David Horowitz

THE FIRST FRONTIER: The Indian Wars and America's Origins, 1607-1776

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although Horowitz begins with a vivid account of the brutal wars against the Indians in 17th-century New England and Virginia, his purpose, it becomes clear, is not to give a comprehensive account of Indian-white relations in colonial America. Rather, the Indian theme is employed as one touchstone, though the key one, of a dark portrait of the colonists as a grasping, domineering people for whom the status of freemen was inextricably linked to the possession of property and the subjugation of others. Slavery, of course, and the formation of trans-Appalachian land companies (implying further Indian removal) are additional themes. The Revolution is depicted not as a struggle for liberty with universal meaning but as an attempt to establish an independent New-World empire free of British control of money, Indian policy, and westward expansion. High revolutionary principles, Horowitz argues, were trumpeted to smother a guilty self-knowledge. Even IF this obviously simplistic interpretation were true, ideas take on a life of their own, and between 1776 and 1803 all states north of Maryland provided for the abolition of slavery. (The book's terminal date gives Horowitz only a technical excuse for ignoring this.) Actually, this work contains little that is new aside from its extreme and rather cursorily articulated conclusions regarding the nature of the colonists and of their Revolution. The oppression of colonial Indians and slaves is not a revelation. The link between empire-building and the Revolution has been almost identically stated in Richard Van Alstyne's Empire and Independence (1965) and elsewhere. The author's lengthy discussion of Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia and his surprisingly conventional narrative of events leading to the Declaration of Independence seem largely superfluous.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Simon & Schuster